Tag Archives: Feminism

Darker Side of Desire: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

Here is Part Two of my review/analysis of Jacky St. James’ Darker Side of Desire, a production of Mile High Media.

To get a flavor of the images mentioned in this analysis, watch the “not safe for work” trailer here.

All photos and images are courtesy of Mile High Media.

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A Balanced Message

The sex scenes in Darker Side of Desire are Jacky St. James at her artistic best and reflect the mission of Sweet Sinner video. The scenes are woman-friendly and romance-oriented with female consent the focal point of every shot.

Passionate kissing abounds with everyone receiving oral pleasures, but the gagging, choking, and deep throating of today’s run-of-the-mill porn are conspicuously minimized; not surprisingly, the same applies to porn as an anatomy lesson.

Facial expressions communicate desire while the camera focuses on both bodies equally when the sex heats up. Cinematographer Hank Hoffman often shoots a symmetrical view of the lovers to highlight carnal expression as a two-way street.

Speaking of visual clues, Jacky St. James concentrates on phallic symbols like candles and vases paired with flowers (very Freudian) to underscore the psychology of sex. Since vases offer a canal to be filled, so to speak. . . Well, I think you get the idea.

As mentioned above, communication is the heartbeat of each sex scene. Darker Side is solid feminist porn with male performers who express their feelings through conversation and touch. Take note, for example, of how Mickey Mod gently cradles Cassidy Klein’s head during their intimate moments.

To shoot a female-centered film requires men who are comfortable with their sexuality and are willing to yield their masculine focus in favor of pleasuring their partners.

Jacky St. James casts the best of them.

Sexual Maturity

With Darker Side Jacky is as true to the BDSM community as she has ever been. Take for instance, the performers in the dream sequence. They’re older, a reflection of real-life bondage aficionados. The renowned MILF, Cherie Deville, is the perfect choice to perform with Tommy Pistol, a veteran of Kink.com who is in his forties.

Mickey Mod and James Deen are also Kink veterans who have been in the industry for ten and thirteen years respectively. Michael Vegas didn’t enter adult until he was twenty-six and is in his seventh porn year. Experience also characterizes the women. Cassidy Klein and Gia Paige are well into their twenties, hardly newbs by porn standards.

Only Riley Nixon is a youngster among this crowd, but she is mature by fetish standards. And make no mistake, this girl is a charmer with an adorable, disarming smile.

In the BTS segment of the DVD, Riley tells us she’s “very submissive” and BDSM gives her an exciting sexual space to be free of worry and responsibility.

Submission is “who I am deep inside, a natural state for me,” she declares. Can you feel the love?

Experience teaches BDSMers to be comfortable with their fetish. Sex is as much mental as it is physical and any bondage lover will tell you that understanding your sexuality and being open to talk about it is what the kink is all about.

The Game

Darker Side has two themes. The first, as we’ve seen, is the appreciation of authentically presented BDSM.

The second is feminism’s relationship to kinky sex brought out in the film’s pivotal scene, the drinking game. A tequila bottle (another phallic symbol) is positioned in the middle of a divan around which four players (Bryce and the girls) sit.

It’s a bit of truth or dare fun that unexpectedly wrings a bondage confession out of Sydney. Her words touch a nerve with Robyn (Riley Nixon) who challenges her roomie’s feminism by asserting that BDSM is anti-woman.

Sydney replies she did not give up her power when she played in the dungeon. A chill rises quickly around the group.

Robyn is indignant. “You bent over and let some dude spank you and you think you‘re in control?”

Sydney leaves abruptly. How do you spell tension?

Raising the Bar

Darker Side of Desire is an artistic commentary that raises the bar of the average porn film. Make no mistake, Darker can survive on its terrific sex scenes alone, but, as we’ve mentioned, Jacky St. James has a special talent for shooting sex that fits perfectly into the narrative.

Later, when Natalie persuades Sydney to tell her story, she learns that her friend researched BDSM websites which led to her adventure with Alex, an accurate comment on how kinksters find each other in today’s cyberspace.

He was “much older,” Sydney says (reinforcing the age factor). Their fetish sex was immediate.

“It didn’t evolve, it started there,” Sydney says.

They talked about everything.

“What I wanted, what turned me on. He was completely respectful of my boundaries.”

Negotiation and trust are the most important parts of the BDSM experience.

The rewards were enormous. The sex unleashed something inside her, she explains.

Unfortunately, Sydney was a college freshman at the time and sexual self-understanding was in short supply. Though she was happy with the arrangement, she broke it off because she felt “weird” and different from other girls.

Youth led her to judge herself negatively. Fear stepped in and now years later she regrets everything, Sydney tells Natalie.

You’re Next

Emboldened, Natalie is now ready to begin her emotional/sexual journey.

To prepare the viewer, Jacky St. James breaks the fourth wall in Natalie’s final dream episode. During the fantasy sex, Cherie Deville looks directly into the camera expressing her satisfaction before Tommy Pistol turns to the lens and confronts Natalie’s reticence with, “You’re next!” It’s her inner challenge to act on her desires.

She’s watched for too long, now it’s time to play.

When the final sex scene shows up, Natalie and Bryce come full circle. By the way, Cassidy Klein’s oral performance is stylish, more art than gonzo, a kind of sensual caressing.

In the bondage sequence, the lovers are reflected in a mirror to the left of the screen. The shot is laden with shadows and represents their transition, stepping through the looking-glass if you will.

Natalie, who submits to a blindfold, lives out her fantasy in her imagination. Bryce’s voice nurtures her internal visions, much like the radio dramas long ago when listeners created the visual scene for themselves.

The dream has come to life, a reminder that BDSMers always have their favorite scenarios in their heads.

Inside the Self

Finally, Darker Side of Desire is impressive for two reasons.

First, Jacky St. James has all the right performers. Each one brings a special talent to the screen.

Second, Jacky has grown in her understanding of BDSM. With Emma Marx, she successfully normalized the fetish. Now she has moved kink to a more personal level with the women of Darker Side. Words and caresses excite them while the sex is hot and heavy without gonzo-style sex for sex’s sake.

Simply put, the fetish is nurtured inside the self. Her desires inflamed, Natalie’s here and now contrasts with Sydney’s fond remembrances of a past experience that offers hope for the future.

There is a course correction needed in this story and it appears in the closing scene. Her wrists and ankles shackled, Robyn extracts a promise from her lover to say nothing of this to anyone . . . Appearances always matter, of course, even to feminists who decry that bondage objectifies women while wrestling with their own ideas about its erotic allure.

Just as Natalie’s over voice opens the film, another with real honesty steps in before the final credits roll . . .

“Robyn eventually acknowledges that sexual fetishes are deeply personal and not to be judged until fully experienced.”

For Natalie, Sydney, and Robyn, this is not the end, of course, but a beginning, or more precisely an electrifying rebirth . . .

Will there be a Darker Side of Desire, Part Two? If so, this reviewer is on board!

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I Only See Darkness: Jac Avila’s Justine, Part Four

by Rich Moreland, December 2016

SPOILER ALERT! The final resolution of Justine is right around the corner!

The installments of this five-part review are posted as a package but designed as stand alone essays, so you may read the ones you like and forgo the others.

All photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent Films.

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Pachamama Films/Decadent Cinema combines erotic horror and soft core S&M action within a framework of classical literature, a rare adventure in movie making.

Dead But Dreaming’s vampire legends, Ollala (based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s vampire tale by the same name), and Barbazul (Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard”) represent avant-garde indie film that offers timeless story telling infused with adult themes.

And don’t forget, Amy Hesketh’s performance art lures everyone into her cauldron of sexuality and pain that marks (pun intended) the excitement of these productions.

Amy’s talent is on full display again in Justine. Undoubtedly her interpretation of the suffering feminine is hard on her body and eventually she will decide enough is enough. So if watching Amy on-screen is your pleasure, be sure to get a copy of this film.

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Having said that, Justine, sparks conversation in another way.

Following the footprint of the films mentioned above, Justine carries a political message steeped in images that are literary and mythological.

Let’s take a brief look at a few examples.

Three

First, the movie’s most dynamic image, the restrained and punished woman, surpasses other Jac Avila creations with the possible exception of Maleficarum.

Amy Hesketh, Mila Joya, and Beatriz Riveria are easy on the eyes and offer the visual delights of a good whipping that S&M aficionados appreciate.

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But that’s for just for starters. There’s more.

Take the archetypal number three, the staple of myth and legend which accounts for its dominance in the Bible. Jac Avila follows Sade’s lead in exploring it.

The novel mentions twenty-one victims (three sevens) consumed in the prison fire. Adulthood is also age twenty-one, a hint that when Justine escapes from prison, she is old enough to take responsibility for her decision-making, or more specifically her inaction, in a theme that runs through Sade’s work.

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Also, the dungeon candle stands have combinations of threes and sixes cleverly placed among the torture devices.

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The Circle

Jac Avila focuses on three sacrificial victims to create his religious motif.

Each girl is bound to the wheel reminding the viewer that while a patriarchal God may oversee the world, women are the source of a never-ending circle of virtue and vice–reproduction on one hand and sexual temptation on the other–that drives the human condition.

Thus we have the wheel’s most important message. Civilization’s male-dominated hierarchies insist that female sexuality is not to be trusted, so women must be confined and chained rather than celebrated.

By the way, trust makes its appearance at the end of the film in an ironic twist. But you’ll have to watch the movie to see it.

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Speaking of sacrifices, after Rosalie’s dungeon crucifixion her stigmata wounds are treated by Omphale and Justine in a scene reminiscent of the three women at Calvary (Golgotha) recounted in the gospels.

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Then, of course, there’s Jac’s version of the three crosses we’ll see later.

The Sacred Feminine or Defiant Feminist?

White is the color of purity and the girls wear white loincloths depicting the partially clad martyr linked to the Medieval crucifixion image. Only Justine is nude.

In this modern interpretation of Sade’s novel, she is both virtue and vice, honoring the complete woman and validating her defiance of patriarchy despite her humiliation.

In other words, Justine is totally exposed, the literary “everywoman.”

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When the abused girls retreat to their bed, the configuration of their bodies is a reminder of the Holy Trinity with the God/Daughter shift illustrated by Rosalie’s suffering.

The importance of the sacred feminine in Church lore cannot be easily dismissed.

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However, this scene is part of a series of images that begins in the dungeon with the chained and collared Justine grabbing vainly for Rodin in a fit of vengeance. She is defiant and frustrated, the angry feminine, or in modern terms, feminist.

12342441_10153165674282882_7911671529364754032_nThen we see the Trinity motif just mentioned.

At first the girls are looking away from each other, individualized in their agony, emphasizing the misery and abandonment that is part of the human condition.

But they eventually join hands in spirit as well as in truth, an affirmation that the sacred feminine will prevail.

Imagistically, they form their own wheel with their overlapping hands on Justine’s hip as the hub.

Leonardo’s Perfection

300px-da_vinci_vitruve_luc_viatourIt’s worth mentioning that Jac Avila’s woman on the wheel is a vague reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” perhaps suggested by the filmmaker more unconsciously than deliberately.

Simply put, each girl represents the Renaissance thinker’s harmonic blend of art and science that ultimately spawned the Age of Enlightenment and, ironically, the Marquis de Sade.

In this film the female image emerges perfect in form while tormented with pain, as Justine reminds us with her harsh condemnation of Biblical tenets.

We can conclude then that Justine is a full-fledged challenge to the Church and its intrusion into the pre-theological State of Nature that Sade celebrates. Jac Avila has given us pause to reconsider Sade’s argument.

We have a broader question, of course, that is too much to consider here. Is the perfect female form and its corresponding consciousness a creation of Nature or God? Or both?

Cutting Across Time

The confrontation between female suffering and empowerment, the heart of this story, cuts across time.

Here are some of the examples.

In I Only See Darkness: Part Two of this review, we see twenty-first century vehicle tires abandoned on the side of the road, a comment on Justine’s situation.

Then there is Rodin’s modern bottle of beer in the dungeon scene, though bottled beer was known in Sade’s day. As the film comes to its denouement, Rodin wears sunglasses not available in the eighteenth century. Combine those images with a wife-beater shirt and the macho persona of the alpha male (God?) steps into view.

12265552_522310101276893_6619100802816208411_oAlso, we have the brass bed (a Victorian invention) that post-dates Sade. But it is appropriate here because the Victorians muted female sexuality, giving rise to Freudian theory on hysteria, repression, and sexual anxiety.

The costumes are eclectic. In the dungeon scenes, for instance, Rodin sports the aforementioned wife-beater shirt, a Hollywood staple reaching back to the 1930s.

Incidentally, Amy Hesketh cobbled the wardrobe together for the film . . . not a simple task.

Now we know why Jac Avila breaks the fourth wall repeatedly. His message transcends the here and now and goes well beyond the story at hand. What better way to reinforce the narrative’s timelessness than addressing the viewer directly, cutting through the limitations configured by the camera’s lens.

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So, that’s a quick run-down of some of the symbolism incorporated into the Justine narrative.

We’re set now to venture into our last installment for the dramatic conclusion Jac Avila has crafted for this version of the Sadean saga. He deviates from Sade somewhat but retains the flavor of the novel to its bitter end.

A reminder. If you don’t want to know how everything turns out, skip the next post!

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12313702_10207283807987314_7432081521215658282_nFor the curious, Amy often crafts the torture instruments including racks, whips, and the like that appear in all Pachamama/Decadent Films.

Getting a feel for the whips is something BDSMers would understand.

By the way, in making Justine, testing the wheel was vitally important, as you might expect.

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Amy Hesketh can be reached on Facebook and followed on twitter. Jac Avila is also on twitter.

 

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The Meaning of Consent: Casey Calvert

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

Casey Calvert is popular with porn fans, having begun her career as a fetish model.  The 2012 University of Florida graduate entered the business at twenty-two, older than most girls who seek a career in adult entertainment.

Highly respected among her peers, Casey is active in the industry support group,  APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee).

We talked recently at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.

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Casey Calvert reflects what performers understand, “You know what you signed up for when you show up on the set.”

The native Floridian explains that an informed performer is aware of what is expected and who her co-stars are that day. However, that doesn’t mean unplanned or uncomfortable incidents don’t happen.

“If something changes, whether it’s somebody asking something additional of you or [an incident happens] by accident, you say something and the problem gets resolved.”

Feeling Violated

Casey doesn’t want to get into the James Deen/Stoya controversy which she refers to as “a big scandal” in the business. Understandable and that’s not the focus of my question. But, I do want her take on how a newcomer should handle a similar situation that might occur on set.

“It’s one of the things we’re working on as an industry, especially now that people are talking about how do we make new girls feel comfortable speaking up and how do we make sure they know it’s okay [to do so.]”

Then the four-year industry vet touches on the second point everyone seems to make.

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“Nobody wants them to go home feeling violated or upset. Everybody wants them to go home feeling good.”

Casey retreats a bit when I suggest that after a questionable moment during filming, some girls may believe they have been subjected to inappropriate sexual behavior.

“Right, but that doesn’t mean they got raped either. Getting raped is if you say ‘no’ and they say ‘yes.'”

Does that happen?

“Not that I’ve ever heard of,” the superstar replies. “It has not personally happened to me. I’ve never heard a story in recent history at all where that has happened on a set with anybody.”

Having said that, she clarifies her position.

“There’s a difference between I say ‘no’ and you try to convince me to say ‘yes’ and I say ‘no’ and you take it anyway.”

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Getting It Fixed

Has she been on sets where this has happened?

Casey hasn’t, but she comments, “I’ve been on shoots where I’ve had to say ‘something’s wrong’ and it gets fixed.”

She measures her words, declaring that she “can’t be mad” because “the person who has created” the problem straightened it out.

Due to the nature of a business that shoots thousands of scenes a year with a talent pool that is in constant flux, Casey realizes questionable moments do occur.

Referencing the male performers booked to shoot with her, she says, “They don’t know me. We’re acquaintances. This is not my boyfriend of ten years who should be fantastic at reading my body language and should know the things about me. This is essentially a stranger, so I can’t fault that stranger for not knowing something if I don’t tell him.”

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Is being a superstar an advantage that causes everyone to back off?

“Oh, yeah. For sure. I fully admit I’ve had additional privilege going in being a Spiegler Girl, even [when I was] brand new.” Casey signed with the Spiegler agency immediately upon entering the industry.

“People treat you differently. I can definitely say that, but I also have lots of friends who are not Spiegler girls and have lots of experiences on set.”

She doesn’t elaborate about those experiences, be they positive or negative.

A Three-Fold System

To educate newcomers, APAC has developed a “Porn 101” video similar to AIM’s [Adult Industry Medical] endeavor years ago. Performers are is issued a card that certifies they have viewed the tape.

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“It’s a very positive step in the right direction,” the native Floridian says, and explains that it’s especially valuable for girls who come in at eighteen or nineteen.

By presenting “this piece of paper that says, ‘I understand what I’m getting into. I get it,'” Casey points out, a performer should be in a position to deal with issues that may arise.

But she adds a caveat.

“We have to make sure they actually really do get it and it can’t be like, ‘here everybody gets a piece of paper.'”

Even that does not fully address the problem.

“If the companies don’t adopt that as a procedure where they require that piece of paper or that card, then it means nothing . . . [because] it is a three-fold system. There’s the performers, the directors, the producers and the companies, and then there’s the agents. The change has to come from all three.”

In other words, communication and cooperation across the board is a worthy goal, though not an easy task.

Casey uses the following example.

“If the performers get educated, then the companies say, ‘Okay, we need proof that you understand what you’re getting into,’ and the agents don’t facilitate any of that, it still doesn’t work. It has to be a system where all three are working together which is why APAC is having such a hard time making it happen.”

Having said that, Casey brightens.

“It’s happening, but it’s happening very, very slowly.”

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

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