As many of you will know already, the studio of Mood Pictures, the Hungarian CP film producer about whom I have written a fair bit already on this blog, was raided by the police on the weekend of January 23rd / 24th. Fourteen people were arrested at the scene, three of them now face charges. The accusation is that, at a movie shoot in early January, they ignored a model who was repeatedly safewording, asking them to stop a scene, and continued to beat her. Mood Pictures deny these charges. There will now very probably be a court case against them.
I've been reviewing Mood's videos for years, I have an email correspondence with Pedro (one of the founders and producers) that goes back to 2004, and I even guest starred in one of their videos once, my first professional CP film. I repeatedly and in good faith defended them against urban legends about abuse (I was critical of a few points, too, like the inaccuracy of their tops). So, needless to say, I take these news very seriously indeed. In recent days, I also got a truckload of reader emails: why is the Mood website down? Are the rumours about a police raid true? Do I know anything about it?
To start with the third question: no, I didn't know anything until Tom Rohwer, who runs the German-language BDSM news site Art Noir, contacted me last Wednesday. I hadn't even noticed that Mood's site was down. So I first heard about the story in the news, like everyone else, I suppose. I've been in contact with a few people ever since - among other things, trying to get an accurate translation of the original Hungarian article(s). On Sunday, I got an email from Pedro, who denies the accusations. I will quote some passages from it below.
First off, though, the version given by the Hungarian media and the police. I'm going to take a look at both sides of the story here, as accurately and as unbiased as possible.
The police version
At this early stage, it is still difficult to separate fact from fiction. The story broke in the Hungarian newspapers on January 27th, and the translations I read so far contradict each other in at least one key point. It also seems that there is some confusion in the original articles themselves - which wouldn't be surprising, given that the average journalist, like the average vanilla person, doesn't know a whole lot about BDSM, and even less about the extreme forms practiced by Mood.
For instance, one English translation given by Adele Haze on her blog (written by Krampus) says that the woman who complained to the police was the spankee in the scene in question - the alleged victim herself. However, Tom Rohwer, in his synopsis of the same article, says that the woman who complained had been hired as a domme. Obviously this is a very important detail! After exchanging some emails with both Krampus and Tom, I tend to believe that the version by Krampus is the correct one - that the woman was hired as a spankee, not as a domme. But it is one example among others where the facts of the matter aren't quite clear yet.
Anyway, here is the story given in the Hungarian media, as best as I currently understand it (when I use quotes, I am quoting the translation by Krampus):
A woman in dire financial straits replied to an advertisement in a newspaper about a nude modelling job. She was told that it would be a BDSM video shoot, but she claims that the producers lied to her when they told her that she would only be hit lightly and that she would mostly pretend to be in pain. (Obviously, this is a serious accusation in itself - if true, it would mean that her consent was not really informed consent to begin with.)
At the shoot, she was thrashed by another woman with a cane, a whip and "a wide plastic thing" (it might be a reference to a strap, or a paddle). Beforehand, they had agreed on a safeword ("Stop it, I beg you, my lord!") which she would use if she wanted to stop the scene. However, when it got too much for her and she used the safeword, she was begging in vain - the producer took over and continued the scene to the end, beating the woman until she was bleeding.
She wrote an anonymous letter to the police afterwards, but included her cell phone number so that she could be identified. The police claim that they had received similar complaints about this producer in the past. So, they observed the studio for a couple of days, and then, during another shoot, they struck. A special police task force stormed the building (there is TV footage of the special forces team, wielding submachine guns). They arrested everyone at the scene - including the models, apparently. Three people were later charged with "violations of personal freedom" and "causing bodily harm". At the moment, the police are conducting a large-scale investigation about possible other cases where actresses were beaten and abused against their will during the BDSM shoots.
A few other issues are mentioned in the reports, such as the nurse employed by Mood to provide medical aftercare for the models, or the question of whether such videos are legal in Hungary in the first place (what level of injury can one legally consent to?). However, the most serious accusation is obviously the one that the woman's pleas to stop the scene were ignored, and the implication that there might have been other, similar cases before.
The Mood Pictures version
In the email I received from Pedro last Sunday, he denies this accusation. He has no objections against me posting it here. I am quoting verbatim - Pedro's English may not be perfect (it's better than my Hungarian for sure), but you can understand what he means, and I wanted to leave the text unaltered so that everyone can read it as an original, first-hand source:
“As you know, during the [recent] photo shot for mood-art the studio was raided with a lot of policemen (commando stile), and all of us was arrested, handcuffed. We did not know why.”
“Only after keeping us in for 10-12 hours, were we told that a girl went into the police three days after the last ElitePain shooting, telling that she was not let to quit a scene, and was forced to do it (which is obviously not true).”
“The police does everything to find evidence against us, the media showed only [reports about] us for a couple of days. You can guess the comments of the vanillas. For example: When the police raided the studio, we were doing a photo set, where a girl was bound, and placed in a big box. The media showed the photo like we were holding there kidnapped girls in boxes.”
“This will be a very long process I think. And I don’t think we will do anything like Mood in the future. So I think Mood Pictures is over.”
“That’s what I can tell you at the moment. It will be good news for many [who don't like our videos], I think.”
The debate so far - reason vs. hyperbole
Needless to say, if the accusations against Mood turn out to be true, it would be very sad and sombering news indeed - especially for people like me who have defended them in the past. On the other hand, I have seen enough awful, sensationalist reporting over the years to take everything that is written in the mainstream press about BDSM videos with a very large grain of salt. Producers who did far more harmless stuff than Mood have become the targets of over-eager police investigations in the past, and had their lives and reputations ruined by the accompanying media furore. So one will have to wait and see. I think we will only get a clear picture of what really happened when the court case is over, if ever.
In the meantime, the debate in our own kinky community will probably develop along predictable lines. Mood Pictures and their sister sites (Mood Castings, Elite Pain, etc.) have polarised fans of CP erotica like very few other producers. In part, this polarisation was actively sought by Mood themselves, in their constant quest (over the top, in my opinion) to promote themselves as the company making "The Most Brutal Spanking Videos in the World", exclamation mark. That is now backfiring on them. People who never liked Mood because of the extreme nature of their videos, or because they employed vanilla models, or whatever, will take the current events as confirmation that they were always right. On the other hand, people like me, who were fans and who had a personal correspondence with Mood, will be more skeptical about the accusations. As much as one tries to be objective, I think it's hard not to be a little biased one way or the other, simply because there have been so many debates about Mood already and because the old positions are fairly well-entrenched.
That said, the recent discussion on Adele's blog (to which I contributed as well) was very civil and matter-of-fact. Which goes to show you, once again, that intelligent blogs attract intelligent audiences. Even the commenters who strongly dislike Mood voiced their opinions in a calm, non-insulting manner, and I've always respected that (even though the vitriol-laden tirades can be fun, in their way, too - my favourite insults so far, directed at me because of my own participation in a Mood video, are "sociopath", "true Teutonic demagogue" and "sick, sick man").
I expect the debate at Adele's to remain the exception to the rule, though. Call me pessimistic, but I'm in my 30's and I'm old enough to know that, whenever the forces of reason and hysteria clash, hysteria will inevitably win in the end - at least on the grand stage. People will believe anything. Especially when it's crass and sensationalist and they read it in a newspaper somewhere, because then, it must obviously be true.
I'll give you just one example which I saw this week: this Hungarian article about Mood, in the translation by Krampus (which I believe to be the most accurate so far), mentions that "medicines and painkillers" were found in the building. It is my understanding that these were sometimes given to models after a shoot, by the nurse which Mood always employed. In another translation of the same article, this becomes "drugs and painkillers". In a third version I saw, building on the second one, it becomes just "drugs". And voilà, I've already seen the first thread on a spanking forum somewhere, where a poster mutters darkly about how "drugs were found on the premises", making it sound as if Mood were dealing in crack and cocaine as well. This is how I expect the debate to develop, in most places.
All that as it may be, the question that really matters is: will the accusations made by this model against Mood (more precisely, against Elite Pain) turn out to be true? I'll write down my thoughts on that in the next post, along with my thoughts on some related, general issues like consent, legality and safety, and a look back on my own experiences during the "Inmates" shoot. For today, I just wanted to give you both sides of the recent news, from the police / the mainstream media and from Pedro, without much comment from myself. The original sources, so to speak. It should be enough for a lively discussion already, and it will enlighten those among my readers who hadn't heard about the story yet.