Friday, September 17, 2010

More Alarmism from the Spanking News

The Spanking News is a fairly interesting site for news about the video industry and other spanking-related items, which is why I have it on my link list. Their opinion pieces are another matter, though. A year ago, they came out with The State of the Spanking Film, a rather ill-conceived and alarmist piece. Essentially, a call for self-censorship among spanking video producers, because "there are some things we don’t want to see... depicted" and, God forbid, they might cause people to commit crimes. I wrote a rebuttal to it at the time. It seems the Spanking News has learned nothing since then, however, because they keep writing the same nonsense. Take this post from last month, aptly titled When is enough enough?. Personally, I have had enough already.

Time for another rebuttal, then. Someone has to do it and, if no one else is going to volunteer, it might as well be me (I take no personal pleasure from shooting down half-baked ramblings, I assure you):

"I have however spotted a growing trend out there and I have to say it is a not very nice side of the whole business. It seemed to start with the entry into the market of the Eastern European spanking businesses, let me say from the outset, there are some very good spanking web sites run by and from the East and they do have some very lovely young ladies who obviously enjoy what they are doing. No, I am thinking more about those who feature such headlines as ‘brutal whipping’ forced and flogged till she bleeds, Bullwhip and horsewhipped, beat my slut and more in the same vein."

It seems that the author objects to two things here: 1) the severity of the CP action in the videos, and 2) the advertising language used by the producers. These are two different issues, even though he conflates them somewhat.

Regarding the first point, severity, my own position has always been that as long as all participants are consenting adults and no permanent damage is inflicted, there is nothing morally objectionable about CP play, on video or in private. I think that is a sensible position to take, and also a fairly clear one. The author of the Spanking News, by comparison, never spells out a precise moral position. Throughout the article, one is often left guessing about where, exactly, the red line is for him. In any case, he never produces any evidence that the videos he criticises are produced in a non-consensual manner or that any permanent damage is done to the models.

Point two, advertising lingo. I am not a fan of "whipped sluts" sloganeering myself. I find it crude and unnecessary. At the same time, I would argue that we should not take it more seriously than it deserves. From looking at forums where CP videos are discussed, it seems clear that the majority of viewers do not take the slogans seriously themselves. They are quite able to tell the difference between in character and out of character, between advertising and reality.

That as it may be, it is certainly unfair to blame the existence of severe CP videos and crude advertising language on the Eastern Europeans. Producers like Nu-West/Leda (United States) have been making severe videos for decades, with canings and bullwhippings that draw blood. Spanking Online (UK) have a site called Slut Spanking in their network, and Paingate (Germany) frequently advertise with how "brutal" and "merciless" their videos are. So it seems to be more of an international phenomenon. Is it really a growing trend, though, as the Spanking News claims? I am not sure about that. Yes, a higher number of severe CP videos is being put out today than 20 years ago. But that is because the total number of videos being published has increased dramatically. For every producer like Mood Pictures or Lupus Pictures, you can find one like Northern Spanking or Firm Hand Spanking, who create much lighter stuff. I am not convinced that the actual percentage of severe videos is substantially higher than it was in the old days.

"Do we really want or need this? I hope that most of us would answer no but why are these web sites out there and why do they thrive? I am not a sociologist or a psychiatrist but I guess there are some pretty deep seated reasons behind the funding of the exploitation that goes on in this end of the market by the sad people who join these web sites."

Gosh, how it annoys me when these articles assume the first person plural and pretend to speak for "us" spankos. The supposedly normal and healthy majority, unlike the "sad people" who have a different taste in CP videos than the author. It is such a lazy debating tactic. "We" are not impressed by it.

The reason why these websites thrive is pretty simple: because, even though the author of the Spanking News does not like severe videos, there are apparently plenty of people who do. Moreover, as long as the videos are produced in a consensual manner and no permanent damage is inflicted on the spankees, there is nothing morally wrong with that. Assuming that these prerequisites are met, there is no moral difference between what Spanking Sarah does and what Lupus Pictures do.

Regarding the "deep seated reasons" for why people watch severe CP videos, I would be very careful about making generalising assumptions about that. Most of the empirical studies that have been done about kinky porn indicate that the viewers are a diverse group and that it is plainly naive to assume that they are all woman-haters or closet psychopaths. My own personal experience confirms this as well. I have received emails from dozens of fans of the Eastern European studios, for instance. While you do find the odd misogynist idiot among them, most of the people who write to me come across as thoughtful, well-adjusted individuals. They obviously care about the models and take reassurance from behind-the-scenes reports which confirm that the models are not being coerced. They were extremely concerned about accusations this spring claiming that Mood Pictures had abused a model during a shoot (an accusation which Mood deny).

"Exploitation, well what do you think, would the average girl, the girl next door to you, your wife or partner let herself be beaten till she bleeds, be whipped till she is obviously in such pain that any right minded person watching this stuff would be revolted, no this is plain and simple exploitation."

Wait a minute, chief. What exactly is exploitation? Some reasonable definitions I can think of for that term include: 1) directly forcing someone into a certain line of work, 2) employing people who are so poor that they literally have no other choice, 3) employing people without any care at all about their well-being, or 4) employing people without adequate payment for their efforts. But for all we know, none of this is the case here. The models are not blackmailed into the shoots, they are not starving girls from the street, the producers do care about their well-being (providing medical aftercare, for instance), and the payment for the videos is quite good. Yes, the fact that many models (in kinky and vanilla porn) are from the former East bloc does reflect differences in per capita income between these nations and the West. But that in itself is not, in my mind, enough to justify the sweeping term "exploitation". If hiring Eastern European women for porn is exploitative, then hiring them as cleaning ladies for far less money is even worse.

Moreover, cases do exist where people submit to severe beatings for other reasons than money. Niki Flynn and Adele Haze travelled to Prague to shoot with Lupus Pictures not because the werewolves pay well, but because they loved the movies. My girlfriend Kaelah and I filmed a hard 50 stroke caning last December, which is still to be published. Kaelah is not into beatings of that severity, but she wanted to do the scene partly as a favour to me and partly as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for herself. So, would your partner let herself be beaten until she bleeds? As a matter of fact, yes.

"Some of the beatings handed out to these girls are worse than those given for judicial reasons by backwards countries who have not even begun to embrace a civilised society."

Nonsense. While the beatings in these CP videos are certainly hard and painful, they do not cause any permanent scarring like a real Singapore-style caning. That is because the canes they use in places like Singapore are considerably longer, thicker and heavier. According to one source I found, they are 120 cm long and 1.3 cm in diameter. By comparison, the cane I used in my guest appearance at Mood Pictures (which I kept afterwards) was 80 cm long and 0.7 cm in diameter. Moreover, I did not swing it with quite the same martial arts-like ferocity which they use in real judicial punishments.

"Unfortunately these sites are outside anyone’s jurisdiction and so, like the sites run by the parasitical pirates they put themselves they are virtually untouchable, the only thing one can do is to avoid them, and those who advertise them."

More nonsense. Needless to say, these sites are not "outside anyone's jurisdiction". Has the author seen Hostel too many times? So have I, but I do not confuse fiction and reality. Eastern Europe is not a lawless void. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where some of the most popular producers of CP videos are located, have all been EU members since 2004. Things may be a bit wilder in Russia, but I believe that, even there, a producer who constantly abuses models would run into trouble sooner or later.

The police raid on Mood Pictures in January shows that authorities in these countries do, in fact, react when there are complaints. Whether the complaints in the Mood case were justified or not is another question. But it is obviously plain wrong to say that producers there are "virtually untouchable".

"As to the people who look at this sort of material, I can’t help thinking that they have pretty damaged minds, maybe they are not satisfied with just the usual spanking fun, it does not give them what they need so they look to this sort of dangerous imagery to satisfy them, the problem is, what will happen when even this does not satisfy?"

Remember how the author stated, earlier on, that he is not a sociologist or psychiatrist? Whenever someone writes that and follows it up with a "but..." clause, as was the case here, you have to be prepared for the worst. You can be sure that all kinds of unfounded claims and assumptions are about to follow. The non-psychiatrist from the Spanking News does not disappoint. Before long, he is merrily speculating about "damaged minds" and "dangerous imagery".

It has never been demonstrated that watching pornography, of any kind, causes people to commit violent actions. Usually, that claim is only floated by scaremongering anti-porn prudes, and it is extremely disappointing to see it repeated here. At least it helps to explain why the UK has some of the toughest laws against "violent porn" in the Western world: when even kinky people start believing the prudes' propaganda, there is not much hope for reason and common sense to prevail. Meanwhile, all the serious studies that exist on the matter indicate that the availability of pornography either has no effect on the sex crime rate at all, or that pornography may even help to reduce the sex crime rate.

All in all, another pitiful opinion piece from the Spanking News - shrill, hyperbolic, and based on unfounded assumptions rather than facts or personal experience. Hopefully, "enough is enough" already?


Anonymous said...

I have to delurk for this one

I boggle, I truly do, at any spanko deciding to clutch their pearls and hyperventilate at the terrible "mental sickness" of any other consensual kink. Doesn't he realise that there are any number of people out there who would say the same about any kind of spanking? Let alone a belting or a caning of any severity? Surely of all people we should understand that people's kinks vary?

I'm not much into m/f spanking of any stripe - being much more of an m/m fan. And a severe m/m fan. And a severe m/m bottom at that - yes I take severe canings and sometimes even *gasp* bleed. And no-one coerces me, forces me, blackmails me - or even pays me or asks me repeatedly - I'm a more than willing participant. I resent the implication not only that my tops are mentally damaged - but how much more mentally damaged do they consider people like me?

Yes coersion is wrong, exploitation is wrong - whether the person being coerced gets their backside welted to next week or only slightly pink for 10 minutes. Assuming that anyone partaking in kinks that they do not share must be coerced is arrogant, dismissive and ridiculously judgmental.


Zille Defeu said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to take this issue on, Ludwig!

And I really love Hswitch's commments!

I'd like to add another point to the consideration: what we are dealing with here is marketing, and in marketing the only rule is: "Find out what sells and use it!"

I know many of the less extreme CP people say, "But that sort of thing won't sell to me!" Which is all fine and well, and why such excellent sites as NSI exist.

But no one is factoring that both other kinds of kinky people (say people into heavy BDSM) or "vanilla"-identified people who have some dark fantasies they can only allow themselves to explore via watching porn are also voting with their money for the kinds of advertising used. They skew results, even with the less extreme spanking sites.

I think that the "extreme" stuff grabs people's interest (unless you have such a specific fetish that you will look at nothing else -- which is rare) and so people who don't particularly identify as spankos will often not only have their attention hijacked by the more extreme images and textual descriptions, but they may also feel they are getting more for their money from a site where girls are beaten until the bleed, as opposed to just getting spanked to a nice rosy glow!

So the Spanking News guy has it really wrong indeed! It's not even "us spankos" who are buying such "filth" and keeping the more extreme companies in business -- it's people who probably wouldn't even join a spanking forum or go to a spanking party!

It comes down to a matter of "That's what makes money," and no argument (beyond finding something else that makes even more money!) will ever really be able to effect that. If you can get people to actually boycott a site, then you will send a message they will be heard. But if the sites still rake in a tidy profit, they are not going to change just because the guy from Spanking News, or even the spanko community as a whole, does not find their product sexy!

Anonymous said...

It is a free market. As Sinatra said "Booze, sex, a bible. Whatever gets you through the night."

Redhead said...

IMHO, writers of such irrational criticisms either risk demonstrating a paranoid delusion that they can’t accept what they find scary inside themselves and seek to justify their fears by inflicting them on others, here by condemning and demeaning intense adult play they don’t want to exist, or they are so intellectually shallow that they cannot accept that everyone’s tastes are different.

The repeal of diagnoses of Fetishism, Fetishistic transvestism, Sadomasochism, Multiple disorders of sexual preference and dual-role transvestism, from Norway’s official list of medical diagnoses and the reclassification of sadomasochism in the soon-to-be-published and revised DSM-V is good news for us and bad news for them: our behavior like that of crossdressers is now simply defined as ‘non-normative’ rather than a psychiatric disorder (e.g. paranoid delusion) deserving of therapy.

When I played rugby my aunt always asked me where I’d sustained this bruise or that scrape as she patched me up; got a couple of real scars from that. Caning or whipping someone is far less hazardous and almost as much fun!

@Zille I’d agree. I’ve often said that those who make spanking movies or who are active players are most likely not to be the audience – we’d rather be “doing”. If we want to play, we’re able to build network of trusted friends we’re at ease with. The marketing messages are probably positioned towards, and executed to entice the fantasies for many who simply cannot or those who would never indulge in real-time play. It’s not for me to demean how anyone consensually enjoys their fantasies.

Have you ever seen the lurid bandes dessinées, which every large French book-shop stocks? They’re an art form in the best Sin-City-Frank-Miller-style or Barbarella-style (or with a nod to the Trekkies out there, in best Klingon-style). Many of them depict scenes way beyond anything we’d contemplate actually doing – they are created by extremely talented artists for customers who enjoy extreme fantasies. BDSM is an art form too. Put off? Don’t look! Move on!




After that I think that anyone who does not like the material just should not buy it. Not condemn it.

I am getting really sick of this severity issue. I have had to remove posts about two ladies from my blog, because of criticism that they suffered over them and only this week became engaged in a dispute over comments left on another blog (not about the post itself) over severity.

With a few exceptions, kinksters in general, I have observed over the years, do tend to be a very issue aware group but there are plenty of genuine issues and causes to fight for, in our little world. Sexism and persecution, to name but two.

I think that it is time that we focused on subjects of value rather than engaged in petty arguments over severity. If all parties involved were consenting and no permanent scaring occurred, then there is no problem.

Yours (trying not to foam at the mouth) Prefectdt

Ludwig said...

@ hswitch: "I resent the implication not only that my tops are mentally damaged - but how much more mentally damaged do they consider people like me?"

In fairness, the Spanking News seems less concerned with what kinky adults do in private play than with non-kinky models who take severe thrashings for money. So we don't know what the author would say about you or your tops. Then again, given that he thinks that all people who watch severe videos must have "pretty damaged minds", he probably thinks the same about people who engage in severe CP play in their private lives.

One thing that is interesting, perhaps telling, about these rants is that they are almost always about videos and / or play with female spankees. Severe F/M and M/M scenes are apparently of no concern to the self-appointed moral guardians. Perhaps that is simply because F/M and M/M is not their kink, so they are not concerned with it in any shape or form. However, I can't help but think that there is often an implicit trace of sexism in these articles. The thinking seems to be that blokes can take care of themselves, but soft little females have to be protected and rescued.

"Surely of all people we should understand that people's kinks vary?"

I suppose so, but that is clearly not the case in practice. When I was new to the kinky community, I used to think - very naively, with hindsight - that people here would be more tolerant and open-minded than the average person, because we kinksters often experience intolerance and discrimination from society in general, so we ourselves should know better. I guess it was an idealisation of the kinky community on my part. The reality is that, while many kinksters are in fact like that, there is also a substantial and vocal minority of highly intolerant, judgmental people who believe that kink ought to be a certain way - their way - and everything else is sick. You can find them on any forum.

Ludwig said...

@ Zille, Redhead: Yes, it is my impression as well that a substantial part of the CP movie audience, especially when it comes to severe videos, is made up by people who have no practical experience with BDSM at all. Perhaps because they are in a vanilla relationship and don't have the opportunity to try out their kinky fantasies for real, or perhaps because they are pure "watchers" who would have no interest in trying things out even if they could.

Still, I don't think that it is accurate to say, as Redhead did: "Those who make spanking movies or who are active players are most likely not to be the audience." You can't generalise it like that. Pretty much all the (kinky) models I know watch CP videos themselves, not just as a matter of professional interest, but because they enjoy watching videos. As for me, I started out as a video buff and remain one even now that I have a kinky girlfriend and many other good friends in the Scene.

@ Redhead: "IMHO, writers of such irrational criticisms either risk demonstrating a paranoid delusion that they can’t accept what they find scary inside themselves and seek to justify their fears by inflicting them on others, [...] or they are so intellectually shallow that they cannot accept that everyone’s tastes are different."

I believe that it is usually the latter. My impression is that most of these rants are the product of what I would call a failure of imagination. The thinking goes along the lines: "I can't imagine that a model would take part in severe CP videos unless she is utterly destitute and desperate. Therefore, the videos most be exploitative. Moreover, I can't imagine that anyone in their right mind could enjoy watching this stuff. Therefore, the people who watch it must have damaged minds."

Prefectdt: "I am getting really sick of this severity issue. I have had to remove posts about two ladies from my blog, because of criticism that they suffered over them and only this week became engaged in a dispute over comments left on another blog (not about the post itself) over severity."

I am sick of the issue myself. Nowadays, I don't get engaged in lengthy debates about it as I used to, because frankly, it really is a waste of time for the most part. Some people get the point, others don't, and no amount of debating will ever make the latter see the light. I still write a post like this one once in a while, though. Mostly for my own amusement, and also because I keep hoping against hope that it might do some good.

Carlos said...

Ludwig, Mood Pictures websites are open now. ¿More News from Pedro?

Greg said...

One word to put things in perspective:
Two consenting adults pummelling the crap out of each other for money and for the pleasure of the public.
Legal and loved in the bible belt and elsewhere.
Now leave us the f--- alone!!

simon said...

just keep your spanking stories coming as they are a good read also this is the first time i have seen your simon.

Abel1234 said...

Hi, Ludwig

Only just seen this - alarmingly out of date with blog-reading at the moment. Good post, as ever. Hope you don't mind if I simply re-iterate what I said in my comment on the Spanking News's original post:


A couple of thoughts, writing as someone whose wife (Adele Haze) *has* actually been ‘beaten’ by one of the Eastern European producers (Lupus). As she’s written on her blog, she did it not for money – the trip left us out of pocket – but for the adventure and enjoyment of making a movie with people who are interesting, creative and responsible.

People in the scene have different tastes. Some people enjoy giving harder whackings, some people enjoy receiving them; some people like to watch them on film. And others prefer more moderate play.

I’d fully condone your condemnation of any sites involved in exploitation of models, or of non-consensual activity (where non-consent includes not actually understanding what they’re consenting to). I’ve written about this a fair amount on The Spanking Writers – particularly in a long thread back in February about Mood Pictures:

I also personally dislike language that’s aggressive or demeaning towards the women being spanked – not my taste at all, although there are some women [not that many IMHO] for whom such language ‘works’ when they’re playing scenes.

However, it strikes me that your post does make some pretty far-reaching generalisations. It strikes me that your argument would be stronger if you identified the sites to which you object so strongly – rather than making blanket criticisms – and by providing evidence to back up your (pretty serious) allegations of exploitation. That would help people to make informed decisions. Otherwise you’re casting doubt by association on the reputation of those (particularly Eastern European) producers who are ethical and sensible, and that seems to me to be unfair.