A Different Kind of Church

Editor Colin Farstad, Editor's Choice, March 4th, 2014

A Pentecostal church has nothing on a public humiliation shoot for Kink.

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We were late to the shoot. My friend and I had started drinking in the afternoon and continued into the night after we met her boyfriend. What started out as a “maybe,” turned into a “definitely” and our plans were set. We were going to a Public Humiliation shoot for Kink. Kink being the porn company located in the San Francisco armory. A Public Humiliation shoot being a porn shoot with audience participation.

My friend Sylvia works as a stylist for Kink, doing everything from picking out the right kind of latex and leather for their photo shoots to making sure that enemas are done beforehand. Enemas are important in porn. I was the civilian and she wanted to show me her world. She knew I was a writer. When it comes to things like this, I always say yes.

The shoot wasn’t held at the armory but in the Mission District of San Francisco, at a place that, from the outside looked like it staged underground rock shows or the kind of places I’ve found in New York that hold speakeasy-themed bars with crystal chandeliers inside, but on the outside look like any other dive bar or strip club.

There was a man out front and a man inside. The first making sure we were on the list my friend had put us on early that day over beers at her local dive bar. On the inside, instead of a man waiting to stamp our wrists and take our cover, was a table with the appropriate forms to complete and a digital camera. There are rules in porn. Get tested for STIs and get tested again. Fill out paper work that indicates consent.

The problem with the paper work wasn’t the language or my hesitancy to put my name on a piece of paper and associate myself with the porn industry. It was the sound and smell of sex coming from the darkened room down the hall. The sound that echoed off the bright concrete walls lit by fluorescent bulbs and the smell of latex, lube, and cum. Not to mention the voices. It wasn’t a woman’s screams of pornographic pleasure but male voices, yelling, urging. It was the sound of audience participation.

A Pentecostal church has nothing on a public humiliation shoot for Kink.

I wrote my name, drivers license number, checked boxes and was given a space to put my stage name while men yelled to fuck her harder and put it in her mouth. There was no doubt what the “it” was over the sounds of hands slapping flesh.

The paper I filled out gave Kink the right to use my face should it appear in the shoot. Audience participation meant I could be on camera. Audience participation meant my stage name was important. And when faced with this idea to create a new identity for myself, to take on a new name, almost a new identity, I chose not to. I’d like to think it was some kind of stance like, the person that might be in a porn would be no different from the me I am in my everyday existence, but the truth is, all the names I thought of sounded stupid. Somewhere out there, it’s possible, my name is in the credits of a porn. Although I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who has watched the credits of a porn, or if they even have them.

The whole time we were filling out our paper work and having a picture of us taken holding our driver license next to our face, my friend chatted amicably with the man handling our forms about who was performing and who was in there and who was doing the lights while the sound and smell of sex came out of the room, filling the hallway, lingering, spilling out the cracks of the front door, into the Mission District.

The dichotomy of San Francisco: a porn shoot happening in a venue blocks away from fancy restaurants and expensive housing. The drug trade of the Tenderloin a five minute walk from Twitter’s headquarters. Love it or hate it, we are a part of it.

Finally we were able to walk down the hallway and into the shoot. Dark, damn near pitch black at the edges of the room, but bright as shit in the middle, with stage lights flooding, what could only be called the stage. A naked woman with ropes that framed her large breasts and wrapped down her legs, not tied to anything but themselves, was bent at the waist being fucked by a skinny tall white guy, that would look like any other tall skinny guy if you put clothes on him. They were in the middle of the room and on the edges were couches. There was a staircase that led to a catwalk type balcony, and all around them in a circle stood men. There was only one other woman besides people working for Kink and Sylvia. Dark hair and bangs, the only other woman in the room sat at the edge of a couch, watching with what looked like her boyfriend beside her with a protective hand on her leg. The men were doing the yelling. They stood in groups holding bottles of beer, black men and white men and brown and Asian, wearing jeans and t-shirts and jackets and some wearing sunglasses. The smell, the heat of the room, like a small room where you left the heater on all night combined with the dampness to the air filled with that smell of sex, something earthy and primal.

Primal were the shouts of the men standing right next to the porn star, slapping her tits and ass while the male star fucked away and the cameras moved, from one side of them to the other, for a better angle, a different shot.

Primal was the look on her face when she was positioned to have her mouth fucked while the male porn star climbed part way up the staircase to do it. Primal was the way we all looked on and watched. I didn’t feel revulsion but I didn’t feel turned on either. I was taking it in, the drab couch that was the color of orange that is meant to be in a parent’s basement. The smile of the black man wearing sunglasses, his teeth polished straight and bright white against the lights from the cameras. I stood alongside Sylvia and her boyfriend in the shadow next to the bar, writer eyes trying to see all, know all, but not having a fucking clue on what to think of this whole thing.

We got drinks at the bar that was set up like any other bar including the bartender  who looked exactly as I have looked at times, standing behind a bar when all the customers have a drink and there’s no one sitting at the bar: bored.

Once we had our drinks, we stood in a circle outside of the view of the cameras, talking, me taking it in, my friend saying hello to the people in charge of the shoot who were running back and forth from the green room on different errands, lube, a different camera lens, who knows what. I was introduced, but they never really had time to stay and talk. Even the male star walked by and said hello to Sylvia, his erect dick swinging back and forth with his walk on the way to the green room to come back with a prop, a very large dildo.

We stood and chatted and watched as two people fucked in front of us. We stood and watched as the woman was lead to the couch to be fucked next to the group of men, urging them on, as the only other woman in the audience sat feet away. It was odd and interesting to watch as they spent time not fucking but standing around, being positioned for the cameras, moved so this person or that person could be in the frame, and even as one of the audience members stood next to them, unzipping his pants and masturbated next to them. And really, to be truthful, with a drink in my hand, a great friend next to me, yelling louder than the rest of the men in the room, in all truth, it was fun.

I have to stop here for a moment. It needs to be said that I get the idea of the objectification of this woman who was being fucked on camera surrounded by men, treating her like an object, a piece of meat. I will admit that the audience of men yelling and directing couldn’t help but raise some kind of small disgust from the inherent violence of an audience encouraged to slap the porn star’s ass and tits while she was dragged around to be fucked in different positions, that I couldn’t easily dismiss. In the end though, it gave me a thrill because I was behind the scenes of a porn. Love it or hate it, porn is porn. People will buy it and men and women will pay for it and there are men and women that want to be paid to have sex on camera. That want to be paid to have sex in a room full of strangers yelling. There are many different ways to express your sexuality. There will be no sexual shaming coming from me.

We all signed consent forms.

I never did make it onto camera. Me and Sylvia’s boyfriend–for different reasons–always stood behind them, to the side as they shifted and moved, even though we were always encouraged to participate. Whenever I was encouraged to take place I would say, Can’t. I want to run for congress one day.

It wasn’t a matter of worrying over being in a porn, albeit in the background. It was because I wanted to experience it, take it in, watch the audience participation from the back. Sometimes being a writer is like being a photographer. You’re not in the middle of the action but in the corner, recording the experience.

And in that experience, that’s when I saw a man, tall, wide shoulders, close cropped dark hair, on his own, not yelling like the other men in the room or in the light of the camera, but still being a part of the experience. I learned by chatting to him that he was the female porn star’s boyfriend. He stood and watched and waited while this woman’s body was moved and fucked in every way that we can all have sex. He waited while they got as many people as they could to be in one shot. He waited while not one, but two cum shots were recorded. And he was there at the end, when after it was all finished and everyone was told to leave, the room becoming quiet as the men stopped yelling and went home to wherever they had come from in Oakland or San Francisco. He was there when his girlfriend was carried to a couch, her legs shaking, body sweating and sore, the way a body is sore after over an hour of sex while audience members slap your ass and tits and face, he was there for her, love, fucking love right there in his eyes and hands and body helping her to the couch, handing her a bottle of water.

And it was beautiful.

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Colin Farstad

Colin Farstad's work has most recently appeared in Spilt Infinitive, Analekta Anthology, and Coal City Review. He is the editor of the short story anthology The Frozen Moment : Contemporary Writers on the Choices that Change Our Lives (Publication Studios, 2011). Colin has been a teacher, editor, writer, event coordinator and connoisseur of classic cocktails for years. Currently he's living in Brooklyn, hard at work writing a novel tentatively titled It's Never Over and working at the literary agency DeFiore and Company.