A man in his sixties is wearing a long and strapless patent leather dress as he waits in line for the coat check; at the launch of a documentary series covering Montreal’s fetish scene this was to be expected.
However, I wasn’t ready for what I would see next. As the man checked his coat and turned sideways to make his way inside, I noticed his chest was bulging out of his fetishist attire. After subtle squinting, I confirmed his chest was bigger than mine and many other women at the Stereo bar last Friday night.
This is Jules, one of the ten subjects in the documentary series Kink, which sheds light on the lives of local fetishists. Kink touches on every facet of the fetish subculture: body modification, bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, masochism, latex, whips and chains, etc.
This is Kink’s third season. The first was set in Vancouver and the second in Toronto. Concordia communications studies graduate Ziad Touma is Kink’s Montreal director. He’s an award-winning filmmaker and his 2003 feature length film Saved by the Belles has just earned him three Genie nominations.
“I am an average person who tried to represent as honestly as possible Montreal’s kink community. To give people the voice that’s not heard. I’m intrigued by people who lead different lives than mine, in people who challenge us in our definitions of life, death, pain, happiness, human desire and sex.” Kink’s basic format is to show the daily lives of its subjects interwoven with interview clips.
When asked why the series has no sex therapists or other experts commenting on fetishist behaviour, Touma replied, “There’s no one there to judge them or explain them. Only the viewers get to interpret what they say. There’s no exterior voice of reason. It’s one-sided because it’s the community trying to explain itself. Not that it has to justify itself.”
At the launch party as in the series, Ella is an outsider. In the sea of black latex and leather, she was dressed in a formal Japanese-style dress. The soft-spoken Concordia grad is not a fetishist but an object of fetishism. She was burnt badly at a young age by boiling water and left with severe scarring on part of her upper body. Body modification (tattoos, piercings, implants) amateurs have taken a liking to her and have helped her overcome depression about her appearance.
Her boyfriend Julien and friend Azl find beauty in Ella’s scars and as a result, she now finds beauty in her imperfections too. She’s not a “whips and chains” girl but as a model for temporary piercing art, a sort of muse. “We’re told we have to look like Barbie dolls,” said Ella. “Not that I’m a big role model but I’d like to change the way some people see themselves.”
In the second episode airing April 2, the cross-dressing Jules and a transsexual girl named Chicken mention almost in passing the source of their non-conformist gender identities, saying they lacked a female presence in their lives. Touma promised the series will get more in depth as the season goes on and all the subjects have been introduced.
The first show, which aired March 26 on Showcase, was watched by a large crowd celebrating the event at a Ste-Catherine St. ‘after hours’ club. While Kink may attempt to be informative it raises more questions than it answers and borders on sensationalism with gratuitous nudity and “torture” scenes.
The audience witnessed Derek and his “daddy” Christian, naked in the shower together in plain view, unconcealed by a shower curtain or bathroom mist. Christian slapped Derek as he uttered the clich