Reviewer Greta Christina has worked in and around the sex industry for over a decade writing about it, editing books about it, and living it. She edited Paying For It, a collection of articles by all kinds of sex workers: dommes, escorts, peep show girls, T-girls. Her novella called Bending is out in Susie Bright's book Three Kinds of Asking For It (published by Simon & Schuster and can be found at amazon.com). In response to overwhelming member requests for reviews of sex toys, sexy films, and other sex whatnots, Ms. Christina brings her girl-about-sex wisdom twice monthly to Adult FriendFinder. You can check out Ms. Christina on her web site, gretachristina.com.
Hot English Punishment
Starring Steff, Sally & Steve. Bizarre Video/Kane International. Available
at Extreme Restraints, http://www.extremestraints.com.
It's not like kinky punishment videos are hard to come by. There are approximately twenty-seven metric shitloads of them on the market (the last time I counted, anyway). And the overwhelming majority of them have the same generic quality (same dungeon setups, the same leather-and-latex costumes) that mainstream non-kink videos have: female performers with big boobs, blank stares, and physical similarity to blow-up dolls; male performers you wouldn't glance at twice if their peter pipers were whistling "Dixie."
But wait. Something's different about this one. It's English.
For starters, check out the cast. Unlike the overwhelming majority of American-made SM porn videos, the casting of 'Hot English Punishment" seems to have been done with an eye for enthusiasm and skill and kinky energy, rather than for looks. I'm not saying the actors aren't good-looking -- they are -- but they're good-looking in a "girl and boy next door" way. And I don't mean the porn-bunny version of "girl and boy next door," in which "girl next door" basically means "brunette." I mean really. If you ran into these folks at the corner store, you might think they were your cute new neighbors, but you almost certainly wouldn't think they were porn stars.
I like this "real people" thing for a few reasons. And not just because I'm so sick of the generic porn-bunny look I could…well I'll spare you the graphics. I like it because it adds to the authenticity of the scene. It makes it seem more real, and therefore more immediate... and therefore, in my opinion, a whole lot more hot.
But more importantly, I like it because it shows that the producers' priorities were in order. It shows that the dirty-minded Brits who made "Hot English Punishment" wanted performers who loved kinky play and were good at it -- more than they wanted girls with blonde hair and big boobs. They wanted performers who could sink themselves into an SM scene, body and soul; performers who were enthusiastic about walloping and getting walloped, and who could convey that enthusiasm energetically and authentically, without coming across as wooden or fake.
And they got it. Boy, howdy, did they get it.
The star of this show, by far, is the main female performer Steff. (At least I think it's Steff -- the credits are pretty unclear, even more so than in most porn videos.) She has an ability that's extremely rare in kink video performers -- the ability to get into her role as the scared, rebellious punishment victim, outraged and frightened at the terrible suffering she's being put through... while at the same time conveying an obvious enthusiasm for getting spanked and paddled and strapped and caned.
This is an extraordinarily difficult balance to manage, and Steff manages it with verve and ease. Her resistance and her joy both seem equally authentic. In fact, her resistance and her joy seem to be one and the same. She gets deeply and seriously into the suffering, the sobbing, the outrage and shame, the fear that it's going to get worse, the despair when she sees that it is going to. She gets into the role as much as she gets into the pain, and you can see that the pain is feeding her role, even as it's getting her off. She is a joy to watch: I reached for my vibrator many times as I watched her get whacked, and writing about her now is making me want to reach for it again. Again, she doesn't look like some porn bimbo -- she looks like an ordinary attractive woman, and a reasonably mature one at that -- but again, that doesn't work against her in my book. It's a positive advantage.
Steff is the shining star of this piece, but her fellow performers Steve and Sally hold up their ends quite nicely. Steve is a fine top, with a firm hand and a safe, skillful touch that knows just how hard to push. Stern and relentless, outraged at perceived injustice and determined to correct it, he's able to stay solidly in his punitive role without being either grim or pompous -- and he's able to say stupid lines without giggling. Sally isn't quite as strong a performer as the other two, but she takes her punishment quite charmingly, doing another delightful job of conveying both frightened suffering and wicked pleasure. And her girl-girl scene with Steff, while it's less blisteringly hot than the other two scenes, has an affectionate quality that's actually rather sweet.
All three play seriously, staying in their roles and exploring them with enthusiasm, while still conveying an immense amount of good-natured dirty fun and even camaraderie. The "plot" of the video (i.e., the excuse for the punishment) is beyond inane, but it scarcely matters. Well, okay, it does matter: this would have been a far better video if the plot had been more innovative than "husband punishing his wife for not making his breakfast and otherwise neglecting her wifely duties, then catching wife and her girlfriend fooling around and punishing them both." My point is that, nitwit and sexist though it may be, the performers get into the plot, and run with it for all it's worth.
You should know that this is far from a perfect video. Far, far, far from perfect. Oh, so very far. And it's not just the dim-bulb plot with the Stone Age sexual politics. The production values... well, I wouldn't call them low, so much as I'd call them nonexistent. The "filmmakers" pretty much made sure that the camera got the shot, and called it a day. Example: There's an outdoor scene between the two women, where a shadow of a man suddenly falls on them. My first thought was, "Oo, clever, what a nice way to show the husband catching them in the act." But no. It wasn't the husband. It was the cameraman. Oops.
And you may have noticed that I didn't provide a director's credit at the top of my review. That's not because I was lazy or forgetful. It's because there is no director's credit: not listed in the video credits, not provided on the company's website, nothing. I don't think there was a director. I think there were three performers and a guy with a camera.
But oddly, this gives the movie a certain low-tech charm. It certainly puts it squarely outside the art-porn category... but it also means that the filmmakers essentially let the performers do their thing and got the hell out of their way. And I have a certain respect for that brand of porn. You get to see these three wonderfully dirty scenes with these three wonderfully dirty people, from beginning to end, with no weird editing or arty camera angles to interrupt the flow. It wouldn't have worked at all if the performers hadn't been so great... but the performers were great, so it actually worked pretty well.
Now's the time for a confession. The "Hot English Punishment" video doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's part of a collection from Bizarre Video, a series of British butt-whacking videos which Bizarre apparently licenses for distribution in the US. I've seen a few of them -- "Naughty Schoolgirls' Revenge," several of the "Best of British Spanking" series, a couple others whose names I don't remember now -- and I had much the same response to all of them. I found all of them charming: no-tech and artless, but energetic and authentic, light on the fetish garb and heavy on the "just plain folks" outfits, with real-pervert performers who look like ordinary people and whack each other like inspired professionals. There's clearly a whole line of these videos, made in England for (presumably) a mostly English audience. And they do all tend to follow this same pattern. So for all my raving about how this video breaks out of the porn formulas and places erotic authenticity above plastic conformity, it could well be that it's just a different formula than I'm used to. It could be that Bizarre is only importing the best and brightest examples of the Brit kink genre, and that Brit porn fans are as tired of their porn's conventions as I am of ours. And it could very easily be that these filmmakers have just happened to hit on a porn formula that I happen to like --heavy spanking and spank-related kink, done by real-looking performers in everyday settings, with little or nothing in the way of implausible Master/Mistress/slavegirl/slaveboy fantasies, and a strong emphasis on erotic (if equally implausible) icons of everyday life.
It could be. But I don't think that's all it is. If these folks are following a formula, it's a formula that lets its performers breathe. It's a formula that lets its performers go at it with style and verve and genuine pleasure. So if it is a formula, then for once I say all hail to it.
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