NSFW

08.30.14

My ‘Kink’ Nightmare: James Franco’s BDSM Porn Documentary ‘Kink’ Only Tells Part of the Story

The James Franco-produced documentary Kink, which provides a glowing portrait of the BDSM porn site Kink.com, is now in theaters. But for some performers, working for Kink can be terrifying. 

“WHORE.”

Her cold, thin fingers wrapped around my jaw like a Vise-Grip. I could feel the fat of my cheeks trying to escape as she held me still to mark me with red lipstick. There I stood, stripped down to nothing but the chafing rope that bound my wrists together and the smudged letters on my forehead: WHORE. I was to be her slave, literally.

It was late in my career and I was already famous with hundreds of movies under my belt, but nothing like this. I’d shied away from the BDSM culture. It scared me. Despite signing paperwork and a checklist of dos and don'ts, I was in way over my head. What I thought I was agreeing to felt a lot different in reality. I was groped by hands I didn't know. There were masked people everywhere, but only the ones wearing wristbands were my approved scene partners. If I balked at an act or found it difficult to perform, I was “punished” for my defiance (which is the nature of a BDSM scene). It felt more like a party for the extras than a professional scene. Experienced as I was, it was new to me. I’d never used a safe word before (and forgot to), so when things became too much to bear and I began protesting, no one listened. The word “No” doesn't work in these types of scenes.

"The point of the scene in some cases is to find the raw edge of a performer’s limitations."

I met my breaking point in this particular scene—halfway through, I had to be untied and calmed down. I was shaking. I felt a catch in my throat when I tried to speak and I could barely keep the tears at bay. I felt like I’d been beat. Yet I was hugged, inundated with compliments, and told how strong I was for being on the receiving end. I was caned, electrically prodded, and slapped around. I didn't feel powerful. In the interim, I had to decide whether I was going to quit or be a professional and finish the scene. After everything I'd gone through, leaving would have made it worthless. So I stayed.

After the scene, I did a brief on camera interview about my experience—a standard company procedure. I nodded my head, smiled, and said all the right things. To me, that interview was also part of the job. It’s also filmed before performers are paid, or at least that's been my experience.

After watching an intense scene that will make your eyes water, it's reassuring to see an interview stating that everyone had a good time. It's that kind of feel-good integrity that Kink.com, one of the most successful BDSM (bondage, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism) porn companies works hard to promote. It's a fascinating company that operates out of the historic San Francisco Armory, offering a variety of productions, tours, live shows, and kinky parties on the upper floor. I can't think of another XXX company quite as diverse or dark that's also so commercially successful.

Kink.com's unique productions caught the eye of James Franco, who produced a documentary now playing in theaters called Kink. “I was given a tour of the place, and then I got to watch a video being made. It was very interesting because the dynamic in front of the camera was very different from what was happening off camera,” Franco told The Daily Beast. “It was a BDSM scene of a girl in a cage, and very intense, but off-screen it was surprisingly warm and cooperative, with everyone as a willing participant.”

For lifestylers—people who participate in BDSM outside of the workplace—Kink can feel like a heaven on earth providing tools of pleasurable terror, including originally crafted "fucking machines,” and a way to be paid for what they'd do at home anyway. But as a non-BDSM performer, I found there were only a few sites that I enjoyed working for. Still, I explored more of what Kink had to offer and I found it wasn't the sex I'd become accustomed to; it was a pain I didn't enjoy. The point of the scene in some cases is to find the raw edge of a performer’s limitations. In a typical scene performers are offered numerous breaks, catered to in between takes, and treated like royalty after a mental and physical beat down. Which is why Kink can be a total mind fuck.

While there are plenty of porn stars who regularly work for Kink and sing their praises, those that have had a negative experience are hesitant to speak up, fearing what it would do to their workload. Kink is one of the few large companies with the budget to offer steady work. Some people in the porn industry, it seems, would rather have work they don't like than no work at all.