A machine the size of an outboard motor thrusts tirelessly between the legs of a woman suspended upside down from a metal frame. A man screams as an electric wand threatens his exposed genitals. A woman clamps her teeth around a horse bit as her bound breasts are assaulted with a riding crop.
This is a typical day of filming at Kink.com, the Internet’s largest producer of BDSM content. In her debut feature, director Christina Voros pulls back the curtain on a particularly obscure corner of an industry that operates largely out of public view.
Headquartered in the iconic and sprawling San Francisco Armory, Kink.com is a fetish empire. Their eighteen online sites cater to the broad interests encompassed by the term BDSM, including bondage, discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. They employ master bondage riggers, design their own sex machines on-site, and boast innovative set designs that seem to accommodate every conceivable fantasy, from a derelict bathroom to the sterile galley of a space ship to a dungeon torture chamber.
In candid and insightful interviews, Kink.com’s directors and models talk about how, in selling their particular brand of graphic sex, they set themselves apart from a porn industry where stars fake orgasms and cheat toward the camera. Striving for authenticity, they create such intense and exhausting situations that no acting is necessary. And in an industry known for exploitative practices, Kink upholds an ironclad set of values to foster an environment that is safe, sane, and consensual. They aim to demystify the BDSM lifestyle, and serve as an example in on-set safety and an educational resource for the BDSM community.
Kink.com’s pornographers also engage in a different type of filmmaking, complete with its own rules and conventions. Directors must think creatively and be ready to improvise at a moment’s notice, to add or remove restraints, adjust a dominant’s technique, or change a scenario completely in order to accommodate the fantasies, and boundaries, of models working at an extreme of human experience.
In kink, we discover not only a fascinating and often misunderstood subculture, but also, in a career far from the mainstream, a group of intelligent, charismatic, and driven people who really, truly love what they do. (production)
This is a fascinating view of a well managed business. A widely misunderstood part of the porn industry is given a human face. Even if BDSM is not your cup of tea, Kink will expand your understanding of sexuality.
Among the fascinating details covered in this documentary are: Rules film makers and actors observe in scripting, creating and filming these films; Rules that are observed to assure actors safety and comfort; How actors are selected, hired and cast; and Differences between fantasy and reality.
Not for every viewer. For those comfortable with HBO’s Real Sex, this is a must see. (Imdb)
During one scene a Kink.com director asks his model, “have you ever had 18 orgasms in a row before?” She responds, “not while hanging upside down!” That’s right, the Kink.com model has been hanging upside down with a mechanical dildo thrusting in and out of her; she obviously likes it, considering her high orgasm-to-minute ratio. This is the wild world of Kink.com, the fetish website that Christina Voros has set out to document.
To be perfectly honest, I had never seen a machine screw a woman while she hangs upside down. Heck, I had never seen most of what is featured in kink; and now that I have watched kink, I do not think it can ever be unseen. I cannot say that watching women and machines have sex is in any way a turn on to me, but there is a world of people who love this kind of stuff.
Voros sets out to reveal this clandestine world to the rest of us. She introduces us to the directors and models of Kink.com and allows them the opportunity to speak thoughtfully and intelligently about the world of BDSM. It soon becomes apparent the the people of Kink.com really love what they do, and their audience loves what they do too. It is a win-win situation. Best of all, absolutely no one gets hurt (unless having too many orgasms is bad for you). Kink.com clears the air about their various safety measures — most importantly, there is always consent.
The point of kink is to expose BDSM to the rest of the world and this fits perfectly in producer James Franco’s personal agenda to convince Americans to be more open and honest about sex. If Franco’s high profile affiliation really does get more people to watch kink, then all power to him. I am all for opening the puritanical minds of Americans. The problem is, BDSM has such negative connotations associated with it; no matter how wrong those connotations are, I think a documentary about BDSM might not be considered as required viewing by even the most diehard fans of Franco. That said, I will be extremely happy if kink proves me wrong. VOTO: 8/10. (Don Simpson, smellslikescreenspirit.com)
“… Even though kink’s primary focus isn’t on the sexual acts, they’re still presented as a method of juxtaposition with the actors and the dialogue that ensues. In one scene a young lady is being chased by a group of men in an abandoned warehouse gangbang scenario. The men are all naked and erect as they tackle the woman and begin to initiate their sex play when the director interjects to cut the scene. Apparently, someone had stepped in rogue cat faeces during the warehouse chase and they needed to find the source of the problem, leading to laughter and a reminder that regardless of the intensity of the on-screen action, these are human beings with a sense of humour.
In another scene, one of the gay submissives has just finished a hardcore slave scene and is walking into the Human Resources office in a robe. When asked how his shoot was he casually advises that he “got fucked good.” Later in the film, a woman is tied and suspended over an industrial-sized stimulation machine that probes her nether regions with a fixed dildo that operates at high speeds. The director calls a break to the action momentarily; however, the actress needs to maintain the pose. In an effort to pass time, the director makes small talk and asks, “What do you jerk off to?” The actress embarrassingly replies, “Keanu Reeves.”
In the end, Voros achieves her goal by demystifying the world of BDSM and those that participate in its pornographic sales segments. Kink.com’s employees speak of a happy and sane workplace that they all revere, one that lacks manipulation and promotes participation in acts that they ultimately enjoy. Unfortunately, thanks to America’s predominantly puritanical mindset, kink will likely be at odds with most filmgoers with its content and the connotations it carries. A shame since one of the BDSM film directors sums it up best when she says, “It’s just sex.” (Daniel Pratt, exclaim.ca)
“… Personally, I found the subject matter of this film to be extremely interesting, yet by the end I felt quite deprived. It is apparent that the primary goal that the filmmakers had when making this was to both educate audiences, and to perhaps even break away the “deviant” label that is many times attached to BDSM. For the most part they did just that. My main problem with the film was that they really seemed to skirt some of the harder questions that I felt a film like this should have asked.
The world of BDSM, and indeed sexuality in general, is such a prime place for psychological discussion, yet the film tended to shy away, mostly ignoring the deeper questions that I felt a film like this should have been asking. What causes a person to derive such pleasure from these acts? If it’s just about endorphin release and total freedom to do what you will with your own body, then does that make self mutilation OK; Or what about suicide? Is this lifestyle one that is always therapeutic, or are their occasions where a sexual act only offers a temporary fix, while extenuating and re-enforcing other long term psychological or emotional damage that may or may not exist? How do we separate in our minds that it is OK to be abusive in the bedroom, but not in the outside world? These are just a few of the questions that the film seemed to ignore all together.
In the end, kink wonderfully achieves its goal of lightly educating and demystifying the world of BDSM, but for people that are already familiar with this world, you may find yourself left wanting. If you get a chance to screen the film either here at the festival or elsewhere, I highly recommend you do so. Regardless of any issues I did have with it, it is nonetheless a beautiful character study and one that should rightfully be noted for the things it did do, more so than the things that it did not. (Ty Cooper, heyuguys.co.uk)
“… First up, pornography! Kink.com is a group of various fetish sites, based in San Francisco. In 2006 the company purchased the San Francisco Armory, an intimidating historical relic in the middle of the Mission District. It’s the perfect place to shoot a wide variety of BDSM videos, and founder Peter Acworth has encouraged quite a bit of expansion and diversification. Kink.com appears to be at the top of the pack in this particular subset of the porn industry.
That being said, the business side of things is not really the most exciting part of Voros’s documentary. It isn’t really the sex either, though there are plenty of titillating moments among the film’s 80 minutes. The real focus is on how the directors at Kink.com go about creating these videos. The unexpected central element in their production style is that they are not interested in acting. Heightened performances are actively discouraged in favor of real, genuine responses to the BDSM activities.
In part this is a safety issue. If an actor is being whipped and is loudly pretending to be in a great deal of pain, how can you tell when things have gone too far? Directors at Kink.com will stop a shoot immediately if they think they’ve pushed someone even the slightest bit too far, as a rule. The staff at The Armory is very insistent upon a positive working environment.
Voros is preoccupied with making this point, defending Kink.com from the perception of BDSM pornography as exploitative and abusive. This is understandable, and there are definitely a whole lot of misconceptions out there regarding what probably happens in The Armory. Yet the film’s best moments come from a rawer examination of sexuality, peering into what actually emerges from Kink.com’s complete rejection of “acting.” The whole act of filming BDSM sex becomes transformational, more about the submissive participant’s emotional journey than anything else.
Voros is more interested in the face, contorted in the ecstasy of agony, than she is in the whip or the machine. Admittedly, participation in one of these videos is still effectively a performance. Yet the goal of Kink.com is for actors to avoid any affectations, anything exaggerated or fake. The result is, ideally, submissive actors performing their own wish fulfillment as a therapeutic act. They are compelling to watch because they retain their subjectivity, an attempt to present something different from pornography’s more common objectification. (Daniel Walber, nonfic.com)