Ed’s note: this review is based on a version of the film released on the festival circuit in 2013. Changes may have been made to the final version.
San Francisco is home to The Armory, a Moorish Castle which now serves as home to Cybernet Entertainment, the proper name for the company that owns Kink.com, an internet-based adult film company which specializes in…wait for it…kinky videos. They’ve actually owned the Armory since 2007, which had been empty since the ’70s. Unsurprisingly, this movie is not about the Armory as a building, but I’m so fascinated by the building and its history that it deserves it’s own paragraph.
Kink.com makes both hetero and gay oriented kinky films. The majority of Kink.com’s content is in the traditional female submissive-oriented films, but there are categories for femdom (female dominant videos) and for gay male videos. Kink is a documentary about Kink.com, and is directed by a woman, Christina Voros, who is trying to seem interested in sexuality and the reasons behind why these models would want to be exploited or degraded. Christina Voros mainly is interested in female sexuality, who dominate the film’s all too short 79 minute run time. More than that, Voros is interested in justifying kinky porn and female participation in it.
At one point in the middle of this female-dominated documentary, a woman ironically comments, “I guess females have this sexuality thrust upon them.” She is implying that female participation in porn is far more taboo than it is for men, and that this is because of the sexuality thrust upon women and is actually a form of slut shaming. Voros then proceeds to focus on women’s sexuality for the majority of Kink‘s length, in an effort to say that women in porn shouldn’t be so stigmatized.
Given that Kink wants to legitimize porn, for the most part it avoids the tough questions that linger around the whys and wherefores. Some of the women are legitimately into kink, while some of the submissive models seem like they’re OK with it but mainly doing it for the money. This reasons for the dichotomy are hinted at, but go largely uncommented on, until a hard interview with an experienced dominatrix towards the end of the movie.
This interview, I believe it was with Matrisse Madeline, confessed that the industry runs through people fairly quickly. Sometimes it is empowering to people who want to try it as a lark, and some people are doing it because they’re down on their luck, but most, in the end, don’t stick around for long. She also confessed that if her children wanted to get into the industry, she would probably have a problem with it because it might mean they were in a tough place.
This was a fleeting moment of realism in an otherwise really shiny documentary about a company that pushes its image of being a porn studio that checks, double checks, and triple checks its validity with its models. In certain videos that depict sex committed against the model’s will, the videos are frequently preceded and followed by interviews with all models involved stating that they happily and willingly were participating in the videos. Kink.com is trying to go the extra step to say that these depictions are acceptable displays of sexuality and objectification of men and women by men and women is OK as long as it is wanted and accepted by all participants in said behaviors.
That’s not to say that Kink is all about women. The film is bookended by behind-the-scenes of gay BDSM videos, whose category is generally produced by, and sometimes starring, Van Darkholme. There are some interviews with a hetero male submissive and a couple hetero male dominants. There is also an interview with a set construction guy, secretaries, and directors. The majority of these interviews are, obviously, supportive of the behaviors and justifying the morality of Kink.com. But, even with these interviews, many are about the female submissive behavior that director Voros is so fascinated by.
Kink serves almost as a pro-sex primer into the world of female sexuality, BDSM, and porn. It is practically made to tear down the sex-negative and objectification-negative aspects of some tenets of feminism. Kink wants to show you that it is OK for women to own their sexuality and to willingly submit to men or women if that’s what they really and truly want to do. Whether it succeeds in these lofty goals is hard for me to judge, as I have always supported women in owning their sexuality and being able to act like men without the repercussions that women who act like men generally face. But, what it does succeed at is being a great advertisement for Kink.com.
Final note, to those that were wondering: yes, there is hardcore sexuality featured in this documentary. There is full frontal nudity (male and female), some penetration, toys, and explicit kink in fair amounts. If you are not able to handle homosexual sex, kinky sex, female nudity, male nudity, or graphic depictions of non-romanticized sexuality, this movie may not for you. Or, it may be completely for you since it’s goal is to try to change your mind.
Post script: Fascinatingly, the only still of five in the press kit that has a woman as a submissive. The other four stills are male submissive, and only one of those is male submissive in an explicitly femdom scene.
A version of this review originally appeared at The Other Films.