Thursday, 6 November 2008

Sex and the Slutmaster

As one of my regular Heretics remarked, Manuelgate encapsulates so many of the themes this blog has been pursuing this past year and a bit that I might have orchestrated it myself. Apart from the tittle-tattle, and the debate around the role of the BBC in shaping national standards of taste and decency, the workings of the media industry, the Goth scene that James was exploring (in a quite different context) the other day, the "blasphemy" implied in the name Satanic Sluts, even a bizarre and improbable connection with the Max Mosley saga that occupied the Heresiarch so much earlier this year, the story also brings to mind the present government's attitude to porn and, more broadly, to sexuality as evidenced in its Extreme Porn Ban.

I was first alerted to this (courtesy of CAAN's indefatigable Clair Lewis) by the borderline extreme nature of some of the photographs in which Miss Baillie appears, one of which briefly appeared on the Daily Mail website. Possibly the strongest of these (it wasn't in the Mail) featured Georgie in a bath of fake blood, naked, her carotid artery apparently severed by a kitchen knife held by another naked woman lying in the same bath. She didn't look particularly dead, though: so it might pass the "explicit and realistic" test set out in the Act. Be that as it may, the links between Manuelgate and the current porn debate are deep and fascinating yet have been relatively little explored.

The mastermind and impressario behind the Satanic Sluts is the avant-garde filmmaker and erotic horror importer Nigel Wingrove. Wingrove in fact has a long history of involvement in censorship controversies of one sort or another. His 1989 short Visions of Ecstasy was the last work to be banned by the BBFC on the grounds of potential blasphemy - a ban upheld in a famous test case by the European Court of Human Rights in 1996, but now presumably consigned to history along with the law of blasphemy. A later production of his, Sacred Flesh (1998) was described by Dr Linda Williams (a.k.a. Mrs Mark Kermode) as being "replete with deranged nymphets tearing off their habits and lasciviously mounting giant crosses, its overwrought screenplay fleshed out by a range of underwrought acting styles."

In 2000, The Independent called Wingrove "an unlikely champion of liberal causes". By contrast, Stephen Green of Christian Voice urged his followers earlier this year to pray "that his troubled soul will find rest in the Lord Jesus Christ." Don't make the mistake of visiting his website, Green warned: "This is truly another world which should not exist in a civilised nation."

In the mid 1990s, Wingrove was one of the first importers to take advantage of Michael Howard's new liberal approach to hardcore porn (yes, you read that right) after the Tory Home Secretary gave the green light to the BBFC to pass scenes of basic intercourse uncut. The theory, as the former BBFC director James Ferman told Panorama, was to "draw the line between sexual portrayals which are simply within the range of normal sexual practice and sexual portrayals which are degrading particularly bestiality or lavatorial practices or whatever, or force, or violence or restraint". Ban everthing, he argued, and you just drive it underground where "inevitably it will be mixed up with other criminal kinds of representations which involve torture and degradation."

John Ware, the presenter of that 1998 edition of Panorama, entitled Porn Wars (here's a full transcript), described the relaxation of the previous ban on all hardcore porn as "one of the last Tory government's best-kept secrets". They didn't even tell the police, who raided Wingrove's distribution centre while he was promoting his wares at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. When he protested that the material they had seized was fine by the BBFC the vice squad retorted that in that case they'd have to raid the censors. It all came down to how you interpreted the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, which outlaws anything tending to deprave and corrupt. As the great John Mortimer QC told the programme, prosecutions have not always been trouble-free since "it’s very difficult to find anyone who's actually come forward and said they’ve been depraved and corrupted".

The incoming Labour Home Secretary, in an early indication of the new government's moralising tone, was outraged when he found out what the BBFC had been up to, describing Ferman's attempt to distinguish standard porn fare from the extreme variety as "circular and risible". Which is an interesting statement, given the legislative contortions recently perfomed by the government as it tried to do precisely that. He claimed and suggested that allowing any hardcore pornography would lead to "a much greater likelihood that more extreme material would take its place."

What finally did for the attempt to keep out porn, of course, was the Web. The Home Office finally gave up the fight under David Blunkett, and today the BBFC scrutinises hundreds of porn videos each year. Their guidelines ban, besides the obvious no-nos of child porn and bestiality, depictions of rape and sexual violence, the infliction of pain (with the possible exception of "mild consensual activity"), "penetration by any object likely to cause actual harm or associated with violence", and "any sexual threats, humiliation or abuse" - which is "likely" to be cut even if clearly consensual. To take an example, Anna Span's 2006 film Hug a Hoodie - a satirical work which consisted of sexual scenes filmed on a housing estate - was cut (says the BBFC) "to remove vaginal penetration with a hand and a foot."

Such a policy would seem in line with Ferman's stated aims of more than a decade ago. Then, to judge by the Panorama film, the authorities were as alarmed as they are today by the more extreme end of the market, although in those days the concern was with under-the-counter material stuffed into plain brown envelopes and sold in (often) illegal and unlicensed sex shops. Despite Straw's objections, the police rarely bothered prosecuting videos showing consensual sex. The programme interviewed Chief Inspector Martin Jauch of the Met's Clubs and Vice department - based in Charing Cross - who summed up the cops' priorities:

For most people pornography is..tits and bums and it’s not, the material that we deal with is an ocean away from that. It includes the most revolting sorts of torture, of coercion, of exploitation of both sexes. It’s material that I think most people haven’t got the remotest idea even exists.

Yet even "extreme" material didn't always make the grade. Jauch described his frustration with the OPA and the way some juries interpreted it. One particular tape he had seen involved the insertion of a fire extinguisher into a body orifice. In his view,

It was quite outrageous, it was degrading, it was really beyond anybody’s experience and that was found to be not obscene, it makes you wonder if they’ll find some of this material to be not obscene, then what will they find to be obscene.

Fast forward a decade, and you don't need to bother with underground networks or even pay-per-view websites. Today Fleshbot, a site owned by, and openly linked to from, the popular New York-based political and media gossip blog Gawker, offers hardcore porn without even the interposition of an age-confirmation screen. Just last week it offered online readers "Extreme Halloween with Belladonna". Said the none-too-explicit text:

Have you picked out your Halloween costume yet? We're still working out the details on ours, but we think we're going to go as Belladonna. It's a pretty easy costume—just get a black wig, paint on some tattoos, and carry around a baseball bat... wait, you didn't get that last part? Um, maybe you should just watch this video then. (And Happy Halloween!)

This playful introduction led into video footage in which a full-sized baseball bat was inserted (big end first) some distance up the rectal passage of a young female performer (presumably "Belladonna"). It's most unlikely that such a scene would have been passed by the BBFC, and it seems certain to fall foul of the CJIA ban on depictions of "injury or threat of injury to the anus." Yet here it is for ten or twelve year-olds to look at.

There are signs that even the sybaritic Nigel Wingrove - who deals in (and produces) some pretty hardcore stuff himself - has concerns about the current easy availability of extreme porn. Writing on his blog a few days before Manuelgate brought the Satanic Sluts to wider public attention, he described a typical day at the office. His muse Kelly Lyne (nom de slut: Sabrina Sixx - she can be seen romping with Georgina Baillie in a clip from the cable "reality show" Slut House, courtesy of the News of the World) was busy uploading trailers for a new internet shop.

She commented on the extreme grossness of some of the footage, possibly a gaping arsehole oozing cum or something equally delightful had caught her attention. This was not inspired by prudery or timidity on Kelly's part and neither were these titles 'extreme' in the porn sense of the word as they were all in fact trailers for titles produced by the highly regarded and mainstream UK adult company Harmony.

Wingrove took this incident as a starting point for a meditation of the changing nature of porn, and the ratchet effect whereby what is at first outrageously far out soon becomes commonplace:

For now, gaping arseholes sell so gaping is good, so is seeing women's faces covered in spunk as umpteen men stand around her and masturbate, their aim to get as much spunk as possible onto her face, for extra effect her eyes and mouth are often held open to increase her discomfort, in some films the men piss on her and into her mouth just in case the film's misogynistic fervor was in danger of passing the viewer by. Also popular in the current new wave of porn is the introduction of vomit, this is favoured by the likes of Max Hardcore and his ilk and is where men force their cocks or hands so far down a women's throat that she throws up! This is highly erotic of course, as is shoving lit cigars and various large objects into women's vaginas and anuses, double vaginal penetration, double anal and spitting into their eyes are also popular modern seduction techniques.

Max Hardcore, a notorious American pornographer (real name Paul Little), was recently convicted by a court in Florida for distributing obscene material and sentenced to almost four years in jail. During his trial, many of his regular performers turned up in court to testify as to the thoroughly consensual nature of the film-making process. Others, though, have described very young girls - barely 18 - being "persuaded" to participate in extreme and disgusting acts. The popularity of his product certainly demonstrates the jading nature of much contemporary porn whose consumers, like junkies, need progressively greater fixes. As Wingrove puts it, "constant exposure to something one desires necessitates constantly upping the ante." The internet sex shop, he writes, is "the Disneyland of pornography" where "every perversion, every possible function of the human body and every fetish ever conceived or imagined can now be accessed in minutes, day in, day out." And by children and teenagers as well as by adults.

The pursuit of pornographic extremes recalls the Roman Colosseum, where audiences fed up with watching the usual gladiators slugging it out were offered women, or dwarves, or blind men fighting ostriches. It also mirrors the descent into an abyss of tastelessness of more mainstream culture, where each series of Big Brother introduces more uninhibited or damaged personalities and the contestants on I'm A Celebrity... are subjected in the name of mass entertainment to a theatre of cruelty. And submit, because the exposure helps their careers. An interesting question thus emerges: is porn becoming ever more extreme because that tendency is in the nature of porn, or because that tendency is in the nature of modern society?

Porn can of course be a valuable educational tool for teenagers, who now come to sex far more knowledgeable and proficient than they ever used to. For adults in committed relationships it can provide an enriching source of fantasy and inspiration, opening previously unimagined horizons and enabling communication between partners. It can even save marriages. But it has a distorting effect. It can encourage premature sexual experimentation. It projects unattainable ideals (or unnatural norms) of bodily perfection, pubic topiary and (for boys) penis size. Girls feel the need to perform deep-throating or submit to anal sex: boys come to think that the natural conclusion to a bout of lovemaking is to ejaculate in their partner's face. It is deforming, perhaps dehumanising. Long term, the social and sexual effects of a generation reared on hardcore porn are difficult to gauge. This is an experiment that has escaped the laboratory.

I have previously criticised the current government's decision to ban possession of extreme pornography, which strikes me as being ill-judged and badly-drafted. It is based on the dubious proposition that a taste for violent or sadomasochistic porn indicates a propensity for violence, or encourages its viewers to commit acts of violence. Often, the opposite is true. Individuals attracted to the darker or more unconventional side of human sexuality are typically seeking fantasy, exploring their desires in a safe and controlled environment. In their day to day lives they tend to be well-balanced and successful. Whether by accident or design, the new measures target - and may jeopardise the livelihood or even liberty of - an entirely inoffensive and law-abiding part of the community.

The government, moreover, seems determined to return to the days of pre-internet border control, when Britain stood unique in the western world in its aversion to even the mildest porn. It appears driven by a combination of neo-Victorian religious moralism (can it be a coincidence that New Labour has also presided over a rapid expansion of faith schools and various "faith-based" initiatives?) and feminist dogma which sees all pornography as inherently exploitative and degrading to (and objectifying of) women. Jack Straw's instinctive revulsion at the very idea even of adults being able to watch consensual and no-frills intercourse suggests that the ban on "extreme porn" is only the beginning.

Yet there's a big difference, surely, between permitting informed adults, whose tastes tend that way, to receive and enjoy material which the majority would consider extreme or outrageous, and a situation in which such disturbing material can be accessed anywhere, at any time, by anyone, sometimes without any warning. The problem has only just begun to attract the serious attention of lawmakers, but in this area as in others the days of the internet free-for-all may well be numbered. History moves in cycles, as the licence of one era provokes a reaction in the direction of repression and moralistic control. I sense such a flipover may be upon us.
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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Naughty Girl

After days of internet speculation - some of it courtesy of your increasingly depraved Heresiarch - the News of the World provided further details of the hardcore lesbian spanking video staring Andrew Sach's granddaughter. The Screws is, of course, sister paper to the Sun to which Georgina Baillie a.k.a. Voluptua gave an interview (for a reputed £40,000, which is what Ross, before his suspension, would have called two and half days work).

According to the write-up, which was accompanied by stills of much higher quality than have previously been available (via Popbitch originally), Miss Baillie "can also be seen romping on a hardcore website called Clothed Female, Nude Male." They also offer footage of her appearance in a cable "reality TV" show entitled Slut House.

Special Detention, I have discovered, was made by California Star productions, an adult video company specialising in fetish, spanking, bondage - and also tickling, which sounds altogether nicer. They are responsible for a long-running and apparently successful series entitled English Punishment, of which this film would appear to be a variation. According to the News of the World, Georgie's "bare bottom is whipped by a raunchy history teacher before she has sex with the blonde and another “schoolgirl”". A description I have found on a pay-per-view porn site is somewhat more explicit:

James and Gray, two of the naughtiest young women in St.Lukes have once again found themselves in detention hall. This time however the teacher in charge Mrs.Ravenscroft, a strict disciplinarian who is quick to use the cane despite it's recent ban by the courts. Rumors are that she uses a strap - on dildo, and if the women agree to be humiliated, she will lessen the degree of caning administered.

She readily spanks and canes the two leaving welts in their pretty bare bottoms .The girls are also made to spank each other before being bent over the desk for a lesson with the strap-on .This however turns the girls on after pleasing themselves they soon enjoy making love to one another on the conservatory floor.

No performers are credited by name, but the blonde Mrs Ravenscroft is portrayed in the film (I am fairly certain) by Jadie Reece, who is very well known in the world of spanking videos and parties. A former glamour model, she has been involved in the scene for several years and is extremely well-regarded (indeed, beloved) by corporal punishment enthusiasts and by her co-stars. As "Jadie", she appears in several further CalStar videos available on the same site. In most of her roles, as in life, Jadie takes the submissive part. To see Baillie turn up on the same set as the renowned JR was actually rather surprising: the CP scene, I had learned earlier this year, was a close-knit world at some remove from the rest of the porn industry. And Georgina Baillie is not a regular member of that scene.

With her (some might say reckless) desire to profit from her notoriety she certainly - as I noted the other day - stands in marked contrast to the discretion shown by the women in the Max Mosley case. Perhaps her association with the spanking scene was too casual or short-lived for her to internalise the code of Omerta under which it operates. There's no doubt that her actions have alienated some who might otherwise have been sympathetic to her. Mistress Switch, for example - a model of elegant discretion in such matters - was tonight heard to opine that Voluptua had "now completely lost my sympathy for playing the poor victim whilst milking it to the maximum and enjoying the publicity." Indeed, La Switch added,

I don't believe if you get the dirt slung at you, you should then sling it right back and make a tidy profit and raise your own profile. Dashing to Max Clifford and making out you're whiter than white? She's no victim. One could almost say this has been manufactured. Naive maybe but if she'd had said nothing, maybe this story wouldn't have been blown out of all proportions and other people wouldn't have been dragged into the story.

True bdsmers enjoy playing in peace and quiet without the attention of the press under any circumstances.

That's telling her.

The back cover for Special Detention lists the date of production as Feb 27th 2008, which along with other evidence suggests that Georgina's move into the porn business is relatively recent. Although it might also be seen as the culmination of a period lasting at least five years, during which she has been a fetish model, a burlesque dancer, a bit-part actress, a presenter for Redemption TV (a cable channel associated with the Satanic Sluts) and, earlier this year, a dominatrix. Images from the CFNM site, and accompanying descriptions, reveal that her performance in two films stopped just short of penetrative sex with a male performer. In one, entitled Jason Davidson,

Georgina Baillie and a female board of directors evaluate a new rugby player by stripping him down and getting nasty with him. The granddaughter of Andrew Sachs helps examine the naked man’s c*** and a**.

Then sex-crazed Georgina excitedly delivers a firm paddling to his bare ass while straddling him. She hungrily milks his cock while he’s naked on all fours on the table.

Hogarth would have had great fun, I suspect, with the tale of this young lady, granddaughter of a well-loved and respected comic actor, advancing deeper and deeper into the sex industry. Whether it represents the triumph of feminism and sexual liberation or moral disintegration is unclear; but if I were Andrew Sachs I would find these revelations far more distressing than the news that she had spent a couple of nights with a talented if dissipated comedian.
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Friday, 25 July 2008

Everything I've Learned about Spanking

When the Max Mosley "Nazi orgy with hookers" story first broke I scarcely noticed it. Lacking much interest in sadomasochistic orgies, Nazi or otherwise, never having heard of Max Mosley (or, come to that, the FIA: I imagined that motorsport was run entirely by Bernie Ecclestone), and not being a regular reader of the News of the World the fuss barely registered on my radar screen. But then, a few weeks later, came something that did interest me: the revelation that one of the women involved - the very one who sold the story to the Screws, moreover - was married to an MI5 officer. I wondered how much I could find out about her, and the circumstances involved. Was there a grand conspiracy? Who really set Mosley up? What kind of truths, all these weeks later, were still out there?

Cherchez les femmes quickly became my watchword. I searched - and found. No smoking gun, no conspiracies (I lacked Lord Stevens' resources or expertise), but I did discover fascinating details about the women involved in the case. What I found overturned completely all my preconceptions. It may also, in retrospect, have skewed my moral compass.

The process of tracking down the women, originally fuelled by pure, prurient curiosity, slowly changed into something else as I learned more about the world they inhabit and about the women themselves. I pursued them through a network of message-boards, blogs and obscure fetish sites. I learned a new vocabulary, of CP and BDSM, of pro-dommes and submissives, of munches, judicials and paddles. I hung out in deviant chatrooms. I have seen enough photographs of striped, enflamed, bruised and scarred backsides to last several lifetimes. I was never remotely turned on; yet bizarre, disturbing images, which must appear inherently abusive, began to appear normal, even banal. I found this disquieting. But whatever my final thoughts about their lifestyle I have over the past weeks developed a respect and, strange though it sounds, an affection for the women who, for whatever reason, choose it.

What at first seemed to be an undifferentiated group of "hookers" turned out to be anything but. There was the outwardly respectable middle-aged divorcee with a head for figures and an allegedly "dynamite" contacts book; the young glamour model struggling to raise her child alone; the ultra-bright graduate student who craved polyglot humiliation and the firm thwack of a hairbrush; the German with an enigmatic past and hair as dark and lustrous as polished obsidian; and, of course, the villainess, the arch-deceiver, spanking's own Mata Hari, who owned and ran a fully-equipped dungeon in old Milton Keynes. Far from obscure, they were stars in their limited firmament, with an adoring fanbase. Like proper celebrities, they even did their bit for charity.

The treacherous Mistress Abi, who can now be pictured. They're calling her "Michelle"

Whether or not one chooses to use the word "prostitute" of such women is a difficult question (even among themselves), and to some extent an artificial one. At one level, they are obviously providing "sexual services" in exchange for money, even though the services rarely include penetrative sex (and if sex does occur, it is a freely-given extra, on the woman's terms). But in other respects they are most unlike prostitutes, even highly-paid call girls, whose whole raison d'être is to earn money through sex. With the spankees and dominatrices of the corporal punishment (CP) scene, even if spanking is their career (and it usually isn't) it is above all a personal need, an outward expression of inner compulsion. And, indeed, it's hard to see how it could be otherwise. Being hurt for money sounds like the most abject degradation: yet these women are not degraded. They do it because that is who they are. If they aren't paid to be spanked, they offer themselves up for free. And if they can't find anyone willing to do if for free, they may even pay.

Another awkward question raised for some by the professional BDSM scene concerns the political (and, indeed, moral) ramifications of the infliction of pain in exchange for money. Whether or not it is "prostitution", whether or not it is consensual, is it inherently abusive? This is something that particularly troubles feminists. Kit Roskelly, herself an S&M Submissive and self-declared feminist, puts the problem this way in an article posted on The F Word:

While people of every orientation and gender are involved in BDSM, the scenes in which heterosexual couples interact, and particularly those in which a woman takes the submissive role, are of particular interest in the context of female sexuality. In taking on control of a female submissive during scenes, dominant men appear to be enacting all that is worst about male privilege and control. The use of tying and restraints, physical punishment and sexual domination, all ring alarm-bells for the feminist viewer.

Roskelly's own answer to this question stresses - as do all apologists for BDSM of any variety - the paramount importance of consent. But some feminists - sharing in this (and not for the only time) the views of the distinctly non-feminist journalists at the Mail - find this less than convincing. And where money changes hands, the "punishment" of a female submissive seems to go beyond the ritualisation of the assumed patriarchal dominance in wider society and to depend on it directly. After all, those paying, whether to spank or to be spanked, or merely to watch the spanking, are overwhelmingly men. They have the money - and therefore, if you accept the feminist analysis, they also have the power.

As "Prime Rib" put it in a comment on CIF, "He [MM] assaulted women (yes, they were prostitutes - so what?). Since when did handing money over excuse violence? What about their 'feelings?' What about their health and safety?... " When I put it to her that the women were consenting and in any case were doing it for their own enjoyment as much as Mosley's, she described my point of view as "bullcrap":

Personally, I find S&Mers largely comic, sad and only rarely disturbing. But that's because they're still a subset of oddballs. Normalise, and the 'boundaries' become far less defined. Too many men (and some women) have 'issues.' Licence to express them sexually, for money, is a recipe for abuse.

Such an argument seems to me to be based on dogma rather than experience, and strikingly similar to arguments made forty years ago against the legalisation of gay sex: that the young and vulnerable would be taken advantage of, or that normalising something deviant will damage society more widely. Yet I cannot dismiss it entirely, and - picking up hints here and there - it seems clear that despite a strongly expressed attachment to the principle of consent the potential for abuse remains. I found this blog comment, for example, by a professional spank model - one of the best in the business:

But when is play not so good for the sub? I guess when what he or she receives is not at all what she was expecting (and is not a slave and so has a right to complain about this) and is really rather damaged from the whole experience both physically and mentally. I have seen (and been subjected to once or twice) the result of bad play and it can really do bad things to both your psyche and your posterior!

What all this emphasises, of course, is the centrality of trust and personal relationships. In an interesting post, Adele Haze (another leading light of the Scene, who was not directly involved in the case) compared herself and her fellow spankees to geishas whose position is, perhaps, similarly anomalous. Among ten points she raised, she mentioned that "both a geisha and a spanking model compete for attention of a relatively small group of people". This, I think, is key. It's a small community of about 20-30 girls who know each other, go to the same parties, show up in the same films and on the same specialist websites, and who therefore put a high premium on trust. It seems far removed from the seedy, anonymous, soulless world of commercial sex. Eady J alluded to this element when he wrote in his judgement,

I was told that there is a fairly tight-knit community of S and M activists on what is known as “the scene” and that it is an unwritten rule that people are trusted not to reveal what has gone on. That is hardly surprising....It is alleged against the woman in question (known as “Woman E”) that she breached that trust and that the journalist concerned must have appreciated that she was doing so.

The judge further quotes a text message sent by Miss A to Max Mosley soon after the News of the World exposé

“ … our scene is based on complete trust and complete discretion. However one of my so called close friends dominatrix [Woman E] has betrayed that confidence by doing what she has done. I am devastated by this act of pure total selfish greed, she has no morals, no integrity, no loyalty, complete disregard to others, cruel, and she is a liar!!! No one … deserves this invasion of privacy.”

Everything that I have learned confirms this impression. Ethics matters to these people. Miss A spoke in court of the "family atmosphere" that bound the women together - and their clients, too, with whom they often come to form close relationships. Although, as in all extended families, there are also quarrels, rivalries and feuds. One important distinction would seem to be between "pro-dommes", mistresses doing it just for the money, and "genuine players", who do it for love. Identifying Mistress Abi as a purely mercenary dominatrix enabled some on the scene to put her betrayal into some kind of context. Yet other pro-dommes retort that confidentiality is just as important to them as to anyone else, and Abi's behaviour wasn't their fault. Who knows when, or whether, the breach will be healed?

The Scene is, as it is designed to be, a world of mirrors, in which real identities are submerged behind false names and, occasionally, fictitious details. This serves as a buffer between the scene and the mundane, or "vanilla" world, which is perceived as being potentially threatening. There is a fear that with exposure would come consequences, a sense that the world as a whole, or at least the powers that control it, represent a threat to their lifestyle, to their jobs and to their relationships. With that fear comes also solidarity, a desire to protect each other's security and, when need arises, to circle the wagons.

One important aspect of this security concerns names. "Scene names" are carefully chosen. Sometimes, they will have purely theatrical connotations - "Mistress Switch", for example - and will therefore give no indication as to the actual identity of the person behind the name. Others will resemble real names, but not be. Similarly, clients will tend to use pseudonyms - Max was "Mike", for example - even where their real names are known to their closest confederates. As far as I can tell, that element of confidentiality has so far been largely preserved. Certainly the "real" identities of the women are not easy (though not impossible) to uncover.

The need for trust - and the close personal relationships that this entails - thus exists in tension with circumspection. The girls on the Scene, and their largely male clientelle, are bound together not just by a shared enthusiasm for spanking but through fear of the consequences of exposure. It is this delicate balance that the Max Mosley case has upset. Above all, it was the action of "Woman E" - a professional dominatrix and a close friend of at least one of the four other women in the case - that has sent shockwaves through the community. The sense of betrayal is still raw. Adele Haze, for example, writes on her blog that the affair has left her "numb with anger". She had come to know the scene as a place of trust and safety, "a benevolent, friendly world of kinky humans". E's actions had destroyed all that:

This is why it was such a blow to me that the betrayal of my colleagues (and Max, their client) came not from a mustachioed spy creeping into a dodgy spanking party, but a woman they considered one of their own. This alone was hard to take in, and I still struggle to understand what has to go through the mind of a woman who throws away all relationships, connections and friendships in the scene, gleefully pushing five people off the cliff...

I couldn’t begin to equate my distress to the daily anguish suffered by the girls and Max. I’m safe and well here behind my computer screeen. And yet, the profound disappointment in my scene is looking to haunt me for a long time. I don’t see being able to walk into a spanking party without guessing who is going to betray everybody present.

Shortly after the MM affair went public, one of the leading organising figures on the British corporal punishment scene, Lucy McLean, sent a round-robin email urging her spank-buddies not to blog about the incident, to protect the women involved. She feared that they might lose their jobs or even the custody of their children if their true identities were exposed. The embargo was adhered to until the case concluded last week. By a bitter irony, however, it was McLean herself who was to suffer most.

Together with her husband Paul Kennedy, Lucy runs the Glasgow-based Northern Spanking site, where CP enthusiasts can pay to watch videos of their favourite models being spanked. Four of the five Mosley women were regular or occasional performers in NS productions - indeed, it was owing to a prior engagement shooting for them that Woman D was unable to take part in the first of Max's two parties in March. As a result of these connections, NS came to the attention of a reporter who, unable to find out much about the Mosley affair itself, decided to expose Lucy and Paul instead. The ensuing publicity cost Paul his job and the couple most of their income. There's not a great deal of money in online spanking, it would appear. "It has always been a labour of love for both of us," says Lucy.

In a comment which sums up a general feeling on the scene, Lucy proclaims, "The fact that these animals are allowed to completely ruin people's lives under the guise of "public interest" and "freedom of press" is abominable and must be stopped."

The moment the dangers of exposure really hit home to me, however, came when I discovered the identity of Miss D. Like the Mail a few months later, I had been fascinated to learn of her double life - research scientist by day, professional spank model by night. Her well-written and fascinating blog (now, for whatever reason, defunct) became, for me, a window into a world of which I had hitherto had no knowledge. She came across as open, candid, brave, likeable and popular, with many friends and a positive approach to life. So open was she, indeed, that I began to rue my earlier pursuit of her and (hypocritically, perhaps) became genuinely annoyed that the Mail had, if anything, gone further (and, of course, a national newspaper must be far more dangerous to her anonymity than a relatively obscure blog). And then I found out her real name, the names of her colleagues and supervisors, and the name of the institution to which she was attached. Suddenly it seemed a lot less funny. If anything I wrote contributed to her problems then I am truly sorry.

So what have I learned? Firstly, more than I ever wanted or needed to about the milieu in which Max Mosley moved undetected for more than 40 years. It's an intimate society with rules and conventions, and one that operates at several levels. There are basically three interconnecting circles: and the Mosley women operated in all three. There are the private appointments - "1-2-1" sessions and small, confidential parties, at which the first rule is absolute discretion. It was such a gathering that was successfully infiltrated by the News of the World back in March. But there are also larger, more public assemblies, which are all ticket affairs including fairly elaborate theatrical tableaux.

It emerged in court that Miss A used to arrange such events in Euston, with financial backing from Max Mosley himself. As described in the newspapers, these were orgies where "up to 30 men pay around £200 to have sex with ten women in a stage-like setting". This led the Telegraph's Kevin Garside to note that "having a financial interest in a tawdry sex den in Euston... is of a different order of perversion" which might have been even more damaging to Mosley's reputation that the goings-on in Chelsea. I've seen photos from similar parties, and they do indeed seem fairly uninhibited; but apart from the odd bit of fondling the only "sexual acts" were being performed on stage between the women. And this account of such a party by a regular participant makes it sound like an S&M version of speed dating:

there was not really enough time to enjoy the CP from all the guys as we had to rush to the next and the next (and so on)....and the implements and caning was particularly speedy (kinda like speed spanking). I felt a little rude asking the guys to come over quickly and do their stuff at speed, particularly as I did not feel I had spent enough time with some of them, however that is the nature of a large party and I have to hope that the guys there understood that.

(Bisexuality would seem to be a near-universal trait among spankees. As Eady J commented at para 121 (getting a little hot under his robes, or so it seems to me), "although the Claimant's sexual activity as revealed in the DVD material did not seem to amount to very much, some of the women stayed on after the party was over and indulged in same sex action purely for their own entertainment.")

The third level is that of the websites and specialist films. There's an obvious overlap here between BDSM and more "mainstream" varieties of porn, much of which features S&M scenarios. But the differences are equally striking, such as the fact that most spanking films do not feature explicit sex; or the fact that almost all the girls who appear in films or on websites are also available for private bookings and attend the above-mentioned parties. Or the fact, admitted by Adele Haze, that physical attractiveness is not always a prerequisite for the women in the films.

The second thing that became overwhelmingly apparent was the strong sense of community and fellow-feeling that exists in the spanking world, and BDSM generally. The Mosley affair threatened them, and they responded partly by closing ranks, and partly by standing firmly behind Max in his fight. He became an unlikely hero; and the women who gave evidence, braving exposure, had at least the consolation of strong support from their network of friends and colleagues. Whether the Scene will re-emerge unchanged, and whether the four women will continue to play their formerly prominent roles within it, it's probably too early to tell. In some ways, its denizens will be safer after the judge's explicit acknowledgement of people's right to conduct their personal sex lives in private. But the fear of exposure will remain; as the case of Paul and Lucy has confirmed, being outed as an S&M practitioner still puts your life and career at risk. And while many ordinary people may take a more tolerant line than the News of the World, or indeed the Daily Mail, the BDSM community remains one of the few against which explicit discrimination is still legal.

The other thing I learned was about myself. I'm not into spanking. Honestly.

© 2008 Heresy Corner, all rights reserved.
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Saturday, 19 July 2008

Chelsea Girls

Saturday's Daily Mail carried a typically unbalanced and exploitative exposé of the women involved in the Max Mosley affair, especially Miss D. One particular quote, attributed to "a blog", regarding Mistress Switch's contacts book, was not mine but rather my translation of an article that appeared in a French magazine. I have no idea whether or not her contacts book is "dynamite"; but if other people in high-profile or influential roles attend her parties or meet her on a private basis, then so far as I'm concerned that is no-one's business but theirs. Read the rest of this article

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Secrets of the Chelsea Basement

I have decided (10/7/08) to reinstate this item, since most of the details came out in court anyway. But, mindful of legal constraints, I have deleted full names and the photos that previously appeared.


Max Mosley, FIA president and son of famous fascist Oswald, has been in a spot of trouble recently, ever since the News of the World exposed his unconventional sexual preferences at the end of March. He was, so they claimed, "a secret sado-masochist sex pervert", who engaged in "a depraved NAZI-STYLE orgy in a torture dungeon" - helpfully caught on film by one of the five "hookers" who participated in the event, staged in a Chelsea basement flat.

There were calls for him to resign (so far he has resisted) and widespread revulsion. But Mosley has fought back, hiring an ex-Screws editor Phil Hall to do his PR, and current Screws columnist Lord (John) Stevens to investigate the circumstances behind the sting. In his defence, Mosley denied that there was an overt Nazi theme in any of the role-play, stressed that it was in any case his own private business what he got up to, and alleged that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

It's not entirely clear whether or not it was Lord Stevens' company, Quest, that outed the 38-year old blonde who shopped Max to the NotW as the wife of an MI5 agent. But this latest development certainly adds to the intrigue. At the very least, it is a severe embarrassment to the intelligence service, who are supposed to have vetting procedures to prevent this sort of thing. While the man himself - unnamed for "security reasons", though his identity is well-known to the press - was fully aware that his wife of just over a year maintained a fully-equipped 2-storey dungeon in Milton Keynes, he had, it seems, neglected to inform his employers. And they, we are told, had no idea. "We expect high standards of behaviour from all staff at all times, both professionally and privately" said a spokesman, primly. According to other reports that I have found, on the other hand, the agent made no secret of his wife's professional activities, and even boasted about her to colleagues. Make of that what you will. [Indeed, much of this speculation was confirmed by a report subsequently published in the Mail on Sunday - 10/7/08]

Personally, I would far rather MI5 spent their time monitoring terrorists than prying into people's sex lives. On the other hand, it's hard to see precisely why having a wife who spanks middle-aged gentlemen in her basement should be a bar to serving one's country. It might, in fact, be a positive advantage, given the intelligence that might be gleaned in such a situation. Was it just that he didn't tell them about it?

MI5, needless to say, denies that anything sinister has been going on. The idea that they might be a party to a sting operation makes no sense, they maintain, since Mosley was not a security risk and, in any case, there are more important things for them to worry about. I hope so. But did "Mistress Abi" did take the decision to run to the News of the World and pocket a large wad of their cash entirely on her own, without consulting her husband? It's hard not to think that someone somewhere has a hidden agenda. Formula One is a notoriously muky and espionage-obsessed business.

I cannot, alas, penetrate that particular mystery. But I have been able to discover more details about the private party in Chelsea and its attendees. And it seems that Mosley and his paid guests may indeed have been unfairly maligned. Of the five women, four knew each other (and Max) extremely well. The fifth - professionally known as "Mistress Abi" - seems to have been invited along at a later stage. This would seem to reduce the likelihood that Mosley was targeted "by persons and for reasons unknown", as he alleges. Unless of course someone got wind of what was in the offing and found a way to exploit it.

According to the original report in the News of the World, the "cast list" was as follows: Mistress Abi, (E) "Mistress S" (the main organiser, identified in court as A), a German dominatrix named in the News of the World, but due to legal restrictions now merely as B, and two "prisoners", described as a blonde and a brunette.

I managed to identify the two submissives, who were referred to C and D in court, and got a court order for my pains. These seem to be the only two who particpated in the sex acts, if any. (All the women involved deny being prostitutes.) Suffice it to say that both are well known in the BDSM "scene", having featured in numerous fetish and spanking videos with titles such as Prison Chronicles and Punished Brats. Both have also featured in a prison-themed S&M website which D co-founded (although she recently left due to "creative differences" with the director).

Besides her film career, the privately-educated Londoner (28) identified as D is PhD student in biochemistry (this came out in court). Her research concerns the structure and synthesis of lipids. She is also a former ballerina and rugby enthusiast, and she has even appeared in an episode of The Weakest Link. In an online interview she explained the origins of her favourite role-playing scenario:

I truly believe that the prison fantasy stems from spending many years growing up in a boarding school. If someone can name three differences between prison and boarding school I'd like to hear them. However, some inspiration, such as the use of storyline and particular characters come from TV and films based in prisons, women's prison's especially. I guess my fantasy is an exchange of power and in prison this is particularly strong. You are completely at the guard's mercy and that has always been my thing.

Miss D has her own fairly innocuous blog. Following the scandal she posted her side of the story (in an entry since deleted), explicitly denying that there was any Nazi theme to the March gathering: it was, she insisted, a bog-standard prisoner-interrogation scenario, there were no Nazi uniforms, and no orgy. Like Mosley, she insists that the Nazi elements were invented by the News of the World (or Mistress Abi) to spice up the story. The available video footage is, it must be said, ambiguous. German accents and snatches of German dialogue do not, of themselves, make a realistic concentration camp. Still, the man's name is Mosley.

Woman C is slightly younger, but is equally popular as a spankee, both in films and at parties which she organises with a friend who goes by the name of Dublin. In "real life" she works in the National Health Service. Her profile on the invaluable Northern Spanking website mentions that she "got into spanking through my glamour modelling work and one of the other girls asked me if I'd like to try it. I'd always liked a good slap on the bottom during foreplay, so I thought, why not?" She adds:

Since then I've gone strength to strength and become instatiable for spanking and all things corporal punishment. My favourite being the cane, and I love nothing more than a double caning especially when Lucy is the left handed participant!

Parties are probably my favourite thing to do because they are such a laugh, but I like doing videos and photos too - mostly because I love dressing up. It makes me feel so sexy!

The German participant B was named in the NOTW but is also subject to the court order. Her website, however (like D's, but unlike those of the two leading protagonists) is still fully functional. On it, she describes herself as 34 years old, 5'8, with natural long black hair. She adds, "my bottom enjoys a really good seeing to, and I don't mind either hand, cane or paddle." Although her main role in the Mosley affair seems to have been to bark orders in German, she says that she performs both dominant and submissive roles, but prefers submission. Elsewhere, we learn that she attended an all girls' school in Germany, and is a veteran of many S&M videos. In fact, she turns up on some of the same productions as Misses C and D. The three, together with "Mistress S" (A), took part with a number of other "scene girls" in a 2007 charity run in London for Cancer Research. They called themselves "Bums on the run", and raised almost £12,000.

B herself describes her initiation into the spanking scene as follows:

Two years ago I came to England and after a rather boozy rock and roll night we went back to my flat. I went to the kitchen to take some wine from the fridge. As I bent down to grab it my friend - Sam Johnson - slapped me across the bottom. I said: "aaaaaaa, that's great - give me more, it really turns me on"

I felt quite naughty because I enjoyed it. Sam administered a few more handspanks. I was reminded of my former school in Germany. I used to secretly like it when I had to be punished by the Headmaster who was severe.

However, in a French source she is described as having been "formed in the red-light districts of Hamburg and Cologne". In this account, it was B who brought the final line-up together, having been first contracted by "Mistress Switch", who was Mosley's only direct contact.

We now come to the two leading protagonists in this saga. Both blonde, both dominant, both aged around 40, both apparently hailing from Milton Keynes, and possibly both calling themselves Abi, they are rather difficult to separate. It took a while to work out which was Switch. While they clearly aren't the same person (they both featured in the NotW video, after all) the confusion between them may be either accidental or deliberate.

Mistress Switch, the overseer of the whole proceeding, is described as a divorced 40-year old mother of two from Milton Keynes. ("Switch", by the way, is a term used in BDSM for a mistress who performs both dominant and submissive roles in a single session. Woman A claims to be London's leading exponent of the technique.) Her website no longer works, but could be accessed via an internet archive. Elsewhere, she reveals that she has been in the spanking business for around 15 years and has appeared in a number of films with the other girls. In her "vanilla" life she runs an office. According to press reports, she is the ex-wife of a business associate of Mosley's, which is how they were introduced, and she has been arranging sex parties for him for a number of years. According to a rather gossipy French account (which I have attempted to translate), following her divorce,

She reinvented herself as a priestess. She became Madame Perversion for the whole of London. Her client-book is dynamite. It causes terror in government departments and the most secret offices in Whitehall. Happily, Mistress Switch is a prudent woman... She had already worked for [Mosley], who has frequented many S&M dugeons in Mayfair. She recognised in him a guilty neurotic who needed to be punished: but until this moment he had not confessed to her the original sin which obsessed him. Then towards the end of March, his instructions became more precise, constituting a confession in themselves...

Mistress Switch ("I'm Abi if I'm being naughty and cheeky, Mistress Switch if I have the upper hand and feeling, dare I say, sadistic") is reported to have her own palace of perversity at her Milton Keynes residence, trading under the name The House of Whispers. However, it is the woman billed as "Mistress Abi" (E), who is the 38-year old wife of the MI5 officer, who would seem to be the true proprietress of that particular dungeon. It was revealed in court that until they fell out spectacularly over the Max Mosley business, the two dominatrices sometimes shared facilities at the house. Although her website has also shut down as a result of the scandal (and has been blocked even from the archives), elsewhere on the net this "Mistress Abi" describes her services in considerable detail.

I am a tall, beautiful, strict, demanding, bi-sexual Dominatrix, the kind you've always dreamt about. I expect total obedience and discretion from those who wish to serve me in my private chambers. I get genuine pleasure from having submissives totally under my control, helpless for me to do with as I please. I am always dressed in boots or high heels, rubber, leather or PVC and have a very active and sadistic imagination, making your servitude both a fulfilling and exciting experience... I get a huge thrill from having a slave (male or female) completely submitting to me, completely and willingly under my control, able to go to subspace, able to test their limits.

Originally from Birmingham, "Mistress Abi" is another former boarding-school girl. And here was me thinking it was only boys' public schools which led to this kind of thing. In a photo I will not reproduce even here, Abi is using her stiletto (very successfully, it appears) to stimulate the reproductive member of an anonymous and headless client. However, she stresses that she operates a strict no-sex policy.

Interestingly, Abi lists "blackmail" as one of the many dominatrix services she offers, between "anal training" and "bondage (suspension)".

It was "Mistress Abi" who was fitted up with secret cameras by the News of the World after offering the paper an exclusive. According to some accounts, she was wearing a "Luftwaffe-style uniform"; others insist that it was simply a leather jacket. Her photo gallery certainly features (or used to feature) a range of military uniforms, but none of them are overtly Nazi.

In fact, and perhaps not surprisingly, Mistress Abi has made herself extremely unpopular with her fellow sub-doms. One colleague, Amy, called her "a callous “pro” domme who has gone against everything the scene’s professionals stand for, namely trust, discretion, and integrity." Apparently, too, some in the scene believed the Nazi stories and did not approve, so all those involved have suffered from the taint. Which makes it all the more unfair if it was just your average spankathon.

Sex, spies, Formula 1, le vice anglais: this story is British tabloid entertainment at its very best. Yet it also raises some serious issues. Whatever one thinks of Max Mosley's predilections (and whatever the precise nature of those predilections) are they, should they be, enough to destroy his reputation and career? He is not a politician. He didn't hurt anybody. True, he has a wife, who may or may not have been aware of his unusual tastes. But how she chooses to react to the embarrassing situation in which she finds herself is her business. And falling foul of tabloid morality (especially the morality represented by the News of the World) is not, yet, a criminal offence. Although the way this government has been going recently, it might soon be.

Compare and contrast another recent News of the World exposé: that of the Conservative peer Lord Laidlaw, who was revealed to be in the habit of flying parties of prostitutes to Monaco for champagne-fuelled "romps". That quickly blew over. But then Laidlaw reacted like a much younger celeb: he issued a statement blaming his behaviour on "sex addiction" and appealed for sympathy. It's a fair cop, he seemed to be saying; and his openness was rewarded with forgeiveness. Mosley's reaction was more old-fashioned, and dignified.

Is it the "Nazi" dimension? Let's assume the worst, that Mosley gets his kicks from acting out Third Reich scenarios. There may be deep psychological reasons for this, stemming from his family background. Perhaps he feels overwhelming guilt, which is assuaged by acting out the role of a concentration camp inmate. Perhaps he just likes being assailed by women in uniform. As Bryan Ferry pointed out some time ago, the Nazis knew a thing or two about style. Ferry got into trouble for his comments. And it may be that Mosley has simply fallen foul of this ultimate modern taboo.

All the same, I can't help wondering who else is in Mistress Switch's "dynamite" client book.

© 2008 Heresy Corner, all rights reserved.
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