Review - Submission of Emma Marx

by Rich Moreland, October 2013

An earlier post on these pages introduced a newly emerging adult film category I’ve identified as “submission pornography.” The subgenre takes the growing interest in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) and adds a storyline emphasizing romantic consensual elements. It’s Fifty Shades of Grey without the assumption that kinky people are psychologically damaged deviants who must be shown a better path to sex and love.

New Sensations’ The Submission of Emma Marx defines the intention of submission porn and is one of the best adult films I’ve seen. I evaluated the movie in three blog entries (August 2013) the reader can find under the title A Different Kind of Normal.

Here’s the tricky part with submission porn. Emma Marx’s writer and co-director Jacky St. James explains that balance is needed between BDSM as a “torture chamber” where “pain trumps the psychological” and the “connected relationships between doms and subs” that are more reciprocal and loving. Accomplishing this equilibrium is tough because a bondage film must include an effective mixture of fantasy and reality that doesn’t come across as a Marquis de Sade short story.

On the other hand, how does a writer/director authenticate bondage scenes and avoid the fluff and silliness that was the industry standard decades ago? I asked Jacky what she did to verify that Emma’s character was accurately presented.

Before getting to specifics she wanted to make a point. Jacky insisted that new ways of looking at BDSM are giving women the “opportunity to spread our wings.” There is little doubt today that a female porn audience is leaving the patriarchal nest and books like Fifty Shades have moved women forward at light speed. That alone is minimizing pain and the medieval rack.

A Thoughtful Moment from the Director's Chair Photo Courtesy of Jacky St. James

A Thoughtful Moment from the Director’s Chair
Photo Courtesy of Jacky St. James

And it created Emma.

Jacky then emphasized two concerns she considered most important in preparing to bring her vision from the writer’s pen to a well-produced DVD.

Personally unfamiliar with the BDSM scene, Jacky went to message boards within the kink community. She discovered that kinky people think BDSM films tend to be “extreme and violent” in portraying what bondage enthusiasts love so much. There is “little consideration” for describing “the psychological aspects” of what turns people on to that type of sexual relationship, she says. At that moment Jacky decided an accurate picture of one particular view of kinkiness would become her mission in writing Emma Marx.

Once that goal was established, Jacky moved to her second issue.

“Kinky somehow implies that it’s different than the norm or not standard practice,” Jacky says. “All sex should be normal provided it’s legal and between consenting adults.” Emma Marx clearly reveals that kinky has several definitions of normal.

A Penny for Success

Casting Penny Pax, a seasoned BDSM performer, in the lead role made Emma Marx one of the best films of 2013. “I worked with Penny on getting her to go to those dark emotional places,” Jacky mentions, and the petite twenty-something responded in spades. Penny’s energy for the type of sex she relishes (she has shot on several occasions at Kink.com) takes Emma Marx up several notches.

The script was constructed to induce Penny to animate her persona as a BDSM devotee. Jacky presented Emma’s growth in three sex scenes that highlight Penny’s talents. The first entailed Emma understanding what surrender means; the second was “an exploration” into bondage and discipline; and the third was her discovery that a BDSM relationship can bring sexual freedom and emotional liberation.

Involved in the planning process was the question of how to handle the film’s anal scene because Emma is persuaded to experiment with something she doesn’t thinks she wants. A woman-friendly point of view, albeit in a BDSM atmosphere, was the sought after benchmark. Jacky vehemently opposed a rough and violent act that focused on “crazy, insane thrusting” so common in anal gonzo. She insisted that the script develop an episode that is “less intimidating and more connected,” a kind of “romantic anal.” In short, it’s anal sex as a female viewer would experience it.

Throughout the filming Penny Pax was BDSM gold. Penny “was gung-ho about some of the more painful montage scenes we shot,” Jacky said, pointing out the clothespins on her breasts as an example. Jacky gave Penny, who markets herself as “Lil’ Miss Masochist,” the freedom to decide what she was “game to do” and what she preferred to avoid. That is real life BDSM.

Penny and Emma  Photo Courtesy of Adult Video News

Penny and Emma
Photo Courtesy of Adult Video News

Jacky St. James is the perfect script writer for submission porn. She likes the taboo element of pain and pleasure, but she wants to move it away from a Fifty Shades “weak female protagonist” who is consumed with “winning over the heart of a man as opposed to a fearless journey into the depths of her own sexuality.” And of course, the storyline must avoid gratuitous pain popular in some male-oriented entertainment.

Emma Marx’s timing is perfect. The Fifty Shades momentum is “mainstreaming BDSM,” Jacky believes. Women previously confined by vanilla definitions of sex are visiting female-friendly storefronts like Good Vibrations and attending Tupperware type parties to buy sex toys which now include ball gags, floggers, and leather restraints. Pornographers are poised to market their video products to these same women, cultivating the further growth of submission porn.

Absolutely Feminist

Jacky St. James is a feminist who believes that her spin on feminism is “critical to the adult genre.” Putting women in the XXX driver’s seat is her goal. Composing scripts, directing, and producing can be profitably forged from a female viewpoint. Despite old sex-negative feminists who have circumscribed female sexuality as docile and soft, Jacky assures us that a woman’s desires can be as hardcore as a man’s. Women don’t want to be limited by the overly romantic eroticism of decades ago that was quickly pigeon-holed as sex as a woman sees it.

Female porn, however, is not monolithic. Though approaches to the carnal may differ among feminist filmmakers, Jacky reinforces one important point. Women directors have more of an “equal focus on both sexes” when shooting the sex. With a few exceptions, feminist directors are going to minimize the gonzo aspects of cinematography. As Jacky puts it, there’s more to porn than “simply a woman and a penis.”

 “The films I direct and write are absolutely feminist,” Jacky explains. That means finding performers who exude the feminist ideal appropriate for female characters Jacky describes as “the strongest, most independent” women she can create. Jacky’s women aren’t “solely defined by their relationships with men, but by their own values and desires.”

Likewise New Sensation male actors are more that buffed bodies behind their engorged masculinity. Jacky wants them to have feelings and personality and, of course, an intellect. They must be able to handle the “mental aspects of sexuality.” Jacky explains that her idea of good filmed sex means that both sexes must understand what sensuality means. It’s “a thought” and “a look,” part of the foreplay element that often distinguishes feminist filming.

Casting for Jacky St. James can be daunting because of the standards she demands. “I look for talented, well-adjusted people with great personalities,” she says. Shooting for the formally trained actress and director means that skill trumps a well-recognized porn name. Jacky’s hires must have a “level of intuition” for the character they are portraying and must be “in tune” emotionally with themselves and others.” The job is more than just reading a few lines. Performers are best suited for a New Sensations film if they carry the “passion and desire” to give their best. Jacky has the experience to encourage and persuade performers to come through with flying colors if they are willing and driven to do so.

Getting it Right Takes Time  Photo Courtesy of Jacky St. James

Getting it Right Takes Time
Photo Courtesy of Jacky St. James

A native of the Washington D.C. metro area, Jacky studied theater in college graduating with honors, drama degree in hand. For her the stage play is “a living and breathing human experience,” an art form like no other.  One of her favorite dramatists she mentioned in our interview is Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright known for his social commentary. A good training ground for Jacky, where else is the political and social tweaked more than in porn?

In 2004 Jacky migrated to Southern California in search of new adventures. Six years later she “stumbled across a career in porn.” Adult film consumers have benefited since.

Powerful Moments

How important is a good performance to Jacky St. James?  In a business that spends most of its filming budget on talent, Jacky insists on getting it right. She’s been called a slave driver, humorously of course, for her perfectionism. “If it takes twenty to get a scene right, then I’ll shoot twenty takes. There are no short cuts,” she declares.

A New Sensation’s production may require eighteen hour days, Jacky says, and often filming can consume a handful of days. That means her actors must have an “incredible work ethic.”

Like Penny Pax.

She was a “rewarding experience” for Jacky who admits she has “always connected” with Penny because the five foot dynamo is “a naturally open person.” Reaching “those places inside of her” are keystones that holds the Emma Marx narrative together. Jacky summarizes the film best when she says of Penny, she is “able to bring those powerful moments to life.”

No doubt. Penny Pax and New Sensations have one of the best porn films of all time in this Jacky St. James narrative.

 

A Different Kind of Normal: Part Three

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

This is the final installment of my review of The Submission of Emma Marx. The film is wrapped in many layers, among them an overwhelming feminist statement.
 

Part of Her Training Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Are We Normal?
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

A Deliberate Process

“We’re not like normal people.”

Like women who long to start that conversation with lovers who seem distant, Emma Marx voices her doubts to the man who is refining her kinks.

Not that her BDSM education is for naught. Emma is learning the rules and William is a patient instructor.

Emma’s intitiation into bondage is tastefully handled by directors Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell. BDSMers who prefer total nudity with their “training films” will be disappointed with this part of the movie because Emma is being “broken in” slowly and with care. It’s not about displaying her body; she has deeper issues with her psychological barriers.

One provocative image occurs at this juncture in the film. As part of her training, Emma, clothed in a red dress, is taught to kneel inside the front door of William’s house with hands behind her back. Later in the story’s most dramatic moment, this submissive shot is re-visited with new purpose.
 

William directs all aspects of her education and woven into the harsher scenes of flogging are shots of him massaging her (BDSMers call it “aftercare’) and a brief shower episode artistically framed at a distance through the glass enclosed stall. She is on her knees cleansing him.
 

Likewise, preparing her for anal is a deliberate, loving process. In feminist-oriented pornography, anal sex is generally avoided because most women don’t like it and don’t care to see it. Emma Marx has another message: anal is also a kink once considered an exclusive male fantasy. Over the last two decades, it’s become a standard in adult productions and has gained wider acceptance among female viewers.

Like the protagonist in The Story of O, Emma Marx is moved gradually into anal. With William’s help, she applies the butt plugs she received as a gift to increase her physical capacity to accommodate him. When the anal scene arrives, it is without foreplay. No oral, just insertion and rhythm with lots of tenderness.  

The directors’ approach abandons formulaic gonzo porn’s oft used ATM (ass-to-mouth), a questionable sexual behavior for health reasons. Mixing oral and anal randomly and without care sends the wrong message. Sex should be fun, not risky.

By the way, the scene is pure Penny Pax. Though as Emma she must come across as reluctant to experiment with anal, Penny is no stranger to it. For female viewers, St. James and Powell communicate that with preparation, anal is enjoyable.  As for Penny, her passion and ecstasy is hinted in her voice and her face, but the flushing around her shoulders and chest reveal her authentic arousal.

 

Lying Awake at Night

In the office scene that accelerates the movie’s pace, Emma voices her fears that their relationship is not normal. William’s frustration reaches the breaking point. Knowing she is resistant to her true feelings and cannot act on her own to leave him, he unties her, gets her to her feet, and forces her down the stairs.

Submissively at his Desk Photo Courtesy of Jeff Koga

Submissively at his Desk
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Koga

The action tumbles down the steps and speaks for Emma’s world as it is crumbling. She is driven by her attraction to William and not the BDSM, denying what she feels inside. Dominated by her need for society’s approval, Emma struggles with the word “normal,” not yet understanding what he already knows. Normal has various meanings and is not always a reflection of what everyone tacitly agrees it should be.

William knows he has failed and slashes back at her doubts, telling Emma that continuing together is no good. He’s seen this show before. “You’ll lie awake at night, wondering if something is wrong with us because we’re different,” he shouts.

Emma Marx explores the dilemma many BDSMers face. What is the true passion, the person or the kink? In fact, kinksters sometimes will drop vanilla lovers because the fetish is a part of who they are and cannot be abandoned. This is Emma’s conflict. Is it William she wants and is she just playing along, like Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, to keep her lover, try to understand him, and remove her own kinks from the equation? Or, is the BDSM beginning to take hold inside her like O in The Story of O who can change lovers but keeps her whippings? And if it becomes strong enough, will Emma someday replace William with a tougher dominant, an act of independence?  

Emma is astonished and fearful. At the foot of the stairs she asks William to punish her for her doubts. She removes his belt and hands it to him. It’s a desperate act of bravado to forestall rejection. He complies, expressing his anger. But it’s brutality, not pleasure, and she quickly safewords with “red.” Their relationship is over. He can’t go on with her; she doesn’t get it.

In this scene, like the paddle in her office disciple earlier, the belt is not shown striking Emma because meaning is not tied up in the physicality of the punishment. It’s about bridging a mental abyss; the camera lets her facial expressions and the sounds of the instrument carry the action. Once again, Penny Pax is superlative as Emma. She is a treasure in adult film.

*       *       *       *       *

Emma resigns her position with William Frederick’s company and in a well-conceived overhead shot they pass on the stairs: she descending; he ascending. He is going to the privacy of his mountain top; she’s headed out to find another job.

Thoughts of What Could Be Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Thoughts of What Could Be
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Time is laboring on, the days pass. Working to pull off a successful wedding for Nadia, Emma is haunted by her thoughts of William.

Images of her efforts to forget float across the screen. In one, she sits on her bed, holding a butt plug as her mind drifts.

“Will happiness always elude me?” she says in a voice over.

On her big day, Nadia talks happiness and suggests that it lies within, confirming the inescapable Emma cannot shake. She has only one choice.  

Happiness in a Vanilla Wedding Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Happiness is a Vanilla Wedding for Nadia
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Penance and Purification

Emma must yield to her desires and return to the safety of William Frederick’s house, his galaxy of BDSM delights circling the Sun of acceptance.

Emma clarifies for herself what she has always known: she is not comfortable in her sister’s vanilla world. She now accepts that finding someone who shares her perversions “for a different kind of normal” defines happiness for what it is: universally sought and individually discovered.

But purification must come first and the final scene in its entirety does exactly that with an initial self-imposed ritual of penance. Emma returns to William, enters his front door and submissively falls to her knees with hands behind her as she was previously taught. She will wait an eternity if need be. Beside the door on the right is the sanctuary’s sentinel, the mirror and the plants repositioned now so that the stalks are leaning in unison, one above the other, toward Emma.

William sees her from the top of the stairs where he had previously bound and flogged her, but does not come to her. Not yet.

Hours later he descends, scoops up a sleeping Emma and carries her to the mountain top.

The music is spiritual and Handelesque.

All for her Pleasure Photo courtesy of New Sensations

All for her Pleasure
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Binding her spread-eagled to the bed, William welcomes her home in a sex scene that is focused entirely on her. He blindfolds her, gives her earplugs with music, and covers her body with sensation: hot wax, ice, and lots of oral.

Emma’s feet clench forcefully, she curls her toes and grasps the bed covers with her hands as if trying to rip an unseen life force from the fabric and absorb it into herself. Her cries and moans punctuate the energy of a sex scene that is a visual experience.

Emma becomes worthy in her own eyes and a disciple-like vision for William.

Though BDSMers might challenge the use of perversions to describe their kink, they surely will agree with the film’s belief that normality is in the eye of the beholder. However, Emma Marx delivers another message of what it means to be normal, the emerging power of the independent woman—a seeming contradiction to the BDSM submissive.

As the film closes on a sunny day, Emma receives a message from William to come to his house for another round of bondage play. Smiling, she is delighted and secure that she is now in a different normal. The moment is significant for what it does not tell the viewer. Emma Marx is not married and is not living with William. At this point, at least, she is unwilling to embrace her sister’s interpretation of normal. She remains her whole self, an undeniable feminist statement.

*        *        *        *        *

No adult film is perfect because sex, and in this case an accompanying fetish,  has no standard definition of how it should be presented. But The Submission of Emma Marx is pretty darn close. I could go over a short list of things I would have liked to have seen: at least one internal pop shot because most women viewers don’t care for facials (Emma gets a partial one at the end) and some more time devoted to BDSM training with total nudity to please the bondage and discipline crowd. But this is just quibbling.
 

Most important, I urge New Sensations to consider an Emma Marx series, though corralling Penny Pax and Richie Calhoun for another film is probably easier suggested than done.

Emma Marx is about the liberation of a woman and her soul accomplished through the seeming contradiction of consensual BDSM. As I pointed out previously, its intensity, drama, and pure emotion coupled with discipline and punishment makes this film a leader in the submission porn genre. It has a strong cast and one of porn’s best players, Penny Pax, a BDSM veteran who can act and be carried away with authentic orgasms. She communicates directly with the audience, persuading the viewer to step into the scene and sweep her up. I found myself concentrating on her every nuance, especially her eyes that seem to speak directly the viewer. That’s something rarely found in the commercialism of the porn industry that insists producers quickly get on with the next project.

The Submission of Emma Marx is art and sex combined into a narrative that moves the viewer. But what is the film really saying? Early in the story Emma tells William with a touch of haughtiness, “I may look submissive, but I can assure you I’m not.” Perhaps Emma Marx, who later admits that “deep down” in her “demented mind” she actually likes her punishments, lets us know that love is many layered with confounding emotions darting among our fantasies.

A Different Kind of Normal: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

This is the second installment of my review of The Submission of Emma Marx, a well-crafted story from Jacky St. James and beautifully filmed by Eddie Powell.    

Penny Pax as Emma Marx Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Penny Pax as Emma Marx
                                 Photo courtesy of New Sensations                                

Sit!
 

Emma now meets William Frederick on his own turf. He invites her into his home for dinner. Though visiting Frederick had become an “obsession,” the revelation of its purpose is more than Emma anticipated. He confronts her with a D/s (dominant/submissive) contract.

Though she is destined to cave to his demands, Emma is no fool. She will eventually use her reticence to sign the document as a negotiation tactic to get a job with his company, showing him a strength that enhances her character. But we jump ahead in the story here, so a quick backtrack is in order.

Arriving at his home, Emma lets herself in as she was instructed to do.  She wears thigh-high stockings and heels as he requested. Emma pauses in front of a large mirror and idly wastes a quick moment fixing her hair. Only her head and shoulders are reflected in the lower right of the massive glass, very small in comparison with its total size and a statement of her current position in the narrative.

However, a closer look reveals a powerful message. Two plants, barren stalks really, in a vase on the table in front of the mirror are, like Emma, minimized by the glass. The one on the right is taller and slightly bent over the shorter one. The smaller plant has two stems projecting toward the taller one like upraised arms. On the end of each stem is a portion that is bent downward in a begging position like a dog on its hind legs ready for a treat. Later when Frederick enters the dining room and Emma gets up from her seat to greet him. He walks by her, pushes her slightly back into her chair with the command, “sit.”

Rarely is such creativity found in adult film.

*        *        *        *        *

The dining room sex scene, the first of three between Emma and Frederick in the film, has a special moment. Emma, who rises to leave when she realizes she cannot accommodate William Frederick’s “perverse and shocking” kinks, is frozen in her tracks by his demand to know why she came tonight. He walks over and pulls up her dress to check on the stockings, revealing Emma’s true intentions because she was under no obligation to follow his instructions. Caught like a child in a fib, she is psychologically out maneuvered.

Bending to His Will Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Bending to His Will
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Her defenses are gone. As her face is enveloped in a confounding look of submission, desire, and desperation, Emma says with miserable weakness, “I like being in control.” But it’s futile now. She is told to disrobe and pleasure herself, this time shamelessly in a replay of the immature sexuality she hid in the darkness of her bedroom. Somehow, he knows her secret and will patiently use the rest of the film to chip away at her barriers.

William Frederick is the conductor of an orchestra that is the many layers of Emma Marx. The scene is dictated by his gentle and firm commands and her unquestioning obedience. She kneels in front of him and as ordered, places her hands behind her back as a sign of compliance, daring not to jump ahead of his baton. Softly instructing her how to use her mouth, Frederick gently holds her hair to control her rhythm.

Emma’s entire personhood is at his feet, bending to his will and tasting a desire she never knew she possessed or a new kind of love she never knew she wanted. When the pop shot arrives, Emma’s fawning eyes gaze up at Frederick while her mouth remains agape. Though formulaic in its conclusion, the scene is puppy play at its sexiest, only a collar and leash are absent.

The intensity of this scene is one of the best this reviewer has ever encountered in adult film. It is highly emotional and delivered with clarity. A haunting blend of pop and classical music flows through the sexual interplay, metaphorically reflecting Emma’s emotional turmoil and joy.

When she is orally pleasured, Emma’s fantasies suddenly become reality. In the scene’s most powerful moment, Emma is sitting open legged on the table replacing of her lover’s dinner plate. The table is long and decorated with two candles and a bottle of wine, phallic symbols for the three sexual episodes between Emma and William. The camera moves away to show that her chair to the far left is empty. Indeed, she has moved from her world into his. From now on, it will become a rocky process of refining the perversions she finds most arousing into a fresh look at what it means to be normal.

*        *        *        *        *

Foreplay for women does not always immediately precede their sexual encounters. Jacky St. James flavors Emma’s story with just such a set up that reveals how powerful the mind is in sexual desire.

In His Office Photo Courtesy of New Sensations

In His Office
Photo Courtesy of New Sensations

Emma is a work in Frederick’s office. A buzzing sound distracts the woman next to her who becomes uncomfortable and leaves. Knowing that self-pleasuring in the office via his orders is more than she can take, Emma removes the small vibrator in protest. Such an action cannot go unpunished; she is called into the boss’s office. Disgusted with her disobedience, Frederick paddles her. Striking the flesh is not shown, but the sound is deafeningly sharp. Emma’s blow by blow grimaces tell the story, emphasizing the erotic power of BDSM. In a key moment later in the film, she will admit that “deep down” in her “demented mind” she liked it.  

Not Knowing

Emma becomes immersed in Frederick’s lifestyle, but remains at a distance. She still lives with her sister, visiting him on weekends. She is getting a BDSM education and in a voice over tells the viewer that she gets off on not knowing what will come next.

Performers who shoot at Kink.com have told me that “not knowing” is part of the thrill of filming there. Dark and uncertain anticipation in a controlled environment is the excitement of BDSM. For Emma Marx, whose name aptly describes her position in their D/s relationship (the toughest submissives like the “marks” of their sexual play as badges of honor), her trust in Frederick is now the heart of their relationship.

To prepare her for her first weekend of training, Emma receives a box at work with instructions. In it is a collection of different sized butt plugs. The message is clear. Though Frederick tells her that nothing will happen between them unless she gives the okay, he does insist she will “beg” for anal play eventually. Her voice over says she can’t believe she will beg for something she doesn’t want, but she concedes that their relationship is “intoxicating.” Sex with him is “the ultimate mindfuck,” Emma admits, swirling in anticipation long before the actual sex takes place.

Little does she know.

When Emma goes upstairs to meet William, she walks past her future and its pleasures hanging on a bookshelf—whips and handcuffs.

She never notices them.

 

 

A Different Kind of Normal: Part One

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

Because of its complexity, The Submission of Emma Marx cannot be satisfactorily reviewed in blog format in one sitting. Consequently, it will appear in segments. This is the first.

nses_hard_front

“I don’t think controlling someone liberates them.” Bespectacled graduate student Emma Marx is sitting in the office of entrepreneur, William Frederick.

“Do you think you are liberated?” he questions with a shade of annoyance.

Emma Marx Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Emma Marx
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

“I’m very liberated,” she responds, though her expression cannot conceal doubt and a feeling she has violated a tacitly understood boundary in this conversation. Sensing the interview is winding down, Emma apologizes for her impudence. “I hope I didn’t offend you. I’m not usually one for self-restraint.”

“That’s too bad.” He is unemotional and aloof.

She rises to go, politely offering her hand as a “thank you.” Touching it, Mr. Frederick says nonchalantly, “You are absolutely breathtaking.”

*        *         *        *        *

Thus begins Emma’s journey to reconcile her attraction to a man whose allure will redefine her vision of normal with an acceptance of that normal. Along the way, she will abandon her illusions of self-control, face questions that challenge her concept of sexual deviancy, and find carnal pleasures within herself she never knew existed.

Vanilla Counterpoint

New Sensations’ The Submission of Emma Marx is written and directed from a female, dare I say feminist, point of view. A woman’s desires and search for happiness are its focus and the star, Penny Pax, offers up a performance that is superlative. The director’s chair is dually occupied by the film’s author, Jacky St. James, and Eddie Powell. Together the imagery they create is memorable, deeply symbolic, and the best example of submission pornography out there today.

The movie opens with a sex scene that is standard Porn Valley vanilla featuring Emma’s sister, Nadia (played beautifully by Riley Reid) and her fiancé, Ray (Van Wylde). Nadia is petulant, self-centered, and bossy. Her personality and her sexuality are counterpoints to Emma.

Riley and Van sparkle in their sexual show. Using fluid camera work, St. James and Powell establish the film’s ground rules with these opening shots. The larger realities of Nadia and Ray are presented with cinematic gusto. The sex, playfully shot among rose pedals, features both bodies equally displayed in their erotic presence. In other words, the penetration shots are only part of the sex, not the sex itself, a theme that carries the film.

Nadia and Ray Photo Courtesy of New Sensations

Nadia and Ray
Photo Courtesy of New Sensations

By the way, Emma Marks is not gonzo decorated with heavy doses of gynecological close-ups. In this scene, the focus is on Nadia’s pleasure, her engagement ring is visible as most of the action is shot from her left, and there’s lots of oral to satisfy her. Incidentally, the directors’ collective vision is summarized in a brief moment. Nadia is in reverse cowgirl with the camera shooting from in front of the bed’s footboard. Her enjoyment is emphasized strictly with her upper body and facial expression. Penetration is obscured, as is her lover; only a woman’s pleasure is on display.

Nadia and Ray represent sexuality as it is socially prescribed, albeit tainted with the relationship drama that spices the mundane in a social media age. Later they will furtively discuss the deviancy of Emma’s apparent degeneration into BDSM play. Nadia picks up on her sister’s red butt; Ray notices rope marks on her wrists. As snoopy and self-satisfied as they are, without them Emma’s journey lacks definition.

Hopelessly Detached

Admitting in a voice over that she is “hopelessly detached” when it comes to love, Emma feels little joy for her sister’s upcoming wedding and gets on with her life working around Ray and Nadia’s constant bickering. A lifetime union may be their destination, but arguing is its counterpoint.

Emma is old school in a youthful package, solid and thoughtful with a “textbook perfect life,” she claims. When she reports to Mr. Frederick’s office for the interview, she is prepared with a small notebook, a pen, and a valise which she will hold against her chest for protection when her feelings of apprehension and uncertainty confront her.

While waiting to see Frederick (played by Richie Calhoun in his subdued style), Emma sits in front of the stairwell to his office. There are two white chairs. The one to Emma’s right is empty and dominates the shot. Emma sits pigeon-toed with the valise open in her lap. She is meek and malleable, a vision that is reinforced when Frederick’s secretary steps into the scene from stage left. She is near the camera and her legs and skirt dwarf Emma, who looks at her with the trepidation of a school girl outside the principal’s office.

The empty chair is symbolic. Emma’s existence craves emotional connections. William Frederick, whose adoration for Emma will pull her out of her self-confined world, requires patience. As is later replayed in the hallway of his home, Emma will have to wait for his arrival . . . and his affection . . . to become worthy in her own eyes of happiness for Emma is dominated by self-loathing. “I ran from myself and the fears and judgments that plagued me all of my adult life,” she will say later when she no longer needs outside validation to find her dreams. The vacant chair is awaiting Emma’s rebirth.

This reviewer offers special kudos to Penny Pax who, of course, is Emma. She narrates the story in the voice over that walks the viewer through Emma’s maturation. Penny’s dialogue delivery is superb and her facial expressions reveal Emma’s inner self with clarity. Not to be ignored are Penny’s sexual skills, after all this is a porn film. The story drives the sex which in turn completes the narrative and develops the characters. When the sex occurs, it is hard-hitting and locks the viewer in on the action. Penny Pax gives an unbelievable and emotional performance.

*        *        *        *        *

Leaving Frederick’s office, Emma is joyous, relishing his “breathtaking” comment and realizing she has an undeniable attraction to him. She plays out her fantasies in the privacy of masturbation, her self-limiting sexual performances. In two beautifully shot scenes, Emma substitutes real intimacy for the counterpoint of self-pleasure, something Frederick intuitively understands, as we shall see.

In the first masturbation scene, Emma lies on her belly fingering herself, but it is suggested, not overt. The second swirls around a phone call from Frederick. During the conversation, an aroused Emma feebly attempts to hold her ground in their verbal sparring. She pleasures herself again, genitalia under the covers, with the camera flashing back to the call while her face is etched in ecstasy. The key image in both shoots is her glasses. She has set them aside on the bed cover, proof that Frederick who “leaves your head spinning,” she acknowledges, has indeed stripped her of her defenses and started her on an odyssey to find the real Emma Marx.

Coming next is Emma’s first experience with new kind of love, a binding obligation . . .

 

Submission Pornography

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

Rarely do I publish a precursor to a film review, but this time it’s needed. Look for the movie’s full analysis soon.

The Submission of Emma Marx, an engaging film from New Sensations, is in the vanguard of a budding adult film genre. The movie establishes a style of pornography that is romantic and erotic with a hardcore kick of dominance and submission (D/s) that satisfies a woman’s desires.
 

Emma presents an updated take on an old theme that was once, by virtue of the delicacy of the female sex, considered to be exclusively a male fantasy. In a 1920s classic stag film called An English Tragedy, a jilted boyfriend captures his ex and ties her spreadeagled for his sexual thrills. It’s a revenge tale and she doesn’t have fun. A decade or so later, a terrified Fay Wray is bound between two pillars in a blockbuster known as King Kong. She’s a sacrificial offering the island natives string up for the big ape. The twist is the “beast” falls in love and gives his all for the “beauty” in a fatal plunge from the Empire State Building. Both films are love stories with strong bondage overtones.
 

In neither of these productions, one underground and the other legit, is the woman as victim expected to be sexually aroused.

Dancing on the doorstep of the explicit sex era, naked women are tortured for male sophomoric jollies in sexploitation films like White Slaves of Chinatown (1964) and Love Camp 7 (1968). Referred to as roughies and kinkies, these movies are high camp soft core at its most brutal. Nary a girl has fun except when it comes to settling the score.

In 1975, a harsh BDSM tale hit the big screen, the film version of the French novel, The Story of O. Society’s proper decorum insisted that women were not to like this soft core fictional account of abuse for abuse’s sake, sexual slavery under the lash. But it, too, is a love story and O can always walk away. BDSMers call it consensuality, though Webster doesn’t recognize the term. Adult film responds the same year with a Gerard Damiano O knockoff called The Story of Joanna, a movie remembered more for the legendary Jamie Gillis than its combo of bondage (which is pretty tame) and sex. Incidentally, like O, Joanna (played by Terri Hall) emerges as the narrative’s strongest character.

Fast forward to the second decade of the twenty-first century and the print sensation, Fifty Shades of Grey. At long last, female desire is validated, albeit in a semi-desperate “must reform him” setting that finds excuses for the perverted male. Liking BDSM for its own sake, you see, is still troublesome. Nevertheless, Fifty jarred the submission door open for adult film. Women who previously did not buy into the dungeon of discipline and pain are now willing to take a second look at D/s sex in the name of love, sacrifice, and dark pleasure.
 

Though adult film’s road to the BDSM Land of Oz remains a slogging trek, the horizon is brightening. In this century, Porn Valley’s passable blindfolds and light floggings are now counterbalanced with a rough and tumble niche product from San Francisco’s internet giant, Kink.com. But where does this leave female viewers and couples who like a bit of romance with their soft corded flogger?

Enter a diminutive girl named Emma.

Emma Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Thoughtful in Her Pleasures
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Written from a hetero female standpoint, The Submission of Emma Marx introduces a woman’s take on romance with a powerfully kinky flavor. The movie experiments with the midway point between the psychological tension and passion of sex women embrace and the stark “beat and punish” fantasy of Kink.com.

This new type of porn succeeds with solid storytelling and creative directing. However, the vital ingredient is the female protagonist. She must be vulnerable, assertive, relish her discipline as a prelude to sex, have real orgasms, and never lose the power of her character, a tall order for any girl. This is where Emma Marx shines. The energetic Penny Pax, trained in BDSM performances at Kink.com, is an authentic star in a business that too often proclaims every girl a star. She is superlative in a beautiful narrative.