Did I just see someone get raped in porn?
May 19, 2012 4:28 PM   Subscribe

NSFW porn question: I am a hetero woman and I like to watch hardcore porn once in a while. I just had an unpleasant experience, though. And I would like to know if what I saw is abuse or what the hell.

This is very explicit and contains what I think is sexual violence so please be warned...

So I like sex with small amounts of pain, in real life and in porn. People who are willingly in pain, that is. I was browsing for videos and found one "compilation". At first it was OK. But then, among the short scenes I saw a REALLY young looking girl (the men talked about her being 18) who was clearly not having a good time. I was horrified. I mean I like the pretense of pain I guess, but this felt really icky. I ended up watching in the mood of someone who sees a documentary on torture. I felt like shit for this girl. Her expressions, her face, she even cried a little bit. This scene contained mostly anal.

So then it was over, and after the guys came, the girl smiled! They asked her if she had a good time and she said yes. I was like WTF? How could she have liked it? I mean she either deserves an Oscar for acting like she was in pain or she should see a therapist right?

But then I though...was I being naive? Was she REALLY in pain? how common is REAL, excessive pain in porn? How do I gauge if women are having a good time or not? This girl was really young. Was she really having a good time? How can I tell? If I don't think so, is there a porn authority where you refer videos that may be abuse?
I am asking this in all seriousness.
posted by ADent to Human Relations (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, porn and acting aside, some people do enjoy real, excessive pain. And don't actually need therapists.
posted by MadamM at 4:31 PM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


1) Such is the risk of "compilations". At least with single clips, you have a better idea of what you're getting from the thumbnails.

2) They're paid actors, it's what they do.

3) There is no "authority." There have been very rare federal obscenity trials on pornography like this, but the First Amendment is quite strong. Especially without John Ashcroft injecting the DOJ with fresh extract of Jesus, it's unlikely this would trigger a new trial. (See John Stagliano for a recent example.)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:33 PM on May 19, 2012


Is it possible that she might have enjoyed the fact that she wasn't enjoying it?

As for determining whether or not she was truly into it, I think there's no real, 100% verifiable way to know what the people in those videos are thinking...unless maybe if you are them.

If it creeps you, I'd just say don't watch it. The fact that they took the time to verify that she was cool with it on camera suggests to me that they were aware of the scene's ambiguity and didn't want viewers to walk away feeling like creepers. The optimistic part of me says that they wouldn't have bothered torturing an actor in real life for the sake of a movie where they try and make it clear that she's into it, and that she wouldn't have bothered saying she was into it if she wasn't. The idea of her being 'freaky like that' makes more sense to me than this being a setup.

If you're really worried about it, maybe you could try and investigate this girl and see if this is par the course for her, or try and find the makers of the film's website to check and see if they're on the level. I don't know if that's possible, though.
posted by jumelle at 4:42 PM on May 19, 2012


* just wanted to say that the therapist comment was a stupid attempt to be funny.
posted by ADent at 4:46 PM on May 19, 2012


Adent - I totally get where you're coming from, I don't think the therapist comment was funny, I think it could be a real concern. Especially if the girl is young she could be in an environment where she's pressured to think that kind of treatment is ok. Furthermore, the abusers could have brought her on to dissuade people from looking any further.

Although there *are* people who do truly enjoy large amounts of pain, I find it hard to believe that a teenage could truly get to the point where they are aware of this and able to take steps to engage in consensual S&M behavior WITHOUT prior abuse.

So I don't think you're out of line for being concerned, but I would second the suggestion that you check into the actress. Is she *really* 18? Younger? Older? If she's younger then certainly you can take it to the police....

But not to get all soapboxy - one of the problems with the sex industry is that is is relatively unprotected. If you rape a prostitute in some areas, you're merely fined for theft of services as opposed to jailed for rape - I can't imagine it would be much better for an AV actress.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:04 PM on May 19, 2012


I think the answers here might be a bit optimistic. The reality is that there is no way to know whether or not she was enjoying it, whether she would be threatened/coerced into pretending to enjoy it after it was all over, whether she was just pretending to enjoy it after it was all over in order to get paid/get out of there/because she was in shock. You also don't necessarily know if she's even in the pornography business voluntarily; trafficking is an issue with some pornography just like it is with prostitution and stripping. You don't know if she has any kind of disability, mental illness, or drug problem that makes her unable to consent. Finally, she might have agreed to the pain because she absolutely needs the money, so that while she is consenting in the technical and legal sense, she is in no way enjoying it.

So your question, which is essentially "how often do people torture/rape people in porn" is really hard to answer, but I think that the theory that everyone in porn has a Meryl Streep-like ability to seem to be in pain when they're not is ridiculous when you think about the numerous ways outlined above in which someone in porn might be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2012 [23 favorites]


There is a certain genre that's based on aggressive sex and creating the impression that the woman is experiencing more agony than pleasure. If you looked at a lot of different videos from the makers of this video, you'd probably see the same style and themes over and over. I don't particularly enjoy it either, and I haven't seen a lot of it, but I'd bet that whatever company made this has made a lot of videos with rough sex with a young-looking woman who expresses satisfaction at the end.

I doubt you watched a rape. You watched actors following a formula. Someone who decides to commit premeditated rape usually tries not to get caught, which would include, at a minimum, not videotaping and releasing the act to the public.

The woman might be 18, or she might be 25 for all you know. People are often worse judges of age than they think. Whoever cast the video surely looked for women who look 18, whether or not they really are. The same actor can look much younger or older depending on the choice of clothing, makeup, hairdo, etc.
posted by jejune at 5:09 PM on May 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find dubious the idea that most any porn stars are getting immense pleasure out of their work. I imagine that the majority 'enjoy' their work about as much as a stockbroker, a fast food cashier, a teacher, or a soil scientist enjoys theirs: i.e., to varying extents depending, but probably rarely more than, well, not being at work.
posted by threeants at 5:17 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone who decides to commit premeditated rape usually tries not to get caught, which would include, at a minimum, not videotaping and releasing the act to the public.

The reality of sex work is that sex workers are assumed to have consented to any given sex act by virtue of the fact that they are sex workers. Obviously that is not the case, but even johns who have sex with underage prostitutes are rarely if ever prosecuted for statutory rape (even though statutory rape is a strict liability crime for which you do not need to have intent--the very fact that the girls are sex workers makes them unrapeable in the eyes of police and district attorneys).
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:31 PM on May 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm taking a shot in the dark here, but the after-interview makes it sound like you might have been watching something from the Kink.com family of websites, which are (obviously) heavily geared towards kink- and BDSM-friendly porn viewers. The after interview is something they do pretty frequently, particularly because some of their stuff is extremely heavy-handed in terms of pain and discipline and humiliation, and I think they hope the interview will reassure viewers that everyone's having a good time.

If it was Kink.com, they have a very good reputation among both industry people and porn watchers as a safe, transparent and ethical company. They post their model's bill of rights, pay scale and other relevant information on the website for all to see. Hope that puts your mind at rest.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:37 PM on May 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


This is certainly a genre. There are some good articles on Max Hardcore, who was sent to prison for obscenity, that examine it and ask the questions you did.

http://www.salon.com/2000/01/18/hustler/singleton/

I can't actually find the article I want because searching for articles on Max Hardcore is apparently impossible, but it was a guy interviewing Max and a lot of the women who'd worked for him over the years. The author wasn't comfortable with enjoying the kind of porn that he enjoyed so he, like you, wanted more information about it. I think it was in New York Magazine but my searches were fruitless there.

I think the consensus from everyone he interviewed was that they knew what they signed up for, it could be brutal, but as soon as the scene was over things went back to normal. I don't know if that answers your question sufficiently, but I tried.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:38 PM on May 19, 2012


I find dubious the idea that most any porn stars are getting immense pleasure out of their work. I imagine that the majority 'enjoy' their work about as much as a stockbroker, a fast food cashier, a teacher, or a soil scientist enjoys theirs: i.e., to varying extents depending, but probably rarely more than, well, not being at work.

Actually, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has done tons of empirical research on the question of when people are happy (see his acclaimed book Flow), and he found that it's surprisingly common for people to get more enjoyment out of their work than their free time.
posted by jejune at 5:47 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Backing WidgetAlley: as soon as you mentioned the after-interview with the laughing and smiling, I immediately figured it was from Kink.com. They have a great reputation and I've known people I respect who have filmed with them. For people who enjoy this sort of thing, it's reasonable to be in real pain/screaming/crying during a totally consensual scene and perfectly OK with it emotionally during and afterward, though I can imagine it might be disturbing or disconcerting to see. If it was a scene from one of their films, I'd have a clean conscience about it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:27 PM on May 19, 2012


I came here to say pretty much what WidgetAlley says, as I see fiercecupcake did as well. Different strokes, different folks. In so many ways.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:34 PM on May 19, 2012


Porn isn't real.

I am sure at least some trafficking victims would disagree.

Anyway, it wasn't kink.com. It was decidedly amateur, too. I have seen my fair share of pain and bdsm, and I just can't pinpoint it, but this one felt different. Anyway, thank you for your replies. After reading, I am leaning more towards the scenarios that the young rope rider described. I realize consent is a gray area in porn, and that I will never know for sure. I also just realized that the fact that different people like different amounts of pain makes rape even harder to define.

What a mess. I will definitely be careful about what I see in the future, although I feel this experience has put me off the idea of porn for a while. again, thank you for your replies.
posted by ADent at 6:48 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Adding my vote to it most likely being a Kink.com video. Some of their stuff can seem pretty intense, but they have a lot of information on their main site if you are interested in making sure it was all above board.

The actresses/actors a supposed to have someone on set to advocate for them and to check that they do actual consent to what is happening which can get hard to be sure of with people doing intense scenes but from what I've read they are very careful to stick to pre agreed limits and to keep checking and rechecking on the people taking the submissive roles to make sure they do still agree to what is happening. They are also very big on showing that everyone enjoyed the filming at the end, and to reinforce the idea that everyone has consented.

They also have a lot of free "samples" available for viewing on their website which means there stuff turns up in a lot of compilations.
posted by wwax at 6:50 PM on May 19, 2012


This Department of Justice website offers ways to report both violent crimes and child pornography.

I don't know what you saw, and I don't know what exactly the DoJ or other law enforcement would do about it, but it seems like reporting the link there would literally be the most you could realistically do to help.
posted by foursentences at 7:06 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this piece in GQ is the article OnTheLastCastle was looking for. Shalom Auslander interviews Max Hardcore and Layla, a woman featured in his videos. He offers an interesting perspective and gives a lot to draw your own conclusions from.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 7:07 PM on May 19, 2012


but this one felt different.

That's all you really need to know.
posted by space_cookie at 7:15 PM on May 19, 2012


Yeah, I have a friend who does this kind of porn. She also looks about 16 even though she's 22. I watched a few scenes after she asked me to. I didn't like it, as I don't like seeing people in pain. A lot of people do.
Anyway, welcome to Porn.
There are TONS of this type porn, you just gotta know which keywords/companies/actresses to avoid.
There is also a niche for pigtailed girls that bang their "brothers" and "step-dads" as well as night vision "spy cams" and actresses that appear to be sleeping/drugged while men (or woman) take advantage.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:37 PM on May 19, 2012


Here is a post about this issue from Thomas MacAulay Millar, who is involved in BDSM community. He goes into more detail about the issues the young rope-rider mentioned.
He personally decided that the could not buy porn from the any of the big companies that make BDSM porn because he could not be certain if the woman was coerced or not. This is what he says about post scene interviews:
It has become common in BDSM-themed porn to give post-scene interviews of the bottom, or of the top and bottom together, and the bottoms always seem to say they had a great time and would do it again. They never had a tough time. They never felt the experience was mixed. They never say that and even if they are glad they did it, they probably won’t do it again. They never felt stressed and at sea. I’m not even talking about having been forced beyond their boundaries; that’s rape. I’m talking about normal emotional processing that sometimes goes with a hard scene. I’ve been in the “that was tough, and I’m glad I did it but I may not want to do it again” place with certain activities. And a month later I’ve been in the “I remember how hard that was, but I want to do it again” place. What we do pushes our physical and emotional boundaries, and that’s part of the point. But the interviews I’ve seen are just about all sunshine.

Clarisse Thorn interviewed Tim Woodman, who works in that industry niche. Here’s what he says about the interviews:

I know too many models who have been paid “hush money” to keep quiet about their injuries at the larger fetish porn companies. I know too many who have had their paychecks withheld until they do a positive interview. They are forced to lie on camera, telling how they enjoyed it and would do it again, when in fact the opposite was true. I know too many girls who have worked for these larger companies, and when they refused or even objected to activities that were beyond their limits, they were told that they were a “problem girl” and that they would not get much work with an attitude like that.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:43 PM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I agree with young rope rider in that we can't know for sure. My own approach is that if a video gives me that "feels wrong" vibe it gets closed right away.
posted by MillMan at 8:36 PM on May 19, 2012


I know so little about the porn industry that I almost feel I shouldn't comment. But I just wanted to point out that from a logical point of view it seems to me that this is really a more general problem. If you're watching "normal" porn, how do you know it's not rape? How do you know they're not acting if they express pleasure? You can read all the interviews you want about happy porn stars liking their jobs, and still not know for any given case whether the woman was coerced into it. Nonconsensual sex without pain would be totally appalling and unwatchable too, right?

I guess I'm saying that your usual answers to these difficult questions apply here. I don't think the pain changes much about the ethics of the situation. Maybe you just go with your gut, and avoid all porn that gives you an "off" feeling whether it's vanilla or not. Maybe you decide to only consume porn from known sources that you've checked out and believe to be ethical. Maybe you've never worried about these questions before while watching less disturbing porn, and the discomfort this video caused you is the universe inviting you to do some examination of how you feel about the ethics of porn in general.

Now, if the core of the question is really "How could she have liked it?", allow me to offer myself up as an example of a serious masochist for whom "she even cried a little bit" would be either a serious understatement or a description of a very tame scene. Interestingly, I often find that people who are into lesser degrees of pain are just as shocked by my taste for pain as people who totally aren't masochists at all...or even more shocked. Maybe because they're better able to judge the actual pain level? Not sure. Anyways, I wish I could explain how I could possibly enjoy such things, but I don't think there is a real explanation for it other than that my brain is inexplicably and permanently hardwired that way. I'm a confident, happy, successful young woman, and I consider myself pretty damn well-adjusted. So it's not like it's unthinkable that someone would actually enjoy being brought to tears by painful sex. (I bet it's statistically unlikely though...)

I of course agree you should trust your gut and avoid content that feels icky! Personally, I've ended up sticking mostly to written erotica because of my deep discomfort with the idea of anyone being pushed into painful or sexual scenarios unwillingly. I have the same basic ethical worry about vanilla porn -- it just doesn't come into play because I have zero interest in watching people have vanilla sex in the first place.
posted by ootandaboot at 9:10 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


How do I gauge if women are having a good time or not?

i was going to write a think about how it doesn't make sense for porn companies to "really" rape someone, but i couldn't do it justice, and then there would be many cements about how i'm wrong.

anyway, just try to put yourself in some porn production company ceo's shoes, and weight the difference between good acting and "real" and the legal ramifications of each option and, assuming they have no empathy, the ceo who chooses the later is at best playing with fire.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:15 PM on May 19, 2012


All bets are off if these guys are amateurs / not normal porn. Just report it to the DOJ website.
posted by zia at 11:16 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this piece in GQ is the article OnTheLastCastle was looking for. Shalom Auslander interviews Max Hardcore and Layla, a woman featured in his videos. He offers an interesting perspective and gives a lot to draw your own conclusions from.

That piece was the basis for this FPP about six months ago. Some of the comments in that thread touch on the same questions underlying this AskMe.
posted by Forktine at 12:03 AM on May 20, 2012


Some years ago I saw a documentary on UK TV made by Channel 4 where they followed three or four British women who wanted to get into porn in the US. At one stage a woman was making a movie with Max Hardcore, and she was very uncomfortable about it, telling him he was abusing her and she didn't want to continue, and Hardcore berated her and tried to force her to carry on.

At this point the crew making the documentary took the decision to stop recording what was happening and actually intervene to remove the woman from the film set because they thought it had gone beyond anything reasonable and that she was about to be raped.

I won't post the links here but the segment is in two parts on YT under "Max Hardcore scene from "Hardcore" (UK, 2001) Parts 1 and 2" - be warned, it's quite disturbing and contains explicit sex scenes and is obviously NSFW.
posted by essexjan at 12:07 AM on May 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I meant to add, if the documentary crew hadn't been there the woman would've been raped, I'm 100% sure of that.
posted by essexjan at 12:08 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


People are incredibly naive if they think everyone in the sex industry is giving consent 100% of the time.
posted by inkypinky at 12:14 AM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know those advertisements where a dancing, singing pig encourages you to eat a specific brand of bacon?

When sex workers express their enthusiasm for their work, it's equally credible. It's marketing.

Sarah Katherine Lewis wrote a book called "Indecent" that gives a more honest look at how (some) sex workers really feel about their work.
posted by Surprised By Bees at 1:21 AM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have read in more than one thread/article about this sort of thing (none of which I can find now) that women who participate in these sorts of scenes as su are given "safe words", but if they use the safe words, they don't get paid. At all. If this is true, it's blatant coercion and sexual abuse.
posted by cilantro at 3:58 AM on May 20, 2012


What a mess. I will definitely be careful about what I see in the future, although I feel this experience has put me off the idea of porn for a while. again, thank you for your replies.

If you continue to feel upset by this going forward--and that would be perfectly normal--please think about seeking out help. Witnessing a violent crime (or what looks like a violent crime) can be traumatizing.

Realistically, I have had multiple experiences like the one you just had (including one that gave me intrusive thoughts and nightmares). That combined with the ethical issues I laid out above have me almost completely unwilling to watch porn that involves actual people. I don't think that's the only solution, but it's the one I came to over time.

I'm sorry that you had to see that and that you're having to deal with this. Feel free to message or email me if you want to talk about it more.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:25 AM on May 20, 2012


This is going to depend entirely on where you found that movie.

The big production houses have a vested interest in making sure their performers are well looked after, before and after a scene, and during it. It's an investment in the future success their performers. This is something I have learned through actually working in the industry and working with porn performers. If you like rougher stuff Evil Empire is a fairly good company to work for, I am told.

Smaller scale companies swing wildly. Some are going to be skeevy, exploitative and short lived. Others use their smaller size as leverage, and will produce more innovative content.

But one thing is for sure - if you viewed that movie for free, there is no guarantee of anything. That girl may have been coerced She may have been trafficked. She may have been into it. She may have been the person who scripted the scene!

Compilation sites with the branding stripped are ambiguous and exploitative to the people who actually produce the movies. They prevent you from being able to track the name of the performers, the producers, the works. There is porn that is produced ethically with full consent of everyone involved. Sex work can be chosen freely, and it is by nature no more exploitative than any other job involving physical labour. Sometimes it will be. Most of the time it won't. But you will never know if all identifying info is removed.
posted by Jilder at 7:30 AM on May 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I used to work for Larry Flynt Publications, and part of that job was working for Taboo Magazine. I talked to a lot of performers who lived kink, including some stuff that was really fucked up.

The real answer to your question is that there's no way to tell whether someone enjoyed what they did, really. There're so many layers of deception and camouflage in pornography that it's pretty much impossible to know anything for certain — someone could be trafficked or they could be into the transcendence of pain or they could be just trying to do what someone wants from them.

I will say that the folks who are into the kinky stuff tend to be more likely to actually enjoy what they're doing than the vanilla performers. That doesn't always mean it's healthy — we once got a video submission for review of a couple of French punk lesbians literally beating each other bloody with skateboards as some sort of art performance that involved a lot of, uh, shall we say non-traditional object insertion of dubious safety and consent, but they were long-term partners who were into making each other bleed from every hole (we declined to review it, but I still had to clear the IDs and paperwork). It's honestly the straight stuff from former Soviet states that tends to have the skeeviest talent/exploitation feeling.

Like anything else that's quasi-underground, it's best practices to know your supplier. Kink.com is pretty decent on the whole, but I knew someone who wouldn't work with them because she dislocated her shoulder from bad rigging and Kink were kinda dicks about it. Dave Naz and Ori/Ashley make kinky stuff and everyone always talks about how much fun it is to work with them. Likewise, Ernest Green and Nina Hartley have a solid rep for full consent even if they sometimes need the post interview to make it clear that everyone was actually enjoying themselves.
posted by klangklangston at 2:10 AM on May 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


And, FWIW, I had a lover who was intensely into D&S, to the point that it was difficult for her to orgasm unless we were playing out a rough or "rape" scenario... in which case she would very convincingly cry, beg, plead, get red in the face, and have powerful, easy orgasms.

Afterwards she was as cuddly and happy as any other post-coital lover I've known.

So, here's another vote, from Real Life(tm), that what you are convinced you saw isn't necessarily what you saw. Sex trafficking, and abuse of sex workers in the trade, are very real, but so are people who get off on playing in very realistic scenarios.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


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