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The Resolution of Emma Marx, Part One: The Black Wig

by Rich Moreland, March 2016

This is the first installment of  a three-part analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed. With this film, writer/director Jacky St. James finishes the trilogy that follows a BDSM submissive through her rite of passage into womanhood.

My thanks to New Sensations/Digital Sin for providing the watermarked photos. All other photos are credited where possible.


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Mythologists believe all stories contain archetypes, symbolic imagery that explains how we interpret the world around us. In other words, an archetype is something we inherently understand, the stuff of great literature, religious belief, and legend.

In the Emma Marx saga, storyteller and director Jacky St. James taps into a powerful archetype, the number three, the cornerstone of  an age-old concept known as birth, death, and rebirth. The final chapter, Exposed, is about Emma’s renewal and the conflicting emotions that bear witness to it.

Even the structure of the Emma series, the trilogy, embraces the triad concept.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo what does this mean? Simply this. The myth and its power over the human psyche is why Emma Marx stands alone in adult film. Compliment the narrative with superb acting captured by a haunting, brooding cinematography and Emma’s story takes its place among adult entertainment’s hall of fame offerings.

Let’s be honest. Emma Marx is already porn’s best in the “art” cinema genre (Cinekink are you listening?). Mute the hardcore into a smidgen of nudity and indie film accolades are but a screening away.


The ancient Greeks honored the trilogy because it reinforced their idea of the hero who rises above the masses. Is Emma Marx a heroine? She is, but it is not of her own making, or so she believes. In the first two films, Mr. Frederick takes the formative clay that begins as a naïve girl, sees within it, and molds the Emma the viewer gets to know. He orchestrates the kinks that become her identity.

But she is not reprogrammed because BDSM is a product of her DNA. Frederick tells Emma, “This was in you before you met me. I could tell that the second I met you. It’ll still be a part of who you are forever.”


Early in Exposed, Emma reflects on Mr. Frederick’s tutelage that guides her enlightenment.

“I was fearless. In fact, putting limits on my experiences had become more terrifying than taking risks.”

However, her journey is tumultuous and laced with misery and despair. Faced with “a profound sense of unhappiness,” Emma eventually engages another conductor to play her symphony. Her fetishized self must be rediscovered and retooled under a new BDSM guru.

Emma awaits transition before doorways in the film

Emma awaits her symbolic transitions to open before her

In the final episode, Emma suffers the pain of an emotional loss that inevitably precedes the mystical rebirth the ancients knew well. Mr. Frederick brought forth the original awakening that transformed a shy, introverted girl into an independent-minded adult. But a lingering childlike dependency remains, necessitating in a further renewal that will release Emma’s authentic, transcendental self.

The BDSM submissive tries to subdue, almost mute, her final reawakening, as the opening shots of the third film suggest with makeup brushes, heavy red lipstick, and an awful black wig. But the disguise is doomed to failure because Emma cannot be fully individuated (developed into a whole person, as psychologist Carl Jung puts it) while hiding behind a mask. The archetype of rebirth will not abide it.

Theme of Three

How does a director turn the transcendental elements of the human psyche into an adult film? Jacky St. James pulls it off with grace, power, and tough emotion. I might add that the cast is brilliant. Each performer is the embodiment of their character. The viewer is familiar with Nadia (Riley Reid), Ray (Van Wilde), William Frederick (Ritchie Calhoun), and, of course, Emma (Penny Pax).

Maturing into their roles, they grow together throughout the series. By the way, before you see the third episode, please watch the first two otherwise you’ll be walking in for the denouement of a well-crafted story you may not fully comprehend.

To complement the familiar faces, Exposed offers more characters to enrich the narrative. Ryan Diller who steps in as Michael Sullivan is a sensitive fit for the role. He shows up in the final hour of the film EMMA_MARX_03_HARD.02_02_49_21.Still118and becomes Emma’s guiding light, not an easy task for any performer because our heroine is drawn taut in her feelings. The reawakening that will push her forward must come from her own soul.

Even the sexual encounters carry the triad theme. Jacky St. James has grouped her characters accordingly. New to this version of Emma Marx are Samantha Hayes (Rebecca) and Aidra Fox (Joelle), two emerging industry stars. They are the additional play partners that entertain Mr. Frederick’s fantasies. His first romp with Rebecca is watched by his former submissive, Audrina (Sara Luvv). His final dip into carnality features a threesome with Emma and Joelle.

More on the literary implications of these episodes later.

As she has done throughout this adult classic, Jacky St. James has the opening sex scene feature Nadia and Ray to establish the story’s contrasting “normality.” But this time there is an unseen third person, their little one, Isabelle. Nadia is never totally comfortable with this fantasy set-up because she’s distracted by thoughts of the baby. It’s hard to let go sometimes, even for an hour of fun, when you are very suburban and middle-class.


Nadia and Emma remain a duality throughout the series; each is defined by the other. But does this duality include a mask for Nadia?

Contrasting sisters. Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Contrasting sisters.
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

We discover early in the series that Emma’s sister is consumed by her conventionality and its play-by-the-numbers expectations. It certainly fits her shallow self-absorption. In fact, one gets the feeling that her baby is just the next event programmed into a well-scripted socially acceptable life Nadia never challenges. It is evident, however, that she has learned some lessons from Emma about sexual fantasy. Nadia does agree to fool around with Ray’s sexual imagination, though her commitment to these make-believe dalliances is debatable.

On the other hand, Emma, emerging from her cocoon in the first film, faces another transition in Exposed.  Her mask, defined by the wig she wears in the opening shots of the third film, is ready to accompany her back into what she loves. But wigs and lipstick shout of denial and can never be satisfying. Just as she did when releasing her kinks in the first film, Emma now faces another hurdle in her growth, she must break through the pain that lies beneath the persona everyone sees.

Rebirth, in all its forms, is the story of the human condition because exposure is the final step to liberating the real self.

A moment of sisterly love between Nadia and Emma

A moment of sisterly love between Nadia and Emma

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The next post will explore the imagery that sets The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed apart from the run-of-the-mill porn fare.

Aidra Fox promotes Emma Three Photo by Jeff Koga

Aidra Fox promotes the trilogy with the first two films in hand.
Photo by Jeff Koga




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Why Can’t We Have It All? Part Three

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

The popularity of “Behind the Scenes” is growing in adult DVDs. The BTS humanizes the people in front of the camera, allowing the fan an inside peek at the playfulness of performers as well as their serious side.

A fun off screen moment of dueling subs. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

A fun off-screen moment of dueling subs, small in size but huge in sexiness.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

In her BTS interviews, Jacky St. James often explores how performers relate to the roles they play in her films. Here are some comments from The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries.

I Couldn’t Handle Any More Sex

Penny Pax and Richie Calhoun chat about alternative relationships like the one they have in the film. Though each admits they’ve experienced similar situations in their private lives, they have different takes on what it means for them personally.

Richie and Penny at work. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Richie and Penny at work.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Richie has seen these types of relationships “explode” because someone cheats. “[The people] have an open relationship and somebody jumps out and does something the other person can’t handle,” he explains. The relationship can get “lopsided” because one person is doing everything for the other person. Consequently it’s “easy for resentment to build up,” Richie points out.

Penny is more conventional in her attitudes, much like Emma’s sister, Nadia.

“I’m actually not ok with [alternative arrangements]” she says. Confessing that she’s “a sucker for happy endings,” Penny finds expanding sexual exploration in real life couplings somewhat uncomfortable. Her view is a reality check, cautioning film fans against the notion that porn stars act out their private dramas on-screen.

What advice would Richie and Penny offer anyone watching Boundaries and thinking about having an open or flexible relationship?

“Respect you partner,” Richie offers. “Try to hear what they feel, what they want.”

He concedes, however, that his opinions must be taken in context. The only relationships he’s ever had have been open ones. “I’m more of the Richie show,” he muses, because anything long-term is a “tall order” and not on his agenda right now. Then, as if to clarify what he means concerning flexible arrangements, Richie points out that performing in adult film is not considered to be an open relationship in his mind.

In truth, it’s a job.

Riche and Sara Luvv look on as Jacky and Eddie set up their scene. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Richie and Sara Luvv look on as Jacky and Eddie set up their scene.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Penny agrees that the “gray areas” presented in open relationships must be discussed among everyone involved. For her, communication is not a problem because she is a talker. But like Emma, she also has a vivid imagination and tends to fall into the trap of thinking “something crazy is happening, but it’s usually not.” Penny’s caution and her awareness of how emotional reasoning can play tricks 0n her perceptions authenticates her role as Emma.

Obviously, as a porn performer Penny is in a different sexual environment than the average fan who watches her scenes. True, she has a private life, but working in adult entertainment also means having sex for a living. The native Miamian admits she is sharing her body with other people and though the sex may not be emotional, it is still physical which in her mind is just as important.

“Between porn and my personal life I couldn’t handle any more sex!’ she says.

Sexually Exploratory Cloth

Later Penny talks specifically about her role as Emma.

Boundaries was easier for her than the original film because Emma revisited is more what she, Penny, is like in her personal moments.

Remembering the first Emma. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Remembering the first Emma.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Shifting the discussion away from Emma’s character, where does Penny see Nadia’s journey going? Will she move down the road to BDSM or has she reached her limit?

As a positive thinker, Penny wants Nadia to progress and get to that final destination. But the diminutive superstar is pragmatic. “There are two types of people in the world,” she says, “those that will do different things and those who won’t.” In other words, there are risk takers and people who hold back.

“I’m hoping she [Nadia] blossoms and there will The Submission of Nadia Marx movie,” Penny says with a smile.

For those who don’t know, Penny Pax is a popular submissive for bondage-oriented studios and websites. Her profile for the highly respected Spiegler Girls agency lists fetish modeling as one of her specialties. Needless to say, Penny’s non-vanilla porn resume is solid, having shot over seventy-five times for Kink.com, the internet powerhouse of BDSM.

Asked if she has personally encountered criticism about her sexual choices similar to what Emma faces in Boundaries, Penny is honest. She has.

However, the sexy five footer counters disparaging remarks with “you guys don’t know what you’re talking about.” When people don’t understand something they “tend to shy away from it [because they have a] fear of the unknown,” she adds.

Penny claims she likes to “be the guinea pig,” the first to try something out. Commenting that she hears from old high school acquaintances who want to know if what she does is “real,” her answer is, “absolutely.” The twenty-five year old enjoys all the sensations she experiences in her shoots and hopes that she can encourage people to think about doing some of them in their lives.

Jacky St. James poses the question of what brought her into porn. Was she sexually open prior to coming into the industry?

“That’s hard to say because my definition of sexually open has changed so much.”

Penny has always maintained an open attitude toward sex, though she never had a chance to explore her desires and fetishes before porn. When she was growing up, she fooled around with her girlfriends to find out what felt good and what was “weird.” An early boyfriend did his part by introducing her to anal.

“I’m cut from that sexually exploratory cloth,” she says with that Penny Pax trademark, an upbeat demeanor.

A girl who enjoys her job! Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

A girl who enjoys her job!
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The discussion turns for a moment to what Penny has yet to experience in her adult entertainment career. Double vag and double anal are on the list, she says, hinting she’s open to booking those scenes.

Also, she’s not done any “large groups of people gang bangs.” Her professional history is limited to a six-person affair, which she did for Kink.com.

Gang bangs are exciting on two levels, Penny says. First is the “actual experience.” It’s “adrenaline pumping” and “really exhilarating,” an “extreme sexual act” that she likens to skydiving.

“Having five guys trying to use you at the same time was really fun for me.” Because of the “chaos” it creates, however, the act is not an everyday thing!

As for the second part, Penny enjoys reviewing her shoots. Unlike some girls who never look at their own movies, Penny comments that being “able to watch [herself having sex] on camera is deeply satisfying” because she can relive the thrill anytime she wants.

In a later BTS segment with Richie and Logan Pierce, Penny remarks about the threesome at the end of the film. “I loved it,” she glows, adding that to “get off on somebody telling me what to do” is what makes the scene good porn.

Complimenting his co-workers, Richie chimes in that on-screen sex is at its best when performers get their energy from each other. A true illustration of  what it means to be a professional.

Interviewing Sara Luvv. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Interviewing Sara Luvv.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Put Them Ahead of You

To wrap up the BTS, Jacky St. James finds a moment to sit down with Sara Luvv.

In BDSM shoots, Sara’s is a convenient fit for submissive roles. “I usually sub because I’m so small,” she laughs.

At 4’11” she can be thrown around, the native Californian admits, which makes her a perfect submissive.

But acting and personal preferences don’t always jibe with some adult film stars. St. James asks if she (Sara) likes submissive roles on-screen.

“I do. I love being a sub, actually,” the porn newcomer says. Part of the pleasure of shooting BDSM is “doing everything they [her dominants] enjoy.” In the fashion of an authentic bottom who wants to please, Sara confesses “they’re getting everything that they want out of it [the scene]. I’m there to make them happy.”

What is her number one tip on being a good sub?

“You have to feel like you genuinely want that person to get off really bad. [You] have to put them ahead of you. That’s how you find enjoyment out of it.” Concerning safe words, Sara admits she’s never had to use one because she’s not appeared in any “super hardcore stuff.”

“I haven’t done anything too rough,” she says, and that is likely by design. This rising Latina star represents the newly emerging submission porn or bondage chic genre that avoids sex acts hovering around faux abuse. Other than an all-girl gang bang, for example, her shooting history at Kink.com is practically nil.

Nevertheless, Sara Luvv’s attitude and approach to bondage scenes. . . and porn in general . . . is one of giving. “I love being used for someone else’s pleasure.”

That is the best news possible for her fans.


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Why Can’t We Have It All? Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

Atop the long dining room table, a masked Emma Marx is crawling toward Mr. Frederick seated at the opposite end. In front of his place setting is a bowl of milk. Emma laps away like a pet.

Emma ready to obey Mr. Frederick. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Emma ready to obey Mr. Frederick.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The scene quickly shifts to a bedroom. Emma is bound to the headboard with Mr. Frederick behind her, caressing and fondling his submissive.

Emma explains. “Mr Frederick and I role-play a variety of different scenarios all the time. Is there any room to blur that line between fantasy and reality?”

Mr. Frederick has his way with Emma. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Mr. Frederick has his way with Emma.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James


Early in the film Emma mentions “normal” in describing the difference between her sexuality and her sister Nadia’s. But there are gradations of “normal” that for Emma become tests of her willingness to break barriers and abandon shame to find out who she really is. Questions remain. Does self-discovery mean extending her vulnerability beyond the safety of her dominant-submissive relationship with Mr. Frederick? And, how do blurred lines between fantasy and reality redefine “normal?”

A bit of tension rises. Emma is indeed special, Mr. Frederick implies, because her sexuality excites him. He tells her she is always evolving, there is “no stopping point” in her sexual growth. Though Emma admits doing things that titillate her, she insists an exit strategy always exists if the pressure to overstep boundaries intensifies. After all, it’s part of the contract.

Seductively, he pushes forward. “There ‘s room to play.” Steeped in uncertainty, she replies, “I don’t want to play.” He kisses her. “Sure you do.”

Does Emma push into new horizons or retreat to Nadia’s lines in the sand?

Whatever her decision, the central theme of Boundaries shifts to trust. Emma learns that “normal” is fluid, what was “bizarre” yesterday, is just another talking point today. Her willingness to give up control while contradictorily retaining it throws obstacles in her path that will challenge her self-esteem. How Emma perceives her connections with Mr. Frederick and how subsequent events feed into her overactive imagination provide valuable lessons in trust.

Enter Audrina

Emma prepares to write another note. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga.

Emma prepares to write another note.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga.

As a result of her confessed fantasy about Shane, Emma is instructed to play a game of seduction with her co-worker by writing him notes. It has a sophomoric overtone that creates a degree of embarrassment for Emma. To get her instructions, she must report to Mr. Frederick’s second floor office because he dictates each message. After writing a final provocative note, Emma descends the stairs. Without warning, she says, “something unexpected happened, shaking me to the core.”

A girl named Audrina (Sara Luvv) is waiting to see Mr. Frederick.

“Audrina was his first real sub who ended the relationship when the lifestyle became too complicated for her,” Emma remembers. “Why was she here? She said he was expecting her. He never told me how beautiful she was, feminine and wholesome, the perfect physical embodiment of a sub.”

Brushing aside Shane’s now predictable interest in her, Emma decides to investigate. She goes back upstairs and quietly turns toward Mr. Frederick’s office. Incidentally, down the hall opposite from his office is a closed door with a green covering. Thoughts of Behind the Green Door, the Michell Brothers 1970s film about a naïve girl who is introduced into a BDSM sex club, are inescapable. Emma ignores it; she’s already been there and knows Audrina has also.

Audrina with Mr. Frederick in Emma's imagination. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Audrina with Mr. Frederick in Emma’s imagination.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

As she approaches, Emma sees Mr. Frederick talking with his old sub; neither of them notices her. Admitting that she “filled in answers where there were gaps,” Emma envisions them at play in cinematic flashes that are classic Eddie Powell. Thus, Emma’s imagination becomes the demon that possesses her. She confesses it “began to poison me with pictures and images and experiences that I created between them.”

Emma Marx represents the literary everyman/everywoman who suffers from anxiety, doubt, and irrationality. Emotional reasoning is not an intellectual argument and she knows the difference, but her fears and weaknesses take over. Emma confesses the images were “so vivid and raw and painful that I began to treat them as truth.”

So the downward spiral that St. James poignantly captures in the bathtub scene begins. Covered in beads of water, a desperate Emma sits alone trying to cleanse her thoughts while sinking deeper into despair. She is like a heroin addict trying to wash away the drug that torments her or an anguished soul crushed by suicidal thoughts.

Eddie Powell’s camera work in canvassing Emma’s agony is superb.

A word here is due about Penny Pax. Her emotional angst in this scene is as real as it gets, reflecting acting skills that place her on the door step of mainstream Hollywood.

A chasm now separates Emma and Mr. Frederick. They have ceased communicate and he becomes emotionally distant. Emma accepts the blame. “The more worried I became, the more I failed him.”

The tension thickens. He begins to ignore her in a passive-aggressive manner. “It was a form of silent treatment,” Emma says, that increased her pain.

After refusing to sleep with her, Mr. Frederick passes a forlorn Emma in the hallway and takes that dogleg, vanishing.

Teetering on the abyss, Emma at last faces her self-created emotional morass. “I realized I had fallen into a masochistic relationship with myself, one that I desperately wanted out of.”

Emma under the glare of her demons. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Emma under the glare of her demons.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

When Mr. Frederick disappears for periods of time, she says, “I was convinced I’d lost him.”

Excuse Me for Trying

A visit with her sister is in order.

Of course, with Nadia it’s all about her. As Emma sits politely, Nadia arranges fake flowers and announces that she is pregnant: conventional happiness in a conventional relationship. Emma’s emotions are muted and distant.

But an epiphany is in the offing.

An annoyed Nadia wants to be congratulated, instead Emma brings up her sister’s concern over Ray’s sexual suggestions. Without meaning to offend, she mildly jokes, “Is this what he meant by having a three-some?”

“Very funny, Emma. When people are having problems with their relationship they do whatever they can to fix it. Guess what? I did, so excuse me for trying!”

Nadia resorts to the oldest of maneuvers, pregnancy. A new arrival will always gloss over problems and solidify an unsteady marriage, right?

A bystander in Nadia’s universe, Emma gives her sister credit for gumption and resolves she must likewise act. This is the moment the film has been waiting for. Emma’s growth is in her hands, not Mr. Frederick’s. Only she can solve her inner turmoil.

“I needed to fight for the only thing that ever made sense to me.”

A dungeon of redemption? Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

A dungeon of redemption?
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

There is a lot more to come in this film. Emma secretly follows Mr. Frederick to a duplex where she discovers a BDSM dungeon, a reticent Shane stills flirts a bit with a woman he really likes, and a pendant embossed with a “W” becomes a territorial marker of striking intimacy. Personal arrangements become fluid and Emma takes further steps in expanding her sexual universe.

By the way, there is one more sex scene and it is dynamic. Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell bulldoze their own boundaries to reinterpret what an erotic movie can do. Without giving away details of the scene, suffice it to say that a St. James trademark shows up again: candles. There are two sets of three, one for Emma and one for Nadia, whose role in this film is to act as its Greek Chorus. If Mr. Frederick is a guide for Emma, so is Nadia in her own unintended way. But the final actions and decisions are not those of Emma’s lover or her sister, and that is the magic of The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries.

Blurred, Pushed, and Crossed

Too often erotic movies designed for couples celebrate the romance and not the relationship, the exploration and not the day-to-day task of being a partner. As a result, the genre unfortunately discounts the emotional unfolding that redefines a relationship as it develops.

Ray and Nadia. Phtot courtesy of Jacky St. James

Ray and Nadia.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Boundaries gives the viewer two versions of certitude. First there is Nadia: manipulation disguised as taking a standing. Men are deceiving at worse and filled with tomfoolery at best. She has to one-up them to keep control.

The inescapable question is why she waits three months to reveal her pregnancy. Did she have that three-way Ray touted? Unlikely, but we don’t know. We only have her tasteless vegan food and her fake flowers.

Then there is Emma. Trust and control are interwoven into the same exploratory fabric and, as a mother would test her baby, Emma must throw herself into the water and survive. The proud submissive becomes empowered by giving up control, though her teacher and lover is never far away.

The story is not quite that simple, of course. Boundaries hints of a delicate freedom that is as alternative as Emma’s lifestyle. St. James places appropriate prints of butterflies in Emma’s bedroom, reminders of a more innocent sexual age when a blind man sang, “Butterflies are free.”

But this psychedelic version of freedom is fragility. Psychologist Erich Fromm posits freedom’s contradictions in his book “Escape from Freedom.” To be free is not always desirable and a return to control guarantees a security that negates escape. On the other hand, when escape is replaced with an openness to seek and develop positive relationships, growth occurs.

Is Emma completing the circle from fragility to empowerment?

Is she capable of moving forward without Mr. Frederick or can she only expand her world with his support?

We’ll depart with Emma’s words.

“Some people prefer the security and comfort of doing only what is expected . . . and that’s ok. But for others, boundaries are meant to be blurred, pushed, and crossed because . . . life isn’t about being comfortable, it’s about being free.”

But is that really the case?

Watch this thought-provoking and groundbreaking film and see for yourself.

*          *          *

A final thought about this film. Boundaries is a notable achievement because it explores adult film as literature. A complex story is told through a voice over with Emma as narrator. But actual voice is that of a trained actress: Jacky St. James. Clearly, the director wants to make sure all words are precisely placed so that the story challenges the thoughtful mind.

Boundaries is indeed literary and worthy of praise for that feat alone. However, I’m not sure the ending is as neatly packaged as it seems . . . and that is the mark of an intriguing script and superb directing.

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