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?
I have similar experiences myself, and I’m not even an educator! Thank you for talking about this openly. Safety can and should be sexy.
May I say I totally get it? Not as being a kink educator but an educator in general. When you get experienced, there are risks you take and accept because of your experience which you would NEVER EVER accept from your students. I’ll use the example of pouring liquid nitrogen from one container into another, because that’s something I did frequently when I was teaching which could be very, very dangerous. Yes, in my own lab, on my own time, I would do this quickly without gloves or eye protection. I had done it hundreds if not thousands of times, and was comfortable with the steadiness of my hand. I would have been mortified if I had been caught without protection by a student who happened to drop by while I was doing this, and I would never ever have done this in public without protection *for the exact reasons* you mentioned in your article– if someone sees it, they figure they can do it and not get hurt, because Hey! Our TA did it! I equally get “turned off” if I’m watching science demos without proper safety or protection. It is funny how this is a TOTALLY different topic, but the post totally resonated with me.
I’m not much of an educator – I think I’ve given all of two workshops in my life – but I do tend to play safer in public spaces. I’m not likely to do a cutting/needle scene in a crowded play-space because there are floggers and single-tails flying around, people doing take-downs, you name it… The potential for cross-contamination, if contaminants are present, is kind of huge. So I tend to stick with wack-and-smack, particularly if I’m playing with someone other than my wife.
Behind closed doors, with my fluid-bound young lady, things are a different story. Because we have control over so many more factors than we would in a public space.
That said… I get twitchy when safety protocols aren’t observed. Hearing the story of a pair of vampire gloves getting passed around a party and tried out by a whole bunch of different people… Despite my love of both sensation play and sharp-and-pointy things, my reaction wasn’t “Hawt!!!” it was “Hello, Hepatitis???” I find that I *want* my porn – the porn I read, the porn I write – to include safer sex practices, and to have those practices presented as hot. Without them, I find I get twitchy, find my turn-on fizzling out as uncertainty and “er… are you sure about that…?” start welling up.
I’m glad I’m not the only one.
I do a lot of needle/blood play in public, but most of the places I do so set aside a specific area – usually called “the medical play area” – for such things. In fact, I am preparing to offer a service for events, one where I arrive and provide all the trappings for a safe place to engage in that kind of play – linoleum roll-up floors to keep from fluids getting into hotel carpets, sharps containers that I monitor and replace when full, a supply of gloves, cavicide, first aid supplies, and the like, and some medical gear (some with actual usefulness, like an IV pole, and some just for atmosphere). That way, instead of going around educating event producers about how to create and maintain a space that encourages the safest play we can in public, I can just show up and make it happen, and let my reputation as a safety-minded player and educator serve as the guarantee that it will be up for all kinds of use.
On the other hand, I do sometimes engage in these sorts of play in public arenas that do not have areas set aside for it – recently, I was at an event and walked into their play space, asking the lead DM where the medical play area was. He indicated a corner of the ballroom that had absolutely nothing – no massage tables, no floor covering, no work tables, just a bunch of stacked chairs. I spoke to the person asking me for the scene, explaining that we’d be working under guerilla circumstances, and they were still interested in playing. I covered every surface with either surgical chux or dental bibs, and I kept the scene very small and very short. Since in my ordeal work I am sometimes called upon to provide hook suspensions or other such things in places like deep woods or farmland, a hotel is a step up from that, and my experience in less formidable circumstances prepares me for that.
But in essence, I agree. I have walked out of classes where equipment known to break skin (even at the micro-level, such as horsehair floggers) are passed around without any precautions taken. I have also been called in by event producers when demos go awry (or at least we hope it wasn’t planned, since the presenter wasn’t prepared for it) and blood is spilled. I recall a bastinado class where attendees came streaming out, complaining that the presenter was continuing to cane the bottom’s feet even though blood was splattering into the seats. I was summoned by the event’s security team, and was there to clean up even before the class ended. I do feel that if you know a certain activity is going to go places that you aren’t prepared for, or aren’t prepared to vouch for the safety of, you should save it for your private places (your hotel room, even, may be better than in the public play space) so as to control the exposure (in every sense of the word).
I really do wonder if there is a viable market for porn (either photographic or videographic) that proudly markets itself as following safer sex procedures, and if it wanders into BDSM territory, that the scenes will be up to scrutiny from the most discerning players in terms of safety.
Usually there is a designated blood-play area at the public parties I attend (dyke bdsm, at least around here, is pretty razor-happy, if you will). There’s a gal in our community who does something similar to the service you offer – turns up with sharps, containers, gloves, swabs, and drop sheets so that everybody can have fun.
I’m glad she does it.
But I’m still leary of cutting my girl up in open spaces.
I’ve seen the odd blood-play workshop taught by someone whose safety measures were… lacking.
When I chat with people about blood play – whether this is in one of those two-ever workshops or just general prattle – I let them know what “proper safety measures” are (in my view, anyway), and the circumstances underwhich I don’t follow my own rules versus the ones where I’m likely to be extra vigilant about following them. What you said about controlling exposure definitely holds.
As for porn: I don’t know. Let’s say I think there definitely *could* be one, and that I’m working (in my own tiny way) to push for it.