By Rich Moreland, November 2012
In October, 2010 I visited San Francisco’s Kink.com for research purposes. CEO Peter Acworth graciously gave me access to the company’s many websites. This brief account comes from a shoot for The Training of O website filmed in 2008 and is included in my upcoming book on feminism in adult film. Photos are courtesy of Kink.com.
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It’s Day Two of an episode of The Training of O featuring Dylan Ryan. Her encounter with Director James Mogul is destined to be ratcheted up. Wanting to confront her personal struggle with her anger and her inability to let it go, Dylan accepted the four-day stint with James. She will yield to his master/disciplinarian approach to “training” knowing the resistance she hopes to quell in herself will inevitably rear its ugly head. This is a personal journey she has decided to take, one that will transform a pornography shoot into a kind of therapy. After her first day facing James’s whip, Dylan reviews her feelings and talks of rage and BDSM as a psychological force.
“When I am in super amounts of pain I get really enraged. I get a hateful and nasty feeling, like . . . ‘I hate you and I want to hurt you as much as you hurt me.’ And then I just shut off. I do want to let go. . . [By] giving up . . . control you can be free, not from your mind, but from your conscious continual effort to determine everything all the time. I really want to do that, to just be.”
As the drama plays out, an unrelenting James stays with her until the end, using the Hitachi Magic Wand’s pleasure to push her past her anger. During the final post-shoot interview on Day Four, James surprisingly expresses reservations about the Day Two scene, how he refused to take timeouts at crucial moments. He admits it “was a risky little gamble, trying that scene with you,” he tells her, “but it seemed like the proper thing to attempt.” James has an intuitive “feel” for his work, he understands the emotion and behavior surrounding BDSM play and how it can become a liberating experience. His years of experience prove invaluable in persuading Dylan, a self-proclaimed submissive, to self-engineer a psychological leap to “the other side.”
The Day Two test begins with a nude Dylan standing on a slightly raised expansive wood platform. Resembling every bit the barbarian queen captured in battle and put on display, her feet are shackled and wide apart, her hands, cuffed and chained, are at her side. Extended chains from both ankle and wrist restrains are attached to rings embedded in the platform. Her neck is encased in a wide black leather collar. Two chains lead away from opposite sides of the collar to the wall where more rings offer attachment convenience. The chains permit some mobility; Dylan is able to stand or sit, according to James’s will. Her breasts are bound above and below in leather, as are her thighs. The sense is that she is a prisoner, diabolically and cruelly prepared for public display and torture by her captors. She will be able to struggle with her fury, but she cannot escape.
James commences his task that will include a brief flogging, the application and removal of a ball gag, and the inevitable Hitachi to conclude the session. The episode ends with a brief distant camera shot that is a frozen moment, the psychological resolution to the scene’s fury. A kneeling Dylan is facing a wall, hands attached above her bowed head. Still in chains and looking every bit the whipped and psychologically beaten prisoner, she is emotionally drained of all resistance. It is a visual classic, reproduced for decades in graphic novels and bondage prints.
But the final photographic denouement is the result of a titanic struggle. Dylan fights the session, wildly thrashing around and firing angry expressions at James, verbally assaulting him with profanities. Throughout it all, he is desperately trying to apply the Hitachi to her. At one point in their tussling, James snaps Dylan’s hands behind her back, pushes her into a sitting position—legs splayed—and places his boot on her upper back pressing her downward. He is determined to drive her through her psychological barrier to “that special place” that BDSM submissives hope to go, an ecstatic transcendental state of pleasure few people ever experience in a lifetime of sexuality.
A disentangling results with James as Dylan’s antagonist. As her physical and emotional explosiveness builds Dylan is suddenly overwhelmed with understanding, engulfed in a revelation. Her face is transformed into the slightest of smiles that reads ‘I’ve arrived.’ Dylan’s eyes look directly at James with appreciation. She relaxes, he caresses her genitalia, and an ethereal calm of sexual satiation and sublimation descends on the scene.
Dylan later explains:
“What I learned about myself is that I have this place beyond rage and through pain I can go there. The room [was] full of energy and emotion and what happened today when I was chained and James was just beating me and pulling my hair and talking to me and just pushing me past all of the limits that I had, where I had been screaming and thrashing around and trying to punch James in the face because I fucking hated him at that moment. I felt like an animal and I couldn’t really hear anything because my ears were shut off, it was just coming out of me, just pure emotion and intensity and energy and violence.
I felt like all of a sudden this door opened up in the room and the energy in the room changed. It wasn’t subspace necessarily, because I’ve been in subspace before, and usually subspace connotes some sort of shutting off and this was the complete opposite. I was entirely present, it was an over sensing of everything, it was absolutely overwhelming. I started laughing like a maniac because I didn’t know where to put that feeling. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a feeling quite like that before.”
The drama releases Dylan. She struggles to give way, exclaiming that letting go is “not easy.” But the payoff for her version of the scene is an invigorating renewal. James comments on the risk they took. “I’m glad it worked out. We both go lucky on that one,” he says to Dylan in final Day Four debriefing. “You were searching for something that you couldn’t articulate.”
Dylan tells him she wasn’t sure what she expected to discover, but that she wanted to learn more about herself through exploring new avenues of BDSM. She concludes that the “extreme emotion” of the four days allowed her to view priorities differently. Some of the concerns in her personal life seem less so now. Looking back, the shoot was rewarding for her, though, according to Dylan, the “hardest I’ve ever done.”