‘Kink’ Doc Sheds New Light on BDSM Porn
LOS ANGELES — The delicate dance of dominance and submission receives a spotlight perhaps unlike anything the adult industry has ever seen in the fearless, illuminating documentary “Kink.”
Produced by actor James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini Productions and directed by Christina Voros, the 1 hour, 19 minute film about Kink.com not only deconstructs the most common misconceptions about BDSM content, it also gives the complicated genre a compelling face.
Billed as “a peek into the secret world of sex, bondage and fetish porn,” the doc debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 before having a limited theatrical release last summer and arriving on Netflix in April.
The filmmakers capitalized on what appeared to be unprecedented access deep inside the world famous San Francisco Armory where Kink.com is headquartered.
And they did more than just record a few staff meetings with Kink.com founder and CEO, Peter Acworth. They used their keys to the castle to capture the kind of graphically raw footage many fans of so-called mainstream porn may not even realize exists, let alone translates into hundreds of thousands in monthly revenues for the BDSM juggernaut.
Not surprisingly, the content of Voros’ film is just as gritty and extreme as many of the BDSM scenes found in Acworth’s online empire.
An industry leader with regard to performer safety and STI testing, Acworth founded Kink.com out of his grad school dorm room in 1997, building it into a multi-million dollar enterprise with more than 100 employees.
The no-holds-barred nature of Voros’ footage, which is loaded with explicit nudity but no close-ups of penetration, is a credit to Acworth’s willingness to be transparent about how his content is produced.
What results is a definitive look at the inner workings of Kink.com that includes a taste of everything from casting decisions to production meetings, and bondage scenarios that are not for the faint of heart.
Through a series of confessional-style interviews with the directors behind Kink.com intermixed with candid discussions with the talent that bares their souls, “Kink” paints a thought-provoking picture of the self-empowerment at the heart of BDSM play.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to connect with BDSM because they’re fearing their own desires,” says Five Star, a videographer at Kink. “Because a lot of elements of BDSM can be scary and the intensity of BDSM scenes can be very high. You’re doing things that you’re not supposed to do in everyday life. You’re basically creating another world where those rules are suspended.”
She adds, “I think many people tend to see BDSM as abuse and I think that’s a huge misconception.”
In what often are emotionally intense and physically demanding performances where exploring one’s sexual limitations is encouraged, the film reveals the rewarding part of BDSM play varies as much as the personalities of the participants — both on and off camera.
“My background in BDSM is in the pain realm,” says Orlando, one of Kink’s seasoned shooters. “I myself am a fan of pain and that’s where my connection is coming in here.
“Anything I’ve done to a woman on this site — it’s a rule that I have for myself as a Dom — I don’t do anything to somebody that I haven’t experienced myself.
“There’s a miraculous thing about having orgasms that are supported with endorphins and adrenaline and pain. So I like to play with that balance. Sometimes it confuses people. They don’t even know why they’re feeling so good. It’s an abrupt and very explosive orgasm at times.”
We hear Orlando’s insights while he’s seen securing the restraints on pretty performer Lyla Storm, who’s hanging upside down waiting to be penetrated by a 70-pound machine with a dildo attached to it.
It’s these types of arresting visuals that are coupled with rational, levelheaded perspectives from the players throughout the narrative of “Kink,” which succeeds in demystifying the surreal nature of many of the extreme sexual situations.
We see director Maitresse Madeline giving instructions on how to properly step on a performer’s erection.
“There’s a way to step on a cock without hurting it,” she says, demonstrating.
We see director Princess Donna preparing her talent for a “Bound Gangbang” scene in which the setup is a home invasion.
“For me there is a very direct correlation with what I find to be exciting and things that I think initially are disgusting or inappropriate or wrong,” she tells Voros.
And we see director Van Darkholme showing his male star how much force to use and exactly where to punch his sub in the chest.
There are prevailing themes that emerge during all the interviews: safety comes first; nothing on Kink.com happens without consent; and the performers can stop the action at any time for any reason.
“They have control of the entire situation and that’s why it’s safe,” Maitresse Madeline says.
“Consent is at the heart of everything we do,” says Five Star.
Director Matt Williams tells Voros Kink.com is about a feeling of authenticity that simply isn’t found in other areas of porn.
“The first thing we tell the girl when she comes in the door is we don’t want you to act, we want you to be yourself,” Williams says. “So almost all of their reactions to it are the person’s reaction’s to it, not the porn star’s reactions to it.
“You can’t fake it because if you fake it, it comes across as fake. And if you don’t enjoy it, it comes across as forced.”
Indeed, “Kink” shows performers letting out countless guttural screams of both pleasure and pain during their scenes. But in this case, it’s a good hurt.
“BDSM can be therapeutic,” Princess Donna admits.
Williams continues, “You’ll fake so many orgasms in mainstream [porn]. And we don’t here. If a girl doesn’t cum that’s fine, but we don’t fake anything when it comes to pain. Because if we did, we would never be able to tell the true distress of a girl.”
Even though Kink’s content often conveys an element of danger, safety remains paramount from the word “action.”
“The sub has complete control,” director John Paul says. “The sub is the one who’s in charge. The submissive person in D/S play is the one who says, ‘Hey, I’d like to get slapped around. I like to be manhandled.’ I like to do X, Y, Z, whatever it is that they’re into and they’re giving the Dominant permission to be sadistic and to be dominant towards them because as soon as they say their safe word, it’s done.”
John Paul continues, “Sometimes people get too headstrong and don’t want to use their safe word and they’re pushing themself past the limit and then it becomes a bad experience. So you don’t want that to happen because it’s unnecessary.
“You can push yourself beyond belief and it doesn’t have to be a bad experience. The important thing is — communication is the biggest thing. That’s what the safe word kind of allows to happen.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is finding out about what makes the directors and performers tick.
“To be able to create sexual imagery, it feels like a great gift,” Princess Donna says. “It’s what I want to be doing.”
She says she studied gender and sexuality, and photography in college, and that “my photographic explorations were always sexual in nature.”
It’s Princess Donna who calls the shots for one of the doc’s most memorable sequences as we see the beginning of a scene in which the female star gets roughed up by several men in ski masks who break into her home.
It’s a disturbing watch and in this case, the scene is just not working, so Donna calls a stop to it and decides to change the setup in favor of something slightly less dramatic.
In the meantime, the guys remove their masks and kick back on the couch, while the girl smiles as they exchange casual banter. It’s one of several moments in the doc where we’re reminded that, hey, it’s just entertainment.
“People come in and sometimes find that it’s rougher than they were expecting but I always will just change the scene to accommodate whatever they can handle,” Princess Donna explains.
“Some scenes are way rougher than other scenes and I work very hard to keep everything within the model’s limits, make it explicitly clear that they’re in control of the scene and we don’t have to push it any harder than they want to go.”
And that is the lasting message of Voros’ “Kink.” It’s controlled chaos. And everyone is in on it.
Director Tomcat may have said it best, summarizing why Kink.com’s brand of entertainment will always have its place in the world of pornography.
“One thing, especially if you’re looking at BDSM porn and you’re getting freaked out about it. Just say to yourself ‘this isn’t for me but it is for someone,’ she says. “And that’s that and move on.”