About a year or so ago, I found myself in a discussion with other kink educators. Someone had posted a rant about how they wanted the ability to play in public without having to keep their “educator hat” on; they wanted to be able to engage in actions that may or may not be considered “safe”, but you would definitely not teach to a class. In essence, they wanted to be able to play without having to worry that some onlooker will assume that since Mx. Big Name Educator did it, it must be safe to replicate in their own play. This onlooker may or may not have the same level of experience with whatever they’re seeing, or may or may not know that Mx. Educator has a different kind of relationship with their play partner (like, say, being fluid bonded), or may even be doing something that looks more dangerous than it actually is, but because they’re not teaching, they’re also not explaining to random onlookers that there are unseen safety precautions.
This came up for me last night, as I watched some free online porn. If you don’t know, one of the things I’m most known for in the kink community is needle/blood play, and especially the fact that I know and practice a very high level of safety/cleanliness when I do so. One of the scenes I watched was a needleplay scene, and although I don’t know the performer personally, we’re maybe two degrees of separation from each other (if that). In the scene, there was some safety measures taken – they did wear gloves to put the needles in and take them out – but that’s about where it started and ended. What bothered me the most was that the performer touched the needles, laced a corset-like decoration with rope, had sex with the bottom after the needles were removed (but the blood was still evident on the bottom’s arms), and although it ended with a nice cuddle, during none of these activities were they wearing gloves or taking any other precautions so as to not come in contact with the bottom’s blood. Also, they were doing this on a bed, and there were no precautions taken to make sure the blood didn’t get on the bed, and since they were romping around nude, meant that the blood could have also entered the other person’s body a number of ways.
Now, I know, it’s porn. It’s not supposed to look or feel like reality. But if there’s anything I’ve learned and personally witnessed about kinksters and porn, is that porn is where we get a lot of our ideas for new and different things to try. Since the site this scene was posted on is not really a kink site, but a sex site that has kink content, there is a high likelyhood that this may be a person’s first encounter with needle and blood play. It’s also worth mentioning that right on the site’s bannerhead, they claim to be an educational site as well as a place for porn. Finally, the performer in question is not only a porn performer, but teaches many classes to the kink demographic, and therefore is an educator.
I also accept that as part of the non-reality of porn, there may be things going on in the background that I didn’t see. It may be that right before and after they touched the open wounds, they cleaned their hands with surgical scrub to minimize any cross-contamination. They may be fluid bonded with their bottom, may even be in a long term relationship with them where fluid exchange is an everyday occurrence. I’ll even be willing to entertain the idea that the director/producer gave them the instruction to use precautions as little as possible, so as to make the scene not feel sterile (not in the sense of clean, but in the sense of staid and unsexy).
I think these two discussions are linked. I totally understand the exhausted feeling that comes when you perceive that the “cameras are never off” – that every time you rock up to a dungeon, people start to gather to see what nefarious doings are going to happen, to see advanced techniques or ideas that they could incorporate into their own play, or even just to be entertained – and that you can’t have any sort of intimacy or privacy (however much you can expect in a public play space). I have experienced people interrupting scenes to ask questions, either about needleplay in general (including “Can I be next?”) or about a certain part of whatever you’re doing (What gauge has purple hubs?) or will just get very close to the point where I have to ask them to step back so I can access my bottom or my supplies. Granted, needleplay is one of those kinds of play that is hard to see from a respectable distance, but there are ways to ask if it’s okay to move closer and see what’s going on. And about 60% of the time, I don’t mind the interruptions. I tend to tell people that my scenes tend to draw attention, and ask them if they want me to keep people from getting too close or interrupting, or if they welcome the attention. I know that, in some ways, by allowing this sort of interaction some of the time, I may be radioing that it’s okay all of the time.
Is this part of the cost of being an educator? Many people talk about the perks, but few talk about the responsibilities and potential downsides that come with volunteering your time and expertise to share with others. You become a bit of a commodity, no longer a person with personal preferences and desires, but someone who can be considered “obligated” to provide experiences to whomever asks (and saying “you’re not my type” or “I’m not looking to Top/bottom tonight” is met with derision, or like it’s a personal insult; heck, even “My dance card is full” is sometimes met as though I am lying just to avoid playing with the person, even when it later proves to be true when I’m stuck in the medical play area all night). Are we also, then, beholden to only do in public what we would do in front of a class?
And does this transpose into performance, whether live or taped? If we are asked to “show off” in front of a camera or a crowd, does our educator status come first, and maybe sacrifice a bit of “show” in order to play to the common denominator? If we want to do something that looks, or gods forbid is actually, risky, is it part of our responsibility to make it clear that although we’re doing this for show, that the home consumer should know that there were precautions taken that they weren’t privy to?
I found the scene hard to watch. Instead of being able to get into seeing one of my particular turn-ons on the little screen, I ended up feeling detached from it, becoming judgmental and looking for further broaches of safety. I stopped focusing on the hotness and started a tally of all the things I would have done differently, even from an aesthetic point of view. In an odd way, I wonder if I have a right to porn that turns me on, which means that it looks as safe as I would want it to be in person, even if it may not be as artistically satisfying to the general consumer? Or should I just relegate myself to not watching needle/blood scenes in porn, because they’re always going to do it wrong and make me lose my erection?
This also traverses into safer sex procedures, too. There was a big brouhaha in LA when the law passed that all porn had to used condoms, and many porn performers and industry people have stated that it just means that porn production will move to another area with less legal restrictions. But I find that if I’m watching a fuck scene and there’s no glove/condom/dental dam, I turn it off or look for one that has them. I know I’m not the only, or even maybe the biggest, market for porn, but I can’t help but wonder if we made more porn with safer sex as part of the play, we would only encourage more people to take these precautions at home? If we can somehow make dental dams look sexy, then more people will use them? I mean, I’ll be brutally honest, the first time I saw someone unroll a condom onto a cock with their mouth before a blowjob, I lost all of my hesitation about using condoms for oral sex, because damn that was hot to watch. If we can find creative ways to make these things as sexy as the sex themselves, isn’t that a good thing? I’m sure the porn industry has been thinking or fighting about this since AIDS showed up, and maybe even before, but with the incidences of young people contracting AIDS on the rise again, especially in the age of “Abstinence Only” sex ed in schools, maybe it’s time to think about these things.
Are the cameras ever off? Is it ever okay for someone in the public eye to let their sex/kink be about the turn on and not about the education? Do you always play safer in public than you would behind closed doors? Do you think it’s ridiculous when play spaces require everyone to use safer sex products, even if the partners are already fluid bonded? What do you think?