Posted at 16:35 on 27 Apr 2010 by Pandora Blake
In my interview the other day I said that part of producing "feminist" spanking porn is about presenting kink and sexuality in a positive, affirming way so no women being spanked for being slutty, or anyone being made to feel ashamed for their sexuality.
I was trying to sum up some very complicated issues in a very short answer, so I wasn't surprised when I got an email asking me to clarify what I meant:
If we're talking about a spanking scene or fantasy, what's wrong with being spanked for being slutty? Being sexually active is a good thing so in the context of the fantasy perhaps the spankee is getting treated unfairly or unjustly. If we agree that the right and proper way to raise children and solve debates in the real world is probably not through spanking, then spanking is both unfair and unjust. It's this inequality (sub vs Dom) that makes it sexy in play/fantasy/movies? I think you can still have that as the "spanked for being slutty" scenario without making the statement that sexual freedom is wrong!?
I think this might be simpler if I describe the sort of attitude I had in mind when I wrote my original statement. Imagine a spanking porn producer who churns out tonnes of content, often without a satisfactory storyline or rounded characters. Most of the models are chosen for being young, white, skinny and inexperienced, rather than for their acting ability or love of spanking. The producer takes no care to remember or correctly spell models' names, and in the marketing materials no distinction is made between the model and the character they were playing in a particular scene. The adverts are, if you like, all "in character". So when the character is described as dirty, filthy, bratty, naughty, or called a brat, minx, slut, or whore, those words are applied to the model as well.
I'm not a whore, or a brat. I'm not dirty or filthy or naughty. I'm not a mischievous little minx or a misbehaving child. I'm an adult woman who deserves the respect you would give to any other professional.
Take another example. A spanking producer shoots a scene in which a spanking model misbehaves on a spanking shoot. She has to be spanked on set and - gosh, who would have thought it? - the cameras are still running. How realistic! How gritty! You might roll your eyes, but this seems to be a favourite scenario which is returned to by loads of producers. The result is that the model - the hard working professional who has been busting a gut all day to earn the respect of this producer - is plastered all over the Internet with accompanying text saying what a naughty little minx she is, ruining the shoot - dreadful behaviour - how dare she! Such unprofessionalism clearly needs dealing with! It's a good job the spanker was on hand to teach this little madam a well deserved lesson!
I know that when I've just finished a hard spanking shoot, when I'm knackered and getting a late flight or train home and about to suffer a huge endorphine crash, when I've worked as hard as I could to do a good job and make life easier for the people I'm working with, the very last thing I want is to read fake marketing materials pretending I was unprofessional and deserved to be punished for real on the shoot.
No-one gets to punish me for real except my Doms, and even then only in specific, carefully-negotiated circumstances. This boundary exists for my safety, and the professional contract between me and a spanking producer does not give them the right to fuck with it.
In both the above examples, a spanking producer has failed to define the "in character" and "out of character" boundary satisfactorily. The message this sends is that the producer does not respect their models, and does not consider their models to have any personality or presence worthy of attention out of scene. All the best producers - and you know who you are! - make a clear distinction between a model and the character she or he plays. In scene, by all means, refer to the character however you like, as long you negotiate it beforehand and everyone involved consents; but out of scene, a good producer will always treat their models like human beings, and talk about them with respect.
Spanking models work very hard to maintain the boundaries between acting and reality. We spend hours every week fighting off creepy emails from people who think we "deserve" to be punished, telling us how naughty we are, that we need some lonely dude to come and "teach us a lesson". We don't. We are intelligent, feeling adults who enjoy playing roles - and we define the boundaries of those roles, not you.
Women who are open about their sexuality have always been called sluts and whores. Some women have reclaimed the words and given them a positive slant. To understand how this works, think about the word "pervert". You might call yourself a pervert, and be totally fine with that. But how would you feel if a tabloid article called you a "filthy pervert" and implied that you were a sick sadist who abused people against their will? That's how we feel when people call us "slut" or "whore" outside the context of a negotiated, consensual scene. It's nothing like using the word in a safe space, between people we trust.
The tabloid in my example has trampled on your personal boundaries, taken things out of context, and implied a level of non-consent in your interactions which would be completely horrific in real life. Calling a spanking model a "filthy whore" because, for instance, she did a scene in which her character was spanked for masturbating, has the same effect. It removes the conversation from the safe, negotiated space of the scene, and applies the same language in a real-world, non-consensual context. It implies that rather than playing a naughty little girl who doesn't know better, the spanking model is a naughty little girl who doesn't know better, rather than a grown woman capable of defining her own boundaries.
I've mostly used the language of female spankees above, but the problem is even worse in malesub films. Submissive actors are referred to as "filthy slave" or "fat pig"; they are treated with as much disrespect in the marketing materials as they are on the shoot; they often aren't named or given any praise for the hard work they've done or suffering they've endured.
Any model who has been violently beaten in order to help make the porn you're enjoying deserves your respect. Producers who use language which objectifies and degrades their own models encourage the users to think of them as objects rather than whole human beings. To move towards a more feminist, gender egalitarian, sexism-free porn industry it is essential that producers present their models in a way which celebrates their humanity, hard work and professionalism. If producers distinguish between the naughty little boy who deserves a spanking in this hot clip, and the brilliant actor who was fantastic on the shoot, it will encourage users to make the same distinction, and that can only be good for the health of our society as a whole.
So while it might be okay to film a scene where the character was caught sleeping around, or masturbating, and was punished for being "slutty", it is absolutely not okay for this fiction to in any way be extended to the models who participated. It is the responsibility of producers to define the boundary between in character and out of character. You can always tell how well a producer treats their models on set by how they talk about them in their publicity materials, and models quickly learn to steer clear of studios which talk about their models as if they were worthless, two-dimensional characters.
In the context of female spankees, I also have a personal issue with the specific scenario of "being spanked for being slutty". Our society still sends the message through media, entertainment, literature and advertising that women can be virgins or whores but nothing in between; that if a woman is interested in sex, she cannot also be an intelligent, strong, interesting person. Our society still perpetuates the idea that if a woman is "slutty" (i.e. interested in sex) she loses the right to define her own sexual boundaries; if she is raped or sexually assaulted she "deserved" it, or at least would not be able to prove her rape in court, which sends the same message in practice. Women are punished every day by our society for enjoying sex. This is still a huge problem, and if you aren't aware of it, you aren't looking hard enough.
I don't feel it would be responsible or appropriate to make scenes which play on that injustice while it is still something that damages my life. Until I am no longer punished for having a sexuality by the world I live in, I'm unlikely to want to play similar games for my own amusement. Too many people still subscribe to this belief for me to want to produce fiction which propagates it. "Slut" is a hugely problematic category and if you're trying to produce feminist porn, you need to be very careful about distinguishing between fiction and reality. If I ever did produce a film along these lines (and heaven knows, there are far more interesting, original scenarios I could use!) I would almost certainly want to talk or blog about the social context, so I'm not just buying into the meme that female sexuality should be suppressed and women who express it should be punished.
I'm not setting myself up as the feminist police, so if you're a spankee and you find playing games that play on you being "slutty" enjoyable, all power to you. I hope it is an empowering and affirming experience. I know exactly where the emotional impact comes from - I like my partners to call me a "slut" in bed, sometimes. That works for me because I know that they know they don't think of me as a slut, they don't think my sexual expression compromises my right to be treated like a human being. But no-one has the right to make that call other than the spankee. You don't get to call someone a "slut" just because they're into spanking, or enjoy sex, or model for adult films, unless they have explicitly given you permission to do so.
Films are a public space, and the way I see it, I have a responsibility to the women I share this society with not to propagate ideas that will make life harder for all of us. That's one of the main reasons I keep this blog - to make the boundary between in and out of character as explicit as possible.
Kinky fantasies are all based on scenarios of abuse and injustice which would be unacceptable in real life. When those injustices are currently affecting the lives of the participants, I don't think it's okay for porn to unquestioningly trot out the same stereotypes and out-dated ideas. If I filmed a scene which perpetuated the damaging stereotype that sexually active women are "sluts" who deserve to be "punished", I would be sure to somehow challenge, twist or critique this idea to encourage people not to take the scenario at face value.
Basically, you may know that female sexual expression is affirming and healthy, and I may know that, but until our society stops sending the opposite message, I don't think it's safe to assume that the viewer knows that. Statistically speaking, your viewers most likely include some misogynists who think that any woman who sleeps around or enjoys kink is a filthy little whore who deserves everything she gets. A feminist producer should avoid publishing anything in such as a way as to validate those creeps' point of view, or give the impression that the producer thinks the same.
If, say, your top is clearly presented as a horrible villain, and the viewer is meant to sympathise with the spankee, and the language in your publicity materials clearly maintains the boundary between in character and out of it, and the model is given a space to speak in their own voice about how hot they found the scene, and it's made clear that neither producer, nor top, nor viewer endorse the ideas expressed in the scene, then I think it would be possible to produce this scenario in a feminist way. But most of the producers who regularly use this scenario don't do that, and that's why it bothers me.