Feb 212012
 

One of my favourite podcasts, the Masocast, has an interview with Domina Irene Boss. Boss has been involved in both the pro Domme scene and the BDSM video scene for a long time, and has good historical insights on both fields. She was in both at the ground floor, and was able to vacation in Hawaii from the proceeds of her DVD sales. These days, particularly after the advent of Clips 4 Sale, the video market is so diversified that this isn’t possible anymore.

She also has some inside knowledge of the Other World Kingdom in the Czech Republic, which is about as close to “the Club” or “the Marketplace” or “the Network” as we’re ever going to get in real life.

Feb 042011
 

The Well Versed has a too-short interview with Alexander DeVoe, who talks about the history of black people in fetish video porn, on both sides of the camera:

AD: When I first started [directing], people didn’t understand it. When they watched it, they never would’ve guessed it was a black guy producing it; it was all this weird shit, tying people up, gagging them, crazy costumes and dungeons. I wanted to present something that was visually appealing.

TWV: So you’ve moved more towards fetish content?

AD: I look at it as another level to present people of color in.

TWV: Porn is still taboo in the black community, but we know a lot of black people are watching. When you got into the bondage stuff, was it difficult to introduce that?

AD: It was in the beginning. People thought, “This dude, DeVoe is crazy.” There’s a vocal minority that watches this. This is my style, once people got used to the brand, they were feeling it because I was giving them a different look. Everybody else was doing the booty shaking—and I do that because you’ve got to hit every niche. If you look at things in terms of business, everybody might not be feeling it, but there’s an audience. I never want to be compartmentalized or produced things that are stereotypical.

TWV: Was there a process of educating people on the fetish content?

AD: The owner of West Coast [Productions] gave me free reign to do what I wanted, so I was doing shit that was way out: Putting girls in wings and resurrecting dead folks. I was giving people a lot to look at. People were so used to popping in a VHS and watching people shake their booty and have sex. I tried to keep everything really complex, but I understand that you only had a certain amount of time before people hit fast forward.

I think people in any business, including porn, develop their own received wisdom about what their customers want. It does take a rare individual to go against the grain and take a risk, by having POCs in a fetish or BDSM scene, and to address POCs as an audience when the assumption is that the audience is white.

(via Violet Blue)

Jan 112011
 

From Xbiz, via Warren Ellis’ Twitter feed:

Kink.com will stream the deflowering of young virgin Nikki Blue in a ritualistic ceremony live on the Internet on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.

The ceremony will be held on The Upper Floor of Kink.com’s headquarters, the San Francisco Armory. Prior to the event, a trained expert will insert Kink.com’s official hymen-cam to validate that Blue’s hymen is still in place and that she is a true virgin. Once her hymen is confirmed, the evening will proceed, the company said.

“We will start the evening by tightly binding Ms. Blue and introducing three Kink.com legends: Mark Davis, Jack Hammer and James Deen,” said Kink.com director John Paul “The Pope.” “Fans will vote for which of them will take Nikki’s virginity. Once the voting is complete, we will move to the sanctum, which will be dressed as a ritualistic chamber with candles and ceremonial tools. She’ll be placed in the circle and the winner selected by fans will deflower her. The other two will then join the ceremony and make her airtight.”

Whats surprises me about this is just how retrograde this seems. Virginity in 2011 just isn’t what it used to be. After the invention of condoms and antibiotics, it isn’t a magic talisman against sexually transmitted diseases. Virginity doesn’t have the social weight it used to either. Few people in North America expect a woman to be “virgo intacta” at the altar anymore, or to display a blood-stained bedsheet the morning after her wedding night. 18th century libertines fetishized virginity because its removal in a socially unapproved manner (e.g. rape or “seduction”) had such huge social ramifications for the woman. Apart from the direct violation of a person’s integrity, it would also result in social ostracism. (Assuming she wasn’t of low social standing, in which case society didn’t give a crap.)

In Clarissa, Lovelace spends most of the book trying by seduction and deception to get Clarissa to give up her virginity willingly, suggesting that he still puts a social value on it, despite his libertine views. Eventually, he just gives up, drugs her unconscious and rapes her, marking him as both a failed seducer and a coward. When she comes to, finally disillusioned about him, he offers to marry her to wipe away his crime and save her from social death, but she refuses.

Fast forward about 250 years, and watch the “Like a Virgin” number on the TV show Glee, in which three different people are moving towards their first full-on sexual encounter. They are not motivated by internal lust or passion for another so much as a desire to change their social status by removing the status of virgin, which they view as a stigma. In this case, they want and need others in their community to know that they have completed sex and are no longer virgins, completing their initiations into normative adulthood. Again, the social implications of virginity and non-virginity outweigh the physiological implications.

The existence of Girls Gone Wild and Barely Legal-type porn suggests there is still a fetishization of virginity, but I think this is more of a fascination with youth and freshness. It isn’t fascinated with the almost-magical instant of transition between two binary states, virgin and non-virgin, which seems to be driving this particular scenario.

The second thing that seems just odd is the definition of virginity implied in the press release. Kink.com seems to assume that virginity is not a social or psychological phenomenon, but an empirically verifiable physiological state. In other words, what they are really showing is the presence and then absence of a small scrap of human flesh, via heterosexual coitus. Big whoop. By that definition, a lesbian woman who has never had heterosexual intercourse would be a virgin her entire life, even if her first girlfriend got rid of that pesky hymen ages ago. In fact, a woman can have a non-intact hymen for any number of reasons, sexual or not. If we sign up for the pay per view, do we get a notarized affidavit of virginity after confirmation by the “trained expert”? (And who is this expert anyway? A gynecologist? Annie Sprinkle?)

I have no idea what Miss Blue’s sexual history is. It quite likely that she is hardly sexually inexperienced, and thus is a “technical virgin” only. This particular scenario may earn her a sentence or two in the history of porn, but it won’t significantly change her social status. The sign (the intact hymen) is de-coupled than the signifier (the woman’s sexual status). When the press release uses language like “sacrificing Nikki’s innocence”, it’s speaking in an obsolete language. We don’t believe in it anymore, in the same way we’re not impressed by a white woman with an Afro representing a lost tribe of beauties.

If I’m coming across as callous to Miss Blue, it isn’t intentional. I’m much less concerned about the state of her hymen, and whether it is breached in the right or wrong way, than whether it will be good for a rookie adult film performer to be dropped into the deep end. That this will be a live show, where they are discouraged from stopping and renegotiating if something goes wrong, is even more of a concern. As we saw in that excruciating scene in Graphic Sexual Horror, live shoots can create a situation in which everybody, including the models, wants to press on instead of stopping and making sure everybody’s okay with what’s happening. Nikki Blue’s first time (however you define that) doesn’t have to be hearts and flowers and soft music, but I would rather it didn’t go haywire for her.

That said, I don’t know how this can be anything beyond an ordinary video shoot. Linda Williams in her book Hard Core says that pornography evolved a complex visual language to represent what could not be represented: women’s subjective experience of sexual arousal and orgasm. What Kink.com is doing is attempting to visually represent what exists only as physiology, and has nothing to do with the social status or subjective experience of anyone involved. There’s nothing to see.

Addendum: Clarisse Thorn has a couple of good posts (1,2) on this.

Miss Maggie Mayhem has a good discussion of what “virginity” actually means.

Also, there are rumours going around that Nikki Blue is not actually a virgin. The deception!

Sep 222010
 

Graphic Sexual Horror (2009), dir. Barbara Bell, Anna Lorentzon IMDB

“I’m looking for something that’ll… break through, you know?” Videodrome, 1982, dir. David Cronenberg

In the mid-90s, bondage photography was still stuck in the glamor-based, damsel-in-distress style mode that Harmony Concepts had been putting out since the 1970s.

Then came the notorious website Insex.com, hardcore bondage shoots that owed more to crime scene photos than Helmut Newton. Insex was also new in that it was designed for the web: downloadable clips instead of mail-order DVDs, and live chats. It was created, almost on a whim, by PD, also known as Brent, who cited his experiences during a tour in Vietnam, when he saw a bondage show in a Japanese nightclub. He also cited his bondage-influenced performance pieces.

Continue reading »

May 262010
 

The video for Christina Aguilera’s single “Not myself tonight” is aptly titled. It’s full of blatant visual quotes from Madonna’s “Express Yourself” (1989) and “Human Nature” (1995) videos, plus George Michael’s “Freedom.” The pop singer is channelling Madonna from 20 years ago, when Aguilera herself was in the Mouseketeers.

Continue reading »

May 232010
 

Susannah Breslin’s column has a fascinating article on This ain’t Max Hardcore: a XXX parody. It’s a turn-the-tables scenario in which a baby-doll-style woman beats up and anally foot-fucks an actor playing the famed gonzo porn maker.

Paul “Max Hardcore” Little, currently serving a prison sentence in Florida, is known for his particular style of videos, which Breslin describes thusly:

In his movies, women are urinated upon, forcibly fellated until they vomit, their orifices cranked open with speculums. They are pile-driven, skull-fucked, and fish-hooked. Mostly, they are dressed and behave as if they are underage girls — somewhere in the neighborhood of, say, six or seven. These women-as-girls are accosted on playgrounds, where they suck provocatively on lollipops and respond to Hardcore’s come-ons with baby talk. In their sex scenes — if they can be called that, as they seem more like systematic attempts to break the human spirit recorded on videotape for posterity and profit — Hardcore, who wears a cowboy hat and whose prop of choice is a hideous canary yellow sofa, violates their holes while spewing forth a stream of degrading language.

Assuredly, Hardcore’s movies are not for the faint of heart. They are targeted at a demographic one would perhaps rather not dwell upon the existence of for any length of time. They are less “movies” and more political demonstrations: of power, of violence, of one man’s seeming frustration with the opposite sex: porn’s very own final girl, who, no matter how hard he tries, will not lay down and (pardon my language) fucking die, leaving poor Max with no choice but to return to the scene of the crime and do it all over again.

Breslin cites the “final girl” from Carol J Clover’s book Men, Women and Chainsaws. Clover argues that final girl, with the androgynous name and the ambiguous gender identity, is the one girl who ultimately survives and defeats the killer, who is also riddled with flawed sexuality and gender identity. This is part of the viewer working through his adolescent male sexual anxieties. Hardcore’s oeuvre bears a certain resemblance to the slasher film, an extremely prolific genre in the early and mid 80s, full of endless variation on the same basic formula. The story reminds me a little of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was about the standard horror victim into the hero(ine).

So, if Hardcore’s films are working through (however unsuccessfully) male issues with women, what is This is not Max Hardcore working through? Who is going to watch This is not… and who is going to cheer the female protagonist on? If we assume the default viewer of video porn is a young heterosexual white male, then he might make the identification shift (as Clover describes it) from the “monster” to the “final girl”, rooting for the girl to defeat the “dirty old man” archetype represented by Paul Little. Maybe This is not… is the other half of the dialectic, with the first half by the usual Hardcore video.

Arguably, Hardcore’s videos can be seen as an extreme form of “virtue in distress”, a distant descendant of Richardson’s Clarissa, but misread so that the power dynamic is only one way. This video could be seen as a “strong misreading” (as Harold Bloom would put it) of the Hardcore videos that unwittingly returns to the form’s ancestor.

Here’s a question: does the violence of a Max Hardcore video have the same impact when it is a young woman doing it to an older man? Or does femdom-malesub violence not have the same impact because it is not “real”, that we do not take women seriously as agents of violence? When Red Riding Hood fights back against the Big Bad Wolf, is it heroism or a joke?

Breslin’s piece also provides a great look into the porn culture of 2010, with biographical sketches of Debi Diamond, the producer and former porn performer, Rod Fontana (former US Army officer, porn performer and would-be preacher), and Kristina, the vengeful ersatz Max Hardcore girl who described Paul Little as a “sweet, little old man.”

(Note to Ms. Breslin: When are we going to see a non-fiction book from you?)

May 172010
 

Gawker has an email exchange between Ryan Tate and Apple head honcho Steve Jobs that’s partially about the technical/business issue of why Flash won’t be allowed on the iPad, but also about the issue of porn on the net.

Jobs:

Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.

And you might care more about porn when you have kids…

Aha, I thought, here’s the nub of it. Jobs employs the old “won’t somebody think of the children” canard, situating the iPad in a purely domestic environment where children are central, and nothing that could potentially or purportedly harm them must be allowed it. As Walter Kendricks pointed out in The Secret Museum, censorship requires the idea of the “vulnerable person” who must be protected from the influence of pornography.

From a strictly business point of view, this attitude may hamstring the Apple iEcosystem. If the goal is to create a walled garden, people may simply not show up and go elsewhere because they like their porn, among other things.