Posted at 22:58 on 14 Jun 2011 by Pandora / Blake
1."Real" punishment in spanking porn
One of the most popular tropes in spanking porn is the concept of the performer being consensually punished on camera for some real misdeed, and experiencing genuine feelings of remorse, catharsis and release in the process. Real Life Punishment, Dallas Spanks Hard and Strictly Spanking all focus exclusively on this sort of scenario. A lot of people want to believe that the scenario they're watching is, to some extent, psychologically "real".
I can certainly sympathise with that; for a start, there's nothing more distracting than bad acting. The best performers are often the ones that put a lot of themselves into their work, choose their roles carefully, and only do scenes with which they can genuinely emotionally engage. And, alongside polished, well-acted projects by my favourite producers, I also like watching amateur clips put together by real couples. I think this impulse to watch something with real feeling behind it is the same as spurs people to seek out "real" punishment scenarios. But personally, as a performer and as a viewer, I'd rather watch a scenario that's real because the performers are really into each other, than watch the same top beat any number of different professional performers for "real" misdemeanours.
The reason is simple enough: I'm not submissive in general, I'm submissive to two chosen individuals. Only my partners get to punish me for things I really feel bad about. Everything else is acting. That doesn't mean you'll never see me getting punished for real on camera - it just means the only people I'm prepared to shoot real life punishment scenes with are my real life tops, because they're the only people I share that sort of emotional intimacy with. (The exception, I guess, would be if the top was the person I'd wronged, and the pretext is a transparent excuse for a spanking rather than something either of us still feels genuine anger or guilt over; either the offence was trivial, or we've already worked it out in private and the spanking is just for fun. A public spanking film is not a forum I'm comfortable using to work out genuine emotional interpersonal issues.)
I might use things I've really done as inspiration for scenarios with other tops, but only if I'm already at peace with what I've done - I'm not going to experience genuine remorse, submission or release through shooting a scene with anyone other than my own doms. No-one else has the authority to punish me for something I've done. I don't subscribe to the idea that all tops have the right to police the behaviour or all bottoms.
Clearly this isn't true for everyone. A lot of performers are perfectly comfortable basing a punishment scenario on true events, and might find it liberating or cathartic regardless of whether they share a romantic intimacy and power exchange with the top who's punishing them. This is merely a personal boundary of mine, and I have no desire to criticise anyone else for not sharing it. (I find faked "real punishments" of the "model misbehaved on the shoot" variety tedious and annoying, but I have no objection to performers working through genuine guilt with professional tops on commercial shoots if that's what they want to do.)
2. How I like to be punished on film
I've definitely got a lot pickier about scenarios I'm comfortable filming and who I'm comfortable filming with in the five years I've been making spanking films. My recent planning session with Amelia-Jane, coming up with ideas for our Spanked in Uniform shoot, got me thinking about what my preferences are in general, particularly when working with people who aren't my dominant partners. I'm not only reluctant to film "real" punishment scenarios with people other than my doms, but I've become more selective about the sort of fictional scenarios I like doing, too. It was interesting thinking in detail not only about what I'm not comfortable with, but some of the unlikely things I actually really enjoy. After some thought, I came up with the following generalisations:
These days, I am comfortable acting out a fictional punishment scenario on film if it is...
- mutual justification, i.e. both my and the top's characters firmly believe themselves to be in the right; my character had good reason for doing what they did, and feels justified in themselves. My character might well make the same choice again knowing what the consequences would be.
- for something which I have actually done (letting me empathise with my character), but which I don't feel particularly bad/guilty about (so it doesn't hit too close to home).
- an unfair or undeserved punishment; for something I didn't do (and the viewer knows it)
- a scenario in which my character is clearly morally in the right; my disciplinarian is wrong, hateful, cruel or arbitrary
- for doing something interesting, brave, romantic, clever, exciting or fabulous (ah, pride)
- silly - if the viewer isn't meant to take the scenario seriously, I'm much less inclined towards pride.
- for trying my hardest and failing at something arbitrary/playful/trivial/kinky/difficult (this is based around the idea that I clearly did my best/did well, but am punished anyway for perfection's sake. Yes, pride again!)
- a situation in which I couldn't possibly win; being punished for having failed to do the impossible (this overlaps with the idea of "unfair" punishment)
- an arbitrary or sadistic decision - simply because the top wants to.
In general, I prefer not to play a character who is punished on film for...
- being a 'slut'
- being a woman
- doing something stupid, implausible, annoying or bratty
- doing something offensively racist, transphobic or homophobic
- something I've genuinely done wrong and feel guilty about.
I've made films which have broken a number of these rules, but the longer I do this, the less interested I am in filming scenarios which don't fall within these preferences. Sometimes you have to try something before you find out how you feel about it. My tastes are refining with experience, and that's no bad thing in my opinion.
When it comes to scenarios based on punishments for things I have strong feelings about, it all gets rather complex. In some rare edge cases, I can enjoy espousing a view I explicitly don't agree with, so I can enjoy the satisfaction of a story in which that person gets punished. More usually, however, I prefer scenes in which the spankee is in the right and the top is being unreasonable, because martyrdom and righteous victimhood are right at the core of my kink.
3. Shame narratives
Some time ago, Ludwig and Kaelah wrote up an entertaining conversation in which they discussed these issues:
Another frequent theme is girls being punished for having lesbian sex. You remember that hilarious monologue I quoted in my review of Her First Punishment? (he starts talking with an exaggerated Russian accent) Fuck! What's going on? Whores, why they engage in this here? Lesbian love! Thousand hungry mans around. What, it's not enough man for you? Must you stuff in pussy all sorts of rubbish? Whore! You violate healthy social atmosphere! K: Oh, yes, I remember. Actually, that monologue already explains why those Russian girls prefer lesbian sex... L: I wonder what Pandora would say about that spanking premise! (not too long before this conversation took place, Pandora had written a post titled Spanked for being "slutty") K: I'm quite sure she wouldn't like it. L: (getting philosophical all of a sudden) I see her point, but I ask myself, is it really a consistent position to have? I mean, look. We see schoolgirl scenarios in spanking videos all the time. But of course, no one believes that the producers want to tell us that they support canings of real schoolgirls in real schools. We all understand that it is supposed to be purely an erotic fantasy, not an endorsement of any real-life educational practices. So, when it comes to spanking scenarios where girls are spanked for being 'slutty', or for having lesbian sex, why do we all of a sudden have this responsibility to not produce such material because someone might take it too seriously? Do we really need an official disclaimer in those cases, saying: we do not share the attitudes of the characters in this video? No one would think such a disclaimer is necessary for schoolgirl spanking videos, or that they should be avoided because they might be misunderstood! K: You're right, but I think it depends on what is important to someone and on one's own experiences. There is still a lot of discrimination against homosexuality in the real world, also in the European countries, and Pandora is fighting against it. I guess that's why she wouldn't like spanking movies with that premise. But I guess the male viewers do, because it means lesbian sex plus spanking.
The theme of homosexuality and homophobia is an interesting one. I've actually done loads of videos where I've been spanked for lesbian activity, because it's a plausible "misdeed" that I can easily empathise with, but which is (conveniently, for the purposes of spanking porn) considered punishable in a lot of contexts, particularly historical settings. In this context it fulfils my "brave and romantic" criteria. From a modern sex-positive perspective my character has the moral high ground; the disciplinarian is clearly being prudish, out-dated or homophobic. In this sort of narrative there is no real shame implied by the punishment. The top's character is portrayed as being in the wrong (even if they feel that they are justified by religious or cultural mores), and the viewer's sympathy is with the victim.
This last is key for me. A character in a story can be slut-shaming or homophobic without the narrative as a a whole endorsing those views. It all depends on the portrayal of the characters in question, and who the viewer is meant to identify or sympathise with. I'd feel much less comfortable filming a scene where it was implied that I really had done something wrong by sleeping with a woman; if the scenario is presented in such a way that the viewer is meant to think "Yes, filthy behaviour, she deserves everything she gets!", rather than "oh, poor mistreated Pandora!"
It takes a lot of trust for me to want to play a scenario in which I or my character truly deserve to feel shame.
I suppose you could argue that a fellow submissive or bottom is more likely to sympathise with my or my character's plight, whereas a toppy viewer might find it easier to emphasise with the spanker. But this depends so much on the scenario. It might go so some way towards explaining why 'brats' are so popular in spanking scenarios: the imagined viewer of a lot of CP porn is a male spanker, who, it might be expected, prefers scenarios in which they can identify and sympathise with the top. But then, I know an awful lot of bottoms who love to play a bratty persona they could never get away with in real life, so it clearly goes both ways. I'd love to know how many spankers enjoy watching scenes where the top is a nasty, sadistic piece of work, because those are some of my favourite fantasies to act out.
I'm not sure how well these broad generalisations apply, but it seems probable to me that bottom-identified viewers are more likely to empathise with a spankee, and on average tend to prefer fantasies where the spankee is a sympathetic character, morally justified, unfairly mistreated or a victim of circumstance. There is definitely room in the market for more porn intended to appeal to spankees.
4. Boundaries and ethics
This post is a big old mix of my own personal boundaries and preferences, which I have no desire to impose on others, and some areas in which I have a moral opinion, and feel that the world would be better if more people agreed with me. For instance, I would be much happier if no-one in porn created queer-shaming, slut-shaming or woman-shaming narratives which clearly "sided" with the punisher, and implied that anyone like the spankee deserves this sort of treatment in real life. (But turn that scenario around so the spankee is presented in a positive light, and suddenly I'm fine with it.)
I'm not saying it's impossible to do scenes like this in an ethical way, or that anyone who does do scenes like this is wrong. But I'm strongly in favour of porn (and our culture in general) becoming more sex-positive, liberal and gender egalitarian, and I don't think those things are compatible with scenes in which a character is punished for their sexuality or sexual behaviour, and in which sympathy is with their punisher.
Of course, the meaning of any work of art (and yes, I do consider spanking films to be a genre of art, although some are obviously more creative than others) is often in the eye of the beholder, and producers are not responsible for how people react to their material. But as a producer, I think that it's worth thinking about how your narrative presents the views expressed by the characters in it. If it's complex and multi-faceted and makes the viewer think about an issue - fantastic. If it's one-sided, then I do hold producers and writers (and, indeed, performers, seeing as how much porn is unscripted and improvised) responsible for which side it comes down on.
That doesn't mean no-one should take on complex, emotive or edgy themes. It means that if producers want to distance themselves from the views expressed by a narrative, they need to put a bit of effort into the surrounding context, commentary and marketing to make that clear - otherwise they can't complain if people take the narrative at face value.