Fetish Porn: The Heart & the Choke

There are many excellent inventions on earth ... & there are many things so well devised that they are like woman’s breasts: at the same time useful and pleasant.

- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“I love fetish porn. It’s so empowering to walk into a room and say, ‘You’re going to tie me up and fuck me & this is what you’re gonna pay me to do it.’’”

 

Whenever the vanilla recoil from tales of bondage, domination and sadomasochism (BDSM), viewing them as demeaning practices for damaged women, I always offer Julia as an example of someone doing it right - a vivacious fiercely intelligent woman who came by her inclinations naturally.

 

“I clearly remember at three years old getting wet when I tied up my Barbie dolls. I always knew I wanted to be dominated but in high school, it was my biggest secret - a huge geek with no self-esteem. I mean, come on, I had these breasts since eighth grade but I had no idea about the power of my tits.”

 

Julia sits across from me at a dark wooden bar on the edge of Brooklyn’s McCarren Park. She possesses a captivating cuteness – wide blue eyes in dusky sockets above the two black balls of her septum ring peeking out of her nose. An affable smile that waxes effervescent as she talks about scifi movies. Both of our eyes must fight to keep from wandering up to the first Star Wars movie playing on the bar TV. Her frame is small and soft; accenting full breasts that when tied tight by loops of rope, jut fiercely from her body and turn a deep luscious red. She exhibits the keen eye of a sociologist, the salty tongue of a sailor and a bookshelf filled with an impressive array of fiction leaning towards the old dystopians and the magical realism of Marquez.

 

Julia will be our guide into the world of fetish porn – its producers, performers and censors.

The Industry

 

There’s a few major producers of fetish porn: Intersec Interactive, Dungeoncorp and the biggest player, Kink.com who now film in the historic San Francisco Armory after some stiff resistance from the neighbors. These parent companies run a number of sites under their umbrella dedicated to the more mainstream fetishes like fucking machines, femme-domme, and lesbian  domination. The site clips4sale.com showcases the stunning array of kinks and offers a platform for the amateurs and independent studios to sell fetish movies with specialties such as cat-fighting, transsexuals, farting, men in pain, lactation, ruined orgasms, et al & ad nauseum down into the rabbit hole of the endless variety of sexual fetishes. In addition, hundreds of independent operators run unique fetish sites such as MeetTheMayhems.com – a hot married pair of geeks who offer a view into their kinky sex life and who are an industry model for innovative pornography entrepreneurship. For straight porn, a tremendous number of movies can be seen for free on Redtube and its ilk but if you get off to giantesses tickling tied up men until they pee themselves, it won’t take long to work through the available free content. The long tail of the Internet is just starting its evolution on the vast number of niches in fetish porn.

 

Julia’s company runs sites dedicated to the refined arts of physical and mental domination – consensual torture for fun and profits. She respects the owners of her company for their mix of business acumen and love of the craft. “They’re not just in this to make money though they watch their angles. They spend their social life in the BDSM scene and found an extended family there. So they treat us performers well.”

 

For her first shoot, they drove Julia up to their infamous rambling old barn in northern California. While still in the woods, they blindfolded her and tied her hands behind her back in a reverse prayer

 

“Not many people can do that position”, Julia says with a twinkle of pride in bright eyes. “They tried to scare me with the theatricality but I was laughing. Who could be scared by this? An honor to work with one of the great masters of ropes - one of the hottest scenes of my life – on or off camera. Fucking awesome! Rope bondage is one of my favorite things because it’s more organic. Metal is so unforgiving - I can’t relax. With rope, I can be comfortable and go much deeper into subspace.”

 

I ask Julia to define subspace – the altered mental state induced in submissives during intense scenes akin to a runner’s high or a psychedelic trip or a meditative trance. Julia pauses carefully before replying: “A physiological reaction from engaging in BDSM activities where you trust someone to the point that you don’t think anymore. It feels similar to hypnotism - open to suggestion and vulnerable emotionally. Almost always a euphoric feeling for me, especially as I learn more about BDSM and communication. But if you don’t get what you need, it can be really dark and lonely. Quite fucked up in fact.”

 

“When I first started playing with Luther, I loved it but sometimes I didn’t have the skills to talk about the terms of our relationship and I’d end up feeling empty afterwards. For the inexperienced, it’s easy to give so much and not know what ask for in return. If I don’t feel secure and I don’t feel a certain exchange - then it can be a very dark place. Once in a while on set, girls cry afterwards.”

 

“Now, I like to think that I’m really tough,” she grins challengingly, “Not the toughest out there but damn hard. Sometimes that can lead to trouble. For instance, early in my fetish porn career, I did a shoot with just me and a new director. I made the mistake of mentioning my toughness and he took this as a challenge as the less skilled sometimes do. He tied me up ridiculously tight - constricted with no regard for the human body.” She gestures down at herself, “My body is my work and I need to take care of it. I suffered two months of nerve damage because of my inexperience in knowing myself and communicating about my limits.”

 

I asked about her worst experience on set. She pauses, “It wasn’t too long ago actually. Another one who liked to tie performers up too tight. Whenever my limbs fell asleep, he’d get really pissed about having to loosen the rope and tie me up again. After a couple of his outbursts, I finally told him, ‘I’m finished. We stop here. Take me down now.’ He responded, ‘Two more minutes.’”

 

Julia’s voice becomes emphatic as she stabs her finger into the table with fear accentuation, “With my company and any other reputable producer, when the performer says stop, shooting halts and they are released! Immediately! So when he told me to wait, I started freaking out – yelling and flailing and swinging around until he untied me. We were furious at each other by the time he let me out. I hated being under his control and not feeling safe.” She pauses to look into my eyes. “I know that situation sounds bad but on the other hand, that’s been my only really negative experience since I started working in fetish porn. Everything else has been really fun – incredible in fact. I’m quite glad that I made the decision to finally grab for my dream and work in fetish porn.”

 

Julia’s story

 

My dear, I don't care what they do, so long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

- Mrs Patrick Campbell, a pen pal of George Bernard Shaw

 

We amble towards the East River and stop at a bodega for a six-pack. She waves away my money and delivers one of her favorite lines with a winsome giggle, “Let my vagina pay for this.”

 

We settle down next to the looming brick wall of the old Domino sugar factory overlooking the East River, cracking beers as the sun sets over Manhattan. “I’ve always felt kinky though I didn’t have an orgasm until I was six,” she says with a mournful sigh, mooning over all those wasted years. “When I got myself off for the first time, I thought I discovered something brand new. I didn’t realize other people were doing this until I was 12. But I had to keep it all to myself – the masturbation, the BDSM fantasies – no courage to talk about my desires.” Like many in the converging worlds of kink and polyamory, Julia spent high school by herself – holed away devouring books and wondering if there was anyone as perverted as her?

 

Not until the end of college did she find her first boyfriend. “I had been saving my virginity for some reason – mostly because I was so satisfied with masturbation – but I lost it to him in a very unceremonious fashion. Afterwards I kept begging him to tie me up but when he finally did, he just fell asleep.” She groans in frustration at the memory.

 

Thus began a long series of misadventures trying to find a partner for safe and consensual BDSM play. She tried bondage.com, the forerunner of the now popular FetLife, and met a creepy older man with a heart condition. He owned an apartment filled with fetish gear – floggers and whips, ball gags and pussy pumps, sleek metallic fucking machines. Those impressed Julia at the time but now “gear just pisses me off because 90% use it because they’re not good at what they do. I respect BDSM practitioners because it demands a level of skill and compassion, a fine attention to detail. Tops like him just hide behind the gear. But at least the old fucker tied me up and hammered it home. Totally hot and exactly what I’d been waiting for.”

 

After college, Julia moved to Brooklyn and started working at a Williamsburg sex toy store. A co-worker invited her to a swinger party and there a short romance kindled, leading to her discovery of La Casa – a private Brooklyn sanctuary devoted to kinky sex parties; a nexus of the Open Love Tribe and polyamorous Burners. Julia beams as she describes her first visit, “It felt like finally finding my people, an enclave both very sexy and very safe.” La Casa maintains strict rules about verbal consent with permission required even for hugging or stroking the back of someone new.

 

While taking a shower in La Casa’s basement, Julia met the notorious and lovable Luther, a cabaret producer and prominent pusher of personal boundaries. Strict about consent but usually leading with the honest question – a twirling mustache and wide probing blue eyes hard to resist. “Do you want a spanking? I’m known for my spankings.” Julia nodded immediate assent. As the first wet slaps resounded under the cold water, a crowd formed in the bathroom door, tittering in approval. She shivers and presses her thighs together at the memory, “Those eyes on me were so goddamn hot! And afterwards when he said with a polite look, ‘I think we should have sex now.’”

 

“It was my first play party but he felt safe and so did the space. I dove in. Mindblowing! Motherfuckin’ rockets! Until he lost the condom inside my pussy. I kept thinking, ‘oh shit, oh fuck, oh shit. I’m totally going to get pregnant and get STIs from this guy I met at a sex party.’ But he handled it like a gentleman. He told me his testing status and we agreed to both go get a free STI test from the city. He called two weeks later with his ‘all clear’ report.  Communication like that is probably one of the reasons it turned out to be my first significant and fulfilling BDSM relationship.”

 

[Your humble writer turns to shake a crotchety finger into the camera:

In NYC and most other major metropolises, there is free sexually transmitted infections tests.

Go get one. It’s always better to know.

& hell, they give away handfuls of free condoms and lube. Those suckers are expensive.]

 

Julia nods in sage agreement with me, shakes her fist at the camera for good measure and continues with her story, “I’d been wanting to do fetish porn since college but my fears about my family held me back. However, I’d already spent years as a nebulous non-monogamous pan-sexual but porn was taking it to the next level. When I went on vacation with my family, we stumbled upon a gay pride parade in Burlington, Vermont. A lesbian leather couple walked by, one holding a leash attached to the collar around the other’s neck. It flabbergasted my father. He wasn’t mean, just so puzzled at something that seemed very normal to me. At that moment, I realized that my personal life was already so far beyond anything they would understand so with Luther’s encouragement, I sent out applications. My company hired me a week later.”

Censorship

 

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.

- Tommy Smothers

 

Julia offers a unique perspective on the fetish porn industry because she also works behind the camera: building sites, managing shoots and her personal specialty of search engine optimization (SEO). A crucial part of the business model of New Porn is figuring out the keywords and tweaks to rank high in Google. That gave Julia her first exposure to the censorship of fetish porn.

 

Surprisingly, it’s not the government removing obscene videos. They’ve struggled mightily with the definition of obscene ever since Justice Potter Stewart famously could only say, ‘I know when it I see it.’ It’s credit card processors who sit at the censorship choke point for fetish porn. Using tactics similar to the Wikileaks shutout, they perform periodic reviews of pornography sites and if they judge the content too obscene, they threaten a revocation of credit card processing. With content in New Porn increasingly being sold online, that’s a mortal blow for almost any operator.

 

Wearing her SEO hat, Julia explains, “Because of the credit card companies, we can’t use certain keywords: non-consensual, forced, choking. To make it difficult, every credit card processor has different standards. For instance, my company can show urination but the performers can’t be pissing on anyone. They arbitrarily decided to draw their pee line there.”

 

But religion is perhaps the biggest taboo – almost no one tackles that monster because of the strong pushback. “My friend runs a small personal site of her homemade porn. She posted a video of pulling rosary beads out of her pussy. They told her to remove it or else. All of her sales are online. What else could she do? But how the fuck do they have the right to decide?”

 

However, a private company possesses the right to decide who they wish to service. By acting in lockstep with the industry, the credit card processors effectively censor the more extreme fetish porn that despite its sometimes distasteful nature to many, clearly exists within the bounds of the First Amendment.

 

As pointed out by Rob Wash, an SEO expert at one of the major adult movie sites, it’s not only Mrs. Grundy attitudes that motivate credit card processors. “They might care about decency issues but capitalism trumps everything from obscenity to human life.  They're paranoid that the porno company will be shady and rack up a disproportionally high number of chargebacks. Or that the government will go after them with obscenity indictments and chargeback everything. Our site got dropped without warning by our credit card processor and our only choice was a foreign one. That meant the banks of many customers automatically refused the transactions for security reasons.  They would process the charge  but only if the customers called their bank and approved it. Not many made that call.”

For more on the subject, I’ll quote liberally from a post by MeetTheMayhems titled ‘How Credit Card Companies are Runing Porn’ about their struggles with online payment systems and their inspiring maneuvers as they adapt to the changing face of New Porn:

 

Large credit card companies are notoriously unfriendly to the adult industry, especially as porn makes up a smaller and smaller percentage of online commerce. Every adult merchant account is automatically classified as “high risk,” and is therefore subject to rates per transaction at least five times higher than online merchants outside of the porn world enjoy. Consumers are shy about buying porn, and if they cannot use their VISA they are unlikely to do it at all. This gives VISA a huge amount of negotiating power.

 

The adult industry is changing. Profits from DVDs have been falling for years, and traditional membership sites are now struggling to remain profitable. The freedom of information offered by widespread internet use has been a catalyst for change in all industries that rely on intellectual property rights. The television and music industries have been working hard to adapt their strategies to this new reality, but porn has not bothered to keep up. While Netflix is offering thousands of movies and TV shows streaming on demand for $5 per month, it is difficult for consumers to justify spending $29.99 per month on a niche fetish porn site that makes the same movie every week with a new performer.

 

Porn is not dying any more than music or TV have died. Porn is changing. Live shows, including webcam interactions, are one of the biggest growth sectors in porn, just as musicians are relying more heavily on profits from live performances. Pay per minute VOD sites are taking over a lot of the profits from porn content that used to be sold on DVD by centralizing distribution, similar to what Netflix has done outside of the adult industry. But production of porn has been slow to adapt their strategies to these changes.

 

New Porn will find its niche and angles for this digital world.

The Talent

 

Working behind the camera gave Julia a lot of time for observation of life on the set of a fetish porn shoot. When asked about the talent, Julia drains her beer, belches, giggles, and succinctly breaks the performers down into three categories, “About 20% are like me - girls doing this job because we love it. I’m thrilled to make my rent money doing something I love, something I would be doing anyway. It’s been wonderful to meet so many like-minded people who are cool and articulate about why they do fetish porn. They are basically just normal people who are kinky. No diva complex. No daddy issues. Well-adjusted and proud.”

 

“In the middle, I call ‘em ‘actresses’ – the 60% who see this work as an easy way to make a buck.” Or as another performer quipped, “Every job has its shit but this beats being a secretary.” Many performers come from mainstream pornography because the pay is better for the more demanding BDSM work but Julia says, “They don’t really understand what the BDSM world is about. Unaware of their intentions, they just bumble along - not unhappy but not engaged either. The actress types aren’t too bad but they often try to do the least amount of work for the most amount of money.”

 

When people find out Julia works in fetish porn, the first question is usually about money. She ticks off on her fingers, “Some companies pay by the day or by the scene. Others pay by the hole. In one day, the least I ever made was 500 bucks and the most was two grand. But shiiittt, they made me work for it.” She giggles as she recounts the tale that would certainly break this humble journalist but the details would make it easy to reveal her identity. But rest assured, she earned that two thousand dollars.

 

Julia shakes her head ruefully as she continues, “But it’s the last 20% of performers that make me sad. They’re the type that most people wrongly assume dominates the industry – the fucking insane and miserable, doing it for all of the wrong reasons.” She describes this group with a gallows humor tinged by sorrow. “It breaks your heart but they’re also a goddamn pain in the ass. I have to admit that we enjoy the horror stories that give us some entertaining gossip for the next few days.”

 

Julia’s eye quickly developed for picking out the trouble cases, defining them as “so self-absorbed that they can’t function in the real world. On the GAF test [Global Assessment of Functioning – a psychological measurement tool for evaluating mental health and functioning], they would score in the lower third. Many of them are dependent on a boyfriend for their basic needs or otherwise have trouble maintaining basic needs like housing.” Julia lists three habits that almost always occur:

 

1. They talk about people unknown to you as if they’re also your friend.

“So Lucia made a joke the other day…”

“Who’s Lucia?”

<a puzzled look> “My dogwalker. Anyway…”

 

2. Non sequiturs in the middle of the conversation of others because only engaged in their own little world

<in the middle of the shoot meeting, whipping out a cell phone> “Oh, do you guys want to see a picture of my dog?”

 

3. Grand qualifiers and restrictions about where they are sensitive.

“My big toe is super delicate – nothing can touch it for the entire shoot.” Julia scowls, “Just some verbal loop they’ve been repeating for years with no basis in reality. These are the ones who freak out in the middle of a scene and take hours to calm down if they can go on at all.”

 

“When people ask about the crazies - and it’s another one of the first questions - one girl always comes to mind: the Scarecrow. I see a number of eating disorders but she took it to the next level: 5’6” and only 96 pounds. She wasn’t even a person – only a shell. The epitome of the nightmare caricature of the soulless porn star that Christian conservatives spout off about. Of course, it is more entertaining to talk about the wild nutjobs ones than the fulfilled girls like me or the actresses in it for the paycheck.”

 

“Anyway, with her, it took forever to get anything done. She kept disappearing into the bathroom and coming back with the sniffles. Now, the industry is strongly against drug use while working. My company even sends you home for smoking weed. And this is California! We confronted her but she denied it. A mean fucking denial at that and we couldn’t be sure so we let it go. Then the next morning, she calls in hysterics, wailing that all of her makeup got stolen. That turned out to be a lie to get money out of my boss for replacing it. On the set that day, she had a scratch on one finger and I could watch her neuroses start to flare. She kept picking at it – not able to stop herself even when the blood started to flow hard. She kept pacing around the dressing room. It took an hour to calm her down. We finally got her to shoot one scene and then she gets a call from her boyfriend. She exploded into a long screaming fit with him and then smashed her phone against the wall, stalking off the set.” Julia sighs, “The crazies never last long because word gets around and nobody wants to work with them but there’s always a new crop popping up.”

& the Money Shot

 

“I just did a scene – hanging upside down with my thumbs attached to a ring in the ground. I love finger and toe bondage because it’s so little but its small but complete control. When we went out to eat afterwards, I couldn’t even decide what I wanted to order. I still love all the different types of shoots I get to do.”

 

“But the death fetish scenes might be my favorite to perform. I start by running away from the bad guy – silly silly amounts of overacting and screaming until he something finishes me off. Then for the sex scenes, I just have to lay there and pretend to be dead.  I can be so lazy.” She grins and stretches like a cat under the rising moon. “The first time I did a death shoot, the stunt cock had trouble keeping it up. He only got off on feet so between scenes, I had to shove my feet into his face to keep him hard.”

 

“God, I love this job. I worry about the future a little because I won’t always be young and pretty. It’s a big gap in my resume but I know this is an experience I needed to have. My life is richer for it. Maybe afterwards I’ll go to grad school to be a therapist for those crazy bitches.”

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