SEX ISSUE 2011 I saw Donna Dolore for the first time at a Hard French queer soul dance party at El Rio. I remember because she took my drink so authoritatively that I had no choice but to be okay with it. She sipped it, handed it back, and strode away. Can I get a thank you? Throughout the whole, sloppy afternoon, I noticed it was kind of her theme.
But no one seemed to care. Part of it was obvious: Dolore is a Sophia Loren with wider eyes, maybe a little taller, with the same generous tendencies towards sharing glimpses of the bust line. Only — I reflected, shortly before falling back into cheap-beer-and-go-go-dancer melee — that attitude. Who the hell is this woman?
Weeks later, I'm telling her the story in person in the cavernous break room at Kink.com's headquarters in the San Francisco Armory (everything at the Armory is cavernous). It turns out that Dolore is in fact, a pretty big deal. Just ask her legions of heavy-breathing fans who know her as Princess Donna, the Kink.com director and star queer dominatrix.
"Oh my gosh, I did that?" At the office from where she plans shoots for the three Kink websites she heads, Dolore is a less formidable figure. She's not wearing any makeup. Her black outfit makes her look like she's about to take off for a light jog around the Mission.
But she might just be being coy. After all, I'd stalked her up good before our appointment and had come across this gem in a video interview she did a few years back: "I'm pretty true to form — Princess Donna acts a lot like I do."
Dolore double majored at New York University, perfectly enough, in gender and sexuality studies and photography. She became a stripper while at school, and then on a tip from a coworker, got into professional BDSM shoots. Although she had been to some BDSM play parties, the work was the first time she'd ever been tied up.
"I was immediately into the challenge of being in a really stressful position — being flogged or caned, total sensory overload," she remembers. "I would leave a shoot feeling really invigorated, a stronger person. It made me want to see what my body was capable of."
Nowadays, Princess Donna sits — utterly sexily, usually in a short skirt and fuck-me heels — atop the Internet BDSM porn puppy pile.
At Kink she is the mind behind no less than three sites. For "Public Disgrace," Dolore makes trips around the world to supervise the stripping-down, feeling-up, and penetration of beautiful women in town squares and busy bars. On "Wired Pussy," she plays with electrical equipment, inducing screaming orgasms in her female partners.
In her latest endeavor, "Bound Gang Bang," Dolore supervises teams of horny men and one or two women in fantasy-type shoots: high school nerds get their revenge on the bitchy mean girls, a prison warden drops her key and winds up giving head to inmates through a chain link fence. She has guest-starred in many of Kink's different sites, usually as a top, sometimes as a bottom.
"I get stressed out because we have so much content to produce," says Dolore, who works on one or two shoots a week. "But it's a challenge that I enjoy." One gets the sense that at Kink, Dolore has found a place that can nurture her talent for perversion.
Like most of Kink's offerings, Dolore's sites are unapologetically brutal. Women are dominated, wind up covered in ejaculate and with bound breasts that are agonizing to look at (well, at least for the BDSM newbie).
This is exactly the kind of stuff that sends shivers — the bad kind — up the spines of anti-porn feminists. But Dolore is a feminist too. As articulate as she is and as prominent she is and as wild as her porns are, she's often called on to defend BDSM's treatment and portrayal of women.
"I think the exact opposite of the people that think that BDSM would promote violence against women," she says. That tired question — "is porn degrading to women?" — is something that Dolore finds degrading. Why, she asks, don't the anti-porn musketeers ask the same of men in the industry?
"What is going on in our society that we continue to see sex as something that is put on women that they don't desire? Why can't we fathom it being a dream job for a woman?"
Kink is doing its part to raise awareness about the sexual pleasure that can be experienced by submissive actors. Before and after each shoot, the man or woman who you've watched screaming, a cattle prod or vibrator pressed against their genitals, is interviewed. That familiar dazed after-sex look is all over their faces, and their endorphin-heavy perk is really all you need to know what Dolore says is true: the models at Kink really, really love their job.
Delore contests the notion that only people who have been sexual abused take pleasure in pain, although she says you'll find abuse victims in porn studios, just like any other workplace.
"Unfortunately, you could look to any profession and say a lot of them were abused as kids. You could look at secretaries and say that. Personally, I wasn't sexually abused." She smiles. "I'm just a natural pervert."
Delore's a regular on the queer party circuit — this week, you can catch her stealing drinks at Sunday's "Deviants" Folsom Street Fair closing party. Her exuberance in exploring the outer realms of sexuality haven't gone unnoticed in the San Francisco sex community. Kelly Lovemonster, editor of the queer quarterly sexuality zine [SSEX BBOX] is a close friend of Dolore, and calls her a "super heroine."
"Even when she is portraying a submissive bottom, being cattle prodded, nipples clamped down and attached to electric cords, you can tell she is absolutely in control," says Lovemonster. "She shows us that our dirtiest, scariest, and wildest sexual fantasies can come true through healthy communication and BDSM play. She rescues us all from a world where sexuality is suppressed and made shameful."
This, according to Dolore, is a big part of why what Kink produces is important. The website puts BDSM urges out there, lets people that get turned on by being slapped across the face know that they're not the only ones.
For the dis-empowered and isolated BDSM fan, that can be heady stuff. "You can explore your rape fantasy in a way that the woman is in control of what's happening to their body — it's a way to relive a situation where you had no control and relive it in a way in which you do have control," says Dolore.
In a direct repudiation of the claims that abuse victims fall into BDSM for unsavory reasons. Dolore says she's seen rough sex and power play rehabilitate partners whose sexuality seems terminally fucked. "I'm not a therapist but I feel like I am sometimes."
But when I ask her if she considers herself an activist, she says no.
"When I think of the word activist, I think of people who are more outspoken than I am. I do my thing on my website, and people can come watch it if they want to."
Which is not to say that the forward girl at Hard French doesn't think she's affecting change. Says the princess: "I'm just happy that I can help people be honest about what they want in bed."
DEVIANTS: OFFICIAL FOLSOM STREET FAIR CLOSING PARTY
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