In a dimly lit room with an assortment of restraints in the background, one woman is being anally penetrated while her friend kneels on the Oriental rug nearby. A rough rope snakes between the second woman’s huge breasts and binds her arms behind her back while the man above her pulls her head back by her hair, forcing his cock into her mouth. Her eyes are wide with what looks like fright as she watches her friend be pushed down and entered.
Did that image make you squirm?
If it did, it was in one of three ways: discomfort (if it’s just not your thing), arousal (if it is), or both. Being turned on or not is pretty straightforward, but it’s in the “both” that things get interesting. The simple truth is that there are a lot of people out there who picture scenes like this and feel a flush of arousal… and then an immediate flush of shame. That’s because forced submission, humiliation, and subjugation of women are all things that “good” men and women are taught to see as abhorrent.
Because they are…sometimes.
They are when they’re done to people who aren’t interested in that kind of sexual play. Forcing someone to suck your dick when she doesn’t want to is rape; “forcing” someone to suck your dick when she has explicitly stated that she wants to be “forced” is sometimes really hot. See the difference?
At Kink.com, that difference is the key to everything they do. While the images on their site are extremely graphic (the opening scene of this article is the first image on their landing page), I recently took a tour of their super cool headquarters and learned that –despite appearances – they might just be the most ethical porn site out there.
The tour started in a break room that felt like any break room in any corporate office. The air smelled like burnt coffee, the vending machines were stocked with unhealthy snacks, and the furniture was a little rough around the edges. There was even a flier for a company picnic and a black cat named Rudy who wandered in to see what all the commotion was about.
One big difference, however, were the photo-realist paintings on every wall of bondage, slave training, and flagellation. Somehow, I don’t imagine that type of art is welcome in most break rooms across America.
The other tour members and I mingled around awkwardly, not sure how to react in such a sexualized space with people we weren’t being sexual with. After a few minutes of avoiding eye contact, we found seats on the wraparound couch, where (thank God) our tour guide Dane broke the ice with a joke about anal fisting.
“I’d like to welcome you officially to your porn studio tour,” Dane announced with a wry half-grin on his face. “At Kink.com, we’re all about consent, so if someone tricked you into taking this tour, please let us know now.”
And there it was, right off the bat: Our first official introduction to the ethics behind Kink.com’s very specific method of making porn, albeit presented in a joke. And while Dane did a great job inserting humor throughout the rest of the tour, I quickly learned that the Kink.com code of ethics is no laughing matter.
The Dungeon Room One of our first stops in the basement (where all of the sets we visited that evening were located) was an elaborately realistic dungeon room. In the dim lighting, surrounded by suspension hoops and broken wires protruding from electrical boxes, Dane told us to kneel down on wooden floor.
No, he wasn’t breaking us in for porn acting; he was pointing out that the floor was actually made of a spongy material and wasn’t wood at all. As the entire tour group knelt together on the slightly spongy floor, Dane explained that the reason the floor is like that is because the last thing any of the Kink.com directors wants is to put their “models” in uncomfortable situations.
That may sound a little off to anyone who’s familiar with the site’s material. Isn’t the point that people are doing really uncomfortable, really painful things? Dane clarified that, yes, videos on Kink.com involve a lot of pain but that they never, ever want to put their models through “unnecessary discomfort.” Because porn shoots can last for hours, they’ve specifically created rooms with these special floors to ensure that everyone is comfortable, even when they’re being whipped on their knees.
Basically, the models and directors at Kink.com are all about pain, but only pain with a purpose.
The Ultimate Surrender set looks more like a high school gym than a porn set, an illusion that is totally intentional. In this room, women wrestle in bikinis for the chance to fuck the loser with a team-colored strap on. (A kitschy aspect that I, personally, found delightful.) They get extra points for stripping their opponent naked, touching her pussy, getting her hands inside her pussy, and creative dirty talk.
This is also where Dane explained to us how Kink.com got started, a story that’s essential to understanding what it is today. Founder Peter Acworth started the site by creating his own kinky porn videos while he was on a break from Columbia. The audience reacted well to his videos because they were real: he was acting out his own kinks on camera.
Eventually people started requesting videos with other types of kink, stuff that Peter himself just wasn’t into. Rather than turn them down (and seeing a clear business opportunity) Peter sought out other kinksters who were willing to go on camera and do what they loved to do.
Kink.com was born.
In the bar set –which is immediately off of an alleyway that’s so realistic it has fake grass pushing up through the cracked concrete – Dane explained that in traditional porn you’re chosen for your looks and then told, “This is what you’re going to do.” If you’re willing to do it, you get hired. If you’re not, no job for you!
As we lounged in the booths and wooden tables in a set that looked so real I found myself craving a whiskey on the rocks, Dane walked us through the hiring process of what they refer to as “models.” Rather than deciding what kind of porn is going to be filmed and then finding people to fill the parts, all of the models at Kink are put through a screening process that includes a “Yes, no, maybe” list of things they are or aren’t willing to do.
The directors then take that information and hire models based on their interests. As a result, you’ll find extremely realistic porn on Kink.com and you can rest assured that everyone there is doing something they love, even if what they love looks awfully painful.
Don’t forget the safe words.
The bar set is most commonly used for public disgrace shoots, Dane explained. In those kinds of situations – as with basically everything Kink.com does – it’s super important to make sure that everyone is working within boundaries that they’re comfortable with. At Kink.com, safe words are codified across the various sets in order to make sure that happens.
If a model needs the scene to stop for any reason (ranging from the intensity going too far to needing to get up to use the bathroom), all he has to say is “red” and everything will grind to a halt. All of the other models will stop whatever they’re doing immediately and the director will step in to see what’s going on. The scene won’t resume until it’s clear that everyone involved is comfortable and ready to move forward.
On the other hand, if a model simply needs the intensity of a scene to lighten up but not necessarily stop, all she has to do is say “yellow” or “mercy.”
“’Mercy’ is a great safe word,” Dane pointed out, “because we don’t have to edit it out for the final cut.”
The Butcher’s Room
In a set designed to look like a butcher’s back room and created specifically as a space to shoot scenes that included a lot of water-play, Dane filled us in on Kink.com’s own special kind of after care.
For those of you who aren’t involved in this kind of stuff, “after care” in BDSM refers to the attention paid to a play partner after a scene is finished. Some of the activities people get into can be really, really intense -both emotionally and physically – so it’s important to make sure that everyone is taken care of once it’s all over.
You can see how they do after care at Kink by watching any one of their videos, all of which include an interview with the stars that takes place after the scene has been completed. During that time, the director checks in with the models to find out what they liked and, more importantly, if there was anything they didn’t like.
Dane emphasized that negative feedback is never cut from the final version of their films. If a model discovered during the course of a video that they weren’t okay with something, it’s important for the director to know for future shoots. While some companies may keep that info from the viewer, Kink.com’s code of ethics makes it clear that you as the viewer need to be fully informed about everything that goes on during the shoot, even if it’s not so great.
Another thing these interviews do is humanize models who are often in very dehumanizing situations. One of the biggest objections to BDSM is that it positions women as objects to be used and abused, which then encourages rape culture. Kink.com does a great job of using and abusing those women (and men) and then making it very, very clear that no matter what you just saw on screen, these models are human beings who are just as worthy of respect as you are.
And that’s the key, isn’t it?
The balance between degrading fantasy and real life respect is a delicate one. By doing BDSM the right way, Kink.com has managed to not only find that balance but actually go above and beyond. For a viewer who gets off on degradation but is concerned with the rights of women and not perpetuating rape culture, Kink.com is one well-known ethical porn company.
And for this feminist who has struggled herself with balancing a love of pornography with her values, I have one message for all the other porn companies out there:
Isn’t it way past time you got on the Kink bandwagon?