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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Painful Conclusion

Posted by on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM

I'm on hiatus while working on a manuscript for a new book. In the meantime, please enjoy these classic Savage Love letters pulled from previous columns. I will be back when the book is finished. —Dan

Originally published April 12, 2007:

My roommate is into BDSM. Fine. I couldn't care less about his sex life. Some women enjoy being subjected to what he calls "erotic torments." Fine. But he watches BDSM porn. Since he has no way of knowing if the women in the BDSM porn enjoy the "erotic torments" they're subjected to, I don't think it's fine to view. These women could have been forced or they could be doing it because they're in financial distress. Not fine. Therefore, I say it is impossible to enjoy BDSM porn ethically. Do you agree?

He Enjoys Loathsome Pornography

My response after the jump...

Yes, HELP, I don't. Wait. No, HELP, I do.

Goddamn English language.

What I mean to say, HELP, is that it can be ethically problematic to enjoy BDSM porn of unknown provenance. I agree with you there. But I disagree with your conclusion: i.e., that it is therefore impossible to enjoy any BDSM porn whatsoever, in any form, regardless of its provenance. Your conclusion rests on the assumption that no BDSM porn producers are using models who are just as turned on making BDSM porn as your roommate is watching it.

New technologies—credit cards, digital video production, the internets—have revolutionized the porn industry. Yes, there are still big, mainstream porn studios pumping out product, most of it non-fetish/kink. But today there is tons of fetish/kink porn being produced by and for fetishists of all stripes. Many of these smaller porn producers are hyperethical about the use and abuse of their models. That's particularly the case with producers of BDSM porn, most of whom are acutely sensitive to charges of brutality because, well, their products can seem so brutal.

"In my experience," says Lauren of Two Big Meanies (, a small BDSM porn outfit based in Seattle, "folks in the BDSM scene are much more scrupulous about negotiating consent, sexually and otherwise, than people in almost any other walk of life." TBM's owners—Lauren and Russell—don't just make BDSM porn for perverts like your roommate; they're BDSM players themselves and they tap regular play partners for many of their models. As a consequence, says Lauren, "informed consent and mutual pleasure are the building blocks of what we do." And how does scrupulousness about consent inform TBM's treatment of their sometimes long-suffering models? "We want them to enjoy and get off on the shoots, while providing them with ways to express and protect their own boundaries," says Lauren.

So, before you freak out about your roommate's porn preferences—and frankly, HELP, you could care a bit less about his sex life—you might want to ask him where he's getting his BDSM porn.


Comments (28) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
The same argument could be made for all kinds of porn of course, though I think people wildly over estimate the amount of porn where the models were anything but enthusiastic participants.
Posted by Spike1382 on December 5, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Or, alternately, just say the fuck out of your roommates sex/porn life... Unless he's watching it in front of you (which would be enough cause to talk to him, regardless of the content), his porn preferences are really none of your business...
Posted by FormerSeattelite on December 5, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 3
I hope HELP's roommate realized that he was living w/ a judgmental douchebag & soon moved out.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on December 5, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 4
If you have personal hang-ups about other people's sex lives, you've got too much time on your hands.

Get some hobbies and leave your roommate alone.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on December 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM · Report this
"Models"? Why do you not give these fine thespians their due credit as actors?
Posted by LML on December 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Life is tough in Gommorah.
Posted by do we care. on December 5, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Report this
kitschnsync 7
Posted by kitschnsync on December 5, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 8
I'd just like to call this little trick out specifically:

"These women could have been forced or they could be doing it because they're in financial distress."
(Emphasis mine.)

Note how we've carefully and quietly moved the goalposts from "this is bad because someone is holding a gun to her head or otherwise threatening her with violence" (a scenario which we can all agree is bad) to "this is bad because she took a job that I disapprove of because she needed money"-- said moral outrage somehow not quite extending the people who might take jobs, say, cleaning toilets or mining coal for exactly the same reason.
Posted by Doctor Memory on December 5, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Just FYI: Russel (one of the two big meanies) current site is I highly doubt with a site name like that he's abusing/taking advantage of his models...
Posted by fetlifeuser on December 5, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
@8: Very astute.

I don't think the LW is really "fine" with the fact that the roommate is into BDSM or that some women are also into BDSM - the LW just hasn't come up with a good rationalization for their judgmental sex-negative disgust aside from the feeble argument you highlight.

It's also pretty clear that the LW's statement that they "couldn't care less" about the roommate's sex life is a lie. You know what's really "loathsome"? People who think they're entitled to be judgmental and intrusive of other people's sex lives just because those other people have different turn-ons than the Loathsome Whiner.

I hope LW's roommate told them to FOAD: Fuck Off And Die.
Posted by Chase on December 5, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 11
(Note also that the implicitly proposed solution to the "problem" of women taking jobs in porn because they need money is to stop those jobs from existing, therefore leaving those women still needing the damn money.)
Posted by Doctor Memory on December 5, 2012 at 12:20 PM · Report this
And just to elaborate a bit: while it's certainly true that some BDSM (and some vanilla) porn is produced under circumstances of violent coercion, it's trivially easy to produce examples where it is unequivocally NOT. So it seems likely that the LW's concern is not genuinely for the women in the videos but is instead a case of projection: "what those people are doing is disgusting, therefore it can only have been done at gunpoint."
Posted by Chase on December 5, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
@11 - don't worry, there's always illegal pornography, like in the good ol' days, when women had no legal recourse (however pitiful it may be today) to abuse or rape because hey, they're aiding and abetting a crime.
Posted by johnjjeeves on December 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 14
My favorite part about these old SLLOTD's is the fact that people comment on them like they were sent to Dan just this morning.
Posted by Matt from Denver on December 5, 2012 at 12:50 PM · Report this
Doesn't just about everyone do porn just for the money? And wouldn't that usually make them as financially dependent on the work?
Posted by gnot on December 5, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
I'm pretty sure all those actors in Hollywood movies are doing THAT for the money, too. Meryl Streep was cool before she SOLD OUT, man.
Posted by Pope Buck I on December 5, 2012 at 1:49 PM · Report this
I'd be happy never to think about BDSM porn again if it weren't leaking into my sex life. I can't imagine wanting to watch that shit. The slightest hint of pain or humiliation kills my ladyboner like a pitcher of icewater thrown in my lap by a naked Donald Trump. Sometimes for days, if it keeps replaying in my mind. [Analogy does not apply if POITILBNDT is your fondest fetish, no offense meant, you edgy thing you.] But I'm not here to tell anyone who truly has always yearned for (what? I don't even know) that they can't get what they want.

Only, it's a lie that people don't try on certain kinds of sex just because it's trendy. As sure as all my chick-friends had to be baby dykes between September of 1993 and July of 1995, and anal was de rigueur in the 2000's, encounters with new partners now come with tedious requests for handcuffs and unwelcome pinches in painful places. BDSM is the Gangnam Style of porn right now, and I can't wait for it to go the fuck away.

And for the record, I've never seen porn where women were enthusiastic participants. At best it's another day at the office. Hawt.
Posted by Lady Vanilla on December 5, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Bonefish 18
14: And? The letters bring up a subject and people comment on that subject. It's not like this anonymous letter would be any less hypothetical had it been sent in this morning.

The specific incident behind the letter may be a thing of the past, but judgmental anti-sex pricks and misconceptions about kinks (sadly) aren't.

Posted by Bonefish on December 5, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
WOW, is HOT. Wish I'd picked up on that tip the first time around.
Posted by truant on December 5, 2012 at 4:36 PM · Report this
Gus 20
In non-BDSM porn, they just edit out the crying. The letter writer is just full of shit if he thinks that there is more or less consent and coercion in BDSM porn.

On the other hand, my job has brought me to tears occaisionally too, and I definitely do it just for the money. Dies that mean that using the software I write is immoral?
Posted by Gus on December 5, 2012 at 9:27 PM · Report this
Just FYI: Russell (one of the two big meanies) current site is I highly doubt with a site name like that he's abusing/taking advantage of his models...

Yep. I'm pretty much only shooting with people I already play with for fun, nowadays. The kind of hot I want to show is connected-with-each-other-hot, and I've only got so much emotional intimacy to share.

(And thanks, #19!)
Posted by Russell on December 5, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
John Horstman 22
@8, 11: Bingo. While I do think economic coercion is problematic, I think it's more-or-less equally problematic with respect to EVERY job (in part because I don't think sex work is inherently wrong), and the solution is to reorganize our economic structure such that people aren't forced into working jobs they find harmful to themselves out of survival necessity.
Posted by John Horstman on December 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
@20: The sites have a specific "no crying" rule: if a performer starts crying they stop the shoot, period. Reason being they have no way of knowing if the person is crying from physical pain or some kind of emotional breakdown, and the shoots are supposed to be enjoyable for the performers (they're also not expected to do anything they list as a hard limit or are just not in the mood for that day).
Posted by Chase on December 6, 2012 at 10:45 AM · Report this
Anybody who's that worried about someone performing in BDSM porn because "they could be doing it because they're in financial distress." should have to spend a summer behind the griddle at the local McDonalds. There you get financial distress, crappy working conditions, AND minimum wage.
Posted by avast2006 on December 6, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
Kevin_BGFH 25
@23 - also interviews subs on camera before and after each shoot, no doubt to help demonstrate the shoot was consensual.

@24 - I was about to post the exact same analogy about McDonald's.
Posted by Kevin_BGFH on December 6, 2012 at 12:25 PM · Report this
What's really ridiculous here is the distinction between BDSM porn and regular porn. Maybe Russell could come back and verify this, but my impression was that the pay rates weren't different enough between the two to give people much of an incentive to do BDSM porn when they don't like BDSM. I mean, sure, people could be doing porn at all because they need the money, but would this person express such disgust with vanilla porn? I kind of doubt it.
Posted by alguna_rubia on December 6, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
@17, if you've never seen porn where the women were enthusiastic, clearly you need to watch different porn. At the least, check out Stoya.
Posted by Harimad on December 6, 2012 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Whether BDSM or not, all porn can be produced ethically or unethically. As far as this letter reminds people to keep that in mind, it's worthwhile. However, the roommate here just needs to butt the fuck out. Seriously, who obsesses that much about their roommates' porn habits? It's just weird.
Posted by DrVanNostrand on December 7, 2012 at 1:35 AM · Report this

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