Consent and Public Disgrace
As anyone who’s been a regular reader of my stuff will know, I’m a big fan of consent. Of course, very few people will come out and say that they’re not. But for me, consent is one of the three supports for sex-positivity, the other two being pleasure and well-being. I firmly believe that the only important measure of a sexual experience or relationship is whether the participants’ consent, pleasure, and well-being are attended to.
I’m also a big fan of sexual fantasy. I think that there’s no such thing as an inherently dangerous or bad fantasy. The kinds of questions that I think are important are: How do you feel about your fantasies? Do they support your sex life? Do they get in the way of your relationships with yourself or other people? The actual content isn’t something I’m concerned with, unless it’s causing distress for the person having the fantasy or their partner(s).
And I think that porn can be a lot of fun. It can inspire fantasies and can offer an opportunity to imagine things that you might not have thought of. Having said that, it’s a terrible substitute for sex education and I would love to see more sex-positive critiques of the genre.
So with all of that, I’ve been sitting with writing something about the Kink.com site, Public Disgrace. If you’re not familiar with it, Public Disgrace is a website featuring young women having sex in public, often with groups of participants and observers. Some of the shoots take place in bars, restaurants, or at Kink.com’s building in San Francisco, while others were made in countries where the laws against sex in public are different than those in the US. It’s these latter shoots that I want to focus on. (Here’s an example of one of those scenes. Very NSFW.)
Now, I totally understand the erotic thrill of sex in public. A lot of people have fantasies about that, or have had sex in semi-secluded locations, with the possibility of getting caught adding to the excitement. And I also know that some people have fantasies of being displayed or shown off to strangers, or of being watched by strangers. One of the reasons that folks might choose to go to a swinger’s event or a sex party is that they get turned on by having an audience.
But the problem that I have with Public Disgrace is that the shoots that take place in public settings are forcing the observers to participate in the experience, and that’s not something I can support. I can’t support it because I believe in consent. I believe that the consent of all of the participants in a sexual experience is important. Not just the people having sex, but also the people watching it.
I have no problem with the scenes that take place in bars or similar locations, assuming that everyone there knows what they can expect and that nobody else can just wander in. I have no problem with scenes that include people acting as if they’re bystanders, but in reality, they’re performers. And I have no problem with the fantasy of being shown off or having sex or being spanked in public. But when you actually have sex in front of people who did not choose to be in that situation, I think it crosses a line. The fact that these scenes are made in places where it’s not illegal is, in my opinion, irrelevant. The ethics of the situation aren’t dependent on the local legislation. After all, there’s a difference between what is legal and what is ethical.
In addition to being problematic for being non-consensual, Public Disgrace plays into many of the anti-BDSM propaganda and phobias. While folks who are actually in the BDSM world understand the difference between the ways that S&M works in reality and the fantasy portrayals of it on camera, many people outside those communities simply don’t. And I’m concerned that this misrepresentation of how the vast majority of kinky folks enjoy themselves is going to exacerbate the stereotypes that they already face. Folks who are outed as kinky are at risk for losing custody of their kids, losing their jobs, social censure and ostracism, and more, simply because of their desires and practices. While I certainly have no desire to coddle anyone’s fears about any community of erotic affiliation, from a political/activism perspective, Public Disgrace is not the representation that the S/M world needs.
For that record, these two concerns would be an issue for me whether the sex that was being shown included bondage and spanking or was 100% vanilla. The issue of consent and how sexual communities are represented to outsiders isn’t only about BDSM. If someone wanted to make porn about swingers having sex in public, my response would be the same.
I’ll admit that I’ve been hesitant to write this. I certainly don’t want to add fuel to the anti-porn and anti-BDSM fires, because I think that both porn and BDSM can be just great. But I also can’t avoid speaking out about the problems that I see from within the sex and porn industry without becoming complicit in them. While Kink.com has been a great supporter of sex-positive communities, that doesn’t negate the fact that some of their actions are simply not OK. One of the most important distinctions between BDSM and abuse is that BDSM is consensual. Even when the fantasy or the role play is of being forced or taken against one’s will, there’s an underlying foundation of consent. I expect the same from Kink.com and I’m disappointed by the fact that it’s not there in all of their scenes.
I would be happy to hear from anyone involved with Public Disgrace or Kink.com, either in the comments below or privately. I invite your input and would be happy to talk about this with you further. And I also welcome anyone else to share their thoughts about this topic.
I’ve written a follow-up post in response to many of the comments below. If you’re interested, here it is.
I have actually felt similarly about things like that. I’ve had conversations with people who weren’t necessarily sex positive and had them say, “Well what about sex in public? If sex isn’t bad then you should be able to do all of it in public,” as a means of “catching me” as a hypocrite or proving somehow that sex is something to be ashamed of.
I’ve found myself feeling insecure about suggesting that it’s not ok to force nudity or any kind of sexual content on people in public. I think it’s partly because of those people I mentioned above. That kind of hostility made me defensive and forget context in favor of receding into an extreme, “Yeah! Everybody get naked!” attitude.
Reading this I think I’ve got a much clearer understanding of my own feelings on the matter. Just because I see nothing wrong with sex or nudity, somebody else might be uncomfortable. Their reasons are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is consent. Eureka!
I think I just got a sense of context from this post, a sense of consent. This will help me when I encounter people who are not sex positive. (It’s bizarre how often I seem to run into these people who decide they want to lecture me. Seriously.)
Well, you’re nicer about it than I was. I agree that public exhibitionism is problematic because it’s recruiting others into one’s sexual gratification who may not be willing participants. (As you say, in venues where the activities are routine, or at least not out of the ordinary, it’s probably fine.)
What chaps my keister, though is that “public disgrace” only works if you think sex is intrinsically… well… disgraceful, degrading, wrong, to be ashamed of and feel guilty for, and so on. Which makes it an antithesis of sex positivity.
It’s not inconsistent to say people are welcome to any kink they can dream of while still drawing the line at a kink for sex negativity itself.
It’s the same principle as imposing one’s exhibitionism on others without their consent: to glorify sexual shamefulness is to cultivate shame in others. Because without that general sense of shame it’s not “public disgrace” at all, it’s just people being noisy on a park bench.
Grrrr. Ticks me off.
This is why you’re one of my favorite writers and I say I want to be you when I grow up. You always present your thoughts and opinions in such a clear way and it makes me think. Which is the best thing I think for any writer.
I agree with you 100% about public sex and consent along with your thoughts on Kink.com. In our quest to be sex positive and protect our rights, I feel too often we are afraid to speak out when we think something is wrong.
Thank you for being you and speaking your opinions.
I have a more relativist position on this.
I don’t believe that protecting people from seeing things they don’t want to see is quite that important. If it were, we would have to hide away the gays, lest they dare to hold hands in front of someone whom it might disgust, or put headscarfs and veils on all women when a Wahhabi muslim visits.
The notion that nudity is shameless or inherently sexual is ultimately an artificial construct. Visit a finnish sauna or certain indigenous tribes for counterexamples.
What is okay to display in public is ultimately a matter of consensus, and will differ from place to place. From what I’ve seen of PublicDisgrace, they only do what they only do what they can get away with in any given location, often moving to a secluded place or behind closed door to start actual sex. I believe they are certainly tiptoeing the line rather than crossing it.
I agree that we don’t need to protect people from things that they might find objectionable. And I also agree that nudity does not equal sex. But when it’s filmed for a porn shoot, I think it’s pretty hard to say that it’s not a sexual interaction.
I wasn’t trying to imply that PD isn’t sexual, but rather trying to point out how relative these things are.
For most sexual acts, consent is paramount. The more you move from the core to the fringes, the more relative it all gets.
Kissing in public is a punishable offense in some places.
Flirting is sexual. But it doesn’t make sense to obtain consent before you do it. You should probably stop if your advances are not welcome, but a little persistence isn’t always wrong.
One person makes a picture of his/her feet and puts it on flickr, then it ends up in a foot-fetish collection. That can be slightly unsettling. But is it unethical?
While bystanders do get involved, they are barely involved and can choose to look away. That’s the defining difference to a peeping-tom situation where you can’t choose to not be looked at, although in both cases involvement is just by looking.
I agree with Figleaf about the branding of the website. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the “Public Disgrace” monicker because I don’t find anything disgraceful about the activities portrayed. And, I even think it’s disingenuous if not downright dishonest, because I don’t imagine that the participants find the activities to be particularly disgraceful, either.
However, I find myself in strong disagreement with your conclusion that there is an issue with consent in the creation of these shoots. My reasoning aligns with the point Alex made about hiding away “the gays”. Your post argues that “the shoots that take place in public settings are forcing the observers to participate in the experience.” Despite my strong faith in your all-inclusive sex-positive goodwill, I recognize that argument as sharply akin to the common homophobic complaints along the lines of “I don’t care what two guys do in their bedroom, as long as they don’t kiss in public where I have to see them. They need to keep that shit private!”
I think the common flaw lies in defining what’s appropriate in a public space by reference to the observer’s values. Put another way, I think both you and our straw-man homophobe have too broad a definition of “experience”. Right-thinking people understand that the homophobe is not adversely affected by public displays of affection; he could simply avert his eyes and walk on. So, too, could you. It’s not an ongoing “experience” unless you stay and observe, and that’s 100% your choice.
If you’re familiar with free speech and expression law, the ability to avert one’s eyes is fundamentally important — our cultures are so diverse that many people encounter public events they find deeply offensive every day, but the law (and here, I think it’s in accord with ethical principals) expects the offended observer to accommodate, not vice versa. Were it otherwise, a certain flavor of conservative religionist would feel “forced to participate in public impiety” every time he observed a woman not dressed as he thinks proper. And, indeed, I gather there are people who do feel that way, but we are not generally in ethical sympathy with them.
Finally, Alex nails it when he says “What is okay to display in public is ultimately a matter of consensus, and will differ from place to place.” For this reason local legality matters to me, because although the law need not reflect ethical principals, in democratic societies it does frequently offer a better guide to local consensus than any anecdotal impressions a foreigner is able to form.
I fully understand the point about the argument about “keeping it in the bedroom” as a ploy against queers. Given the ways that that line is used against queers when it’s not used against straight people, it clearly has more to do with homophobia than anything else. Notions of privacy are used in different ways against same-sex pairs, even when they’re doing things that male-female pairs are allowed to do. But that’s a very different situation than what I’m talking about, even if the superficial mechanism is similar.
The entire premise of Public Disgrace is that it’s sex & BDSM in public, with other people present. Despite what Alex says, bystanders are not “barely involved.” Their presence is the entire point and that brings them into the sexual experience. When a scene is deliberately designed to be as intrusive and in their faces as possible, I don’t see how you can reasonably propose that it’s on them to not participate. They weren’t asked if they wanted to join in or observe, they weren’t given the option. Once that happens, they do have the option to step away from it, but my standard of consent requires that people have the choice to join in as well as the choice to stop participating.
With the best will in the world, I fear we’re not going to agree on this one. Specifically, I don’t think the similarity of your argument to the “no gays kissing in public” argument can be so lightly dismissed. I’m not saying the two situations are the same; I’m saying that the logic of your argument is the same as the logic the homophobes are using. You can say it’s a different situation, and you’re right — but at root, both situations involve an observer claiming to be harmed by public behavior, in a situation where harm can only be established by agreeing with the observer’s values on public appropriateness. What I’m saying is that if we don’t let homophobes get away with this, we shouldn’t let sex-positive people (you) get away with it either. Certainly we shouldn’t deem “but that’s a very different situation” to be a sufficient justification for it.
I fear we also have irreconcilable notions of what it means to be “involved” in a public event. I don’t believe one is automatically involved in every public phenomenon one has the opportunity to witness. Involvement is a process. You encounter something, you initially observe it, and you choose whether or not to involve yourself by granting or withholding your attention. The amount of effort required to think “ooh, public sex, do not want” and withdraw your attention is minimal, and the burden slight. I simply don’t see that momentary flash of recognition, classification, and decision as a sexual experience that’s been committed to or upon or with you, such that your lack of consent should become an issue. (I also think we burden public expression too much if we accept a prior-restraint style obligation to limit public expressions in order to shield people from ever having to decide whether to observe them or not.)
Of course if you do choose to observe on an ongoing basis, boo or cheer, applaud, or simply store away the images for later wanking fodder, you do become a participant. But if that’s your choice, consent issues don’t arise.
The experience of involvement of bystanders is quite asymmetrical. A stranger walking by can make your heart jump out of your chest, even when that stranger never even notices you and is completely unaffected.
Being paraded around naked in front of the Brandenburg gate must be a very intense experience, while for bystanders it’s easy to look away.
How much sexual behavior is acceptable in public? Are bare shoulders acceptable? Giving someone a dirty look? Tit-flashing? Kissing? Teenagers kissing and petting? Looking at someone elses almost naked feet and being turned on?
There are plenty of lines here, and they are all arbitrary. You can’t just place a line where it seems most natural you and say that everything on this side of the line requires consent and everything on the other side of the line doesn’t.
While I do agree on the importance of consent in core sexual matters, on the fringes, what exactly requires explicit consent is negotiable and best judged in shades of gray rather than black and white.
(In reference to Alex’s: “You can’t just place a line where it seems most natural you and say that everything on this side of the line requires consent and everything on the other side of the line doesn’t.”)
I was with you up to this-
They weren’t asked if they wanted to join in or observe, they weren’t given the option.
That is not a statement you are qualified to make. You can conjecture all you want, but unless you have proof that kink.com is forcing people to witness and participate in their shoots, you cannot make such statements.
Having been a fan of kink’s work for about four years now, and having seen numerous behind the scenes interviews (behind kink) I can say this- They give a huge damn about making sure everyone they film knows what’s going on, and that they don’t expose anyone (literally or figuratively) to anything that they don’t want to see. Before PD existed, they filmed public bondage scenes without nudity, and even there they chose their locations carefully, shooting on the fly when they were clear, even scrapping shoots because they just weren’t feasible.
This is your blog, and you can say what you want. But don’t think that you can make baseless and completely unprovable statements like that and not get called out on it.
I have seen the Public Disgrace videos, and never once did it ever cross my mind that there was anyone involved that wasn’t a part of the shoot. I have been close to some individuals involved in producing a few of the original and well known “Reality TV” shows. Nothing was unscripted. The show was planned out in its entirety. From who wasn’t going to get along with who, to who was going to end up sleeping with who.
I would extremely difficult to believe the bystanders in the Public Disgrace shoots aren’t there with total and complete fore knowledge of what’s about to happen. Legal or not in the country, if you just start screwing in a public business and you’re filming it, someone (probably the manager) will stop you pretty damn quick if it isn’t already arranged well in advance. I bet ALL participants sign waivers and are compensated somehow, if only a free meal.
Was it not Dorothy Parker who proclaimed that you can do anything you want to, as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses? People have a right to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t offend anybody. That means that in the public square, where or if people are likely to be offended, you don’t have the right to do that.
In your own garden? Yes. In your own meadow? Yes. In the public square? This is more touchy; taxpayers pay for the public square, and if all or most of the taxpayers have no objection, then OK. But where others are LIKELY to be offended? Then it becomes an offense against simple civility.
We all need to live in this city together. That means that in the public square, I try not to do things that I’m sure will offend you, and I expect you to avoid things that will offend me. But for this to work, there has to be a sense of what’s acceptable in our civic environment.
In the Castro district of San Francisco, the majority of the residents get some say in the rules, and the SFPD doesn’t usually bother with “indecent exposure” laws that would be routinely enforced in Sacramento or San Jose.
And if “they” come “here” and do that stuff, they’d be told to knock it off – and arrested if they didn’t. The Supreme Court had something to say about “community standards”, I believe.
I guess my problem with “Public Disgrace” is that they INTENTIONALLY OFFEND against the “community standards”; after all, if it isn’t an offense, then it isn’t really much of a disgrace, is it? If PD is saying “If we did this in Keokuk, it would be a disgrace, but _here_ it’s all just fun”, then that’s an entirely different story.
Alex – I think you’re making an unnecessary slipper slope here. It seems to me that there is a relevant distinction to be made that has nothing to do with the relativity of the act, although it is clearly still subjective: If my watching is what is sexy, then I need to consent. I don’t appreciate any display of sexuality that forces me to be a witness -as part of the erotics-. I see this as different from a display of affection or sexuality that either isn’t about me (PDAs) or that is seeking to educate, confront or raise awareness. The former is sex without consent and the latter is a form of civic discourse. Sure, this is a difficult distinction to police, but it’s still a relevant distinction that provides a means of resistance to those who don’t consent.
To me, the question is what we do with someone like that guy who shot himself in public after emailing out his 1400pg suicide note. My gut reaction is to say that that was precisely a problem a consent.
Techreader, I don’t know what jurisdiction you live in, but in the United States freedom of expression trumps your alleged right not to be offended. There is no such thing as an obligation not to give offense in public. The reason for this is that offense is subjective … no matter what you’re doing in public, it will probably offend somebody.
There are many things that constrain public behavior in the United States, but the duty not to offend is not one of them.
As a gay who kisses in public, here’s the difference between people who want me to “keep it in the bedroom” and this: straight couples aren’t told that.
In this scenario, we’re talking about people having sex in public. In the societies to which Kink.com is primarily marketing its wares, that’s illegal and/or frowned upon–no matter who’s doing it. There’s no subset or majority of people who are granted the right to have sex in public without anyone much noticing, or with people thinking what a sweet couple they are.
No one has to consent to see me kiss my girlfriend for the same reason no one has to consent to see my parents kiss. But neither we nor my parents have the right to try to make other people watch us fuck.
A very interesting blog post – thanks for writing it and making me think. After reading the comments I feel I can see both points and I’m not sure where I stand.
A thought that has occurred to me after watching the German sample vid is whether there were children present when she was paraded nude at the Reichstag and what are people’s thoughts on the ethics of that?
If I were Kink I’d certainly want to make sure this question wasn’t raised by carefully policing the scene… but in such a big public space, would it be possible?
I actually hate it that I’m raising the “somebody think of the children!” ogre – perhaps I’ve somehow internalised that particular moral panic after fighting it for so long. I find myself thinking: is it any different to the complaints about billboards that say “Want longer lasting sex?” Is it just a matter of parents needing to explain something to a kid and not being prudish about it? Can you simply say “Oh that lady just likes to be nude, darling, don’t worry about it”?
When you live in a country with the occasional bit of nudity on daytime television, occasional topless sunbathing in public parks or at public pools, “not being prudish” pretty much sums it up.
PS: I don’t know about other countries, but over here exhibitionism is a punishable offense only for men.
So far in the Public Disgrace videos I’ve seen, the sex itself is always indoors, a cafe, or bar etc… I was in Germany for a couple of years, I saw women walking around wearing wide belts for skirts. I saw women in full rubber led on a leash, no one batted an eye. However they also weren’t having sex out in the open street.
Can anyone verify 100% that the actual people watching the sex scenes are just innocent bystanders with no idea of what was about to occur?
My belief is that once the shoot moves indoors and the sex starts its all been prearranged and everyone has already given consent to be there and are simply acting.
Without knowing that info for certain this is all just pissing in the wind.
Public Disgrace is consensual. Sex in public by regular individuals isn’t and is therefore non-consensual. I say this having participated and talk with folks in the audience. Everyone is happy, to honestly gleefully excited, to be in on the scene. As for everyday fantasy, there’s a time and a place.
@ SecretSecret, so as I was saying, everyone is in on it and there is no issue with consent.
Thanks for the confirmation.
@David & SecretSecret
You seem to have misunderstood. I’m not talking about the shoots in the bars or restaurants with closed doors and informed participants/observers. I’m talking about the shoots on public streets and plazas, which seem to all take place in Europe. Apples and oranges, as far as this particular issue is concerned.
Are they actually having intercourse in the open on public streets and plazas? Not being a member and only seeing a few promo videos I don’t know how far they go, I haven’t seen true public sex in the few promo videos.
If it’s simply a naked woman being led on a leash with a ball gag etc., well that isn’t sex, it’s public nudity. As I said I’ve seen public nudity in European cities, no one bats an eye, a few stare, mothers don’t shield their children from the horror.
There are many things in the world that many people might prefer not to see. It’s different for everyone. It doesn’t mean anyone needs to get anyone else to consent to see it before doing it in public view, as long as it’s leqal. I was in a relationship with a vegan for a while, who became very ill when seeing a sheep slaughtered in a public market in Turkey. Should the butcher have gotten everyone’s consent before cutting the sheep’s throat in public? No of course not. Should a parent get’s everyone’s consent before scolding a child in public? Again of course not. That’s what laws are for, to set the standard of what a particular society feels is appropriate behavior. If it’s legal there, then it’s ok there.
Question- what’s the ethical difference between eating in public and having sex in public? I don’t understand why I need permission to perform one bodily function in public, but not in the other. Isn’t the sexual act the epitome of an expression of love? What right do we have to censor this specific bodily function as an expression? Other than a societally constructed taboo, I don’t see one.
I see your point, but legal still doesn’t equal ethical. Lots of things are or have been legal in various places without being ethical.
Jonathan Cunningham, you’ve nailed it. What I do with my body is absolutely my own business and nobody else’s. Whether someone else chooses to watch is their business. The OP is hypocritical: either sex is “dirty” and needs to be hidden, or it’s not. You can’t have it both ways.
I hope you would agree that what’s considered ethical in one culture can easily be considered unethical in another. I believe you can’t simply apply Western ethics and morals across the board in other cultures. That appears to me to be what you’re doing in this case.
* Public Disgrace does take a vacation to Europe specifically because the laws are different and they can capture footage that is more public than they are allowed to film in America. (Questions: Is this is a celebration of another cultural model of sexuality that is different than what we have in the United States? Is it ethical to travel to an Eastern European country to film more profitable porno because you can *get away* with having sex on a bus? What about the fact that many of the cities that PD visits for these shoots are also cities with *serious* trafficking issues?)
*I am surprised that no one has commented about the presence of alcohol on virtually every party-style shoot at Kink. You can count the red cups in the promotional images of Public Disgrace and they are a sure indicator that the shoot took place on a closed set inside the armory. There is also a lot of liquor on The Upper Floor and many of the websites under the larger Kink umbrella do host live party shoots there from time to time.
I want to clarify before I go on: I’m not a teetotaler. All adults have the right and the responsibility to make their own choices about the consumption of alcohol. We are in desperate need of a balanced model for substance use and SM play/sex that represents the fact that a glass of wine, a beer, a cocktail, and many other substances and recreational drugs can definitely enhance the pleasure of sexual activities. Substance use is not black and white, it exists on a spectrum. I am not even remotely suggesting that party porn sets be dry. All party guests are repeatedly told that they are not obligated to remove a thread of clothing or do anything more than be a voyeur if they so choose. Participation is welcome and encouraged, of course, but it is not required unless you are on the pay roll. Maybe that is as far as they need to go from there and I am open to that idea.
It cannot be ignored that the ethics of consent are murky when non-compensated and non-industry guests make up the bulk of the party and the company hosting the event stands to profit from someone doing something they might not have otherwise done sober. Your admission ticket into the party with free food and free booze are any and all of the images that are recorded during your stay and whether or not you like what you did they will run.
The Ultimate Surrender live matches used to provide free alcohol for the audience but after some problems they moved to a BYOB model that has been working out very well so far. The Upper Floor and the Speakeasy at the Armory still have free and open bars that are always kept very well stocked. At an Ultimate Surrender live match, audience participation is limited to cheering from the stands. Audience members are *not* encouraged to interact sexually with the wrestlers but at Public Disgrace or The Upper Floor guests *are* encouraged to interact sexually with models and other guests.
I don’t know how I feel about it all, exactly, but I do want to hear what other people think about any of these ideas.
> Is it ethical to travel to an Eastern European
> country to film more profitable porno because you
> can *get away* with [it]?
This is a bit tricky.
I mean, it is clearly ethical to get naked on a nude beach in a foreign country, even when your home country doesn’t have any.
It is probably unethical to travel to a cannibal tribe to get a chance to eat someones kidney.
But I don’t really know how to nail down the difference.
As far as Public Disgrace is concerned, I think it’s ethical to shoot it there, and ethical to show it in the US, the end.
I actually am a teetotaler and tend to keep my opinions on alcohol to myself. I don’t want to preach.
But I don’t see a problem with alcohol on Public Disgrace and The Upper Floor.
When someone is in the Armory, they know up front what they’re getting themselves into and make the decision to enjoy it with alcohol while they are still sober.
Dragging drunk people into a shoot would be a different story. That would blindside them while they are vulnerable.
As far as trafficking is concerned, I think that is an issue of exploitability due to poverty and local organized crime. I don’t see how Public Disgrace is related.
The ethical question that I think is relevant is “is it ethical to engage in a sexual activity in order to get people to react, if they haven’t consented to be part of the interaction?” What are your thoughts on that piece?
Also, the question that Mata Hari touches on about alcohol is whether people do things while under the influence that they would not have chosen to do if sober.
I don’t believe it’s always unethical.
Kissing, touching a leg, being led on a leash (clothed) or suggestively sucking a Popsicle, these are all sexual activities that can become more exciting when you have an audience. I don’t believe they are inherently unethical in public, and I hope you agree.
But not everyone would. There are places where kissing in public is considered indecent.
This is neither a pure issue of sex, where consent should be the universal ethical norm, nor is it a pure issue of public expression, where freedom should be the universal ethical norm. How to deal with this intersection is down to local community standards.
Sexual consent means no-one should be forced to participate without consent.
Free public expression means that when you see something that bothers you, you should just look away.
I don’t see some sort of one true way to resolve this conflict.
I don’t see a universal line where everything on one side of the line requires consent and everything on the other side doesn’t. Too many shades of gray.
And Public Disgrace seems to navigate these shades of gray quite carefully, staying in the light grays, avoiding the dark shades. Never doing more than they can get away with in a given location (varying community standards, varying degrees of seclusion). In most public places, they display little more than nudity. They are never in anyone’s face in such a way that would make it difficult for them to look away or walk away.
That’s ethical enough for me.
As for the alcohol thing: These guests know well ahead what they’re getting into. They have plenty of time to think about what to do or not to do while they are still sober. They deliberately intoxicate themselves, knowing that sex will happen shortly and they may be asked to get involved. They don’t get blindsided while they are drunk and vulnerable.
As Mata Hari wrote, issues of alcohol and consent are on a spectrum, not black and white, and this seems far away from the dark shades.
I can’t think of much that I would consider “always unethical” because the details, context, and intention matter. In my follow up post, I wrote a bit more about what it is about public PD shoots that I find problematic.
At this stage the many “professionals” in the porn industry are simply completely out of control. Along with the questionable content from Kink.com – many of the “mainstream” adult movies (especially in the adult parody market) are pushing the themes of pedophilia and incest.
It’s sick but true – I was a porn actress so I know. When you see something that makes you “wonder” – be it a DVD or a clip online don’t be afraid to report it to authorities.
I agree with this article. While I often view these “public” clips and get turned on by the fantasy of it I can’t help but think that I would be offended if I were an unsuspecting person that happens to wander in on one of these things. Someone else would be using me for their own sexual pleasure and I’m not down with that.
I have to make a point that I can’t believe no one else has noticed. After watching a few of the Public Disgrace videos I have a hard time believing that the bystanders have no idea what is going on and aren’t warned before hand. Has anyone else noticed there are never any children around? Isn’t that something that would happen id there was a sex science going on in the middle of the day in public? I think people are very much warned beforehand and if their are children around they are removed from the situation
Given that kink.com has all of the video, what do you suppose the odds are that any shots showing children aren’t simply edited out. Or, for that matter, any shots of bystanders looking uncomfortable? The fact that you never see either is hardly proof that it doesn’t happen.
I believe the scenes in Public Disgrace are 100% staged and there is no one on the set who isn’t in on the whole thing. Otherwise the logistics are just too much of a headache. Whether it’s socially acceptable inthe country or not.
You might want to check some of the locations, it is simply impossible to stage all scenes.
I agree with David. I think it’s staged, granted it’s quite elaborate and realistic, but I believe everyone who’s in the remote area of the scene in question is a volunteer in the shoot.
Guy, as I said in my post, I know that many of the scenes are staged. Those tend to be the ones in closed spaces like bars and stores. But the ones that are filmed in public squares or parks? Walking down the street? Do you really think they check in with every single person who happens to be walking past? It seems unlikely to me.
They show people either taking photos, watching, or walking past, but never anyone who seems upset or annoyed. I suspect that they use creative editing to make it look that way by cutting any shots of people who have negative reactions. Those spaces are simply too large to control that well. When big hollywood movies or TV shows have to manage that, it takes a lot of work and a lot of people. I’d be really surprised to discover that kink.com sinks that much money into it.
Though if anyone from kink.com wants to let us know, that would be useful.
WTF do u mean “forced to watch” someone holding a gun to there head? they are free to leave whenever they feel dude…besides if there sitting there watching its because they want to, and im positive everyone in the area is notified about what happens before it goes on.
Well true no one should be forced into seeing it but chances are they will catch a glimpse, it is their choice however to just continue on their way. People see things they don’t want to everyday. It happens. Why take away from those who are consenting?
For example, let’s say a racist doesn’t like black people, however they are forced to see them on a regular basis although it is offensive to them. A nun doesn’t approve of alcohol or girls showing off their cleavage but people get to drink almost freely and girls can show off as much boob as they want.
The fact of the matter is we all see things we don’t want to but if it isn’t illegal it is something we have to deal with. At least they have someone on watch for families and children if any of them are around they move their “scene” elsewhere.
For the children specifically, if you’ve ever listen to the people in the video the have someone on watch for families and small children and stop their “scene” before a child is in the area.
A NY judge ruled that people can be totally nude in public if it is done for artistic purposes. Surely some people will be offended. Nudists say “nude is not lewd” but there are people that disagree…What does this forum think about someone stumbling upon a topless or even nude person in public?
To give a concrete example, in NYC, there is a woman that walks outside topless every day. Despite the law permitting her to be topless (another NY judge ruled a woman can be topless anywhere a man can be) there are plenty of people who are offended.
Personally, I would love to meet her…I would also love to stumble upon a heterosexual couple having sex…while I wouldn’t want to watch gay males having sex, I would simply look the other way.
As for other people unwittingly watching a public sex scene, that’s a tough question…maybe public sex is ethical, but perhaps public S&M is unethical, and the more violent the S&M the more unethical it is.
But let’s ask ourselves another question…how many people really want to have sex in a truly public location? Probably very few…most of us, myself included, are nervous about getting caught by police…do we really have to give this matter that much thought since it’s so rare an occurrence? There are so many other more pressing issues, like wars raging throughout the world and exacerbating global poverty.
well sex is something great ,,,but as i know as a human who have a mind and a heart,,,i think sex is something comes out from love to someone,,so i am turned on by someone i love so i will have sex with her and not in public because that sex is something sacred for us ,,if sex positive is saying that sex is a natural thing and some people are turned on by being watched in public ,or they want to have it in public cause it gives them extra pleasure well excuse me this is take sex from a thing for love and for reproduction to something animalistic and disgusting,,yeah it’s natural and it’s a great thing and we have to do it,well poop is more natural and if i didn’t do it i will have a lot of health problems so i think from what saying about sex positivism and consent for sex to be pleasurable at any circumstances and nudity become something natural throwing the freedom of everybody at the wall ,well i think poop is more important to poop anywhere in the street or peeing man for people who have diabetes they have to pee so let gives them that it’s necessary and natural ,,more than a filthy thing having sex in public or people turned on by being nude in public ,,,,
My question is,…in situations like you describe in public places, where onlookers aren’t expecting an act to take place that has nothing to do with their own consent–WHAT IF a child walks by and views this?
This is my issue with this subject. That and I don’t particularly enjoy seeing a young and possibly naive woman made to look weak and viewed more as a mere assembly of body parts over the real and alive human being she is.
I consider this to be one of the major problems with cultural attitudes toward sex in these last 600-1000 years or so. The whole hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil mantra. This belief that seeing something somehow makes you involved with it. It just simply does not. It is such a terrible logic that according to it we all participated in murder when we saw qudafi’s body on the news. Seeing people perform sexual acts, even without your consent, in no way makes you a participant anymore so than seeing a murder on T.V. makes you a murderer. If I’m walking through the park and I see two people having sex on a picnic table, I in no way just had a sexual experience, non-consensual or otherwise. This sort of terrible logic in your blog is the reason why we have people winding up on sex offender registries for posting nude pics of themselves on the internet or getting caught masturbating in a public restroom. It’s idiotic and absurd to the extreme and the middle east is the only region of the world that shares this backards logic with us. We shouldn’t be proud that the U.S. and the middle east have this in common.
“My question is,…in situations like you describe in public places, where onlookers aren’t expecting an act to take place that has nothing to do with their own consent–WHAT IF a child walks by and views this?”
My opinion on this is that there is no harm in not shielding your children from the world. They have to learn about that stuff one way or another, and all people (children are people too) have a right to know what is going on around them. Again, I think the problem, whether anyone is aware of it or not, is how our culture is influenced by the whole “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mantra. This belief that somehow a child is “scarred” or “ruined” or their “soul” or more modernly their “moral development” has somehow been jeopardized. It’s psychotic thinking. Do children sometimes see naked people? Do they sometimes see sex acts? Do their heads explode? Do they all grow up to be axe wielding psychopaths? No? No? No? Then where is any evidence of REAL HARM? And if there’s no REAL HARM, then why is it considered bad?
I’ve been an extra in public disgrace films
before and I signed a form, haha I just
had no idea for what I was in for. But
i have no problem with sex in public and
love group participation. I’m on your side
absolutely about the audience though, its no fun at all if the audience doesn’t enjoy the show and comfort should be first and foremost. Nobody should be subjected to sexual acts against their will, that is a horrendous violation of every human right and as someone who’s been on the receiving end I am vigilant against it!
Thank you for this article. I’ve never questionned prior consent that way.
Consent is everything.
II find the ‘walk away /turn your head’ argument a little bit simplistic. Can we just walk away from this ? From being objected,forced to be part of a sexual activity ? Isn’t like saying frotteurism is ok because no prior consent is necessary to engage sexual activity and plus , the other can just ‘walk away’ ?
A solution is already provided in medical context.
we dx fetish bdsm etc according to DSM4.
if they caim to have the urge or preferrenco of specific like or dislike. let the psychiatrist do their job.
we have obamacare now do we?
While I am aware of my 4-year-too-late of a comment, I can’t help but post my opinion.
I greatly enjoyed reading your article, and I am equally glad that Alex reflected on the other side of the coin. However, we all know that nothing is black and white. Having spent most of my life in Eastern Europe, I know first hand that the absence of prohibiting laws does not mean the presence of laws that allow certain behavior. I can’t speak for Germany, but in Slavic countries especially, such acts can result in offended locals becoming quite physically aggressive or even worse, police officers may arrive at the scene, beat the crap out of a few participants and take them in. An average police officer there does not care about international conventions on human rights when a tied up girl is being fucked in the public area in broad daylight. Mr. James Dean would have easily been thrown in a basement jail of a small police station–then go figure where he is, get the US Embassy involved to get him out–hardly the problems Kink.com would want to deal with, needless to say that he’d be pretty badly bruised. This apparently is not happening to them. Therefore, it appears obvious that Kink.com is taking preventive measures to avoid dealing with such significant issues– by controlling the “civillians” who arrive at the scene, and possibly, by paying off the local police (traditional practice in some countries). This is certainly to ensure their own peace of mind, rather than due to their regard to the general public, of course. In conclusion, I’d like to point out:
1. I agree that no unwilling observer should be exposed to the scene.
2. It is wrong to have an unwilling person appear on footage of a pornographic film.
3. While Alex’s point of view is quite valid and noteworthy, it does not apply when the subject is about a planned filming of pornographic content. Gay men kissing in public express their affection to one another, just like a heterosexual couple can. Not the same when I’m walking down the street with my 5 year old daughter and some dude is wiggling his dick around or fucking a girl. Moreover, if this is being done to make a commercial product with my daughters surprised face on film, Be sure that I’ll take your ass down both physically as well as in legal proceedings.
P.S.: despite the absence of prohibiting laws, the citizens of those countries do not have sex on public. It is foolish to assume that the public is ok with that and even more foolish to think that a few Americans (not very well regarded in the old world) can just come to and Eastern European country and freely fuck in public areas. Just not going to happen.