Tag Archives: Peter Acworth

Vanity Stripped Away: Part One of an Interview with Holly Heart

by Rich Moreland, February, 2015

Rarely have I had the pleasure of interviewing a performer who comes close to Holly Heart. This sultry blonde and I speak a mutual language and I’m happy to say her enthusiasm leaps through the words of our conversation. In the all-too-short time together we had at the 2015 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, she was so ardent in our pre-interview chat that I abandoned my prepared notes so we could focus on her passion for the fetish play that dances around the proprieties of vanilla America.

Be it known that Holly Heart is no missionary position porn girl who delicately wades into sexual experimentation. She revels in her fetishes, learns from them, and has achieved a personal satisfaction that flummoxes those whose erotic proclivities remain closeted. Holly has discovered the rarest of treasures: liberation and strength gained through a sexual awakening.

Overcoming her BDSM fears and the reticence they created, Holly is receiving her bondage merits, or hard-won marks (pun intended), with a determination that elevates serving to its highest honor. It’s an achievement reserved for a few of the brightest stars who entertain BDSM fans with a zealotry unseen in run-of-the-mill adult film.

A Submissive Person

Holly Heart makes her mark in our interview. Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Holly Heart makes her mark in our interview.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

To get us started, I ask Holly to define her BDSM self.

She runs through submissive, bottom, and masochist, then adds, “I am a submissive person, but not all submissives are masochists.” Agreed. As Bobbi Starr once told me, many subs want to please, others get off on pain.

Holly quickly delves into her own story. “I happen to be a masochist. I love pain.” She explains that her self-definition goes back to her early shoots with Kink.com, the San Francisco porn company run by Peter Acworth, where a handful of directors that include James Mogul and Matt Williams (who now runs Intersec across the bay in Oakland), guided her along.

You are a slave in bondage play?

“[The Kink directors] helped me explore what I like as a masochist and that was so awesome for me. But as a far as being a slave, I wouldn’t consider myself someone’s slave because I’ve never had a master [in my personal life], but I’ve had dominant men submit me.”

Of course, Kink’s The Upper Floor is a submissive girl’s dream experience, at least on the professional level. Has Holly joined this elite rank of performers?

“I just did a scene on Wednesday for them with James,” she answers with unmitigated excitement.

This girl is on board with her fetish. BDSM fans should check out some of her work.

Too Perfect all the Time

Orgasm and pain are worshipped on the BDSM alter because reaching that special nirvana requires practice, self-understanding, and a processing ability that zeros in on the relaxation necessary to to go with the flow. No tensing up in this play space or the scene collapses very fast and the pre-negotiated safe word will quickly wrap things up leading to disappointment and feelings of failure.

One of the best training grounds at Kink.com uses preparation in its name, The Training of O. The website is managed by one of the studio’s best directors, James Mogul. A prominent submissive who shot for him told me James is the master manipulator. He establishes a girl’s focus on the first day–the issue she wants to explore–and goes from there, building the next three days to address her goal or need. The shoots become a personal journey of self-discovery that for some girls is a once in a lifetime experience.

“I didn’t really know how to process the pain [though] I did a few shoots for Kink [before] I did Training of O in 2010,” Holly says. “Oddly enough [James honored] my request to better myself.”

Under the tutelage of James Mogul. Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Under the tutelage of James Mogul.
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

She explains that James’ grasp of psychology allowed him to get inside her head and satisfy her desire.

“I was like super vain and I told them [James and his assistant Maestro who participates sexually in TTO shoots] that I wanted to feel beautiful even in my most detrimental moments when I’m not beautiful, when I don’t think I am physically beautiful. They really helped me break that vainness. I thought you had to be pretty and be like a perfect statuesque-like person and that’s not the case.”

Holly furthers her honesty. “I felt like I just wanted to be too perfect all the time and I didn’t always want to feel like that. As a submissive you’re not going to be pretty every day.”

Holly talks about having “spit on your face” and other things “that make you look not physically attractive to what you may think is the [measure of] standard beauty.” She elaborates. “You need to learn that [how you look in training] is beautiful because that is what your Dominant thinks is beautiful and as a submissive I wanted to learn that, to understand that I am beautiful no matter what I look like.” Holly “wanted to be stripped” of the vanity that compelled her to always strive for physical attraction on camera.

In short, she sought maturity and an understanding that to be enticing and provocative has different faces in different situations.

As was customary in those days at Kink, Holly stayed in the Armory (their Mission District facility) where she had homework assignments in the evening after the shooting day was finished. Her four days of TTO were rewarding, she recalls, with Day Three the most difficult.

During that session she was naked and carrying wooden pallets, the sort of workout James would schedule for a girl with an athletic, toned body and a background of fitness. “I was strong enough to carry them,” Holly remembers proudly. The Kink team made certain that she was protected from injury, as is their protocol. Holly wore gloves and steel-toed boots. “But the humility of it,” she says, was the “pig’s tail anal plug” she had to endure and the name-calling, “piggy and all these different names affiliated with pigs.” It’s BDSM play, of course, designed to ignite the crackling fires of explosive pleasure.

Training with James: the zipper. Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Training with James: the zipper.
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

“I just broke down,” Holly recalls, “and was crying.” They caned her feet and used zippers (clothes pins on lengths of cord) as arousal techniques while the ever present Hitachi induced orgasms. The blonde submissive believes Kink affirms the classical conditioning theories of Ivan Pavlov. “You start to associate the pain with pleasure,” she states, “and you learn to process the pain with an orgasm.” It was an awesome experience.

You Belong to Them

Was this any sort of revelation, I ask?

Holly says she’s done two TTO shoots (an honor in a sense because James does not always do a repeat show with a girl). In the first episode, the pig play and taunting made an impression. I was “such a new sub,” she remembers, and “didn’t understand the logistics of the dom and sub relationship,” so it was a learning process.

As is the Kink custom, the final interview wrapped things up, but Holly was not finished at the Armory. The next day she was initiated into The Upper Floor, Kink’s live parties that take place in the Armory’s version of an English country house where slaves serve their masters. In 2010 being a house slave was a choice position at the company because it offered regular work for performers and is the pinnacle of BDSM play at Kink.

The Upper Floor slave. Photo courtesy of Kink.com

The Upper Floor slave.
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Reaching the achievement of “belong[ing] to the house,” Holly explains, means that “you belong to them. You will obey and do what they say if you want to be part of that and you’re going to be beautiful no matter what because they think it is beautiful.”

And, Holly Heart is grateful. “It took me years to get over that vanity,” but I “pushed through it” and “was a better submissive because I could serve,” she says with overwhelming pride.

The revelation is deafening because it’s the fetish that creates the loveliness in every submissive who must abandon her own self-definitions to achieve the non-judgmental pleasure she seeks. “I wasn’t thinking about myself because as a submissive and a slave you serve others. You don’t worry about you.”

What Holly means is what I’ve heard before. With serving comes liberation, a freedom and acceptance that results from going through trials and tribulations to prove to yourself how powerful you can be, a concept very foreign to the vanilla sexual world.

*          *          *          *          *

Holly Heart is represented by Star Factory PR. They can be reached at 818-732-0191 or via email at Info@StarFactoryPR.com or StarFactoryPR.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Dirty Little Secret?

by Rich Moreland, August 2014

 

Recently, Assembly Bill 1576 requiring the use of protective barriers in adult film was tabled by the California State Senate. As a result, the adult industry will avoid further government oversight statewide except for Los Angeles County where a similar ordinance remains on the books.

The story of AB 1576’s demise as reported by XBIZ can be found here and Adult Video News’ version is referenced here.

The following commentary is about AB 1576’s unanticipated impact on the industry.

*          *          *          *          *

Casey Calvert sends the message. Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Casey Calvert sends the message.
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“Here’s the dirty little secret about porn production in California: it’s just work,” says Assemblyman Isadore Hall, whose effort to require condoms in adult film has just expired in a Senate committee.

The Honorable Mr. Hall confirms what everyone connected with the adult industry has known all along, porn people are entertainers who pick up a paycheck. Their job is hardly “a dirty little secret.”

What is missing from Assemblyman Halls’ sardonic comment is the acknowledgment that an effective industry wide blood testing protocol is already in place, and has been for years, to take care of what AB 1576 purports to address: worker safety. Adult entertainment can take care of its own and do it without burdening the taxpayers of a state rife with financial problems.

From California’s standpoint, money is the issue. Driving a multi-billion dollar industry underground or into the friendlier neighborhoods of Nevada, Florida, and New Hampshire (yes, it is legal to shoot porn in “The Granite State”) makes little sense. Enforcement of any protective barrier law demands more government spending, a difficult prospect in tough economic times, and increases unemployment as businesses move elsewhere.

Unfortunately, for LA county the expenditure already exists and state coffers are taking a hit anyway. Segments of the porn industry have vacated California as indicated by dwindling film permits.

Better Equipped

Having said that, only the naive are persuaded that the protective barrier fight is over. Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF) will carry on his private war with the industry. It’s a moral imperative for him just as it may be for Isadore Hall, though both claim performer safety is their concern, an astounding assertion since the public has traditionally cared little for people who make their living selling sexuality in any form.

But for now, the issue is tabled and it’s time to assess the benefits from an industry standpoint. Here’s a quick review.

A degree of political unity is emerging. In the condom debate, the Free Speech Coalition led a vanguard of concerned groups that stood against AB 1576. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Law Center, Project Inform of San Francisco, and the AIDS Project Los Angeles, are among the associations who voiced their opposition. And, the valuable support of the business oriented Valley Industry & Commerce Association cannot be overlooked. It has a stake in keeping porn dollars in the LA economy.

While this is a beginning, other longer term developments are taking shape.

The latex controversy has revealed that performers, always known for their renegade attitudes, can organize to express their opinions. The earliest, most primitive rumblings occurred in raucous protests before Measure B became law in LA county an election cycle ago. At the time, it was too little, too late and haphazard, at best. But as reality settled in and the battle moved to Sacramento, performer interest intensified. Stars like Chanel Preston, James Deen, Casey Calvert, Lorelei Lee, Jiz Lee, Nina Hartley, Annika Albright, Alex Chance, and others lobbied legislators.

Bottom line? Porn performers can advance their agenda and may have more political clout than they realize.

A performer organization, the nascent APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee), is emerging. Among APAC’s successes is Porn 101, a video educating talent about STDs. Porn people are sex workers foremost, just as Isadore Hall suggests, and where better to help than with health issues. As APAC grows, the political entanglement over condoms adds to its importance and performers are now better equipped to fight the next round.

In the meantime, two gutsy industry executives are creating their own political dust ups with AHF. First, Vivid’s Steven Hirsch has filed an appeal in the 9th U. S. Circuit Court involving the enforcement of Measure B. Second, Peter Acworth of Kink.com is taking on Michael Weinstein in a direct confrontation. In Acworth’s view, the company was unfairly fined over $78,000 for OSHA “violations” in San Francisco. When he moved some production to Las Vegas, AHF tailed him into town and initiated legal complaints over unprotected oral sex. “Baseless” is Acworth’s word for their accusation (this has gotten irritatingly personal) and Nevada, which envisions a porn biz financial windfall, is stepping around AHF for the moment.

At present, Peter Acworth is ahead in his fight; Steven Hirsch’s efforts remain in limbo.

So, where are we now? The condom push fell victim to state funding, the oft-cited reason for failures to increase government regulation. But, in this case, the aftermath is bringing together an industry willing to wrestle for its life. The message is awareness coupled with united action, ingredients for an effective voice in every political scrum.

Simply put, the porn world is not what it used to be. The people who are committed to adult entertainment understand that porn is a career and are better educated and more professional than ever before. They safeguard their working conditions and have a blood testing protocol to protect against STDs.

All the while, shooting scenes remains what they have always been. In this case, Isadore Hall is right on target, “it’s just work.”

————————————–

After posting Isadore Hall’s comment on porn and work, I decided to clarify that many performers enjoy their profession and believe it is an artistic expression that goes beyond making a living. With that in mind, I will quote awarding winning director Jacky St. James:

“Sex at work can feel very good, but at the end of the day, it’s still work. There do not have to be emotions involved…and having sex with a variety of people does not invalidate what you feel for your partner. Most of the long-term, stable relationships in adult are between two individuals that possess a strong sense of self and can see their profession for what it is – a job.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Far From Where You Are

Madison Young, Daddy: A Memoir
Rare Bird Books, 328 pages.

by Rich Moreland, May 2014

“Daddy’s cane was lightly tracing up and down the landscape of her quivering body. I recognized her internal conflict: the desire for so much sensation that you are carried away to somewhere far from where you are, while your psyche is rubbing against its edge. Sarah slowly, bravely nodded her head . . . .

I stood up in the corner that Daddy put me in . . . and walked toward Sarah, bringing my face close to hers, stroking her hair and putting my hand on her shoulder.

‘You need to breathe, Sarah. Don’t let the sensation control you, let it flow through you. . . . Recognize it as a gift.’

She was still just a girl, only twenty-four, and I felt threatened by her . . . I tried to disregard my fears of being replaced for a younger, newer make and model.

‘Too bad you can’t come without penetration. Isn’t that right, Slut?’ Daddy taunted her and their connection made my skin crawl. I don’t want to be in the room for her orgasm.

‘Cock please, Sir . . .’

Her words drifted into the hallway as I walked away, down the long corridor, until they were only a faint buzzing of syllables behind Beethoven’s quartets.”

Madison Young, from Daddy: A Memoir. Pages 221-223.

*          *          *          *          *

In writing Daddy: A Memoir, Madison Young reveals that we are a collection of psychological constructs that shape our loves, biases, and communities, be they social, religious, political, recreational, or in this case, familial and sexual.madison 4

Madison’s search for Daddy is a reconciliation of two men in her life, first her Ohio father and later her West Coast lover, BDSM dominant, James Mogul. But Daddy is greater than any one person, as Madison’s odyssey tells us.

The book is well-written with a brisk pace that moves the reader through Madison’s conservative Midwestern childhood to her sexual awakening in California’s sunny liberalism. Daddy is a personal experience with a bit of salacious writing tossed in to give the reader a look at adult film’s fetish and bondage community.

The Quiet Girl
The early pages of Daddy recount the anxieties that plagued Madison’s adolescence. The drama surrounding a dysfunctional family crippled by an absent father and an embittered mother brings the reader into her Ohio youth.

A spattering of dark humor flavors an atmosphere of brutal honesty. At age four Madison believes the word prostitute sounds like “a church or a deadly disease,” and she later characterizes the internet porn edifice Kink.com, where she films as a BDSM submissive, as “a bubble of myopic disillusions.”

The Quiet Girl: Cultural Hero, Art Curator, Sex Activist  Photo source unknown

The Quiet Girl: Cultural Hero, Art Curator, Sex Activist
Photo courtesy of Lydia Daniller

In truth, Daddy is more than a family father or a sexual guru in the bondage and discipline community Madison loves so much. A mystical animus living within Madison’s inner child, Daddy is older than the Little Girl who seeks him out. A lover who disciplines his pet, Daddy secures her from the vagaries of personal apprehensions and trepidations.

What initially captured my interest is the book’s dedication to the “quiet girl in the corner.” Sexual submissiveness can blossom in the nondescript students who sit in classrooms or eschew the anxieties of social gatherings. A female friend who markets sex toys once told me that the women most likely to purchase bondage gear at her seminars are the unnoticed ones in the back of the room, shy and very discreet.

Sins of Non-Conformity
Growing into puberty, Madison remembers that porn sex was considered “shameful,” rendering her fantasies as forbidden. In junior high, she kept her “eyes cast down” sensing that she didn’t belong. Gawky and self-conscious, Madison became a “natural target” for the taunts of other kids. Spawned by such cruelty, inadequacies haunted her until the emotional tools to confront her demons emerged.

Out of this battle of self-preservation comes her interpretation of Daddy—a concept, a spirit, a need, a belief—that no one individual in Madison’s life can completely fulfill.

For all children, there are turning points that define sexual journeys. Madison’s occurred in church. The preacher condemned adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality as “sins of non-conformity.” What is a girl who knows she is different to do? Create her own “imaginary community” that spurs a search for happiness? An eventual good-bye to Loveland, Ohio, followed, leaving behind an unfulfilled longing for the traditional family and its Daddy.

The Castro, San Francisco’s gay community, becomes Madison’s Mecca. With a realization that she is among the “outsiders” who sought “refuge” in California’s Left Coast sexual Disneyland, her search for Daddy expands. Is her mentor a leather man, a rigger (a technician whose rope talents satisfy the cravings of bondage models), a dominant, a master, or perhaps a leatherdyke? Madison is unsure, but realizes she needs someone to take control and comfort her inner “Little Girl.”

A Dignified Whore
Madison Young loves rope and discovers porn’s Kink.com, the San Francisco bondage empire of Peter Acworth. The company becomes another Daddy, providing the ecstasy and the agony of Madison’s SF existence. She does her first shoot for Kink and proudly announces, “If rope didn’t lead to my daddy, I didn’t know what would.”

Madison Young loves rope and discovers porn’s Kink.com, the San Francisco bondage empire of Peter Acworth. The company becomes another Daddy, providing the ecstasy and the agony of Madison’s SF existence. She does her first shoot for Kink and proudly announces, “If rope didn’t lead to my daddy, I didn’t know what would.”

A cathartic yellow brick road to a BDSM OZ, Daddy’s magic is more than a memoir; it’s a cross between a novella and a history. Gauge, a girlfriend lost, and James Mogul, a Daddy gained, shape Madison’s writing. A swirl of honesty and jealousy filters through her words sparking sympathy at some points and admonishment at others.

James Mogul Photo source unknown

James Mogul
Photo source unknown

Insights abound within the pages of Daddy. Madison’s close friendship with performers Bobbi Starr and Lorelei Lee, and her gut-wrenching jealousy toward a bondage model metaphorically named Sarah Chasm enliven the narrative. Madison’s accounts of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, “the depressing landscape” of the “mainstream porn industry,” while characterizing Kink.com as the “pornification and appropriation of the BDSM community for mass consumption and commercial gain” make this book a fascinating read.

Doubts engulf Madison as she uses adult film to fund her beloved art gallery, Femina Potens, whose future is doomed by high rents. She engages in a bit of self-imposed slut-shaming when she declares her income “felt like dirty whore money” earned by a “sexual outlaw in a corporation system.”

Madison in a Kink scene with James. Photo courtesy of The Training of O.

Madison in a Kink scene with James.
Photo courtesy of The Training of O.

Though her assessment of the adult industry is not always positive, Madison Young gives the reader moments of triumph. For example, confessing she sometimes feels like “a dignified whore,” Madison takes pride in being a Spiegler Girl (the performer agency for whom she worked), characterizing Spiegler models as “smart, self-reliant, and responsible.”

Because Madison Young is a woman of rich diversification, to stay on the Daddy message shortchanges much of who she is beyond a narrowly defined fetish performer. Understandable, but I want Madison to explore her time at Antioch College and her discovery of sex-positive feminism. Madison is a cultural hero of pansexualism, sexual masochism, and the queer porn community (particularly San Francisco’s Queer Porn Mafia) whose status is rising in this new century. She devotes deserved space to Femina Potens, to art and performance art, but what of her many honors at Toronto’s groundbreaking Feminist Porn Awards?

She is far more than the vulnerable Little Girl that Daddy presents.

When chroniclers examine the history of adult film in the twenty-first century, Madison Young will be feted. With Daddy, she has only broken the surface of her legendary status. Hopefully, this multitalented and intellectually brilliant queen of kink is considering a second book.

The Power Within
The beauty of Madison’s narrative is its contradiction. She attempts to reconcile all her varied families from Ohio to Femina Potens to Kink.com, but they are too kaleidoscopic for a clean, well-lighted heroic image immersed in a tale of sharply drawn parameters.

And, of course, there are her personal Daddies with their battles and foibles, who, like Madison, search to find their own definition of self.

Feeding Emma Photo source unknown

Feeding a budding feminist.
Photo courtesy of Madison Young

In the end, Madison seeks the power within to move forward. The birth of daughter Emma, a uniting force and an overwhelming gift, offers the metaphorical beginning.

Finally the reader is left with the overarching question the book presents. Who or what is Daddy: a religious-like spirit that dwells within all of us, a guide to find our way from infancy to maturity, the cycle of civilization, or simply a deep emotional need?

Or, perhaps Daddy is the community that secures us, as rope binds Madison to something greater to serve. Through that service she tells us that who we are is a fluid evolution and an enlightened journey that ceases only with our final breath.

*          *          *          *          *

By the way, don’t neglect the book’s forward by Madison’s porn-art mother and sex-positive icon, Annie Sprinkle. Her words set the tone for Madison’s story.

And, should you purchase Daddy, which I highly recommend, go for the paperback version. I did not and, like Madison and her rope, I miss the touch, feel, and smell of something I can hold in my hands and put on a shelf.

Peace.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

You Love This?

by Rich Moreland, February, 2013

My special thanks to Evil Angel Productions for the photos used in this series.

 *          *          *          *          *

Voracious’s third episode, titled “Fuckin’ White American Trash,” opens back in Los Angeles. Antropoligist Manuel Batiste has returned to the property ostensibly to purchase it, but in reality he’s looking for Amira. He comes at dusk intuitively feeling that this is the proper time to meet her. Remember the mirror? The house is locked up.

Calling the realtor, Manuel is told the residents are gone.

Just as the house has locked up vampire lore, Amira will have her own trial to “lock up” her clan loyalty.

Returning to his office, Manuel runs an internet search on vampires. A strange article on a dead vampire in Szugio, Hungry, shows up and Manuel notices the circular medallion hanging around the neck of the body. It’s the same as Amria wears. The article suggests there is a vampire clan in the area.

Not surprising, Father Zoltan is referenced and claims the clan talk is just superstition.

Clamping Down a Wandering Soul

The scene shifts to Hungry. Amira enters a room in the house where she is confined by Dracu. A glass enclosed St. Andrew’s Cross (an upright X) is the room’s centerpiece. The Vampire Mistress (Sandra Romain) is positioned with her back arched over the intersection of cross’s arms. Her hands are raised holding onto chains that drop down from the ceiling. She wears breast and labia clamps likewise attached to chains.

The St. Andrew's Cross and The Vampire Mistress

The St. Andrew’s Cross and The Vampire Mistress

According to Christian lore, St. Andrew brought Christianity to Eastern Europe, particularly Romania. At his execution, he was tied to a cross that was positioned on its side, an inferior status to the original crucifixion because Andrew did not feel worthy of Christ. The cross, the conduit of death, resurrection, and martyrdom, is a staple in BDSM play spaces today because a sexual submissive can be bound in a spread-eagled position.

When Amira circles the enclosure, the Mistress’s eyes open and stare in her direction and turn blood red.

Satanic Red is a Head Drop Away

Satanic Red is a Head Drop Away

The message to Amira is clear. You are inferior and not worthy of joining the clan until you prove yourself.

The remainder of this episode furnishes a sexual encounter that is rough and tumble. When I spoke with John Stagliano about Brooklyn Lee’s incredible performance in the film, he singled out Episodes Three and Five as being exceptionally tense and real. I would agree. No matter how long Brooklyn Lee remains in adult film, she will be remembered as a superstar in this movie.

Only the work of Kink.com’s Peter Acworth can compare with the hard hitting BDSM sexuality of the extended scene that follows. There are no nuances here. Amira is tested by the Vampire Mistress, played beautifully by Sandra Romain, who like Brooklyn Lee has a history of performances at Kink.com. The actresses are complements of each other in this scene.

Amira's Tribulations Begin

Amira’s Tribulations Begin

Suffice it to say the clan has detected reluctance and weakness in Amira and it’s time to call her to task. Clamps of different varieties are used on Amira as a form of discipline and dominance. During the sex, the conflation of pain and sensuality common to many devotees of BDSM subjects Amira to the test she undergoes.

The Mistress taunts Amira as the sex intensifies.

“I want to be proud of you!” the Mistress screams at Amira, who will be broken in this trial.

But the Mistress detects weakness early in the game.

“You give up, you fuckin’ bitch,” the Mistress derides Amira. “You give up!”

Brooklyn Lee’s performance ranks with the best I’ve seen from San Francisco masochist and porn icon, Madison Young, whose shoots are the zenith of BDSM.

The verbal tirade continues.

“You are white American trash,” the Mistress yells.

Amira is breaking. “I’m nothing,” she responds in almost a whisper.

The Mistress slaps and kisses Amira, disciplining and seducing her as a dominant would a submission in the theater of BDSM.

“I just want to be yours,” Amira barely utters. But the proof is not there yet. The sex continues, a DP is on the menu, and the Mistress never gives up.

She pounds away verbally at Amira as the two males in the scene work over her body.

How Much Can She Handle?

How Much Can She Handle?

“Am I too rough for you?” the Mistress asks. “You love this?”

“I want to be like you,” repeats Amira.

Vampire triumphant compete, the Mistress withdraws. Amira is left smiling and a body covered with spit and ejaculate. She has broken through to the other side, satisfying the immediate demands of the clan. Or so it seems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deeper into Their Fantasies

By Rich Moreland, December 2012

“I’ve failed miserably,” Christian Mann says with a smile. He’s referring to his lack of success in predicting what his boss, John Stagliano, will like in a project. That may be so, I don’t doubt, but Christian’s name in the porn universe is almost as well-known as his that of his employer. He’s the general manager of Evil Angel Productions, one of the dynamic names in adult entertainment.

Christian Mann Photo by Bill Knight

Christian Mann
Photo by Bill Knight

We’re in his office in Van Nuys, part of the greater Los Angeles area. The space is nicely appointed and part of a small facility tucked away among identical storefronts common in today’s ubiquitous industrial parks. “E.A. Productions” is printed over the glass enclosed entrance. The casual visitor is hard-pressed to recognize that this unassuming location houses an industry mover and shaker.

Inside there’s a small waiting area; a receptionist sits behind a window-like opening equipped with a sliding glass front. Typical office waiting room, all that is missing is a clipboard so I could check ‘new patient’ since this is my first visit.

A couple of perky young women are busy around the receptionist’s seat on this day. My guess is they probably shoot a few scenes for the studio and pick up steadier bucks answering the phone and greeting visitors. If not, it’s an entertaining thought.

Unlike most professionals I know, Christian is prompt, coming into the waiting room to greet Bill, my photographer, and me. Very cool. Visits to financial gurus and lawyers often involve secretaries leading the way; for doctors, it’s always a nurse. No third party here. Porn people are hands on and laid back, all puns intended.

Folk Appeal

Evil Angel is the brainchild of John Stagliano who, some twenty plus years ago, patented an artistic and innovative style of filmed pornography called gonzo, a topic I’ve written about previously. John is a genius and highly respected in the business.

A note on gonzo is in order here. It’s an adult film genre in which a movie is a series of somewhat disconnected scenes focused on the sex taking place before the camera. In a sense, it’s a modernized version of the old loop. A storyline is essentially vacant, though some of John’s signature “Buttman” series have a loose narrative base. In gonzo, the sex is the reason for the shoot unlike other approaches that work the sex into the narrative. For Evil Angel, the sex is never an “add on,” to quote Christian. Though this concept may appear overly simplistic, it has made the company into a recognized brand name.

Christian elaborates on the Stagliano philosophy. The sex is greater than “the storyline or the production values,” he says. That is not to say Evil Angel eschews these components, they just aren’t starting points. Two movies in a feature film format, The Fashionistas and Voracious, are “very intense when it comes to those elements,” Christian points out. For example, Voracious is episodic, centers on a vampire theme, and is shot in Europe where the sex is edgier than the American consumer is accustomed to seeing. Stateside, a degree of prudery still reigns. Using a serial format, Voracious turns the soil (always pleasing to vampire lovers) for a new and interesting approach to filmed pornography.

Courtesy of Evil Angel Proudctions

Courtesy of Evil Angel Productions

Courtesy Evil Angel Productions

Courtesy of Evil Angel Productions

Christian emphasizes the heart of the matter once again, hammering home the stake of truth that keeps the Evil Angel model moving forward. “Our movies always start with the sex because that’s what people [the consumers] are first and foremost wanting,” he says.

In defining the Evil Angel operation, Christian emphasizes that the company welcomes diversity. John Stagliano does not “mandate a certain point of view” though the “common thread” of sex first remains. Company directors have a free hand, Christian says, but “John has to like it” which means that boring sex dies on the cutting room floor.

Within a few minutes of talking with Christian Mann, two words jump out: charm and intelligence. He’s no stranger to adult entertainment having been involved in the business for over thirty years. Video, production, sales, marketing, he’s had a hand in all aspects of the pornographer’s trade. Christian got his start working a summer job for his father who was in the print segment of adult entertainment. Eventually Christian’s psychology major paid off as his early years in the business were in marketing. Owning an adult film company was down the road as was a bout with the government over obscenity. But like many of adult film’s historically important people, Christian Mann is stilling trucking.

Along with his current position, Christian sits on the board of the Free Speech Coalition, the industry’s political wing. He has a libertarian heart like his boss. Both have fought censorship battles in the courts.

I’m interested in Christian’s view on the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey literary trilogy. Now that the bondage fetish is collecting devotees, is the company jumping on the BDSM bandwagon as it journeys through the market bizarre of porn? He is definitive: Evil Angel prefers not to respond to the market.

Once again, Christian returns to the company mantra. It’s unlikely John will react enthusiastically to a project if he’s simply told “it’s going to sell,” Christian states. (He’s personally made that mistake a couple of times. That’s where the prediction failures add up.)  Rather, it is John’s personal belief in the product’s quality that establishes the company’s image. Attaching a well-known name (performer or director) to a project’s sales pitch, for example, is no guarantee it will gain traction with the boss.

Of course, if a product with the Evil Angel name generates a profit, all the better. In that case, “the market just happens to agree with him,” Christian says. But there is an underlying secret at work. John has “folk appeal,” Christian reveals, an intuitive understanding of what people want.

I have no doubt that is true. The company’s red logo shouts quality and tradition. But I also contend that John Stagliano shapes the market. Like Vivid Entertainment’s Steve Hirsch, Wicked Pictures’ Steve Orenstein, and Kink.com’s Peter Acworth, the Stagliano name creates sales. In a pensive moment, Christian concludes, “John is the market.” I could not agree more.

Gender Blind

Among the reasons I’ve come to Evil Angel is to talk feminism in porn. We quickly agree that Fifty Shades of Grey and BDSM have opened another door into the female empowerment arena.

E.A. has a stable of directors who own their content and distribute through the company. Among the team are two active legends, Belladonna and Bobbi Starr. John Stagliano is “gender blind” in his hiring practices and some of Evil Angel’s “hardest stuff” comes from these women, Christian says.

Though I’ve never had the opportunity to converse with Belladonna, I know Bobbi. She’s talked about her struggle to become a director. John gave her that opportunity, as he did with another well-known feminist filmmaker named Tristan Taormino, who refers to him as the Steven Spielberg of porn. Bobbi has not disappointed the company, she is hard core to the core in what she likes to put on film. Incidentally, the 2013 Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas are close at hand and Bobbi Starr is among the nominees for both Female Performer of the Year and Best Director, a result of hard work and a personal belief in her own creativity.

Christian comments about projects both women have to their credit. “If you didn’t know it was a female directing it, you would think it’s a guy” casting women in a submissive role, he says. Belladonna and Bobbi deliberately capture the male gonzo point of view and then contradictorily take possession of it, a characteristic of what I call pornography feminism.

But is this feminism in Christian’s view? Yes, he affirms, and goes on to suggest that E.A. directors “who are interested in dominance and role-play” reflect a modern porn POV that puts women in charge of the on screen sex. He mentions one male director who often shoots “high art bondage” and though the viewer might get the impression that he dislikes women, female performers “love working for him.”  In fact, it is often the women who “push the envelope;” in other words, female subjugation on film is often driven by the women themselves.

The upshot is a “new prototype of performer,” Christian asserts, who relishes working for female directors “trying to out hard core each other.” There is a downside to this scenario, he concedes, the sex can deteriorate into “acrobatics” that are devoid of creativity.  Finding balance is not always easy.

Christian understands the erotic perspectives of new century women. They are claiming ownership of their sexuality, refusing “to be told how they’re supposed to behave sexually,” he says. They’re insisting that their boundaries be expanded; they want to go “deeper” into their fantasies and this adventure includes the submissive and dominant sides of the role play.

In short, BDSM is now an “equal opportunity” playing field, Christian asserts, that gives women choices with an added benefit: accessorizing. In his analysis, that may be Fifty Shades’ real attraction. The story shines a light on “something that has existed for a while now,” he points out, the fascination with fetishes and role-play that gives permission to have fun with the attire, the leather, and the bondage gear. For reference, take a peek at a trailer for The Fashionistas or Voracious. Once again, Evil Angel is a step ahead of this curve.

Christian reviews what everyone secretly knows but few outside of the porn world act out. “A lot of sex fantasy is about power, role-reversal,” he says, emphasizing that men can be submissive to female dominance. Something, I might add, that many anti-porn people don’t take time to consider because they are lost in their monomaniacal vision that porn is violence against women.

“Part of a woman’s empowerment,” Christian explains, “and part of the modern woman owning her own sexuality includes the right to express herself”‘ in any role she might want. In relating the Fifty Shades phenomenon, Christian postulates, “When modern women are given the right to choose, they are frequently choosing to be submissive.”

A Final Shot Before We Head OutPhoto by Bill Knight

A Final Shot Before We Head Out
Photo by Bill Knight

Christian Mann’s conversational intensity is speeding the time away and before long his agenda demands attention. We’ve gone way over the time he allowed for me, I’m sure. But I can’t leave without a final inquiry. I ask Christian for a personal vision.

He sees himself as moving Evil Angel through changing times. Most important is keeping the erotic experience for the consumer at its highest level and the best way to do that is to market a quality product.

The philosophy of John Stagliano is everywhere inside this inconspicuous storefront.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Bondage Game: A BDSM Trilogy

By Rich Moreland, September, 2012

 

A couple of years ago I spent a few minutes with Kink.com’s Peter Acworth at San Francisco’s old National Guard Armory where the BDSM fetish giant runs its websites. Acworth talked about a re-make of Pauline Reage’s 1955 novel, The Story of O. His idea sounded interesting, but who would play O, I asked, and how would he tell the story? Where Acworth is today with his idea is only a guess, but Ernest Greene’s trilogy on O’s evolution reveals unique answers to my question.

The Story of O is more than an erotic tale of a woman who acknowledges her obedience and masochism. Trained at Roissy, a remote location where girls are delivered for their initiation into BDSM, O becomes a willing participant in her own sexual slavery. She agrees to her submission, serving her lover, Renee, and his whims and fancies. Now she faces change. Renee takes O to the Paris apartment of Sir Stephen, his older half-brother, and departs. At this juncture in the storyline, Sir Stephen tells O she can have only one master and clarifies that he is now that man. She is to become his submissive, wear his brand inflicted by a burning iron, and become a predator for him, the Owl she symbolically portrays in the narrative’s final chapter.

But who or what is O’s real master? Ernest Greene provides a hint in the first film of his trilogy, O: The Power of Submission. Adhering to Reage’s plot, O is taken to the House for her initiation. Naked, she is fitted with a collar and ankle and wrists restraints. At this moment, Greene lets us in on his secret. O is adorned with a shoulder-length veil as she is presented for her flogging. Later in the film when Jackie, the fashion model Ray desires, is taken to the House and prepared for her first taste of the whip, she, too, wears one.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

What is the meaning of the veil? A message runs under the convoluted love triangle Greene creates between O, Ray, and Steven. Greene’s interpretation insists O’s story is about a “wedding,” not between or among people, but to a lifestyle. Greene illustrates the self-defeating nuisances of questionable relationships and the failures of actual marriage. O moves in and out her love affairs with Steven, leaving him for good in the last installment, and Ray’s marriage to Jackie collapses in the second film. Through it all, O’s commitment to BDSM is unquestioned. Her real identity lives within the lifestyle that intrigues and guides her, the master/slave relationship she has wed, and it overrides her interactions with the people she meets. The literary Sir Stephen and Greene’s cinematic Steven are conduits that serve O. Her willingness to respond to their BDSM impulses is what drives their desire for her. She in turn, uses them for her satisfaction.

With the House, and later the bondage club of the third film, Greene shows us a BDSM community that was an underworld experiment during Reage’s time. Greene’s O exists within a modernized BDSM arrangement of convenience, a continuous menu of choices offered for the pleasure and power she savors. Reage hints that O’s submission seduces her captors; Greene pushes that revelation out of the shadows and onto the screen.

Choice is always in O’s hands. When the limo pulls up to the House in Submission, Ray, played by Tommy Gunn in the first two films, tells O (the bewitching Carmen Luvana) he is “glad” she agreed to come. Her response is pointed, almost a counter-punch, “Have I ever said anything else to you?” Carmen’s O projects a little cockiness with some indifference stirred in. Before her initiation begins, Ray asks O if she consents to “obey,” reminding her that the option to leave is open. O responds without hesitation, “I’ll stay.” But she does not repeat the word “obey,” cutting into the House’s control of her. Marie, the House’s owner, asks Ray if he ever whipped O. “Sometimes,” he replies. Turning to O, Marie wants to know if she enjoyed it. O repeats Ray’s “sometimes,” but with a nonchalant tone. She throws down the challenge, shifting the burden to Marie and Ray to pleasure her, not the other way round. Attached spreadeagled to a vertical frame, O is aroused by Maria’s application of the flogger, warming up O for the hot sex to follow. Carmen’s O shows off her talents with multiple partners, completing her initiation into the fold.

In conversation later with other house slaves, O discovers their breezy attitude is reflective of hers. Without their collective consent, there would be no House and no entertainment. Everything is voluntary. Greene sets the tone for the series in these early scenes and prepares the viewer for a revelation in the second film, The Surrender of O, where he cannot resist a little irony.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

In Surrender, Bree Olson’s O comes back to the house voluntarily and is surprised to learn that Marie runs the show and rewards are to be had.

“You mean we get paid?” O says with amazement.

Mika Tan’s Rita, a House girl, tells O that Marie lets the guys think their money dictates the action. O can’t believe they pony up cash for their privileges with the girls. The whole operation is a “profitable business for all of us,” Rita says, and reminds O that with her return she is now a House girl and “no one’s property” but her own.

Marie keeps a catalogue of the girls and their talents. Regina (played by the gorgeous Kayden Kross) reads to O what is written about her, “orgasms during punishment.” Rita implies that being a “very obedient good slave” has benefits. If her attitudes and talents are noteworthy, O has the freedom to “come and go” as she pleases and the next time she drops by she’ll find “a big fat wire transfer” in her bank account. Bree’s O is hesitant, but Regina is honest about the BDSM bordello. “It’s not like you can pretend to enjoy this sort of thing if you don’t. The masters think this is their club, we think of it as ours.” Rita chimes in amusingly, and “the attendants think it’s theirs.” The girls are playing the game for fun and profit, very much in control of their outcomes. Everyone is a winner.

With an attitude like that, is it any wonder the sex is spectacular.

*     *     *     *     *

O’s ongoing personal journey is a search for emotional satisfaction framed within a fierce desire to hold onto her independence, a task more difficult than life at the House. Though Bree’s O will backslide in the second film, Carmen’s O reveals a shade of defiance. The game is played with her permission and by her rules. In Submission’s conclusion Carmen’s O faces down Steven, ably portrayed by popular veteran actor Evan Stone. He once captured her with his self-confidence but made the fatal mistake of revealing his weakness. She reacts to his sudden declaration of his love for her:

“I never expected you to say that and back then I wanted this more than anything, but right now it’s a lot more than what I want. I did everything you required me to and the only thing I needed in return was that you were different from all the others, stronger somehow.”

She gives back her O ring, the symbol of attachment to him, and delivers her parting shot, a damning statement that shapes the message of film three, The Truth About O:

“You fell in love with what you think you see and not what’s there. I won’t be back.”

In fact, she relents and does return to him in Surrender. Marie, played with wisdom and charm by Nina Hartley, mentors O throughout the trilogy. She is O’s trainer and counselor, offering O a feminist education that flowers in the final installment, Truth, when Marie compliments Bobbi Starr’s O as “the finest slave I’ve ever trained.” Finest does not mean most compliant, rather O is now the strongest and most willful.

In Surrender, Marie sympathizes with O’s emotional uncertainty and arranges a reunion with Steven. But, there is a lesson attached. Giving Bree’s O a key, in reality the key to her happiness, Marie tells O that she can return to Steven if she wishes. Marie also gives her a fabric inscribed with “freedom is deciding whose slave you want to be.” Marie continues, “You have to decide what part of your life is yours and [what] part you would have to surrender totally.” It is the teachable moment in Ernest Greene’s “The Education of O.” The underlying meaning of the entire series is equality and O emerges with her total personhood in tact when the final curtain falls on Bobbi’s O. Once again, Greene’s message is O’s dedication to the lifestyle as a master, not any one person within it. The bondage game is her pleasure and the tool she uses to find a master of her choice who can deliver it. In the language of the real world of BDSM, O is searching for a “service top,” a dominant who arouses her by responding to her needs.

Bree’s O reunites with Steven and promises she will never leave again unless he orders her to. But her promise borders on schoolgirl silliness because the plot is never fated to play out that way. In presenting herself to Steven for sex, O wears a short veil this time, suggestive of a modified version of the “marriage” depicted in Submission. Symbolically, she is renewing her vows with BDSM; Steven is the master du jour. Bree’s O presents a confusion of hope and uncertainty that is later resolved in Truth. Surrender winds down with an extended sex scene between Bree and Evan Stone, the most sensual in the trilogy and there are good ones throughout featuring some of the best talent in the business.

In closing Surrender, Steven presents O with a contract designed for a master/slave relationship but looks a lot like a business arrangement. With this turn of events, Greene sets up the third movie. O agrees to help Steven obtain “love slaves” to serve him and gets approval over their selection. O is free to do as she pleases once she satisfies her “boss.” Again Greene gives O choices, this time spelled out in a written partnership between lovers that strongly suggests equality. Does Bree’s O understand the implications of what she holds? Bobbi’s O steps out of the shadows to answer that question.

*   *   *   *   * 

            Pauline Reage’s O is a complex character and the actresses Greene selects to play her are reflections of this varied composition. Carmen’s O is defiant, independent, a reluctant submissive; Bree is submissive, compliant, and easily manipulated. She shows none of the hard edge that sometimes shapes Carmen’s performance. The flavor of Bree’s sex scenes are more BDSM leaning than Carmen’s but they cannot match Bobbi Starr for realism. Bobbi is one of the most powerful adult film actresses in the business and perfectly selected for the final film. (For fans wanting another Bobbi Starr fix, she also appears as a house girl in Surrender.)

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

Bobbi’s O is a different breed. She develops wisdom by the time the script progresses to Truth.  Strong-willed, mature, and ready to demonstrate an obedience that is more attuned to her wishes than to Steven’s, Bobbi’s O plays a game she knows she will win. Like Carmen’s O, she challenges Steven, now played by porn heartthrob James Deen, wanting to know what he thinking. Bobbi intellectualizes her version of O and produces the most powerful scene in the trilogy done via flashback. O is chatting with a new sub (played by Krissy Andrews) and recalls “it was a typical day at home” with Steven. The scene moves to his library.

“You are the only one who can satisfy me,” he says. With a smile, O replies that she would do anything to be owned by him. All seems mutually satisfying, but their body language suggests trouble.

Steven sits her on his desk and she touches his forehead. “What’s going on in there?” she asks, forcing a smile.

“It’s all become so easy for you, hasn’t it?” Steven says, deflecting her question. “Just when you think you have it, it turns out you don’t.” Trouble is brewing.

Steven is addressing his own anxieties and wants reassurance that O is still loyal to their relationship. He asks her to find another girl for their mutual enjoyment. “See if you know me as well as you think,” he says and they hug without a lot of feeling.

Steven takes her hand and she playfully pulls it away. This is the opening they both know is fated: an O replacement for Steven, an exit opportunity for her.

Are the “typical days” a telling message that boredom has set in, or an indication that O needs to continue her search for more stimulation and excitement? Will O now play at BDSM only when it amuses her? Ray (Michael Vegas in Truth), is available again, but she now regards him as an equal, running off with him for the pure adventure of it. Using Ray and providing Steven with another slave, Bobbi’s O manipulates the entire scenario. Marie’s “finest slave” remark unveils the consummate O. She is emotionally grown up.

Truth is set in the bondage club, not at the House, in effect moving the hard lessons of submission into O’s past. There is little need for Marie’s mentoring now; the older woman will assist O in her mission to find a playmate for Steven. When the new slave (played the sensuous Asa Akira) is secured, O returns her contract and takes off, leaving Steven to ponder what he had, lost, regained, and lost again, but through no fault of his own. Like the masked Owl at the end of Reage’s novel, Greene’s O remains an elusive mystery: those around her believe she is emotionally naked and seemingly leashed, but they are her prey, they fall victim to their desires for her. O’s soul is reserved for the mystical master of BDSM, however she chooses to greet him. Desire her, but don’t expect to control her because BDSM is the ultimate leveler of the human equation.

In the real world of adult film, Bobbi Starr and Nina Hartley are feminist soul mates. Both are iconic performers, a rare status for women in porn. Bobbi began as a BDSM submissive and later achieved director status with Evil Angel and Kink.com. Carmen and Bree are also superstars. Each woman has a different “feel” for their BDSM role, a good thing because their performances explore the different sides of Reage’s O, one of the most complex fictional characters in adult literature.

There are hints of a feminist attitude in the literary O that intrigue Greene. Reage’s character gets to “set the rules” and control the action especially when she is pursuing other women. O achieves a “complete sense of freedom” in the hunt and Reage tells the reader O is an “accomplice of both men and women” though the game is “not all that easy.” But as we have seen, the bondage game has an overlord and O is beholden to his erotic demands.

Ernest Greene never defines the perfect O because she exists only in the imagination. He does peek at the different ingredients that make her up and when he gets to Truth, Bobbi becomes the completed O. In the book and the series, O’s destination is not a place, it is a process: an ongoing refinement of BDSM pursued for its personal satisfaction. The characters she meets along the way are mere stopovers in her quest.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Ernest Greene presents a female-friendly POV in much of his work. In most of the sex scenes, he is cautious to pleasure women with lots of oral sex and the ever present Hitachi Magic Wand. Orgasms are aplenty. Greene is no stranger to safer sex, by the way; condoms and latex gloves appear regularly. Like all good directors, he gives his performers choice.

In each film, the sex assumes a different flavor. Submission sets the trend of equality in oral sex for women. In Truth, it is filmed beautifully. Female porn viewers are not fond of DPs and anal but Greene knows they are fan favorites for men, so he sprinkles them in to add spice to the story. Surrender has its gonzo moments with group sex featuring Kayden Kross and Ava Rose that is acrobatic at times. Truth has definite feminist overtones. Bobbi is a feminist gonzo girl and her threesome with James Deen and Asa Askira is terrific. Submission is Carmen’s baby. Now retired, her performance in the film is superlative. Bree Olson in Surrender matches Carmen’s beauty and enthusiasm. There are others who deserve comment, newcomer Jessie Andrews comes to mind in Truth. It’s often said that porn can’t survive without the girls, but Greene’s series is a reminder that super male vets like Tommy Gunn, and Evan Stone in the first two films, and James Deen and Michael Vegas in the third, are also important to sustain the action.

On a final note, true BDSM submissives are not that frequent in adult film. One who deserves mention is a favorite of mine, the sensuous Justine Joli. Her scene with Carmen in the first movie and her performance art with the always innovative Claire Adams in the third is a must see. If there is a single female performer whose BDSM submission can steal a scene, it is Justine.

 

*     *     *     *     *

There is so much more in Greene’s trilogy than there is space here. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, watching is recommended. Three decades ago skirting the feds was on every pornographer’s list so combining sex and bondage was a restriction the industry imposed on itself. It took some time for the industry to get more adventurous. But that’s the past and for BDSM lovers your time is now. Check out Greene’s trilogy and do the pictures in the order they were filmed, otherwise, the meaning and message gets confused.

I’m certain Ernest Greene is setting us up for another O film and I, for one, am ready to see it. Should Peter Acworth decide to make his film, I suggest he take a peek at Greene’s work before he ventures too far into his project. By the way, if Greene is open to suggestions for another film, consider pairing Nina and Bobbi as mentors for a new “Academy of O” where willing submissives are trained in BDSM as a sexual delight and a performance art. What possibilities would exist in that hideaway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized