Part 3 of 3
For a person who was reluctant to be interviewed, PD is doing a lot of talking.
“Steve Jobs understood that shades of gray are important,” he is saying in a dressing room at InSex, Oakland’s BDSM porn studio. “As a user experience, the 8-bit world was restrictive. I see people knocking off his products and it resonates with me.”
PD was born in Newport, ME and later moved to Buffalo, where his father sought work in a steel mill. He was interested in art, electronics, and metallurgy from a young age, and the evidence of that fills his warehouse.
“The first forge I saw was on the farm I grew up on,” he says. Along with the artisan KGB, PD creates much of the equipment and structures used to restrain models featured on InSex’s sites, and his young crew are also learning the ropes, literally. All its clamps, cruel adjustable sex chairs, and boxes with industrial vibrators in them are all made in-house (“though someone found that metal monkey cage somewhere,” he is saying, “and that was a big find”).
A formative sexual experience came when he was eight.
“My mother took me to see the Vincent Price movie ‘House of Wax,'” he says. “A woman is held down and covered in wax…you can imagine how that appeared to an 8-year-old boy.”
Later PD followed the work of pinup purveyor/Bettie Page promoter Irving Klaw and the fetish work of House of Milan and “Sweet Gwendoline”‘s John Willie.
But it was after he dropped out of high school and joined the Navy for a 7-month Destroyer deployment that he saw his first live bondage show in Tokyo.
“I had been through Guantanamo and Vietnam,” he says, “but to be fed sake by a giggling, tied-up girl influenced me. I was taking on the mantle of defending liberty in the Navy, and yet I saw how transgressive, taboo, and appealing this was.”
When he returned he enrolled at the University of Buffalo, and later began teaching at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh. In Buffalo he created art installations around the city.
“Performance art with machinic interfaces with women’s bodies,” he explains.
We don’t talk about why then-Brent Scott left Pittsburgh, became PD, and chose his old stomping ground of Buffalo to form InSex in 1997, but the company eventually moved to Brooklyn, where the action was.
“I came out of a naive, cloistered world of academia with professors as surrogate dads,” he says, “and the mentorship continued in the BDSM community.”
It was BDSM and the “dark denizens” of New York’s Hellfire Club, he says, that allowed him to re-evaluate his own sexual barriers.
“As long as I was tied up, it didn’t matter who was doing the deed.”
The early days of InSex featured spirited discussions on the company’s forums that spurred innovation. Before livecams were popular, forum members could comment on the action and influence it.
“It was a close-knit community online as it was in the real world,” PD says. “If you even stole a password, [the forum members] would root you out.”
In addition, InSex used the Realtime Audio player to push still images at such a rate that they appeared to be moving, which was a triumph in the early days of Internet porn.
PD’s craftiness paid off in certain devices he would use on models. “The idea of the woman bound and becoming aroused…I remember putting a dildo on the end of a pole,” he says, “and we really got some use out of the Sunbeam Electric Toothbrush. I cut the bristles off and hotglued a finger on it.”
What happened to it?
“We used it so much, it burned out within the first year.”
Before InSex closed its doors for the first time in 2005, fervid customers would pay between $60 and $179 monthly membership fees, and models such as Lorelei Lee and Adrianna Nicole were frequent guests.
Also, “I used waterboarding way before it became popular with the CIA,” PD says.
But with the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act that specifically targeted “violent pornography” as awindow through which terrorist money netowrks could slip, InSex was faced with the possibility of its merchant accounts shutting down.
Even before the PATRIOT Act PD thought the banks were a “rigged game.”
“The bank would hold a large chunk of cash, say $50k, which was then a week’s worth of income,” he says, “and some pill company would launder a large amount of money [through the site], and then Visa/Mastercard would take the whole thing.”
In the face of looming government scrutiny and because “the banks were retaining our money,” the original InSex folded, selling its archive to a Dutch company.
But PD couldn’t stop. He bought a farm.
“I saw myself as a soldier,” he says. “Banks didn’t have to help members of this community. But there were people working for me. People, like me, who were in a gray area. They didn’t want to work for The Man. Brooklyn was being gentrified before my eyes. Babies, nannies, premier dogs…I got out of there.”
“The Farm” is a 100-acre property in the Catskills where the InSex crew lives from roughly May to September. Bicoastal since April 2011, the staff looks forward to the annual uprooting.
“They look at us funny in Upstate New York,” Rain DeGrey says, “but it’s so good to be there.”
“When you’re on The Farm, there’s all these creatures,” PD says. “I’m now aware of everything that’s around me: a craven image of lust.”
(Though PD admits to needing more time to be aroused these days than he used to.)
When InSex returned it did so as a series of smaller sites, such as Cyd Black’s Infernal Restraints and HardTied, and Matt Williams’ Sexually Broken. The company collects money the way most porn outfits do, with a series of cascading bank accounts—if one fails, another steps in. If a customer cannot get approval on a credit card he, too, may cascade to a payment option that allows him to use his checking account.
I get the feeling from PD that he misses the heavier action of the old InSex.
“We are legally not allowed to show pooping,” he says. “We would lose our merchant account.”
The Oakland space is broken into three rooms in the back of a massive warehouse shared with other companies who either don’t know or don’t care what their neighbors are up to: a dressing room, an office with several desks where several staffers update the sites (Dixon Mason doubles as the Affiliate Manager), and the studio area, part of which contains PD’s various workbenches.
We walk through the studio where Tegan Mohr is preparing.
“The entry of The Great Man is upon us,” he jokes.
He asks if the clothes she’s wearing belong to her.
“No, they’re yours,” she says.
“Oh, cool!” he says, later cutting off her panties and sticking them in her mouth.
Later he reconsiders.
“There’s no point gagging her, because she can pull the gag out of her mouth,” he tells Elise Graves. “She looks stupid.”
“The gag is cool because she looks a little like a cute, deformed animal,” Elise counters.
“OK,” PD says.
InSex has rebranded to its series of smaller sites, and the presence of PD’s proteges and devotees suggest that his methods, if not his inspirations and politics, will continue.
Matt Williams plays me a Beatles/Metallica mashup on the Internet and we both think it’s pretty cool.
In the other room, PD tells me that porn shines a light on hypocrisy and “the Internet is the ultimate result of the Bill of Rights.” So, Ipso Facto: Porn on the Internet.
I ask if porn on the Internet is still representative of Freedom.
“If I speak, I lie,” PD says. “If I stay silent, I fail.”
(I want to thank former InSex Marketing Director Tawny Gnosis for her great help making this visit happen.)
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Sexually Broken home, a visit to InSex;“HardTied” at InSex, where you can’t be prosecuted for your thoughts
See also: Sexually Broken, HardTied, Infernal Restraints