I’ve been writing about sexual subcultures and kink for nearly two decades, and while erotic trends may come and go (I dearly miss the satyr-fetish heyday of the mid-2000s) one fact has remained unchanged: The kinkiest people in any given room are often the most cerebral.
Maybe that’s because they’re so in-their-head that they find greater pleasure in unconventional physical distractions. Or maybe it’s the other way around, that their sexual curiosity guides them to be more introspective. Do smarts lead a person to kink, or does kink lead them to rumination? Which came first, the oviposition fetish or the egg?
Whatever the case, a new documentary series on Revry (a streaming service that’s basically gay Hulu) indulges the brainiest impulses of the sexually adventurous, offering interviews with erotic pioneers along the west coast. Hosted by Madison Young, Submission Possible’s second episode dives into Seattle’s spanking, porn, and burlesque scenes.
“I’ve been to a lot of burlesque shows, but I don’t know about it and I’m dreadfully uncoordinated,” Young says when reached by phone. Described as a “sexual revolutionary,” Young is the show’s inquisitive guide, and provides ample opportunity for each kinkster she meets to explain themselves — sometimes at such length that it feels as though their kinks are more theoretical than practical.
The Seattle-focused episode is now available to watch on Revry (and other platforms TBA, according to the company), and is at its most intriguing when Young visits with burlesque instructor Indigo Blue. I’ve been a friend of Blue’s since profiling her in 2016, and I am constantly fascinated by her incredible knowledge, expertise, and professionalism when it comes to the art of the burlesque tease. In addition to her on-stage skill, Blue has a degree in anthropology (please refer to my early observation about people who are erotically engaged being the smartest people in the room) and she offers excellent insights about why aspects of burlesque in particular fascinate an audience.
Submission Possible works well when it’s instructive. Young says that one goal for the series is “holding space for queer stories,” and also to provide an alternative for mainstream coverage of sexuality, which tends to be sensationalized and insensitive.
She notes that Seattle is a particularly fertile ground for performance, “but there’s also a great sense of … a lot of kinks that come together, and an acceptance.” That’s something that I found to be true when I visited the city before moving here; after spending a few days meeting locals, I commented to my partner, “so I guess just everyone here is poly and knows where to find a good dungeon?”
Other episodes of the show attempt to convey the unique sexual character of other west-coast cities. In Portland, Young meets a donut fetishist who fists desserts, and a necrophiliac who guides Young in a role-play where she leaves her physical body. In San Francisco, rope bondage in Dolores Park emphasizes whimsy and fun. “It brought me into a puppy play kind of space. She had me rolling down the hill in rope,” Young says.
There is also — and this feels very much like the mid-2000s San Francisco I remember, between the dot-com bubbles — a ritual involving Tibetan singing bowls, needles, blood play, and gut punching.
“It was very much about play,” says Young, “the two individuals laughing and filling the room with incredible laughter as Nyxie’s chest was being pounded on, and blood coming out. It was so gorgeous.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the incongruity of this scene: A room filled with laughter and blood, like the climax of the movie House. There is clearly something happening in this scenario that is inaccessible to me, in the same way that my own highly specific preoccupation with wizards is inaccessible to others; but of course that’s the point of a documentary series — to make the unfamiliar understandable.
There are glimpses, in Submission Possible, of the threads that make sexual idiosyncrasies suddenly make sense. The host’s curiosity makes that possible, and at the end of the day I’m eager to hear about anyone who’s discovered a new way of enjoying their body.
“I will always have a sense of curiosity surrounding the exploration of sex and pleasure and our bodies,” Young says. “It’s always an honor to hear the way other people experience pleasure.”