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In response, Alexander produced a bank statement with an image of the check she was given after the meeting. It is paid from the cam department's account, in the amount of $745.07. The memo line reads "residual for May 2012." The check is handwritten — not a typical payroll check.
Avatari says she was never offered workers' comp for injuries sustained during the virginity shoot. "It took me months to heal after I lost my virginity," she claims. "I had to have vaginal reconstructive surgery. There was no compensation for that. Honestly, I was lucky I had insurance at the time."
Avatari says the shoot was plagued with problems — she could not be fully penetrated at first, she claims, and the male model performing with her switched directly from anal to vaginal contact without taking proper measures to cleanse himself in between. She eventually stopped the shoot because "I was in a lot of pain," but took a break to collect herself and then completed the scene. Afterwards, she explains, "They had a doctor inspect me right after to make sure I didn't need stitches, but after that there was no more aftercare."
After she healed, Avatari claims she tried to work with Kink again, but says they wouldn't hire her. "My porn career has been shattered completely," she explains.
Alexander was able to return to Kink after her injury. Her goal, she says, was to be cast on The Upper Floor, another of Kink's websites, and thereby escape the toxic cam department. She claims to have often performed for free on The Upper Floor, and that when she was asked to represent Kink at the Folsom Street Fair last fall she thought her chance at a casting had finally arrived.
On stage at the fair, she estimates that she was caned and whipped for 35 minutes. "I've never received a beating like that before in my life," Alexander says. "I have permanent scars up and down the backs of my thighs. It was all things that I had consented to, but I didn't know quite the brutality of what was about to happen to me until I was in it."
Of this incident, Acworth says, "There was never any mention of work on The Upper Floor on this occasion," adding that "following the scene, Eden gave no feedback to the effect that she was upset by the markings."
But according to his own shooting rules, she shouldn't have to say anything. The rules read, "Models must be informed about the possibility of being marked prior to the shoot, and they must explicitly agree to being marked in a way that lasts more than a few hours. ... Heavier marking beneath the skin, including blue/purple bruising, should not be substantial, even if the model consents." If these rules had been followed, Alexander should never have sustained permanent scars on her body. Acworth says the shooting rules were not in effect at the fair, even though Alexander was filmed and footage was posted BehindKink.com, a Kink site devoted to promoting the company. "Since Folsom Street Fair is very much a BDSM practitioners event, and because no shoot was shot at the fair for the purposes of publication on our paid sites, the shooting rules were not in effect for it."
However, Alexander's experiences aren't representative of every model at the company. Sebastian Keys (who is Alexander's partner) and others say they've always received ethical treatment while performing. Coral Aorta holds that pushing boundaries isn't necessarily a bad thing. "I've always felt that my limits were tested, but not in a way that I didn't like," she says. "It's more been in a way that I've grown and learned what my body can take." Aorta also described an instance in which she had tried to push through bondage scenes while her hand was numb, but the director stepped in to stop the shoot.
Lorelei Lee, a model and a director at Kink as well as the co-writer of About Cherry, a film about the porn industry, says, "As a director, it is my biggest fear that a model will walk away having had a bad experience and not having communicated that to me." In an e-mail response to questions about on-set safety at the Armory, she explains, "From the minute a model walks in the door to the minute he or she leaves, every employee he or she comes in contact with ... knows that it is their responsibility to care for the model's emotional and physical safety above all else. That is absolutely unheard of for a porn company. This model of respect and conscientiousness becomes a part of everyone's interactions within the company, so that everyone there treats each other with more care. It is such an amazing place to work."
Princess Donna, a longtime performer and director at Kink, says that models are ultimately responsible for stopping a scene that breaches their limits. During her very first BDSM shoot with a New York company, she says, "I was crying and crying, which was not against their shooting rules. There was a male dominant and a male videographer and a female photographer. I kept looking to her to save me, you know? But then I realized, that's what safe words are for, and it's my responsibility to say what I can and can't handle."
What Alexander's and Avatari's experiences do show is that even at a company known for its high ethical standards, infractions can slip through the cracks.
Even if one of the leaders of ethical porn falters, the principles behind the production still exist. Princess Donna says of her work, "I consider myself an artist. I think what I make is much more than jerk-off material. It's for people to explore their fantasies and let go of shame. I think it's a huge public service." For critics, she offers, "Obviously we are going to be under scrutiny because people think it's torture or something. It's funny to me because Kink is probably one of the only places that asks you what you want to do or not do explicitly before the scene occurs."