The simple act of witnessing can transform sex into politics, so it’s not hard to see why privacy (like permission) is sacred. The quaint notion of the boudoir is ingrained in most acts of physical intimacy whether lovers seek haven in the bedroom or take joy in rejecting it. More like Wild Kingdom than Girls Gone Wild, the CineKink 2007 series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts neutrally observes sexual transgression: the forms it takes, the relief it offers, and the privacy it (often jubilantly) breaches.
More fun than watching actual webcam girls, Aerlyn Weissman’s doc WebCam Girls (Thurs/18, 9 p.m.) looks at three successful mavens and frames their stories with academic analysis. These women all began their journeys in the world of semivoyeurism from a place of corporate exploitation, so it’s ironic that they, like their patrons (commonly nine-to-five cubicle dwellers), are surveyed at work … well, at their home offices. In this surveillance their homes are as public as their patrons’ cubicles to the 15 people (as opposed to 15 minutes) for whom they’re famous. Their identities are their brands, putting them in vulnerable positions both figuratively and literally.
Almost a brother film to WebCam Girls, Damon and Hunter: Doing It Together is a short feature nested in the Passion Plays Program (Fri/19, 9 p.m.). For the women of WebCam Girls, the issue of individualism is essential (Anna Voog makes Rorschach-inspired videos for her word-association songs, and Ducky Doolittle puts on fashion shows), but Damon and Hunter are like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: porn stars with protected identities as opposed to global brands. Primarily composed of one talking head interview with the two lovers, director Tony Comstock’s documentary intercuts a XXX scene that is more sweet than erotic. The footage feels deliberately contrary to a porn aesthetic, giving the impression that we’re observing, with anthropological so-called neutrality, the well-worn sex life of a couple. One partner asks, "Are you comfortable?" and the request for consent is like a demonstration of love.
Unlike the docs in the CineKink Series, Going Under (Sat/20, 7 p.m.), a sensitive and occasionally vague narrative feature, expressively represents the erotic and ultimately calmative values of nonvanilla sex. Psychoanalyst-turned-filmmaker Eric Werthman’s movie is about a relationship between psychoanalyst Peter (Roger Rees) and his dominatrix, Suzanne (Geno Lechner). Exhausted by her field of work, Suzanne announces her retirement, which signals an opportunity for them to see each other "outside." The two bond over childhood trauma: for them, history is a tragic theme. "I can never forget how we met" is an important sentence: not so much shamed as burdened, Suzanne struggles with the couple’s desires outside the security of her leather-bound workplace.
Fans of Going Under will find a good companion piece in Howard Scott Warshaw’s documentary Vice and Consent: The Art of Wrapping Intimacy in Very Scary Paper (Fri/18, 7 p.m.). Offering a more incisive view of BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism) than Going Under, Vice and Consent initiates a remarkable dialogue about the transcendence that results from this highly rigorous discipline. The hour-long doc has a homespun production value that gives a kind of authenticity to its interviews but also somewhat clouds its dialogue about sex as an exploration of human consciousness. Exhaustively, this film discusses the means by which the community rejects "vanilla" and poetically, the world outside vanilla is as infinite as the characters who go searching. (Sara Schieron)
Thurs/18Sat/20, 7 and 9 p.m. (Thurs/18, 6 p.m. free reception), $6$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF