Christina Voros‘s documentary Kink, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last January, had one screening this month in the New Fest, the LGBT film festival that has entertained New York’s gay cinemaphiles for the last 25 years. Produced by that unpredictable enterprising Energizer Bunny James Franco, the film provides an extremely illuminating tour of the San Francisco studios of Kink.com. That’s the empire that creates the BDSM porn that shows up on websites like Bound Gods and Naked Kombat familiar to kinky gay guys, as well as non-gay sites such as FuckingMachines.com, WhippedAss.com, and Bound Gang Bangs.
Need I say that this is not a film for the faint of heart?
The documentary incorporates talking-head interviews with directors, producers, technicians, and performers as well as scenes of them going about their daily business. There are lots of hardcore scenes, some of which turned me on, some of which made me cringe. But what makes this a compelling and admirable film is the high quality conversation it models about sex, kink, BDSM, boundaries, consent, violence, abuse, why people make porn, and what people get out of watching it.
Many of the producers interviewed are very smart, attractive women — such as Princess Donna and Maitresse Madeline — who not only speak with great intelligence and nuance about BDSM and porn but who operate on the set with fascinating flexibility, compassion, humor, and sophistication. Same goes for transman TomCat.
The Kink site I’m most familiar with is Bound Gods, whose creator, Van Darkholme, is a major figure in the documentary, representing the gay male fetish fiefdom within Kink.com. Although I’ve been curious to check out the bondage and fetish sites he produces, I’ve always been put off by his personality and his manner. He’s extremely brusque and lacking in the qualities of caring that I would want in a kinky top. And he doesn’t come off any differently in the documentary. Considering how coldly he treats his performers, especially the way he berates and corrects the tops in scenes he’s filming, it’s hard for me to understand how he gets so many guys to do the things they do for him.
And it’s not just that the women are nurturing and the men are brutal — we get to watch a male top conducting a very intense scene with a woman who’s bound, suspended, and being worked over by an ingenious vibrating machine, and he exhibits a beautiful mixture of authority and attunement. Another male producer makes it very clear that he doesn’t like to have anyone on the set who isn’t really really into what’s going on.
This is not a film that’s going to be a hit in theaters or get an Academy Award nomination. It will most likely find its following on DVD. But I hope a lot of people will watch it. Just as the feature film The Sessions gave moviegoers an avenue to understand the world of sexual surrogacy, Kink succeeds in its intention to avoid sleazy sensationalism and to enlighten curious viewers.