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About 3hattergrindhouse

My book on feminism in adult film is finished. Pornography Feminism: As Powerful as She Wants to Be" explores the little known connection between the adult film industry and feminism. Hopefully it will encourage other writers to investigate the topic and expand on my introductory historical account. The project stemmed from my efforts to cobble together an understanding of filmed pornography and its influence on American culture. I’m a career educator/historian so this sort of thing is what interests me. By happenstance I discovered a little recognized handful of adult film actresses who banded together in the mid-1980’s to form a mutual support group. They were feminists in nature and I quickly learned that in today’s adult industry feminism among performers and directors is alive and well. In the course of this adventure, I was invited to be a contributing columnist for Adult Industry News, an online publication out of LA. It can be accessed at AINews.com. So, now after years in the classroom, I can say I've attained the status of a professional writer. Over the past few years, my industry contacts have grown and I've expanded my interest in adult film to other areas beyond feminism, most recently the BDSM phenomenon that is invading bedrooms across the world with new sexual experimentation. We'll call it what everyone else does, the "Fifty Shades" phenom. The result is a change in direction for some of the topics found here. Feminism will still reside in its heart, but the fetish touch will step into the light more often now. In fact, because feminist performers are sometimes bondage models, there really isn't the disconnect one would expect. I’m developing the feel of a journalist and a film reviewer, neither of which I thought I'd ever become. Little money (but lots of passion) in what I do, so to pay the bills I maintain my position as an adjunct community college professor teaching in the Washington-Baltimore metro area.

The Passion of Isabel: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, November 2017

This is the second part of my review of The Passion of Isabel, a Red Feline film starring Beatriz Rivera as the victim and Jac Avila as her torturer, Torquemada.

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The Passion of Isabel sticks with its erotic theme throughout.

No Escape

For instance, food is important imagery. Torquemada teases Isabel with water to replenish her energy and eventually brings her rudimentary nourishment after he has kept her confined for two days. She’s offered an apple and a small loaf of bread, both highly sexualized symbols.

Eating is a Freudian symbol for sex. Isabel is capitulating to his sexual control over her. When he tempts her with the apple in an Adam and Eve reversal, Isabel looks into his eyes with submission in hers.

Torquemada leaves the apple so she can feed herself in an act that implies dependence and obedience. He controls his prisoner totally now and wants her strong enough to endure the abuse she will suffer. Taking the food from Isabel, Torquemada stands her up for the first round of punishment, the exquisite whipping scene mentioned in Part One of this review.

Other symbols enhance Isabel’s enslavement. During her second rape, Torquemada chokes her with the chains that keep her under his control. In BDSM play, restricting breathing during sex increases its orgasmic intensity for the masochist.

Is Isabel being taught to perversely enjoy her trials?

Another prominent image is the metallic collar which is prominent throughout the film before it is locked around Isabel’s neck. When it is on the floor on its side, the camera shoots the scene through it, framing the device with a double meaning. It represents Isabel’s manacles and its round opening is a clear statement that this is a highly sexualized film.

As a foreboding of her death, Torquemada hangs Isabel in another erotic act. He stretches out her neck with the chain attached to the collar, once again suppressing her breathing and intensifying her sexual experience as he takes control of her soul.

Notice the other circular object, the pressure belt, is secured around her waist and also acts as a metaphor for the female sex. Isabel’s youthful beauty is slowly strangling her as the collar and the belt act as opposing forces.

There is no escape. She suffers because she is desired.

Rack and Wheel

A ladder becomes a rack to stretch Isabel’s body in the proper manner prescribed by the Inquisition. As Isabel’s misery continues, close-ups of her face underscore looks of desperation and defeat.

Her whimpering increases as the intensity of her trials is ratcheted up, but she never screams or cries out. Even as the end nears, Isabel displays a fortitude that is commendable.

When the film returns to the circle motif, the scenes move to the breaking wheel, sometimes called the Catherine Wheel. Isabel’s whippings continue and to increase her humiliation, Torquemada confines her in two ways: on the rim of the wheel with her back arched and then spread-eagle on the spokes in a crucifixion position.

Beatriz Rivera deserves high praise when she is stretched on the rim. Because the weight of her body pulls her down, she is steadied by the rope around her upper body and between her legs (sensationally erotic since she is nude) while the camera captures her pain.

Though accustomed to acrobatic maneuvers to show the sex they are having, only top of the line adult actresses ever deal with such an unnatural position.

Torquemada asks, “Do you repent for your father’s death?”

Isabel remains defiant, smiling slightly and shaking her head with a “no, no.”

There’s more lashing, rape, and anguish before the film’s denouement.

Allegory

In the final crucifixion, Isabel is subjected to probes with sharp objects (the medieval test for witches) and the pressure belt to add to her torment. Torquemada nails her feet and hands and rotates the wheel so that Isabel goes from the upright Christ position to the upside-down configuration of St. Peter.

When the crown of thorns is placed on her head, there are two single branches pointing upward resembling the horns of Satan. It’s a comment that Isabel’s tribulations symbolize the fight against evil that reaches into eternity. Pay close attention when her eyes look upward.

Isabel’s stoicism soars to its heavenly heights at this point. Rightly or wrongly, she accepts the responsibility for the crime she stands accused of committing and understands her punishment.

One more observation is worthy of comment. The ball attached to the pressure belt is allegorical. The pre-Christain Atlas bears the weight of the world just as Christ takes on the sins of man.

Isabel has clearly moved from sinner to saint and as the film closes. A heartbeat is all we hear. It slows, becoming almost imperceptible into eternity with the message that death is a state of mind rather than a spiritual end.

Bea’s Triumph

In the first part of this review, I suggested that Beatriz Rivera learned her craft in the film Justine and has now matured into an artistic performer in The Passion of Isabel.

This juxtaposition of a sixteenth century story in a twenty-first century film is evident in Bea’s performance. First, she rises to fame as an erotic actress. Notice, however, that she parts with Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya when she trims and partially shaves her pubic area so the female sex is on-screen. She lets us know she’s a modern bondage star and a woman making her own statement of sexual liberation.

What’s more, the decision to leave in the stud in her nose and her single ear piercing establishes a contemporary identity. Throw in her tattoos that are only lightly covered with make-up (the one high on her back is not) and we have the kind of presentation that excites today’s BDSM aficionados.

What of Bea’s acting?  As mentioned in part one, her range of expressions are largely non-verbal which requires concentration and awareness of what the scene is asking of her. She is subtle in her message of suffering.

Not only that, but her whipping scenes are realistic. At no time does she appear as a caricature of a victim. The viewer can feel her pain and the lingering agony of her relentless torture.

For these reasons which move Beatriz Rivera as actress beyond her lovely nakedness, Red Feline fans are going to demand more from this Bolivian sweetheart. Her film presence is pure erotic pleasure marked by the whip.

Final Thought

In Part One of this review, I pointed out the difference between the three tortured women in Red Feline/Pachamama Productions I’ve reviewed.

Bea’s performance in Isabel clearly delineates how differently she handles the erotic role of the tortured female from Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya. Bea is not horror-oriented as is Amy. Her pain is internalized so that crying out and screaming is not reflective of how she portrays pain. Likewise, she is not the submissive and docile character that appeals to Mila. Bea is defiant and in many ways totally feminist.

The magic of a Jac Avila film library allows the viewer to choose and appreciate the different ways talented actresses approach their masochistic roles and the brutal situations they find themselves in.

As for Bea in  The Passion of Isabel, she yields in the end, but the viewer gets the feeling that her heart never really stops beating.

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A Jac Avila film rarely disappoints even the harshest critic. Yes, his work is not for everybody and the viewer must have a taste for the performance art the Red Feline/Pachamama studios present.

At no time are the actresses abused, but as Jac will tell anyone who will listen, shooting his films can be an arduous experience. The scenes are hard on the body and the psyche, but each performer values the opportunity to make her own artistic statement.

Keeping this in mind, our wholehearted thanks is extended to all the women who appear in Jac’s films, and particularly to Beatriz Rivera as Isabel, for enriching our film experience.

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The Passion of Isabel: Part One

by Rich Moreland, November 2017

Entering its eighteenth year of production, Red Feline Pictures (RFPIX) continues its mission to bring BDSM film to a niche audience fascinated by crucifixion themes hammered and nailed with religious imagery.

The films typically center on a single female and her suffering under an oppressive regime or doctrine, such as the Inquisition, or as a product of her own fertile and willing imagination.

The Passion of Isabel stars the incomparable Beatriz Rivera as the heroine and longtime Red Feline actor and director Jac Avila as Torquemada.

In addition to Isabel, all of the films mentioned in this review are available at Red Feline and have been reviewed on this blog. I encourage anyone who wishes to purchase The Passion of Isabel to read my analysis of the other movies to get a further flavor of the Red Feline/Pachamama Films product.

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The Passion of Isabel is set in early modern Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Age of Discovery promises the dawn of a new day that will challenge outdated belief systems.

However, for the youthful and beautiful Isabel, the old ways remain in place. Her father has arranged her marriage to an aristocratic friend named Torquemada and announces it publicly.

“Isabel is called to her father’s side at the high tower in a palace,” we are told, where she refuses the union, asserting that she will be her own woman and make her own choices.

“Enraged by this public humiliation, her father rushes to chastise her. To free herself from his grip, she pushes him, causing him to fall from the tower to his death. This dooms Isabel. For she is locked in a dungeon to await trial.

But there will not be any trial… Her fate now rests in the hands of Torquemada. And he has only one goal: Destroy the woman who humiliated and rejected him.”

If there is a single weakness in this film it is illustrated above. The viewer is not introduced to the story and instead is taken immediately to the dungeon where Isabel will suffer at the hands of Torquemada. To fill in the gap, I encourage everyone to read the entire description (parts of which I have quoted here) on the Red Feline website.

An introductory explanation during the opening credits would have helped set the scene, especially since the DVD is not packaged with a box cover that would include a brief synopsis.

But that is the only shortcoming in The Passion of Isabel. For BDSM fans who crave the vision of lovely female flesh resisting and succumbing to pain, this film fits the bill.

Your Body or Your Soul

The story opens with Isabel brought into the dungeon where she will face the judgement imposed on her by a deranged mind, her “crime” a mere excuse for unabated sadism and the sexual satisfaction it brings.

“Why do you have me here? You know I’m not guilty.” She questions.

Torquemada, who has no interest in consoling her, grabs Isabel behind the neck (which he does frequently in the film), and announces her father died disappointed that his gift to a friend turned into a “rebellious daughter” who needs to be chastised.

“He wanted you to be mine. You’re mine now and you’re going to pay for what you did to your father.”

Isabel is angry, telling him he knows it was not her fault.

Unmoved, Torquemada asks which is stronger, her body or her soul, then lets Isabel know both are now his.

From here the movie examines the miseries Torquemada inflicts on his victim. Among the whippings and rack and wheel tortures, there are the repeated simulated rapes.

Does this make Passion a horror story for an a mature audience? Perhaps, considering that most people may not want the kids to watch a naked woman abused and used. But, there is no hardcore sex and certainly no gore. This is not a slasher film.

So, what is it? For some viewers, Passion is soft porn (because of its nudity) marked with ordeals of pain. But that is hardly adequate. From my perspective, Passion is exactly what makes the Red Feline label popular: an outré, extravagant, and kinky art film with an undeniable erotic overlay.

The Erotic

Yet, what is erotic has as many variances as there are film fans. Having said that, it is too easy and grossly unfair to dismiss Red Feline productions like Martyr, Agent X, and Red Room as mindless female torture movies. Like Passion, they explore the psychological aspects of how we as a society view our sexuality, especially the masochistic/sadistic paradigm.

Over the years, the Red Feline label has matured in its technical presentation and Passion, at this point in time, has reached cinematic excellence. Visually, the viewer will be stunned by the clarity of the sadistic trials Isabel must endure.

What’s more, actress Beatriz Rivera has an overwhelming assignment in this film: show Isabel’s evolution from angry resistance to total submission. Torquemada breaks her so that she may reach her “understanding” in peace.

Because dialogue is sparse, Bea must reveal this transformation with her eyes, her expressions, her body positions, and her cries. In effect, they become the dialogue of surrender.

Bea’s gift is her ability to do this in a way that is steeped in our old friend, eroticism. Isabel is no passive whipping toy. She’s a fighter with whimpering her only concession to Torquemada’s abuse and asserts her feminist belief in her own sexual power. She may break in the end, but her torturer will work hard for his triumph.

Bea as Isabel bravely endures her pain to the excitement of the BDSM crowd. But that is only part of her appeal. She uses Isabel’s anguish to seduce even the most casual viewer. It’s a rare talent indeed.

Take, for example, the first whipping scene. Isabel’s arms are manacled in a crucifixion position and she growls at Torquemada, “Why are you doing this to me? Damn you, get off me.”

But for Isabel, from now on it’s all downhill and there will be no tears only quiet resistance that still flickers at the end.

By the way, this a fabulous scene. Beatriz Rivera’s body is exquisite, her nakedness enchanting. It is one of the best lashing sequences ever filmed by Red Feline or Pachamama Films, for that matter, and that includes the riveting work of Amy Hesketh whose filming resume is without equal in this kind of scene. That, believe me, is high praise and Bea should be proud of her performance in this segment for it alone is worth the price of the DVD.

The Victim Role Times Three

Beatriz Rivera appears in Justine, a Pachamama Film that also stars Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya who take the stage together in other films, among them Barbazul and Dead But Dreaming.

What is fascinating is how each of the actresses plays the victim role differently. Amy is horror oriented (Olalla, a vampire tale like Dead, is the best example). Her scenes carry a shock value that departs from pure eroticism because Amy believes in putting psychological terror on an equal footing with S/M for its own sake.

Amy in Olalla

Mila follows a different path. Despite a brief irascible moment as the vampire Aphrodisia in Dead, Mila is the docile submissive (for the non-torture version check out her role in Barbazul). Her suffering is preordained, it seems, and she is led to the slaughter with her gorgeous body abused and bloodied. Mila’s anguish is highlighted in both Maleficarum and Le Marquis de la Croix where she is sensationally pleasing to the sadistic eye.

Mila in Le Marquis de la Croix

Truth be told, Amy and Mila are luscious displays of female pulchritude. They are as alluring as any BDSM model in adult film and could go that route if they chose. But the question remains how to show the erotic side of sexy under the lash. Both can do that with their established reputations.

Mila and Amy in Maleficarum

Where, then, does this place Bea? Easy, the Bolivian beauty’s seductive and steamy on-camera persona challenges Amy and Mila for the camera’s eye. However, in Justine, she is learning her craft and keeps her presence under wraps. Understandable, I might add, considering that at times in the film she is overshadowed by Amy’s star power and Mila’s sultry victimization.

Bea in Justine

Plus, Bea is not totally nude, a downer for eager viewers who like their whipped women totally exposed and an indication of some hesitation on her part, at least in that film.

Incidentally, her introduction to the sadomasochistic genre of the Pachamama variety puts more emphasis on plot line than Red Feline so Bea had to demonstrate her acting skills from the get go. Not a simple task for a fresh face.

But hey, it’s a learning curve and that was her beginning. The Passion of Isabel has moved her forward in giant steps. Whereas Justine offers the viewer a taste of Beatriz Rivera, Isabel marches her onto center stage to carry the story on her shapely back, pun intended.

As Amy and Mila begin to explore other artistic avenues that may limit their futures in front of the camera, Beatriz Rivera is ready to step up to the plate, as they say in baseball, and hit a few homers of her own.

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A few comments on the technical aspects of the film are in order.

First, three cameras are used to record the scenes with a pace that is Hollywood worthy. Second, the technical quality (color and clarity) of the film is top notch. And third, in the movies timing is everything and Isabel’s suffering is highlighted by frozen imagery when the camera lingers on her beaten body after the torture has ended.

Its a cinematic moment Jac Avila has perfected that enriches the artistic vision of Red Feline and Pachamama films. The film’s message is transformed into a museum painting.

In my view, for these reasons alone The Passion of Isabel has to be the best Red Feline picture made so far.

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The War Nerd’s Iliad: A Review

by Rich Moreland, October 2017

Here is my review of The War Nerd Iliad: A Modern Prose Translation of Homer’s Iliad by John Dolan.

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John Dolan’s The War Nerd Iliad is just what the professor ordered for any student, scholar, or generally interested person who wants an uncluttered (as in outdated usage) version Homer’s work. The author keeps the tempo rocking with a contemporary writing style that even the most reluctant hardcore classicist can appreciate.

Having avoided the Iliad in its entirety since my university days, I found Dolan’s approach a welcome change from the usual academic translation that glazes over eyes.

Take, for example, this description of events at the beginning of the story when an old priest hopes to negotiate the release of his captive daughter from the Greeks. She’s been thrown in with a group of “decent-looking girls,” Dolan tells us, so the groping warriors can examine her teeth and buttocks. A spoil of war, she was the first chosen, claimed by Agamemnon. Now her father is offering a ransom for her.

To understand the drama of the scene, you could read the following from a Tufts University translation:

“Then all the rest of the Achaeans shouted assent, to reverence the priest and accept the glorious ransom, yet the thing did not please the heart of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, but he sent him away harshly, and laid upon him a stern command . . .”

Or this by the War Nerd . . .

“There’s muttering: the Greeks don’t like the way Agamemnon is acting.

Someone in the crowd yells, ‘Take the gold!’

Another voice: ‘What’s the point? Why make the gods angry?’ Someone else yells, ‘Let her go home.’

But Agamemnon will never let her go.”

My vote goes to John Dolan who tells the story in a way that rephrases the traditional prose associated with the Classics and adds a bit of modern slang to boot. What’s more, he likes the suggestive and seeks to rile the erotic.

Here’s what Agamemnon tells the priest he will do with the girl:

“I’ll take her to my couch and bend her over, bend her anyway I please. While she is young that is.”

Every reader can let his, or her, imagination loose with that description.

After letting his words sink in, Agamemnon comments that when she is old, well, she’ll lose her usefulness, if you know what I mean.

Later the author has something to offer the kinkiest of readers when he writes about Zeus’s constant irritation with his wife, Hera, who apparently needs some discipline every now and then.

“‘I’m thinking of giving you a good hard beating. Remember that time you tried to tie me down? . . . I had to teach you a lesson. I let you hang by your wrists all night . . . couldn’t even sleep for your screams.’”

Phew! Picture that scene!

To the casual observer of Greek mythology, the gods as cantankerous, arrogant manipulators is common knowledge. The same can be said for the mortals who worry incessantly about proper ritual to please the Mt. Olympus crowd.

Dolan modernizes their tiring bouts of pettiness with dark humor. Of course, the whole conflict between the Greeks (Achaeans) and the Trojans is the height of pettiness (remember that the air-headed Paris selecting the equally vacuous Aphrodite in the beauty contest initiates the pointless war.)

Every instance and every thought expressed in this tale creates a ruckus that is only rivaled by today’s Presidential tweets.

The author takes the reader into the fighting that is always a playground for the interfering gods. Of course, Dolan spares us the niceties. When Achilles, the son of the lower level goddess Thetis, kills Polydoros, one of Priam’s sons, the spear enters the boy’s back and exits near his navel. The lad “dies on his knees trying to stuff his guts back into his belly.”

When Antikolas is in trouble, Poseidon saves him by “lifting up the earth” to bend a spear-headed his way. The Greek warrior then kills a Trojan by chucking his spear “right into his groin between the navel and the balls.” The War Nerd insists it’s a pretty painful way to die.

How about this bit of action to stimulate horror movie fun? A dying Trojan’s macabre journey to Hades comes after a vicious throat slashing.

“Lykon’s head is left hanging on by a strip of skin. He goes down to the dark like that, with his head flapping down his back like a mule’s saddle-bag.”

Or this . . . when Pisander rushes Agamemnon’s brother Menaleus, the Greek spears him in the face.

“It breaks like a clay bowl. His eyes pop out and roll in the dust, as the Greeks laugh and cheer, pointing at the eyes, shouting, ‘You dropped a couple of eggs!'”

Good stuff!

The Iliad can be read as history, literature, or mythology, and I might add, psychology because the tale is a study in human personality, its hubris and its frailties. There are elitists who are selfish and self-assured, and an assortment of others who grovel, faun, and boast to influence those around them or simply to survive.

War does that to people, you know, often rewarding the baser human instincts while skimming off the brave. In his interpretation of heroes like Achilles and Hector, charlatans like Agamemnon and Menelaus, and disagreeable gods like Athena, Hera, and Zeus, the author opens up the many avenues of the human condition, the very reason Homer’s saga has endured over the millennia.

Now, thanks to The War Nerd John Dolan, the Iliad is an enjoyable read for anyone seeking to ditch the stilted language of the past and move forward with the linguistic style of our social media age.

We’ll part with Dolan’s description of Paris, the stud who started this debacle called the Trojan War.

“The only reason he didn’t drive a Porsche or wear Ray-Bans was because the infrastructure wasn’t there yet. He’d have defected Malibu in a second if the airport had been ready. . .”

Can’t get much better than that!

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The War Nerd Iliad is available from Feral House.

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Engaging Your Brain: A Review of Lesbian Sex 17

by Rich Moreland, October 2017

In Girlfriends Films’ Lesbian Sex 17, director Dan O’Connell takes an innovative approach to exploring the performer’s point of view on a variety of topics. In this review, I’ve included a sampling of what the video offers.

To order the DVD, click here.

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“With a woman there’s so much to touch and to play with,” Natasha Nice tells Georgia Jones. “I want to cover all the ground!”

Georgia smiles eagerly and Natasha turns the tables, asking Georgia for her thoughts on the same question Georgia posed to her, “How do you like your sex scenes with a woman?”

Depends on her partner, the slim brunette responses.

“If they come out of the gate ready to go you’ve got to match that!”

As I watched the four pairings in Lesbian Sex 17, I remembered being on set for a Dan O’Connell shoot a couple of years ago.

That day I noticed two girls on the veranda engaged in animated conversation. Adria Fox and Jorden Kennedy were awaiting their nod to rock and roll under the lights and had time on their hands. They decided to make use of it with a little “getting to know you.”

Kissing and caressing highlighted with a few giggles, these lovelies began warming up for their scene. When they finally made it to the bedroom, the crew was still setting up. By that time, Jorden and Adria were so into each other that Dan had to remind them to go slow at the beginning.

I wondered how their veranda conversation energized them and I’m betting that any film fan would also. With Dan’s idea of putting the girls together in front of the camera to share their thoughts before the sex begins, we get an inside look.

By the way, Lesbian Sex 17 is not in a BTS (Behind the Scenes) format. There is no interviewer, the girls do that themselves. They talk about whatever they want and lots of good stuff is revealed.

Let’s take a closer at a sampling of what usually stays very private . . .

Style

Each of the pairings have a different style of interaction.

August Ames

August Ames and Penny Pax are giggly and girly with August dominating their interaction because, I think, Penny is by nature more submissive.

Veruca James and Stella Cox are workmanlike and a bit more serious in their conversation. Again, one girl tends to take the lead, in this case Veruca who holds a mug of coffee and directs their conversation.

On the other hand, Natasha Nice and Georgia Jones are playful in a way that reminds the viewer of girl talk around the water cooler. Neither of them overwhelms the discussion though Georgia’s personality presents an unabashed eagerness when the mention of sex comes up.

The other conversation reinforces that the women in this film are well-respected veterans of the business. Chanel Preston and Vanessa Veracruz are a fascinating duo. Chanel’s personality quite literally takes over any room she enters. The statuesque beauty is the personification of presence. On the other hand, the sultry Vanessa holds her own, with points of view that are undeniably strong.

Natasha Nice

Locations also vary. August and Penny are shot relaxing out of doors, as are Chanel and Vanessa. Veruca and Stella sit at a bar while Natasha and Georgia settle in front of a window so the camera can capture the pelting rain that seems to embrace them.

Religion

The topics of conversation are not the same within each pairing, a result of not relying on an interviewer. Some things are discussed in common, however, such as masturbation, first time sex with another girl, and entering into porn.

The viewer learns that these girls were body explorers at a young age and by their early teens had thoughts about snuggling up to other girls. Watching porn as a kid almost seemed like a rite of passage and getting into the business was a breeze.

August Ames talks about her strict home environment and the religious overlay that corralled her. That led to smoking weed and hooking up with schoolmates (girls because she went of Catholic school) to play around with the dirty.

Chanel Preston

Chanel and Vanessa also bring up religion and their home life.

“We would go to church, but I wouldn’t say we were a religious family,” Chanel says. As a consequence, following the faith never played a part in how she felt about sex, so there was never any guilt about it. In fact, religion never played a role in anything in her life, Chanel remembers. It was just something her family did.

On the other hand, Vanessa, who is comfortable referring to herself as bisexual, reflects August Ames to a degree.

“I’m a little catholic girl,” the Latina hottie mentions, though her Catholic household was not strict. Not so with her grandmother, however, who doesn’t know what Vanessa does, the same thing, by the way, Vanessa once told me in an interview. Unfortunately, her middle sister, who “flipped out” about Vanessa’s porn career, “ratted me out” to the whole family, she comments.

Vanessa mentions what as a writer in the industry I have heard often. The family scene is difficult for most performers. Society thinks what we do is not the norm, Vanessa exclaims, so we’re outcasts.

Vanessa Veracruz

It’s difficult to tell her family she’s more respected on a porn set than working a normal job.

Fooling Around Young

Penny Pax was less rebellious than her shooting partner August, but remembers getting into the carnal with her female classmates in elementary school.

Penny Pax

She talks about messing around in the bushes on the playground and early versions of fingering for exploratory purposes. Hilariously, carrots and ice cubes came later, the quiet porn superstar muses.

Veruca James

Veruca James admits to masturbating very young and makes an interesting observation about 1970s style porn mags. The guys seemed pretty gross while “the girls seemed so much more tasteful,” she says. “Something about women’s bodies is so much more attractive,” the dark-haired miss believes.

The curvy Stella Cox brings up fetishes and talks about having sex with girls who are not into porn. It’s hard to figure out if they’re lesbian, bi, or just into to having sex with another girl, she comments. Then she adds it’s a longer more involved process to have sex with a woman than a man because having sex with a girl “engages your brain.”

What Approach Do You Take?

Stella Cox

One of the questions Natasha and Georgia bring up is how to handle telling people you do porn. Like similar issues covered by all the girls, this question entails communicating with non-porn people.

Georgia says, “It’s always different. It’s how I’m feeling at the moment.” If she’s not feeling real confident, the slender dynamo tells them she’s a model. Should she be more confident, Georgia says, “I tell them I do porn. Homosexual porn, I say it just like that. I tell them straight up I do lesbian porn.”

That, she declares, gets her “mixed reactions.”

As for Natasha, whose cuddly girl-next-door looks endear her fans, the approach is much the same. “I try to figure them out a little bit. I prefer to say ‘adult entertainer.’ I don’t really get any negative responses.”

Georgia Jones

The other issue they explore has to do with attraction to partners. Georgia is chemistry oriented. She likes girls who are “social smart” and “book smart,” can hold a conversation, and be witty with the ability to “snap back at you,” she says.

Natasha likes a “natural woman,” someone “I might see at the grocery store, not super chiseled like in porn.”

Beyond that surface value, she emphasizes that connecting with the person is vital. She wants her partners to be “someone I can giggle with. I’m still a kid at heart.”

Dan’s Girls

So there you have, a sampling of attitudes and conversation . . . but what about the sex scenes? Well, this is a Dan O’Connell production. The girls wear a minimum of makeup, avoid overly suggestive clothes to keep the “girl next door” image Girlfriends Films has heralded for so long.

It goes without saying that the sex is hot and consumes two hours of rollicking fun. Chemistry comes through on every shoot. Lots of kissing and finger banging is always prevalent and sex toys are assiduously avoided unless it’s an exceptional shoot.

Take notice, for example, of Chanel and Vanessa celebrating the weirdness of a film called Messed Up. It appears to deviate somewhat from the tried and true Girlfriends production.

One thing about all-girl shoots the average fan can appreciate: various degrees of shaving are always present. Bald is beautiful for some, but not all. Stylish trimming is never the same from one girl to the next, so there is something for everybody.

What’s the bottom line on this film? When it comes to girl-on-girl action, Dan’s ladies are always top notch. This time he’s added that inside look that informs the fan of what’s really on her mind!

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Evolved, A Commentary: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, September 2017

This is the second installment of my review/analysis of The Submission Of Emma Marx: Evolved, a New Sensations film written and directed by Jacky St. James.

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The Message

When Mariah pleads with Emma to teach her about BDSM because she is “in dire need of discipline,” Emma explains that the fetish is all about “practice and training” and asks Mariah why she wants this so badly.

Her response is a nod to all BDSMers.

It’s who she is, Mariah says.

So Emma agrees to take Mariah on her journey. The film moves through brief scenes of Mariah’s education. The best are those surrounding “slave training” when Emma teaches the neophyte to arch her back and open her legs for inspection.

There is a collar for Mariah to wear and shots of spanking and caning with tasks that come with the instruction, “please you dominant.” Emma tells Mariah, “Most important, find joy in what you are doing. When it stops being enjoyable, it’s probably not for you anymore.”

Later after her first real BDSM encounter with a Dom named Nicholas (Jay Smooth), Mariah asks Emma how can she ever return to normal sex?

What Mariah is experiencing now is normal for her, Emma says.

Emma informs Mariah that she belongs in this world. It’s just not the way she came to know it when she realized she was a submissive.

In other words, Emma implies that her pupil’s early experiences were limited to physical sensation. Now she is progressing beyond those restrictions and  becoming more spiritual in a sexual way.

Mariah’s character poses the question Jacky as writer and director addresses in her BDSM films; that is, how do we define normal? Part of this conundrum is to accept that different does not mean not normal.

In other words, if a fetish is legal and doesn’t harm anyone, then it passes the normal test. Of course, this is not something people who are vanilla oriented necessarily believe, or even want to consider. To put it another way, according to Jacky St. James, the definition of normal sexuality is broad and expanding and someday may not exist at all.

It’s the battle feminism has fought for decades in its effort to escape female sexual circumscription.

How we express ourselves

Normal is what we make of how we express ourselves. Emma has cleared this hurdle under Mr. Frederick’s guidance. She’ll do the same now for Mariah.

To best understand this idea, contrast Mariah’s first sex scene which served no deeper purpose than to have some fun. As mentioned above, when Emma as tutor and trainer sets up Mariah’s experience with Nicholas, she is satisfying Mariah’s needs beyond fleeting physical sensation.

In other words, Mariah is enriching her sexuality with psychological meaning, becoming sexually aware and mature: a reflection of the journey Emma has already taken.

By the way, notice how Emma persuades Mariah to select a dominant for the scene. Once again, Jacky St James reinforces the hegemony of female choice, reminding the viewer that choice also defines normal and normal, within the bounds of what is legal, is individually oriented.

In other words, it’s okay for a girl to want to be tied up!

Who We Were Before

In the final analysis, two themes connect Evolved with the original trilogy to reveal that Jacky St. James is always progressing as a filmmaker.

Her script points out that often a woman can best teach another woman the psychological aspects of sexuality, regardless of her preferences be they fetish or vanilla. Evolved is female-oriented and we see this with the extended conversations between Emma and Mariah and the emphasis on eye contact during the sex scenes mentioned previously.

Overall, Evolved is a further exploration of Emma’s closure on her past. The pain of losing Mr. Frederick haunts Emma when she tells Mariah it’s time to move on to a male dominant. Mariah reacts with an outburst that reflects what she believes happened to Emma.

“Are you going to pawn me off on someone else? Is this how this works?”

Confronting her personal sense of abandonment and loss of trust, Mariah disappears from the story without explanation.

Of course, irony grips the narrative at this point. This is the second time Emma feels forsaken, the first being the result of Mr. Frederick’s death. Her saving grace is that she is an evolving Emma, so to speak, who is well schooled in how to cope with the unexpected.

And then, the letter arrives.

It reveals that the chemistry between Emma and Mariah referenced in the first installment of this analysis has transcended misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Mr. Frederick as narrator helps us understand this major theme of Evolved when he says, “To survive we have to let go, acknowledging what no longer works for us, acknowledging that who we were before may not be the person we are today.”

William Frederick is the omnipresent voice inside our soul that urges, prods, and disciplines us at every turn while reminding us of our capacity to love.

So it comes as no surprise that with the narrative’s fade out, we hear “Mr. Frederick” whispered almost inaudibly.

Will he continue to dwell in Emma’s spirit for the next film?

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Final Thought

Adult fans who appreciate the feature film sub-genre realize there are few writer/directors who develop original ideas. Relying on parodies where plot and characters are already in place or adopting an established story line from existing sources, such as superhero comics or popular mainstream films, is convenient. Just add the sex.

But with Jacky St. James the landscape is more provocative. She writes her own narratives and uses sex as dialogue so the viewer can better understand her characters in such a way that the sex scenes emerge as characters in and of themselves.

Next, Jacky coaches and guides performers through the acting experience looking for just the right take for every scene. Being trained in drama and having once sought roles in mainstream Hollywood, Jacky understands the details and rigor of directing and acting.

Lastly, of course, she is part of a talented team of creative cinematographers that gives every adult feature she directs the Hollywood touch.

This combination of factors makes a New Sensations/Jacky St. James film unique to the business and we should appreciate that while we can.

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Evolved, A Commentary: Part One

by Rich Moreland, September 2017

Jacky St. James has ventured into a another film in her Emma Marx series.

Here is my review/analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, a New Sensations release under its Erotic Stories collection.

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The ancient Greeks believed the trilogy, a tale told in three parts, represented completeness. Academics interpret the trilogy’s interconnected dramas as a story arc which moves the main character through a change of some sort.

Jacky St. James refines this approach with her brilliantly crafted original Emma Marx series which follows Emma’s sexual and emotional development. In the end, she must overcome the tragic loss of her lover.

So what to make of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, essentially a fourth installment that broadens the narrative and, as it stands now, presents a myriad of possibilities going forward?

Simply put, Jacky is continuing Emma’s sexual growth, or what is best described as her maturity. The process is not dissimilar to the basic human experience developmental psychologists divide into stages, in this case, thirds: young, middle age, and old age. Emma’s progress, emotionally and sexually, has moved out of its adolescence and young adulthood into the earliest beginnings of a sexual middle age.

Is this fourth film the beginning of another trilogy? Possibly. Consider this: at first glance, Evolved is not better or worse than the original series; it is just different, a fresh story that in effect carries on the old story with all the ingredients to initiate a new trilogy of its own.

We already see the wheels beginning to turn as Emma moves her own desires away from submission into experiencing BDSM from the other side of the spectrum. Assuming the dominant role, Emma reaches out as teacher, mentor, and guru to a submissive whose understanding of the fetish is in its infancy, just as Mr. Frederick did for her.

The youthful BDSM neophyte Mariah is the beneficiary now and the future is filled with adventure.

But Jacky leaves us with a difficult question. Does a submissive pass through that state and wish to become a dominant? Is that a natural progression, or does a submissive play an elaborate game of becoming a “switch?”

 

This we do know. The reason Evolved is not an extension of the original series is the absence of Mr. Frederick materially, though he remains with Emma spiritually. Sadly, the on-screen dynamics created by Penny Pax as Emma and Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick cannot find a space in this film. However, Jacky astutely maintains their connection with an occasional flashback.

She also pursues their relationship in a unique way that shapes the story: Richie, as William Frederick, narrates the film from the grave, we assume.

Chemistry

Despite the missing Emma/William physical component to hold the story together, there are other chemistries that quickly fill the void.

First, Riley Reid as Nadia and Van Wylde as her husband Ray once again open the film’s sex scenes with a romp of their own. If their pairing continues into the future, Riley/Van scenes will become the stuff of porn legend. Going back to each of the previous films: the original, Boundaries, and Exposed, we see them sexually evolve as they deal with the demands of their marriage and the changes that brings.

Second, there’s the acting chemistry between Riley and Penny that is a mainstay in the trilogy. Their collaboration continues in this film and, it can be noted with assurance, Riley is a deft handler of dialogue and emotional expression. She has pace in her lines and in-character attitudes that move the narrative forward. Nadia retains her snarkiness, but also demonstrates a compassion that is underdeveloped in the first three films primarily due to her superficial interpretation of her suburban way of life.

Finally, there is the chemistry between Emma and Mariah (Violet Starr). Though not as pronounced as Nadia/Emma, it is still evident and predictably will grow should they be paired in another Emma film.

As Domme and sub, they are on the doorstep of becoming lovers, but for fans who want to relish that girl/girl action they’ll have to wait for another Emma installment. Always on her screenwriting toes, Jacky has cleverly laid the groundwork for that possibility.

The Sex Scenes

Working our way backwards through the sex scenes, the last one is beyond noteworthy. Penny is paired in a threesome with adult male superstars, Mickey Blue and John Strong.

The action includes anal, a DP, and light bondage. The adorable redhead is a solid veteran and can pull off any BDSM scene, no matter its intensity. What is more important to the story, however, is the reason for the sex. It sets the stage for Emma’s further development as a dominatrix because Evolved pronounces this scene as the final episode of her life as a submissive.

The opening sex scene featuring Nadia and Ray alluded to above, continues the tradition of the rocking hardcore action Riley Reid has cultivated to trademark her brand. Of note is how different their sex scenes are in the series. In the first film, the sex is premarital. In the second and third we see them married with fantasy/fetish play, and now they’re separated and into “hate sex,” as Nadia calls it.

Hilariously, she explains to Emma that it’s the best she’s ever had with more orgasms than ever before.

The result?

Director of Photography Eddie Powell and his compadre Paul Woodcrest capture gonzo elements within feature film sex that offers the best of both porn sub-genres. With a series of “fuck mes” and “oh my gods,” Riley calls on her all-sex roots to steam up the stage. Lots of liquid everywhere (we’re talking spit here) and facial close-ups (an Eddie Powell tradition) mark the dynamics of the every scene.

In fact, all the sex scenes have an important gonzo element that is not always considered appealing to porn viewers of the fairer sex. After the pop shot, each performer runs her fingers through the cum deposited on her body and licks it off with her lips.

This is a departure from the earlier Emma films, but reinforces Jacky St. James’ personal love of gonzo.

Incidentally, other than being finger-licking good, the pop shots are tame compared to what other filmmakers are doing. Facials are avoided to keep the female-friendly and feminist component of Evolved in tact.

Newcomer Violet Starr presents her all-sex talents with Damon Dice and Jay Smooth in two scenes that show why she was cast as Mariah. However, looking beyond her physical talents, the viewer should pay close attention to Violet’s acting. She reveals that once again Jacky St. James can uncover the best performers for her films.

 

Mariah is aloof with Emma early on before becoming angry later when she feels abandoned. Throw in some fawning that Emma sorts through easily and Violet’s performance is good stuff for anyone who appreciates a well-paced and entertaining story.

Truth be told, this twenty-year-old’s acting is fresh and perky and, as the narrator tells us in describing Mariah, “unabashed and unapologetic.”

Cinematic Touches

As usual, a Jacky St. James film is flavored with references and motifs that enliven the drama. Take, for example, the scene with Emma washing Mariah’s back as she sits in the tub. Mariah has just experienced her first real BDSM sex after an education in the psychological perspective of bondage.

The episode is an emotional replay of the bath tub scenes in the original trilogy where the submissive Emma is bathed and caressed by her dominant, Mr. Frederick.

An important motif in Evolved is Emma’s trunk. It contains her bondage paraphernalia and toys. In the opening scene, it is toted up the steps when she moves in with Nadia and down again at story’s end as she moves out. That’s symbolic because Emma’s time as a sub has reached its height and she passing that baton off to Mariah. Emma has metaphorically reestablished her submission before putting it away as she occupies, then leaves, Nadia’s house.

When Mariah rummages through the gear, Emma takes the opportunity to mention that there is a strong psychological component to BDSM.

“It’s not about the pain,” she says, “It’s about exercise and control and anticipation.”

Up until that moment, Mariah’s fetish sex is plastic handcuffs and some spanking that lights up the physical senses as illustrated in her first sex scene with a guy (Damon Dice) she’s picked up. She directs him to please her in her favorite role as a submissive. There is a feminist component on display here, of course, but the BDSM message is underdeveloped, as Emma will reveal to Mariah.

When Emma takes control of Mariah’s BDSM training, new feminist avenues are opened up and we see Jacky’s version of feminism upfront and personal. The feminist touch in porn is as cerebral as it is physical.

Eddie Powell and Paul Woodcrest contribute to this female-centric motif by focusing on whole body shots during the sex so as to not minimize the men. Also, they celebrate female satisfaction with facial close-ups of the women. What’s more, eye contact is vital in this film, recalling the emotionally gripping scene when Emma meets her new Dom in the last installment of the original trilogy.

As for symbolism, notice the St. Andrew’s Cross print on the wall of Mariah’s bedroom. That traditional BDSM symbol is revisited at the end of the film where eye contact once again solidifies relationships.

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In Part Two of this commentary, we’ll briefly consider Jacky St. James’ message presented in Evolved.

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Anne Bonny: Feminist Pirate

by Rich Moreland, August 2017

This post reviews a new book by Phillip Thomas Tucker about Anne Bonny, renowned female pirate of the 18th century.

A 2017 Feral House publication (ISBN 978-1-62731-045-1), the text contains 252 pages and is amply illustrated.

Speaking of visuals, sources for the engravings presented here are 18th Century. The statue of Anne Bonny and Mary Read is the work of Erick Christianson.

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A faculty colleague once told me the best way to teach history is through biographies because they enliven student interest in a subject that is often dead to them. Phillip Thomas Tucker’s Anne Bonny: The Infamous Female Pirate certainly proves the accuracy of his statement.

Tucker begins with the understanding that polite society in the 18th century marked the fairer sex as inferior. Assertive women were collectively denigrated as “psychopaths, misfits, or prostitutes,” he tells us, especially if they put on a sailor’s mantle and went to sea. Any demonstration of masculinity on a woman’s part was seen as an anathema in a culture that donned its patriarchal robes to stifle female expression.

The story of Anne Bonny boldly confronts these stereotypes, even as they existed among seafarers. The female pirate, and there were a few, challenged the  “male-dominated concepts of honor, faithful service, devotion to comrades, and courage, especially in the face of danger” aboard ship.

On Their Own

Unfortunately, Anne’s time on the tropical Caribbean stage was brief. She flourished in the seafaring outlaw culture for two years before facing her demise which Tucker discusses in great detail. Born of a servant girl, Anne began life in Ireland and died in the Tidewater area of colonial Virginia.

By the time her journey of independence within the only true democratic society of the time (shipboard with the pirate ethos) ended, Ann was accompanied by two characters who capture the reader’s imagination: Anne’s personal love, pirate captain “Calico Jack” Rackham, and her sister pirate, the strong-willed Mary Read.

And what a woman Mary is! With writing that the draws the reader into the story, Tucker relates that Mary, like Ann, “was the product of an illicit love affair.” Despite that seeming drawback, both women made their way in a man’s domain where birthright was meaningless. For her part, Mary signed on a British man-of-war at age thirteen and later fought as a “common soldier” in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Their sisterhood melded into a modern-day feminist tale boldly illustrated when the British navy closed in on Rackham’s ship during its final pirate hours. Anne and Mary defended the vessel as the crew and its captain, drunk from too much partying, languished incapacitated in the hold.

The pair stood side-by-side in the fury of attack.

“With sharp wooden splinters flying through the air and around Anne and Mary . . . on the sloop’s deck where they struggled to maintain their balance . . . the entire mainsail of the William crashed down . . . while tangles of ropes and lines rained down near the women . . .”

Then, as the battle moved in favor of the British, the author mythologizes the female buccaneers . . .

“Anne was now on her own to defend the ship without any male assistance whatsoever, including from her own captain and lover! Only Mary remained beside her at this moment. In the end , the two young women were on their own without their captain, in the greatest crisis ever faced by the Rackham crew.”

Tucker’s readable style and effective pace solves a persistent problem that faces all historians when they pick up the pen: how to present academic research that can come across as stilted and dry in a way that stimulates page turning. In other words, the trick of blending a scholarly work with popular history is never easy, but Tucker’s writing pulls it off.

Pirate Culture

Following Anne Bonny from her European birth to her escape from a domineering father who had moved the family to South Carolina, Phillip Thomas Tucker also finds space to paint an informative picture of pirate culture in its “Golden Age.” Captains Henry Morgan, William Kidd, and Edward Teach (Blackbeard) are brought into the story with Blackbeard’s beheading integral to the reader’s understanding of an outlaw’s fate.

As one would expect, death danced around in buccaneer waters, often manipulated by the pirates themselves to bring desired results. The author introduces us to the importance of the pirate flag, the Jolly Roger. Raised only when the pirates came upon a “prize” they had overtaken sometimes not far from shore, the flag was the best way to “intimidate a captain and civilian crew into handing over the ship without a fight in order to preserve pirate lives and precious reserves of gunpowder.”

On Jack Rackham’s vessel, his version deviated from the traditional skull and crossbones. “Calico Jack” preferred “a white skull with two crossed swords underneath on a black field.”

We learn his reasoning: create panic and persuade his prey to capitulate in short order . . . hopefully without a fight.

Later when his pirate time ended abruptly, Rackham’s executed carcass was covered in tar and suspended in a gibbet cage for public display at Jamaica’s Plumb Point “well within sight of Kingston and Port Royal and its main shipping lanes . . . as a chilling warning” that piracy has dire consequences. Over the years, wind and rain prevailed and we’re told that “Calico Jack’s” bleached bones fell harmless through the metal framework into the sand . . . a grave forever lost.

William Kidd in the gibbet cage

End of the “Golden Age

The story of Anne Bonny is that of youthful indiscretions. She chases the rogue and the rascal (one who married her and one who didn’t bother) in defiance of proper society and a culture that minimizes women.

The government was destined to win in the end, of course, but Anne’s narrative is about gender role confrontation and an expansion of same in a historical period when feminist ideas were largely unheard of but ripe for condemnation should they appear. As a pirate, she dressed like a man and fought with the best, though the Irish lass never actually killed or maimed anyone.

Today we interpret Anne Bonny’s image with a romantic, swashbuckling flavor as presented in media versions of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The truth is more jolting. She was a late comer, around when the “Golden Age of Piracy” (the late 1600s through the 1720s) lay enfeebled on its deathbed. In fact, perhaps Anne is no more than a historical afterthought because at twenty-two she disappeared as quickly as she made the scene.

Her legend is remarkable that it has survived, considering the pirate purge that roiled the waters on which she sailed and loved “Calico Jack.” As royal pursuit picked off more victims, pirates were quickly tried and executed by the hundreds to clean up the Caribbean infestation.

The details are grisly and the author is no fan of colonial governments and their duplicity. Early on the profits from pirating went to the elites, “the already rich and powerful,” who once supported the privateers against the Spanish. But the atmosphere shifted just as Anne was beginning her career. Colonial wealth came from other sources (slavery) rendering the “moral, upright” colonial governor as a “sham,” Tucker declares. In the end, these profiteers, who ducked under the cover of governmental legitimacy, turned against the pirates.

In the main, or metaphorically “on the main,” buccaneer culture was, as mentioned above, an authentic democracy which the author explores at various times in telling Anne’s story. Crews elected their captains and split the loot equally . . . and this included women like Ann and Mary. Of course, they did dress as men (thankfully clothing was light and voluminous so a woman’s figure was easily concealed) which served to make on-deck duties easier to perform.

Perhaps the only difference between seafaring men and women is what factored into Anne and Mary’s post-capture fate: both were ”quick with child'” and from there the story gets more interesting.

An Intriguing Tale

To its credit, Anne Bonny avoids the drudgery of an academic tome, but Phillip Thomas Tucker does repeat his major points to excess as if each time he tells us is our first exposure to them. However, that shortcoming can serve as a review for the reader and is not something I found terribly irritating.

From my perspective in the classroom, I know how important reinforcing information is.

On the other hand, Tucker reaches conclusions throughout the text that are conjecture. However, in light of the paucity of information concerning Anne’s psychological make-up and how she may have reacted to situations she encountered, that is a minimal criticism. She did, after all, leave no written records of her own.

On the whole, the author spins an intriguing tale and proves my colleague’s belief that “the story of the person” is the best way to teach the past. In Anne Bonny’s case, her message is about society’s contempt for women and the few alternatives available to them three centuries ago. As we’ve seen, one of those choices was the pirate culture and its leveling of social mores and individual status that is unique to history.

One final observation: Tucker comments briefly on the historical views of Anne Bonny, among them the late 20th century’s “prevailing feminist and political agendas” that turned Anne from “the ‘bad’ lesbian of the 18th century into the ‘good’ lesbian of the 1970s.” A fascinating thought, though there seems to be no evidence to validate the term in referencing her.

Nevertheless, does this give Anne Bonny a feminist label?

To a certain historical extent it does, but it’s one that we can modernize. Today, feminism is far more than a same-sex playground that unfairly pigeon-holed assertive  women four decades ago. Anne’s independence and “hold your own” attitude deserves praise as a model for all young women today. That is truly feminist and something, I believe, this “infamous female pirate” would have relished.

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Jack Rackham . . .

and Blackbeard . . .

in piracy’s Golden Age.

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