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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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Darker Side of Desire: Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

Jacky St. James is considered the leading feminist filmmaker in the adult industry today. As always her screenplays are Hollywood ready and Jacky’s latest feature, Darker Side of Desire, is no exception.

In this two-part review/analysis we’ll look at what makes this film a top-of-the-line production for couples and fetish lovers.

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Never for its Own Sake

After a successful run at New Sensations, Jacky St. James has taken her talent for storytelling to Mile High Media and its couples-oriented romance brand, Sweet Sinner.

The transition has already produced a winner, Darker Side of Desire, a feature film that once again cultivates a space for female-friendly BDSM. Jacky fans will remember her preeminent mark on the adult industry, the Emma Marx series reviewed on this blog in August 2013, March 2015, and April 2016.

Though reflective of the Emma Marx concept, Darker Side is a much different film. Here’s why.

In Emma’s story, BDSM is a learned sexual behavior that taps into the dominant/submission paradigm that exists to some degree in everyone. After all, what schoolgirl hasn’t had her hair pulled by that obnoxious boy in third grade? Flirtatious aggression is part of an instinctive primordial mating ritual psychologists tell us, though the kiddies are too young to get the picture.

Darker Side further explores BDSM as a preprogrammed behavior (it’s in our DNA, so to speak) that is clearly recognized by some of its adherents. In other words, no learning is required because “it turns me on, but I don’t know why.”

In that respect, the film is not Emma Marx, but is complementary of its message that submission is a legitimate sexuality that is part of a broader array of erotic behaviors.

And there is another difference worthy of note. While the many sex scenes in the Emma Marx series are BDSM exploratory, the scenes in Darker Side are a progression of how each woman in the story handles her inborn desires.

Emma normalizes a sexual fetish; the women of Darker Side don’t have that problem. For them, the fetish is already their normal.

Having said that, Jacky St. James’ philosophy that the storyline drives the sex is never more evident than in Darker Side. In other words, the sex informs character development, moves the narrative forward, and is never there for its own sake.

Simply put, Darker Side of Desire is sharp in plot and cinematography. For newbies to the bondage fetish who know what they want, the film is BDSM 101.


Hidden Affection

Natalie (Cassidy Klein) is haunted by a recurring dream of bondage sex. Vanilla in her lovemaking with new boyfriend Bryce (Mickey Mod), Natalie’s inner hunger to experience her fetish gnaws at her. The film moves her to a resolution that is set up by a progression of sex scenes skillfully placed within the narrative.

To get us there, Darker Side’s other characters come into play. We have Natalie’s friends and roommates Sydney (Gia Paige) and Robyn (Riley Nixon).

The men are Sydney’s past lover Alex (James Deen) and Robyn’s boyfriend Mike (Michael Vegas). The dream sequence features Cherie Deville as the submissive and Tommy Pistol as her dominant.

So how does the sex tell the story?

The first scene is Natalie and Bryce in a vanilla romp of raging endorphins that floods the new lovers.  As Natalie says in voice over, their relationship is a “whirlwind of romance and excitement.”

“You’re happy being out of control,” she declares.

The palette Jacky St. James and cinematographer Hank Hoffman present in the scene is top quality filmmaking. Mickey is a man of color so blending his darker tone with Cassidy’s paler one yields a visual perspective steeped in shades of brown, rust, auburn, and maroon. The sofa, candles, and the painting on the wall compose a pastel montage that flavors the romance.

Later, the palette reappears when Bryce and Natalie are playing pool (cues, balls, and pockets are Freudian symbols in this scene). The table felt and Natalie’s dress are shades of reddish-brown with a darker desert tone that is fitting, by the way, because their relationship may become arid if kinky erotic urges are ignored.

Spider Web

Next we have Natalie’s dream that composes the second sex scene. It delves into her psyche and its hidden affection for BDSM.

A spider web of chains is suspended between the camera and the imaginary players caught up in a tangle of bondage desires.

Denial, a subtle Jacky St. James theme, takes over as Tommy tempts and taunts Cherie throughout the entire scene. He calls her his “submissive little slut” and she responds, “Please sir, I want it so bad!”

With “I said beg for it!” Tommy spanks Cherie, whose coy smile reveals her submission pleasure.

Of course for the dreaming Natalie, the spider web is intimidating, a chilling look at the dichotomy of fetish sex: scary yet tempting, watching others while fearful of taking the step yourself.


Later, roommate Sydney tells Natalie of a past lover Alex and their bondage hook-ups. The next sex scene between the two serves, along with the dream sequence, as fetish counterpoints to Natalie and Bryce’s vanilla theme.

The question of female degradation versus feminism’s empowerment is illustrated by the fourth scene. It’s a sexcapade between Robyn (Riley Nixon) and her boyfriend Mike (Michael Vegas), a playtime sprinkled with humor that tests traditional feminist sexual politics.

More on this in Part Two.

The final sex scene is Natalie and Bryce revisited. Now they’ve negotiated their mutual turn-on, the kink hidden within that finds the best of all outlets: a like-thinking lover.

So how does the movie take us through the BDSM experience as a feminist message?

That’s the question for Part Two of this review.

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Darker Side of Desire can be purchased from Mile High Media here.

To watch the “not safe for work” trailer, click here.

 . . . And for twitter fans, here’s your bread and butter: @milehighmovies  @sweetsinnerxxx @jackystjames

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New Wave Porn: A Review of BrightDesire.com Part Two

by Rich Moreland, December 2015

This is Part Two of my review of MsNaughty’s BrightDesire.com. With the exception of those used in the final segment “Ending with Some Humor,” all photos are courtesy of the website.

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A Sample of the Movies

Today’s feminist porn is rooted in the pioneering work of the late Candida Royalle and her FEMME Productions. In this new century, feminist porn is so fluid that in the eyes of some it’s losing its original intention. Candida herself got caught up in the discussion on more than one occasion. As she once said to me, just because a woman makes the film does not mean it’s feminist.

Were she here to check out MsNaughty, Candida would be pleased. The Australian’s work is solid feminist stuff. She allows her performers to express themselves as they wish in scenes that are mildly scripted at best. Condoms and pop shots are choices they make and if the penetration is in the shadows, so be it. What is refreshingly absent is the repetitive acrobatic sex found in Porn Valley.

So here’s my take on some of her work. These films are the merest of possibilities available on a site that is a bonanza of good movie making.

Three’s Not a Crowd



“The Birthday Wish” is a delightful film issued in three parts. MsNaughty limits the length of her films to fifteen minutes, more or less. So if things run longer, there’s a part two and sometimes a part three. In the Director’s comments, the viewer learns that the movie was shot in Berlin and the two women, Livia and Nicole, are in their own fluid-bonded relationship so a respectful Mickey Mod uses a condom.

Lots of Affection

Lots of Affection

“Birthday Wish” is a vignette centering on Livia’s celebratory day; Mickey sings, clothes come off, and the trio begins kissing and caressing. Sexuality’s fun and natural flow steps forward as an expression of three intertwined people rather than three sets of mouths and genitalia. In Director’s Comments, MsNaughty mentions some cinematographic concerns in the shoot, specifically capturing bodies in motion. Genital close-ups are limited so don’t expect gonzo shots here.



If your take on porn is Evil Angel, Hustler, and Realty Kings, this film won’t do much for you.

Parts Two and Three carry on the playful tone of Part One and offer the penetration shots. There’s lots of oral with everyone involved and facial close-ups that tell the story of the sex. A careful analysis reveals slight gestures among the performers to ensure everyone is okay with the action. The chemistry is supercharged and real orgasms happen.

A Collared Lover

I decided to take a look at the consensual BDSM presented in “Kim and Jay: 24/7.” They are a real-life couple (she’s collared) and in the scene Kim is the aggressor despite her submissive status in their relationship. Jay’s role is to pleasure her with impact play before we get to Part Two where the sex occurs. Incidentally, Kim does shoot porn professionally, though that is not evident here.

Finding the Mood.

Finding the Mood.

They have a Daddy relationship, not uncommon in BDSM circles, as Jay appears somewhat older than Kim. As mentioned in Part One of this review, their post-shoot discussion found in the website’s interview section reveals they met online. They talk about the importance of pleasing each other to maintain equality in a relationship that challenges power imbalances.

Impact Play

Impact Play

MsNaughty’s cinematography is impressive and Kim is strikingly beautiful. The room is bright white with the bed covering a contrasting black. Several instruments from paddles to floggers are hanging the wall. There is a standing full-length mirror in a far corner that reflects the action on the bed. MsNaughty, who comments on the difficulty of maintaining consistent lighting in a small space, manages to catch some of the mirror, presenting the sex from two angles.

Kim is Ready

Kim is Ready

Kim is handcuffed to the bed until the sex begins. It’s mainly misch with a limit on Kim orally satisfying Jay. Her orgasm is real and there is no external pop.

This is how an actual BDSM couple looks, feels, and expresses mutual affection.

Playing in the Dungeon

My second choice among the BDSM films was shot in a sex club dungeon in Toronto. The performers are San Francisco’s Siouxsie Q and Mickey Mod, who has made a name for himself at Kink.com. “Yes, Sir” is divided into two parts with the second containing the penetrations, as is MsNaughty’s preference. There’s a St. Andrews cross to which Siouxsie is attached and some spanking and kissing.

Mickey Intices

Mickey Entices

A comment about Mickey Mod. Any man who wants to become a true lover by orally satisfying his lady ought to pay close attention to Mickey. His chemistry percolates with his co-stars to build the sexual heat with care.

The scene is dominated by heavy shadowing, perfect for creating a dungeon feel. The shoot is a decided contrast to the airiness of Kim and Jay. Also, for fans of more commercialized porn, the performers are veterans of adult film and they come across accordingly. The shoot ends with cuddling, typical of MsNaughty’s sex-positive philosophy.

The Cross

The Cross

In the Director’s Comments, MsNaughty evaluates making “Yes, Sir” and remarks that the episode’s flavor is a Fifty Shades of Grey spin-off. Though Siouxsie Q is portraying a newbie, she comes across as what she is, a professional sex worker. Interestingly, a bit of post-shoot drama challenges the definition of authentic sex in feminist porn.

The Sex

The Sex

Sex is Hotter than Tea?

“Sex or Tea?” is a seduction scene in which Rebecca gives her lover a choice of her or a beverage. He smartly takes her and a modified strip tease precedes the sex. The photography is sharp with a vibrancy that illuminates the bodies. It’s worth noting that Rebecca is a perfect example of the once standard porn girl: thin, cute, and fully shaved with perky boobs that complement her flawless body.

Stripping Down

Stripping Down

“Tea or Sex?” has an obvious commercialized feel with certain conventionalities emphasized. For example, there is an over-the-shoulder POV shot of Rebecca performing oral and she tends to verbalize her pleasures with incessant moaning. A handful of penetration close-ups distinguish this film from the other offerings on the site. By the way, Rebecca is careful to point her toes in fine porn fashion at all the right moments.

Stepping Up

Stepping Up

Throw in position changes–there’s cowgirl, reverse cowgirl (very uncomfortable for many performers) and standing doggie–with an external pop, and the picture is complete. If you want some standard porn with the natural flow characteristic of the other shoots, this is for you. It is particularly feminist in one important point, Rebecca seeks out the sex for her pleasure.

The Note

The Note.

The Note.

The winner of the 2015 Feminist Porn Awards for Best BDSM scene, “Instructed” also received recognition at the 2014 Berlin Porn Festival and Cinekink in NYC in 2015. Shot in Toronto in April 2014 during the Feminist Porn Week, it’s a solo scene that features Pandora Blake, a well-known erotic performer from the UK who also appears in other works by MsNaughty.

Getting Ready to Follow Instructions

Getting Ready to Follow Instructions

The premise is simple. Pandora’s real-life lover leaves her a note with instructions to ready herself for his visit. This was actually arranged beforehand to guarantee authenticity. When she arrives for the filming, Pandora has no idea what she is to do.

Following his instructions that include a butt plug and self-spanking with a hairbrush, she first strips down and self-caresses in front of a mirror.

The Mirror

The Mirror

Pandora playfully follows every detail to the fullest. The viewer joins with her as each step builds to her eventual self-induced orgasm.

Applying the Hairbrush

Applying the Hairbrush

MsNaughty notes that the scene is “one of the sexiest films” she’s ever made. I agree. Of all the movies I watched, this one is the most erotic. It’s arousal level for viewers of both sexes is sky-high.

Assignment Completed. Waiting.

Assignment Completed. Waiting.

Ending with Some Humor

Among the “Extras” offered on the website is a short film called “Perversion for (Feminist Fun And) Profit.” It is a spoof on the 1965 pseudo documentary by the same name. MsNaughty’s satirical approach caught my attention because I reference the original film in my book on feminist pornography. Today, the half-hour movie is in the public domain if you want a good chuckle.

Here's George!

Here’s George!

The narrator is George Putman, an LA-based TV news reporter and radio talk show host. His conservative credentials made him the perfect hire for the Citizens of Decent Literature, a group founded in Cincinnati by anti-porn zealot and Catholic, Charles Keating. Because previous organizations like the religiously driven Legion of Decency were saddled with a book burning reputation, the CDL changed tactics, preferring the obscenity shtick to censorship in their excoriation of porn. “Perversion for Profit” was shown to community groups nationwide and warns parents about the pitfalls of sex that will quickly turn their children into homosexuals, sadists, and general perverts.

For the anti-porn feminists whose heyday was to come in the 1970s and 80s, the film became grist for their anti-smut campaign about porn’s violence against women and children. MsNaughty intersperses snippets from her shoots into Putnam’s speech. The result is satire at its most hilarious.

The Message 1965 Style

The Message 1965 Style

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BrightDesire.com contains many more films that focus sex at its best: solo (male and female), toys, fetish, gay and genderqueer. When I began my review, it was quickly apparent that the website is the porn candy shop of good film making. I encourage you to take a look.

By the way, MsNaughty has a full-length feature out called The Fantasy Project. I haven’t seen it, but if I do, I’ll post a review here.


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