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Spanking in London – TimeOut

If you’re in London, you might have spotted this last week…

Spanking in TimeOut London

TimeOut magazine contacted me for an interview about spanking in London as part of their history of London in 10 sex objects, one of which is the Coco de Mer spanking ruler. I was happy to give them some quotes (and impressed by the way they cut my ten minutes of rambling down to a concise few lines, without mangling the meaning).

At the same time, the magazine has released an A to Z of sex in London, which is surprisingly wide-ranging and up to date, including plenty of kinky events and resources, the East London Stripper Collective, and our favourite kinky sex blogger Girl on the Net (who is listed under W for Web, or Wanking). Every time I travel to other cities it confirms my impression that London is one of the most sexually diverse, kinky places on the planet, and it’s good to see London’s amazing sex culture honoured in a mainstream magazine. Nice one!

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Sinful Sunday – wizard school spanking

Wizard school spanking

The Potions master was furious. “You’re not allowed to use magic until you graduate,” he told Ron. “I can’t have some whippersnapper running around the school with a bigger beard than I’ve got!”

Sinful Sunday

Ethical porn: realness, feminism, labour rights and violence

So, you might have seen: I was featured in the Guardian. I’m really pleased with the article (kind of a relief, because if I hadn’t I’d have had to lump it), but then I wouldn’t have given Zoe Williams an interview if I didn’t trust and respect her as a journalist.

I think the piece is intelligent and balanced, and I’m not just saying that because she says nice things about my work. (She also says the acting is like a school play, which made me chuckle.) She’s not preaching to the converted (unlike, say, this blog), but she doesn’t set out to persuade the anti-porn camp either. Instead the article is aimed at the sort of educated well-meaning lefty who reads the Guardian and doesn’t really watch porn. With her trademark self-deprecating wit, Zoe positions herself in that category before describing how she became convinced that porn was not, in fact, a monolith of misogynistic degradation – and that a lot of it is not only ethical, but watchable.

It’s so good to see it in a mainstream paper – particularly one that has given lots of column space to anti-sex feminists in the past.

I wrote this post the day after, which gives you the backstory to the interview, and a few links fleshing out some of the issues touched upon in the article. With respect to Zoe, who did a superb job, I want to add a few more comments.

Muesli

What Blake does could never be generated by a computer. The film she’s making – a futuristic dystopia in which men have been abolished – sounds a bit muesli on paper; but the landscape of bondage, fetish and futurism is incredibly unmuesli.

I’m intrigued by this language of “muesli”. It’s the same language that characterises feminist porn or ethical porn as “vegan”, “sandal-wearing”, “long-haired”. I understand it’s a dry-humoured nod to the stereotype – I think the stereotype is one which is used to dismiss and trivialise activism in a variety of contexts. I find the conflation of these categories fascinating. Feminist = idealistic = earnest = worthy = muesli. Does that mean it’s unappetising?

(And a futuristic dystopia in which men has been abolished would critique the abolition of men – right?)

But the weirdest thing is that I haven’t made a film like that, and never intended to. (It’s a cute idea, though.) Maybe I was talking about The Clone’s Training as an example of how I strive for originality and creativity in my films? It hadn’t been produced in December 2013 when I gave the interview, but it was already in my script bank.

Realness

It is incredibly confronting to watch, in the sense that you do feel as though you’re watching an actual sexual moment between one person and another. [...] You can say what you like about mainstream porn, but you cannot say that it looks real. [...] Confusingly, you can see real human beings in Blake’s films.

This is partly a comment on the body diversity of my casting, the way I don’t only shoot people with glamour-model looks, but hire based on enthusiasm, acting ability and charisma instead. (And nice bums, of course, which thankfully are found on a wide range of different bodies.)

But it’s interesting to see “realness” held up as a virtue of “ethical porn” – especially when my site specifically sets out to produce fantasy fiction.

Some of the scenes are true to life, showing how I play for real, with no character acting – and showing live negotiation, real reactions, explicit consent and so on. But the clue’s in the name: for the most part, Dreams of Spanking expresses my fantasies. Imagined narratives, roleplays, that sort of thing. Stuff that doesn’t happen in real life. Stuff I wouldn’t want to happen in real life.

On Dreams of Spanking I explore themes of non-consent through fiction – and the fictional narrative is very much contrasted with the real experience of the real humans on set. In the story someone might be being treated horribly and there might be no happy ending. In reality, everyone was consulted on what they wanted to do, we took regular breaks during filming, everyone was fed and paid and felt safe and went home happy. (I generally cast myself as the spankee in my edgiest non-consent fantasies, because that simplifies my ethical responsibilities considerably. And also because it’s hot.) Making explicit this relationship between fictional non-consent and real consent could, in fact, be said to be the entire point of the whole endeavour. So it’s interesting to see “realness” picked out as the thing that makes my porn better than mainstream porn.

Porn is fantasy, as well as being a recording of a real interaction between two people – and fantasy porn can be produced ethically too.

Feminist vs ethical

Feminism is not a prerequisite when it comes to making ethical porn, Blake says. “Feminist porn is explicitly focused on women’s desires and sexuality. So, for example, the belt-whipping scene where I got the life thrashed out of me, that I would say is feminist, because it’s about my journey and my sexuality. Whereas I think it’s possible to produce male-gaze porn in an ethical and fair trade way. That means complete respect for performers, for their boundaries and consent. If someone says no, you don’t ask again, you don’t ask last minute in the middle of a scene. You don’t trick them into doing stuff. You pay them. It’s not only all of those principles, but also communicating that to your audience.”

This quote has been misunderstood, so I want to clarify it.

For me “ethical porn” is a question primarily of labour rights – how workers are treated. How much power do they have to negotiate what they do, and who with? When and how are they paid? Is the working environment safe, clean and comfortable? Are boundaries respected? Is consent given freely, and is it informed consent? Is anyone sexually harassed, threatened, deceived or made to feel uncomfortable? Are the pre-agreed hours kept to? Are men and women paid the same pay for the same job? This is about worker’s rights, the stuff that mobilises labour unions. Porn performers don’t have a union, which is why I think we need a social contract; a campaign for studios to be transparent about their production ethics, and a social movement that puts pressure on producers who exploit their workers. When I attempted to define fairtrade porn two years ago, this is what I was talking about.

These concerns transcend gender politics. The issue of labour rights is separate from whether porn is feminist. Ethical production is the basics; feminism adds an additional set of standards which are, I think, optional. Porn can be ethically produced in the sense of treating its workers well, and still be sexist. Or here’s another example – male/male gay porn. A lot of it doesn’t try to be feminist, in fact feminism has nothing to do with it, but that doesn’t make it unethical unless the workers are exploited.

Ethical production is something I’m prepared to campaign about. I think the whole porn industry should be ethical. But although I identify as a feminist, and spend a lot of time and effort thinking about how to make porn in a more feminist way, I have no desire to evangelise.

I wasn’t saying I’m not a feminist and I don’t consider my porn to be feminist. (I’m not sure where that reading came from.) I was saying that although feminist and ethical overlap, they aren’t synonymous.

For me, feminist porn is a personal integrity thing. Maybe you don’t call yourself a feminist – that’s fine. If you do, and you make porn, and your porn is sexist, then okay, I’ll probably give you side-eye. But I can’t be arsed to try and convert other porn producers to feminism. I don’t really give a crap whether you’re trying to be feminist – as long as you treat your workers with respect.

Does that make sense?

Equal pay for male and female performers

(Quoting Noelle Nica) “…on the practical, economic side, men make much less per scene than women do because they’re viewed as less important. That’s another little detail that would have feminists up in arms if the situation were reversed. Yet nobody rallies to get equal pay for male performers.”

This made me grin, because guess what I’ve spent the last three years campaigning for? That’s right: equal pay for male performers! Here are some links if you don’t believe me.

Just in case there was any doubt remaining: I pay fixed rates for certain jobs, which are the same regardless of the gender of the person I’m hiring. I pay both male and female bottoms £300-£350/day depending on the length of the shoot, because that’s at the higher end of the standard day rate paid by other spanking sites I’ve worked for, and my shoots tend to be full days. Tops get the same as crew (£150-£200, again depending on shoot length and intensity.) Switches get something between the two. I usually negotiate lower day rates for multiple day shoots, which is fairly standard practice.

The pay discrepancy between tops and bottoms is because I think professional sub work should earn a higher rate than other forms of BDSM work, for a few reasons: partly the level of personal risk involved, partly because bottoming is uniquely physically demanding (healing welts and bruises has a physical energy cost beyond the duration of the shoot, and it can take a few days to fully recover from the adrenaline/seratonin spike), but mostly because if you’re welted or bruised you can’t do most other forms of erotic labour until you’ve healed, and so I think anything that leaves marks should pay more to account for the loss of earnings. But the discrepancy is between different jobs, not different genders. I pay everyone the same wage for the same work.

The age of the Crash Pad

Pandora Blake has just bought a membership to crashpadseries.com, “which is a queer radical feminist site that’s been running for 14 years.

Just a correction here: Shine Louise Houston launched her production company PinkWhite in 2005 with her film The Crash Pad. The website came in 2007. My bad – I got the dates wrong. Shine’s achievement is impressive enough without being overstated.

There was feminist porn being produced 14 years ago, though – Candida Royalle kicked things off with Femme in 1985, Purve published photos of men on a membership site for women in 1998, and Anna Span aired her first porn film on TV in 1999. Ms Naughty has a really well-researched history of porn for women which I highly recommend.

One last thing.

Violent fantasy and moral responsibility

There is a chasm here, between people who think that all violence in sex is the result of a patriarchal culture and will lead to violence in real life, and should be stamped out; and people who think that all fantasy is legitimate, and almost all of it can be legitimately met by porn.

AJ, Blake’s assistant, says: “When people chase after paedophilic fantasies, it’s very hard to satisfy them in a way that isn’t damaging someone. But it’s perfectly possible to seek out rape fantasies in a way that isn’t.”

Julie Bindel, feminist and activist, is scathing about this. “Put it this way, if I had a fantasy about having a black woman on her hands and knees scrubbing my kitchen floor and saying, ‘Yes madam, no madam’, yes, I would quash it.”

AJ is talking about consensual roleplay, in case it wasn’t clear, and Bindel’s quote is disingenuous to say the least. I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll try to keep this brief. Fantasy is fantasy. Fantasy exists in your head. If it stays in your head and the only person who ever knows about it is you, you have no responsibility to anyone else. You can fantasise about whatever the hell you want. The only moral boundaries are your own.

As it happens, yes, if I was excited by that fantasy, as a white woman, I would not nurture it. I have, in fact, had fantasies which I was morally uncomfortable with, and I have refused them. (“Quash” isn’t the right word. If you try to suppress a sexual impulse, you strengthen it. Guilt, shame and anxiety can all be powerful arousal amplifiers. But you can turn away.) I have, mid-wank, become uncomfortable with the images rising up in my hindbrain, and I have refused those images and consciously summoned others. Or if that hasn’t worked, I’ve stopped entirely.

But the point is that I would never tell anyone else where their own comfort zone should be; what images, in their own private theatre of the mind, they should nurture, and what they should refuse. It’s private. It’s up to you.

Porn is not private. Porn is a public actualisation of something private, and different rules apply. That’s where the whole methodology of Dreams of Spanking comes into play, that differentiation between fantasy and reality I mentioned earlier. I think that as an ethical, sex-positive feminist pornographer, I do have a moral responsibility not to seem to condone sexist, racist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, slut-shaming, patriarchal ideas. If those themes play a part in a nuanced fictional narrative, I take the time to establish what is fantasy and what is reality. It’s complex. You can’t reduce it to a simple soundbite. This is where the whole idea of “consensual non-consent” comes in (and oh, it’s lovely to be able to use that phrase here, even though I can’t on Dreams of Spanking – thanks for the censorship, CCBill!)

And yes, there are certain themes I won’t use. Race play, as it happens, is one of them. I’m not even sure if this is a feminist porn issue – to me it seems to be an issue of cultural appropriation. I am white, and therefore I do not appropriate Black history for fun or profit. A producer of colour like Mollena Williams has more right than I or Julie Bindel do to explore racial themes in the sexual fantasies we make public.

Valery North has sensible things to say about this:

While I don’t think the Shadow Self is the sole explanation of dark sexual fantasies, I think there is a lot of evidence that for some people anyway, it is a powerful way of engaging with and rehabilitating the shadow self and sexual fantasies and desires are influenced by the negated or rejected elements of our own psyches.

I’m reluctant to try to engage too much with the racial politics of Bindel’s remark (one might be tempted to suggest it’s not her place, as a White middle-class woman, to use that as her particular example, either). Suffice to say, I’ve read some Black women who are into BDSM and it seems from their views that it is possible to produce that porn in an ethical/fair trade way, too.

The Bindel quote wasn’t about porn. Porn is fantasy-made-reality, the actualisation of fantasy. If the fantasy differs from the reality, ethical producers have a responsibility to show both, and to make the distinction clear. This, in a nutshell, is exactly what the Dreams of Spanking project is all about.

Porn is media, it’s entertainment, and it contributes to cultural trends. I wouldn’t tell a racist joke if I was a TV scriptwriter or a stand-up comic, and I won’t make racist porn, either.

But when fantasy is just fantasy, when it exists purely within the privacy of your own imagination – well, that’s your business, and it’s a matter for you and your own conscience. Unless you choose to make them public, far be it from me – or Bindel – to tell you what your fantasies should look like.

Love Our Lurkers IX

Social interaction makes the world go round. Today (and tomorrow) are Love our Lurkers day – the ninth one to date. I missed a couple. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been a bit sporadic at keeping this blog updated since I launched Dreams of Spanking in 2011. Keeping a membership site updated with a new film and image gallery every week creates a fairly hectic schedule. But when I wasn’t doing it so much, I really felt the absence of personal blogging.

This blog has been a consistent part of most of my adult life. I wrote the first post in August 2006, after my first spanking video shoot with English Spankers. But it was never just a professional blog – as well as my spanking porn work, I immediately started writing about my private kinky relationships and play – and in October 2006 I wrote my first post about the proposed extreme porn legislation. Kink, porn and politics have been the focus of this blog since the start. And eight years later, I’m still writing. Are you still reading?

This year – since hiring AJ and Girl on the Net to help out with the week-to-week running of Dreams of Spanking – I’ve been making a real effort to blog here more frequently. And I’m not doing badly; I’ve written 55 posts this year already, compared with only 32 in 2013. But we don’t have the conversations we used to. I miss our chats! I know I went quiet for a while, but I’m here now.

To be honest, I’ll keep on writing either way. Blogging is in my soul – I can’t help it, no matter how creatively fulfilled I am elsewhere. I need this outlet, and I write for myself first and foremost. But it’s so much more fun and interesting if you talk back.

Are you out there? This is your chance to say hello. Maybe we used to talk regularly. Maybe you’ve never left a comment. You don’t have to say anything exciting – just let me know you’re there.

Hi.

Pandora Blake nude at Dreams of Spanking

Hyperkinks: ‘strange’ fantasies, ethical porn, and sex work

Kink

 

Porn

 

Politics (Sex work edition!)

  • I love that he makes the connection between survival sex work and the reduction of the welfare state – and above all that he urges people to listen to sex workers themselves. Bravo. I was also shocked to see how few MPs were present at the debate.
  • Vice has a surprisingly sound article by Frankie Mullen on sex work, the “Swedish model” and decriminalisation. Mullen explains that we need full decriminalsation because, “At present, we’re stuck with a situation in which certain aspects of prostitution remain illegal and, as such, sex workers’ lives and bodies are subject to policing and ​enforced “rehabilitation”. Crimes are going unreported because women don’t trust the police, and abusers have the system on their side.” The whole thing is worth a read.
  • Niki Adams in the Guardian: Listen to sex workers – we can explain what decriminalisation would mean. “Without taking sex workers’ experience into account there can be no protection, only repression.”
  • Finally, in non-sex-work news, London is to see the world’s first wheelchair-accessible, gender-neutral, LGBT-friendly dance studio. With their emphasis on body positivity, accessibility, inclusivity and providing a safe space for people of all genders, sexualities and bodies to enjoy movement, Irreverent Dance are doing powerful, important work. Their showcase on Sunday night was a great night out – and their Kickstarter is open for another 24 hours if this strikes a chord and you want to lend your support.

Friday in Berlin – XConfessions, LOVE HARD and Female Porn Shorts

Since my last update from Berlin, Lucie Blush and Ms Naughty have both posted reports from the Porn Film Festival which are well worth reading.

Tickets for the Moviemento cinema at the Porn Film Festival Berlin 2014

On Friday I felt much better slept, and I had tickets for five screenings, but I’d already decided that only three of them were ones I really cared about: XConfessions by Erika Lust, LOVE HARD by Sensate Films, and the Female Porn Shorts screening in which Instructed was playing.

I got to the cinema at midday to meet Lora, a journalist doing a documentary on feminist porn who had asked to interview me. As I arrived in the Moviemento lounge the film-makers’ meet and greet was just starting. So I got to hear everyone introduce themselves, and to stand up and say a few words about my work too – which seems to have been valuable, as a couple of times after that people came up to me and said “Ah, Pandora – the spanking lady!” It’s good to have an identity at these things, I feel.

Lora and her colleague interviewed me, snapped a portrait, and then it was already 1pm, and I had to run to squeeze in to the screening of XConfessions. In my rush I left my water bottle behind, and I also didn’t have time to pee. This turned out to be an error. XConfessions was listed in the programme as as being 104 minutes long, but (perhaps due to delays at the start) it didn’t finish until nearly 3pm. Two hours of non-stop porn is a long time to go without a drink, a snack, or a toilet break. Note to self: plan better.

XConfessions by Erika Lust

Still, I enjoyed XConfessions (particularly the first few, before I started getting fidgety). I think if I’d watched these one at a time, I would have been spellbound. Each of the ten short films is based on a submission from a viewer about a favourite sexual fantasy or experience. They tend towards the sweet and vanilla, but not always; themes include a woman’s first time pegging her boyfriend (pictured); another first time – going down on another woman; wanting to be bound in shibari; and trying to keep typing while your boyfriend distracts you. A male confession included being made to watch while his girlfriend slept with another man.

The first scene of all got my attention – it started with a behind the scenes documentary which then kept cutting back and forth between the beautifully shot porn scene and the more reality style, behind-the-scenes view of events. It was an interesting technique, one I’ve been considering using myself. At first I thought this was an introduction to Erika’s mode of shooting – but later I realised that “getting to be in a porn film” was the confession. It was an interesting way to open the collection.

XConfessions by Erika Lust

The most memorable scene, and the kinkiest, was the last one. It’s called “The Sadistic Trainer” – but it’s not what you think. Ten men and women get increasingly fed up of being aggressively shouted at and pushed beyond their limits by a fitness trainer. Eventually, they gang up on him, tie and gag him with pilates straps, and have an orgy in front of him – all while he is forced to watch, straining against his bonds and unable to escape. Hot!

Erika is Swedish and filming in Barcelona for an English-speaking audience, mostly with Spanish porn performers. As a result, the majority of the scenes are non-verbal. Her work is polished and stylish, with beautifully lit cinematography in breathtaking high definition, any screengrab of which could look like a glamour or fashion photograph. The non-stop beauty of her work is extraordinary. But the lack of dialogue combined with her taste for slow, dreamy pacing and soft music makes for a mood that didn’t hold my attention on the big screen. But I would definitely recommend watching XConfessions at home, with a partner, one scene at a time.

After 104 minutes of sensual, stylised fucking I felt a bit porned out, and spent the rest of the afternoon adding tickets to my skip pile, eating food and socialising in the film-makers lounge. I also took the time to go shopping for water and snacks. The next unmissable screening on my list was Sensate Films’ documentary about BDSM and intimacy, LOVE HARD.

Sensate Films is the collaboration of Gala Vanting and her partner Aven Frey. This was the first of their films I had seen in full, and it took my breath away. I have never been in an audience that was so quiet. LOVE HARD is a raw, honest, articulate, affirming depiction of BDSM. It combines interviews, docu-portraiture and films of unscripted kinky play, featuring three couples, one poly triad, and two individuals. The interviewees talk about their kink, how they play, the psychology and emotion behind it, and the role kink has in their lives.

We see lesbian high-D/S protocol, asexual hard S&M bloodplay, dreamy shibari, and corporal punishment – both sexualised partner play and self-contained ecstasy. There’s an F/M couple, a couple of M/F pairings, another male bottom and the aforementioned lesbian D/S triad.

Watching LOVE HARD, I felt both seen and represented. I found myself nodding and thinking yes, yes, that’s true, yes, I know how that one goes. One theme is the role of masochism or submission in developing your sense of self – once you are stripped down to your core, without any of your social or cultural trappings, just a shaking, crying, bleeding body – and yet you are still here, you know that you exist, and you know that you can endure. That kernel of self gives you a sense of identity that doesn’t depend on anything external. It is entirely yours. I’ve never seen this truth told in film before, and it made my heart ache. Actually, I’ll be honest: it made me cry tears of recognition.

LOVE HARD is not kink 101. I wish I could show it to people who don’t get what I do, but the level of the play is too extreme in some places for it to be an entry-level discussion of BDSM. It is, however, an excellent kink 201. If you have already dabbled in – or witnessed – BDSM, if you already know about consent and negotiation and safewords, if you already know that healthy power exchange is based on the collaboration of two equal partners, and not a genuine power imbalance, then this takes the discussion to the next level. I want to show it to everyone I know. It’s available to rent or buy from Sensate for only a few dollars, and you should watch it.

After LOVE HARD it was time for the Female Porn Shorts – and the first screening of my collaborative film with Ms Naughty, Instructed.

I saw the female porn programme twice over the weekend, and the second time I got a lot more out of it, so for now I’ll just tell you about the experience of seeing myself in rather intimate close-up on the big screen.

In ‘Instructed’, my lover orders me to undress, get on all fours on the bed, finger my own arse, slide a butt plug in, touch my cunt, spank myself with a clothes brush as hard as I can, and finally bring myself to orgasm with the plug still in place and my bottom red and marked.

I was extremely nervous about watching myself on a screen ten feet high and more than twenty feet across. But in the end, it felt completely normal. I’ve edited this film (although it was Ms Naughty’s edit that we were watching, as she was the one organised enough to submit before the deadline), and so I’ve spent many hours staring at these images. I am no stranger to seeing myself on my computer screen. As the film unfolded, my nerves evaporated. In fact I felt weirdly detached. I knew how it went. I was interested by Ms Naughty’s editing choices, and impressed with the pacing – she had cut a 16 minute film down to 10 minutes for the screening, and the timing felt exactly right. Once I was there, it didn’t feel like a milestone moment after all. It felt normal.

That said, I must have been more keyed up than I realised, because when the credits rolled and Ms Naughty and I were invited up to the front for a Q&A (our film was the last in the programme) I practically bounced up to the mic and proceeded to gabble excitedly into it for as long as the curator would let me. I think I was a bit hyperactive. Not my most professional composure! But I felt like it went well: people stayed quiet during the important bits, they didn’t talk amongst themselves or leave, and Ovidie (the feminist porn director of ‘Pulsion’, sitting next to me) whispered to me that it was hot. Which is all the accolade a budding film-maker needs, really.

Porn Film Festival Berlin – first day of screenings

Violet Blue was kind enough to link to my last post about the Porn Film Festival Berlin. I kept notes throughout the next four days of the festival, but didn’t have time to post anything until I got back. The following was written last Thursday evening in Berlin, after midnight.

Oh my god, where to start? I can’t believe I’ve only been here for a day. Including shorts I’ve seen fourteen films today – I’ve never consumed this much media in one go before. Every spare minute in between has been spent talking, processing, connecting with people. The scarcity of tickets not only makes the films seem more valuable, but having limited time to chat to people in between makes every conversation significant – and really forces you to be efficient. I didn’t want to waste a single second in the film-makers lounge on small talk. Give me shop talk, gossip and analysis every time.

Fucking Different XXY

Thursday at 11am I sat down to watch Fucking Different XXY, a collection of 7 short documentaries on trans and queer sexualities by different producers/directors. Mostly, they focus on the stories of transwomen.

We started with an Arabic sex worker talking articulately about the difficulties she faced growing up different – including a powerful segment where she went back to her hometown, wearing full face veil so she wouldn’t be recognised. We went on to a queer live music video; the story of the Clit Club, New York’s top lesbian club for ten years; two trans female sex workers talking about their lives and sexualities; and a film about a female client attending a BDSM session, with two actors playing the sex worker – one transwoman and one transman. There was a piece of docu-portraiture which showed four people of varying gender identities talking about their relationships with their own bodies, genders and genitals. Finally, we finished with another docu-portrait, this time introducing a transgendered survival street sex worker in Canada who is a poet, activist, and instantly engaging – you can’t help but laugh along with her.

Fucking Different XXY was funny, uplifting, normalising and powerful. I’d recommend it.

Momentum and A Call for Help

I met Morgana Muses just before the screening of ‘A Call For Help’, her collaboration with Anna Brownfield about mature female sexuality, particularly focussing on women over 50. The film shows a series of entertaining vignettes, all heterosexual, including a couple’s romantic evening in, a pro-domme and her clients, and a quickie with a mechanic in the back seat of a car. The whole thing is brought together with a funny storyline about how one woman creatively solves her inability to orgasm – with a little help from her friends.

A Call For Help by Morgana Muses and Anna Brownfield

I definitely agree that the representation of women over fifty in porn, even feminist porn, is severely lacking, and often problematic. Diversity of representation covers age as well as everything else.

I’m proud of the mature performers I’ve worked with for Dreams of Spanking – so far I’ve found performers in this age range to be relaxed, confident, capable, and clear on their own tastes and boundaries. I think many producers would benefit from being more age-diverse, and I’m glad to see Morgana tackling this topic in her own style.

Morgana Muses at the Porn Film Festival Berlin
Morgana giving a Q&A about her film ‘A Call for Help’

Next, I watched another Australian feminist porn film in a very different style: ‘Momentum’ by Michelle Flynn. Michelle’s work is characterised by shockingly beautiful cinematography – which can be intimidating to a n00b filmmaker like me. The intro to ‘Momentum’ is gorgeously shot and composed, and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film.

We see two sex scenes: one boy/girl and one girl/girl. The straight scene is a real life couple, Kara and Devon, whom I recognised from Ms Naughty’s site Bright Desire. They give compelling performances – Kara in particular is smoking hot, and the sex feels affectionate, believable and real, without any of the artificial pacing that often burdens M/F sex in mainstream porn. Likewise, the lesbian scene starring ChloeB and Kenji (I think) was hot, authentic and relateable. I felt like it was sex I had had, or would love to have.

The whole thing is filmed in sundrenched, everyday settings with gorgeous natural light. I loved the laughter, the candid moments, live negotiation and unplanned awkwardness – like when Devon came sooner than he intended, and when one of the lesbians caught her hair on something. This film was definitely horny for me.

Momentum by Michelle Flynn at the Porn Film Festival Berlin

If I had a criticism, it was that the integration of the cinematic intro and the more continuous, real-time sex scenes was a little off; the pace switched from one to the other in a way that felt a bit disjointed. It would also have been good if the intro developed the characters in a way that was relevant to their sex scenes; we got a lovely sense of atmosphere, but not much in terms of identity, explanation or significance of the sex that followed. But I’m being picky only because ‘Momentum’ raised my expectations. Thinking about these things was a good learning experience for me, in terms of how to pace porn narratives in a way that works on the big screen.

Sexy Money at the Porn Film Festival Berlin

At the end of ‘Momentum’ I noticed my stomach rumbling and realised my last meal had been the day before, in England, before I got on the plane. I had a ticket to ‘Sexy Money’, a film about Nigerian sex workers which I really wanted to see, but I had to skip it and have lunch instead.

While I was eating, I was entertained by live lapdance performances. I fucking love this festival.

 

Timewasters

Over lunch I chatted to Cheyenne Picardo, the director of Remedy, whom I met at the Feminist Porn Awards in April. This time she was screening three minute short called ‘Timewasters’, which I made sure I watched. It’s a hilarious take on the mundane and absurd side of sex work, featuring visuals of pro-dommes eating doughnuts between sessions while voiceovers read the most ridiculous emails they ever got from clients who never showed.

Timewasters by Cheyenne PicardoTimewasters by Cheyenne Picardo

Pulsion

Next up was ‘Pulsion’ by Ovidie – again, someone whose work I was introduced to in Toronto. This cinematic feature film is an engaging, satirical sex comedy about a women with Persistant Genital Arousal Disorder, capably played by Emy Russo. She gets sent to a sex therapy clinic for a week where she is surrounded by people with various sexual differences, from fetishists to asexuals, compulsive voyeurs to narcissists. The handling of sexual diversity and dysfunction is light, witty and positive, and overall the film invites the viewer to question where healthy sexual difference ends and unhealthy dysfunction begins.

Pulsion by feminist porn director Ovidie

I was impressed. This feels like a high-budget feature, shot in a cinematic style that makes the sex scenes as beautiful as the dialogue – even though the former was improvised and the latter scripted. By the time each sex scene occurs you really know the characters, and why this event is significant for them – and you’re rooting for them. All the sex in ‘Pulsion’ adds to character development, and all of it is witty and watchable – not to mention wankable. It’s well-written, with a love story that doesn’t feel saccharine, and a twist at the end. This is a porn film I would show my parents, and yes, that is a compliment – a big one. For me this was the highlight of the festival so far.

Queer Porn Shorts

After dinner I was thinking of going to bed, or perhaps just getting a drink in the bar, but instead I was persuaded to use my ticket for the Queer Porn Shorts rather than adding it to my skip pile. This was a long screening for the last of the night, with nine short films. Themes ranged from body hair to body part studies, feminist tentacle porn to fisting, banana blowjobs to BDSM, gender-bending, seashells and cybersex. This was the screening that really made me appreciate the diversity of the Porn Film Festival Berlin. I watched the curators welcome all film-makers to the stage with equal enthusiasm – no matter their budget, topic or experience. This was the screening that made me realise I was in the right place. The Porn Film Festival Berlin is home.

My favourite queer porn shorts were the last two: ‘Biodildo 2′ by Christian Slaughter, an amazingly pansexual foursome film that is beautiful, heart-warming and hot. It follows two apparently straight couples who turn out to be so much more, with an all-star cast of Jiz Lee, Wolf Hudson, KAy Garnellen (who was also in Fucking Different XXY) and Mor Vidal. I loved it.

The night ended with the scene I’d most been looking forward to seeing – ‘Heart Throb Marathon’, the threesome between Zahra Stardust, Wolf Hudson and James Darling which was filmed in Toronto after the FPA. It was every bit as hot as I’d hoped. I loved the intro, with Zahra calling room service and requesting not one, but two male companions for the evening. I loved James’ opening line as he met Wolf in the hotel corridor – “What, you again?” – which was particularly funny given we’d just watched Wolf in the previous film. But the most wankable moment for me was not, as I’d expected, the infamous double fisting of Zahra by Wolf and James, but when Zahra facefucked Wolf with her feet. Her playful dominance and his willing submission made me melt. That boy has a talented mouth.

And what about me? Well, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve broken through my unhelpfully competitive urge to compare my work with everything I see, and started feeling inspired, drinking in knowledge and learning what works well on the big screen. I love the egalitarianism of this festival, no one style of film privileged over any other, no cliqueness; new filmmakers warmly welcomed no matter what box you tick, with cinematic and gonzo, straight and queer, trans and cis, funny and serious all mixed up together. It does my heart proud.

I’m simultaneously frustrated not to be showing more of my own work, and glad to have this learning opportunity before I decide what to submit. I’ve got a film screening thanks to my collaborator Ms Naughty being organised enough to get it sent on time – but I also have five days to absorb, reflect and think about what films of mine will fit best, and how to edit them for a festival context.

In conclusion: I love the international porn community. I love Berlin. And I wish it was acceptable to wank in the cinema.

Dark Chocolate Mousse with Doxy Massager

The people at Doxy Massager recently invited me to participate in a fun video challenge. The aim is to read a recipe while using a Doxy – but the only thing the camera can see is your face.

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of vibrating toys, but I was happy to give it a try – and when my very own Doxy arrived and it was purple, I started to feel excited. Before shooting this I did a first take over knickers, just in case it was too intense. It was enjoyable, but I decided to re-record the whole thing and give it a go without knickers. I honestly wasn’t prepared for the effect it had.

Even Nigella Lawson doesn’t enjoy making dark chocolate mousse this much.

Post sponsored by Doxy Massager.

Landing in Berlin

I should know by now that my moods have ups and downs. After my feeling of euphoria as I left the UK, I landed in Berlin with a bit of a bump.

The festival organisers had very kindly arranged accommodation for me at someone’s house near the cinema, but unfortunately they wouldn’t be there to let me in when I arrived, so I had to go from the airport straight to the cinema. I navigated the public transport and the streets on my own with my two little suitcases (since the Ryanair baggage weight allowance is so small, I couldn’t put it all in one big one). A few hours ago I’d been congratulating myself on my thoughtful packing – now I was cursing myself for not travelling light. I stopped at the airport for a coffee to write down the street address and directions of where I was going, but I didn’t draw a map of the way from the subway station, so I struck out at random in the rain and happened upon it by sheer luck. I felt totally stupid for not being able to ask directions in German.

So I arrived at the cinema straight off the plane, damp and sweaty and tired, in desperate need of a shower, a change of clothes, and a cup of tea. Instead I was immediately plunged into the busiest part of the festival, and had to leave my suitcases in a corner and change my top in the public toilets.

I put a bit of makeup on and sat around the cinema lounge with a cola. I was hoping I’d bump into someone I knew, but there weren’t any familiar faces – and I didn’t even know if anyone spoke English. I wanted to go to bed, but my host wasn’t going to be home until after midnight. Added to all this I was on the first day of my period, so my body’s natural response to all this was amplified and I was a bit emo mess. I was starting to feel anxious about not knowing what was happening the following day. I don’t like not having a plan. Trying to stay calm, I hunkered down and retreated inwards. It turns out I’m only an extrovert when I’m in control.

Someone asked me if I had a ticket to the opening screening that night. I didn’t realise I needed tickets! I got one, and flicked through my programme.

In my current state of mind, this was perhaps not the best idea. I was immediately inundated by all the feels. Part of me was happy to be included. Look, there was my name, in the Female Porn shorts section! And my butt!

But in my emotional state, I also felt irrationally jealous of all the people showing feature films, and scared that my solo hotel-room short wouldn’t measure up in terms of production values. Seeing the amazing work on offer, I felt increasingly intimidated and out of my depth.

I was also feeling felt frustrated that although I’ve been producing films for five years and distributing them – profitably – for three, I can’t seem to carve out the time I need to edit screenable versions of my films. Instructed is only here because Ms Naughty took the time to edit a tight version of it and send it off before the deadline. None of the other films of Dreams of Spanking are being screened because I know they are too slow to screen well without editing, and I haven’t had time to re-cut them yet.

Still, as I read the programme, I began to get a sense of the variety on show – far more than at the Feminist Porn Awards. I began to realise that with a little work, plenty of my films might be eligible. I just need to make the time to cut them down to a screenable length.

I’d barely had time to finish this thought process when it was time for the opening film: R100, a dark, twisted, funny Japanese sex comedy that is jokingly rated “ages 100 and over”. This is, however, a fair indication of how fucked-up it is. The film is about an S&M contract that goes horribly, horribly wrong. R100 breaks boundaries. The protagonist’s. Society’s. Ours. It is, in fact, totally fucked up. It’s not just boundaries that are broken, either, but the fourth wall, tension, and all the rules about narrative and filmmaking. The film flicks between realism and surrealism, between narrative and meta-narrative.

The way this film toys with tension is nothing short of masterful. Events escalate, and sequences of slow, suspenseful realism rachet up the tension. There are some moments that are straight out of a horror film, with shadow lighting and shaky camerawork. Then, just as quickly, the tension is broken; the film will flick to a high speed car chase or glossy hi-octane montage where the ultraviolence, the fucked-upness, is styled out and seems less traumatic. Then it switches just as quickly back to gritty realness, and you realise with horror that they’re going to follow through on the traumatic things that just happened in realness mode. This is a film that loves to fuck with your expectations. They don’t follow through on the trauma – instead they do a different kind of fucked up traumatic thing, each one increasingly surreal, until you’ve left the world of real-life horror and entered a world of war imagery and Japanese demons.

It’s interesting, because the most horrific moment in the film is only about half way through. But as a narrative choice, it works, because once the most dreaded thing imaginable has happened, all the normal rules of escalation have been broken. After that, anything could happen. Literally anything. There are no rules. And then just as you’ve stepped off the edge of that cliff, the film breaks the fourth wall and suddenly, brilliantly, all the tension is relieved, and you feel like you can bear to keep watching; so when they dive back in to the story, they can push it and escalate and take it far further than you ever imagined. And then, at the end, suddenly it all comes together in a way that is simultaneously beautifully affirming and positive and makes sense of everything, and ridiculously satirical and absurd.

Amazing film. If you like twisted Japanese mindfucks you will love it. I want to show it to all my friends.

Afterwards I sat in the bar and got a glass of wine, and I did a brave thing: I went up to some people speaking English and asked them if they were filmmakers. And they were! It turned out they were a group called Four Chambers from the UK, making very interesting independent porn. Before I knew it, I was immersed in a conversation about collaboration, pair-editing and being a creative control freak. After that it all fell into place. I caught sight of Gala Vanting and went over to say hi, and within 5 minutes everyone I knew was there; Ms Naughty and Luke, Jennifer Lyon Bell and Annabelle Lee, Lucie Blush, and Jiz Lee, and Courtney Trouble, and I was talking talking talking and starting to realise that I might be able to cope after all.

I learned that you need to get a ticket for every film you want to see, and they only become available the day before. They’re free if you’re a filmmaker, but you still have to get them – even if it’s your own film. And they sell out. So I got a tickets for every session on Thursday. Each session has three films showing at once, so I had to make choices off the cuff. The guy in the queue behind me was like “You’re going to watch 12 hours of film?” and I blushed. I just wanted to make sure I had the option.

Then I saw something else in the programme I really wanted to see, and came back and got a ticket for that too. So now I had a spare ticket. Apparently you could hand them back in, and then they got handed out to people on the waiting list. While I was chatting to Lucie, someone came out and started calling the names on the list for the next film, distributing any unused tickets. This atmosphere – it was exciting! I realised that the system of scarcity would make me far more interested in seeing as many films as possible than if I had automatic entry to all of them without effort. The excitement was contagious.

Then my host arrived – well, the flatmate of my host – so I could finally land properly. She helped me with my bags, raising an eyebrow at me for needing two cases for five days (they are small cases, okay). The flat is super close to the cinema, and absolutely beautiful – a lovely high-ceilinged space full of bikes and pot plants and shared by four queer housemates. I felt instantly at home. I dumped my bags, took my meds, and jumped straight in the shower.

Now I’m clean, with brushed teeth, in my pyjamas, with wifi, and starting to feel more like myself. I spent a while catching up on internet things – I had a Dreams of Spanking photoset intended for this evening but I haven’t put it in the CMS yet, so I’ll have to leave that if for the morning. Meanwhile, I can have nine hours sleep in a quiet warm bed in a lovely safe house full of friendly, porn-loving women. Oh, Berlin. I am already starting to see the appeal.

Instructed in Berlin

I’m typing this at the airport, waiting for my flight to Berlin. I’ve had five hours sleep and I can’t believe I’ve actually made it this far and nothing’s gone wrong.

This is my third international trip this year and each time I feel like I’m getting away with something naughty. Like all self-employed business owners, I pay the price for time off in advance. All the work due while I’m away needs to be done ahead of time; plus I need to earn extra pennies to pay for the trip. I can’t imagine the ease of having paid leave – but then, nor can I imagine the frustration of not being in control of my own creative work. Overall it’s a trade-off I’m happy with. And after not being able to afford to take holiday for most of my twenties, it feels like an unimaginable luxury.

I don’t know if it was the sleep deprivation, but as I arrived at the airport I felt suffused with happiness. When I think of the lives lived by so many women worldwide less fortunate than me, I can’t believe the freedoms I enjoy – being able to express myself creatively and sexually, to travel, to be in control of my own life, earn a living doing what I love.

The Berlin Porn Festival is my next adventure – and I’m so excited! Whenever I’ve told any of my friends I’m going to Berlin, they have told me that it’s the best city, that I’m going to love it. It’s built my anticipation to a fever pitch. I didn’t know what to expect, so I’ve probably packed too much – clothes for warm weather and cold weather, for wind and rain, smart clothes, fetish clothes, and even DVDs of my film that will be screening – Instructed.

Instructed - female porn from Dreams of Spanking

I didn’t plan for this trip, and I didn’t even decide to go until I found out that Instructed was screening – the film I made in Toronto with feminist porn pioneer Ms Naughty. As soon as I learned that it would be shown in Berlin, I knew I had to go. So far, my films have been screened at two festivals (Bikesmut and Cinekink – both in the US), and I couldn’t get to either. By contrast the Berlin Porn Film Festival is practically next door. This time, I had no excuse.

Instructed is an interesting first film to see screened in public, for two reasons. Firstly, my content share with Ms Naughty permitted us both to edit our own versions of the footage, so that we could each offer exclusive content to our members. But we co-directed it, and the two edits turned out surprisingly similar – it seems we had a pretty coherent vision. So I’ll be watching my film, but not my editing choices, which will perhaps give me a bit of pleasant distance. Film-maker anxiety might be a bit much to process given it will also be the first time I’ve seen myself as a performer on the big screen.

Which brings me to the second reason – this is the most sexually explicit film I have ever made. It’s still a new thing for me to publish a film online that includes a close-up shot of my cunt as I touch myself. The internet is quite different from a cinema full of people. I am still not sure how I feel about the idea of watching high definition video of myself on the big screen, inserting a buttplug and masturbating to orgasm.

Instructed - female porn from Dreams of Spanking

As I said on Dreams of Spanking, this is going to be a baptism of fire. It’s definitely one of those seminal moments in the life of a pornographer.

The thing that makes me proud of this film, and like maybe I won’t have to hide behind my programme, is that my partner D also contributed. It was his written instructions that I trustingly followed on camera – without knowing in advance what he had written – and it’s his voice that accompanies the film as voiceover, telling my on-screen self what to do. My relationship with this film is still one of wonder and admiration that my boyfriend would go to such lengths to support my career and be part of my creative process. When I imagine myself watching it, I’m not blushing at the sight of my own cunt displayed the size of a cinema screen, but at the knowledge that despite my tendency to gallivant across the planet to hang out with pornographers, he loves me enough to find a way to get involved.

When we shot Instructed, I felt as if D was reaching across the ocean to wrap me in the glow of his loving dominance. Now I come to watch it on the big screen for the first time, we’re separated by distance again – and it’s comforting to know that his words, and his voice, will be part of the experience nonetheless.

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