opinion

Diversity Drives Market Trends in Fetish Video

Jared Rutter

Fetish video is here to stay, with the market changing but remaining strong. While some longtime fetish producers complain about the difficulty of finding DVD distribution, online companies are thriving and branching out in new directions, while mainstream producers have found a new income source in crossover projects.

Kink.com, which has become synonymous with hardcore BDSM, is “always expanding,” according to marketing director Michael Stabile. “Our biggest push this spring will be for ‘Kink Bitches.’ It’s not a subscription site, but an experimental program that allows fans to interact with our fem-doms in a more meaningful way — that means cams, auctions, and more fetish-specific services like chastity key-holding.

I have always considered ‘50 Shades of Grey’ the gateway book. It gets people in our stores and on our sites so we can help them explore further regarding whatever adventurous curiosity may have been awakened. -Jackie Strano, Good Vibrations

“In the past few months, we’ve had incredible success with an early rollout. Maitresse Madeline and Lorelei Lee each auctioned off a cam session for over $40K — for an hour. We want to bridge the traditional dominatrix experience with online tech.”

In the DVD market the latest trend is toward domination and submission aimed at the mainstream audience that made the book “50 Shades a Grey” a sales phenomenon. Perhaps the most successful BDSM crossover recently was New Sensations’ “The Submission of Emma Marx,” written and directed by Jacky St. James.

“I’ve never worked on a movie that got as much positive feedback,” St. James told XBIZ. “People involved in BDSM relationships reached out praising the film as an accurate portrayal of the lifestyle. There seems to have been a fine line that we successfully straddled. From the feedback we received it was as if previous films had pushed too far or not enough.

“People new to adult films loved ‘Emma’ because it had just enough kink and sex without going overboard… Being able to get audiences invested in the success of one couple’s journey was critical in the success of the film. Penny Pax and Richie Calhoun made you care for their characters.”

St. James plans to continue exploring fetish themes, though in a somewhat different direction. “I just released a film called ‘The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee.’ It isn’t BDSM, although there are elements of that explored: this idea of submission and dominance both in mind and body. Thematically the dom/sub dynamic is exciting to me. I also have another, darker script that I’m working on that will also explore aspects of BDSM as well.”

As for Kink, which has distribution through Jules Jordan Video, the DVD market is “for us, a new income stream,” Stabile said. “As you may know, historically fetish and BDSM content was really limited in terms of physical distribution, because of the increased risk of obscenity prosecution. In fact, one of the factors that really caused Kink to thrive in the early days was that, as an online outlet, we were one of the few places where you could see BDSM and sex mixed.”

In the online marketing world, Good Vibrations has several fetish titles that they produced and released on their VoD portal, most recently Madison Young’s “Frisk Me” and Billy Castro’s “Naughty Squirters.”

“The current fetish market in our industry,” said executive vice president Jackie Strano, “is definitely taking up more floor space and being called out more online specifically driven by the ‘50 Shades’ phenomenon. I think it taps into some psyche zeitgeist of folks exploring submission more as surrender and bondage and fetish play as a way to push for deeper sensation and erotic thrills, whatever your hot trigger button may be. The point is that it’s become more acceptable for mainstream and is not relegated to a back room.”

Good Vibrations also markets Tristano Taormino’s “50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM,” and Strano gives credit to its inspiration.

“I have always considered ‘50 Shades of Grey’ the gateway book. It gets people in our stores and on our sites so we can help them explore further regarding whatever adventurous curiosity may have been awakened. Whether it’s expanding the boudoir repertoire or getting spicy in a current relationship, ‘50 Shades’ has given a lot of people permission to publicly discuss and inquire about something this usually relegated to conversations behind closed doors or suffering in silence without being able to ask for what you want.

“The ‘50 Shades’ movie is in production so just when we are tired of talking about the book, the movie is going to come out and get even more people talking about kinky fantasies.”

Writer-director St. James agrees about the book’s effect. “I’ve made no secret that I hated ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ but it cannot be ignored the impact that book had on the masses. Fetish and BDSM has been around for centuries, but ‘50 Shades’ popularized it and, in some ways, really normalized it. You can’t take away how profound of an impact that book had on people, women especially. The book allowed conservative, mainstream culture to view BDSM relationships in a more acceptable fashion.”

Kink’s Stabile agreed with that assessment. “The biggest news is the mainstreaming of BDSM and fetish. ‘50 Shades ‘was certainly indicative of the trend, but it’s far from the full story. We’re seeing lots of interest in exploring BDSM from all areas in the industry — from mainstream stars, from younger gay men, from women, as well as our more traditional audience. We’re seeing a demystification of BDSM and fetish in popular culture, and that’s helping lower the stigma about it.”

To help answer the question about the genre’s next big thing in we turned to fetish expert Rich Moreland, who writes regularly about BDSM and other porn topics at 3hattergrindhouse.com.

“The next big thing is here,” he said. “It’s submission porn and it’s going to be around for awhile because it has a history (remember the bondage photos of Betty Page in the 1950s and the BDSM films of Bruce Seven and Ernest Greene a couple of decades ago?). Right now it is going through its variances (the differences between the female characters in ‘Emma Marx,’ ‘Anna Lee’ and ‘Bound by Desire’ [Smash Pictures series from 2013] all dance around the same general theme) and more versions will be created.

“Both gonzo and couples [porn] have the psychological component of power exchange, which women love. It the very thing feminists have been promoting since the 1970s: equality. This is Jacky St James’ forte and why she makes beautifully shot movies with a solid storyline. The bottom line is this: women are not ‘victims’ in submission porn. They orchestrate the action, get pleasure from it, and can always walk away if they feel uneasy, even at Kink.com. Today’s female porn viewer understands that.”

There are some BDSM stalwarts, like Julie Simone, who have pretty much abandoned video. “I don’t have distribution anymore,” she told XBIZ. “I can’t get distribution because I actually hit people and produce real BDSM vs. the ‘smack smack, let me suck your dick’ watered-down porno version. Online avenues have fewer restrictions on content, but I still have to water down scenes more than I would like.”

So for the moment she has turned to publishing, with a new book, “Gagged”. It’s basically photos — one per page — of women (including fetish favorites Ashley Renee and Madison Young) gagged. According to Bella Vendetta in her forward, Simone “uses a variety of gags and methods of gagging, from ball gags, over the mouth gags, cleaves, stuffing, dental gags and some of my personal favorites, clothespins and even needles.”

“I’m super thrilled with how the book came out,” Simone said. “The thing I loved most about DVDs is that I was making something tangible, something one can hold in their hands. Books fulfill that need and take it to another level.”

And since it’s something one can hold, it can also be sold, which adult retailers might want to take note of.

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