The question of how to best protect performers—particularly during “rough” shoots—has arisen once again as the adult industry reels from allegations of on-set abuses.
Earlier this month, porn actors Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon filmed a YouTube video detailing their allegations of consent violations during two separate shoots, including misleading booking practices, excessive face-slapping and choking, and boundary crossing. Both say they were told beforehand that the scenes in question would be rough, a subjective word often used to describe shoots involving some degree of slapping, choking, and aggressive blow jobs (or “face-fucking,” in search-term parlance). Although consent is always a concern during shoots, it is especially so when a scene involves those kinds of acts, which can present a set of unique challenges, given their physical, and sometimes emotional, intensity.
Dee Severe, a director and co-owner of the BDSM production company Severe Sex Films, is in favor of formalized consent standards, particularly when it comes to rough shoots. Although there is some overlap between rough shoots and BDSM shoots, they are generally seen as slightly different creatures. BDSM porn often has a kink aesthetic—leather and latex, whips and rope—while rough scenes typically do not and are thought of as existing within the larger world of “vanilla” or “mainstream” porn. “I think the more strict protocols of a fetish set need to be implemented on a rough sex set,” she says.
Madeline Marlowe, a Las Vegas-based dominatrix, longtime BDSM director, and co-owner of Hotel Divine Films, agrees. She knows of non-BDSM producers shooting rough content who follow strict protocols around consent, but she says there are others who don’t. “That is a problem,” she says. “I’m not sure if it’s because they are ignorant to the fact that in order to pull off something on that level, you, the director, have a much larger responsibility. Maybe they don’t care? Maybe they don’t think it’s an issue. I am here to tell you that it is.”