BDSM stars give it all up for DocFest's Public Sex, Private Lives
SEX Public Sex, Private Lives filmmaker Simone Jude was on set with Kink.com dominatrix Isis Love when Love received a call from Child Protective Services. The single mom would have to meet with CPS staff -- there'd been questions raised about her parenting of 12-year old Rusty. For most documentarians, plot line would pause there.
But Jude was a cameraperson for the San Francisco BDSM porn company before and while embarking on the four-year challenge of following three of Kink's most known dommes for PSPL (screening Sat/8 at the Roxie for SF DocFest). She was a trusted quantity.
So Jude jumped in the backseat behind Love's sweet, aspiring dancer offspring Rusty, and was there when the mother-son duo emerged relieved that the cause for the meeting had been not Love's penchant for hogtying subs for the Internet, but rather Rusty's petulant reportage of a minor fight they'd had to a mandatory reporter employee at his school.
Though it will be judged as such by mainstream audience (not necessarily a bad thing), this is not a documentary on Kink.com, or BDSM porn, or porn at all. Leave that to James Franco's documentary kink, which makes its SF debut at Frameline Fri/21 (www.frameline.org).
In another stressful scene, we watch PSPL protagonist Lorelei Lee agonize as she prepares to explain to the jury at John "Buttman" Stagliano's 2010 obscenity trial her reasons for starring in a film featuring milk enemas. Jude's third muse Princess Donna not only allowed her real first name to be used in the film (a name that I, even after years of interviewing and hanging out with Donna, learned for the first time thanks to PSPL), but let Jude film her beloved dad's funeral and an awkward moment exploring her newly-kink-curious mom's bag of sex toys.
Through this intimacy, PSPL emerges not as a love letter to, or exposé of, rough sex on camera, but rather a portrait of three extraordinary women, whose singularity dictated, rather than resulted from, their career path.
"You have to be willing to be outside the norm of society," Stagliano muses, regarding porn industry careers. The dairy enemas and tit slaps that the PSPL three undergo are far from the three dommes' primary hurdles -- those would be dealing with the outside world's perception of their lives.
Which is not to say the film's a downer. Some shots sing: a golden ray slices behind Tina Horn's bound figure as Lorelei strides into a Donna-directed bondage scene; Princess Donna and her mother connect post-funeral by a blue river framed by rolling hills.
"It'll be interesting to see how [Donna, Lee, and Love]'s fans react," Jude tells me. But given the film's easy access point -- even "BDSM" is defined by a cue card flashed on screen -- she hopes the wider world will learn a little about the objects of its desire.
Public Sex, Private Lives Sat/8 and June 12, 9pm; $11. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF. June 15, 7pm, $11. New Parkway, 474 24th St., Oakl. www.sfindie.com/festivals/sf-docfest
THIS WEEK'S SEXY EVENTS
"Fairoaks Project" Through June 30. Opening reception: Fri/7, 7-10pm, free. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. Photographer Frank Melleno's Polaroids from the Fairoaks Hotel Haight-Ashbury bathhouse between 1977-'79. Play parties, commune living, history galore.