What in the world is a professional villain?

A man with long stringy hair wearing a well-worn leather jacket peeps through a woman’s partially drawn curtains. He leers beneath the brim of his dirty trucker hat as she undresses, unaware she’s being watched. After a few moments, he slinks through the window, knife held between his teeth. At the last possible moment, she catches his reflection in a mirror. She starts to scream, but it’s too late. His hands close around her throat.

Welcome to the world of Tim Woodman. Woodman, the man with the stringy hair (left unwashed on purpose), is an experienced dom who specializes in hardcore sex scenes that showcase abduction, forced orgasms, molestation and perhaps most controversially, staged rape. He’s known as a “professional villain” in porn.

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(pictured: Tim at work)

With titles ranging from “Kiki D’Aire Humiliated” to “Dixie Comet and Star Stabbed!,” Woodman’s content showcases a man dominating women, generally in a highly intense, taboo way. His work triggers our wider cultural inability to acknowledge the differences between consensual rough sex play/performance and non-consensual sexual assault. And in a world where even professional sex performers may struggle with maintaining these boundaries, as recent allegations against performer James Deen indicate, Woodman’s work becomes that much more controversial.  

I talked to Woodman about what it’s like to be a professional villain, creating porn that taps into some of our most hidden, most taboo, and most frequent sexual fantasies.

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(pictured: Tim at work)

In many ways, Tim Woodman is a total LA-style average Joe. A local now in his mid-40s, he was a music theory major in college and played lead guitar in a few heavy metal bands in the early ‘90s. He drives a ’97 Pontiac Firebird, which is one of the coolest cars in existence, and professes an abiding interest in astronomy. He’s also deeply in love with a woman he calls “my Sweetie” – the two are unmarried, in an open relationship, and recently celebrated 20 years of commitment.

He got into professional villainary completely by accident, back in 1996, when some model friends randomly invited him to be part of a shoot. “I bought 300 feet of rope on the way home and never looked back,” Woodman laughs. Soon after, he plugged into the area BDSM community and learned everything he could about rigging – the art of tying and rope restraint. Two decades later, he teaches rope classes at the same club where he first learned how to tie.

According to Woodman, his work is very simple. All he does is play various iterations of a bad guy – no different from what you would see in any other media narrative. Except Woodman’s depictions tap into secret desires generally considered unfit for polite society.

“I play the thug, criminal, monster, or whatever – whoever abducts the girl,” Woodman explains. “Everybody wants her to be rescued, but first, secretly, they want to see her tied up, stripped, and fondled, maybe even tortured or worse. That’s where I come in. I’m everybody’s inner monster, doing the horrible things they secretly want to so they can enjoy their darkest desires guilt-free.”

To play this role, “you have to be a special combination of real-life good guy – empathetic and caring – and on-camera demon, one who’s capable of despicable, horrible, yet sexy, evil,” he added “I don’t know how I ended up with that personality, but I’m sure glad I did.”

Dee Severe, the woman behind Severe Sex and Severe Society Films, purveyors of very hardcore authentic BDSM content, has directed Woodman in a number of projects — Devil’s Workshop (parts 1 and 2), Treacherous, and their Kink School instructional series (hardcore sex ed films made with input from educators, experts, and/or sex performance professionals), where he was bondage instructor for both beginner and intermediate BDSM practitioners.

Severe said Woodman is “always in the moment, making sure his partners are having a positive experience. He has a really rare combination of direct communication and instinct.”  

“And he’s such a nice guy in real life,” she added. “But don’t tell anyone I said that — it’ll damage his Pro Villain reputation!”

Woodman stresses his work is akin being a professional stunts expert – and he’s right. The skill set of a porno professional villain involves knowing how to safely use ropes and other restraints, as well as whips and other striking implements, without causing harm. A porno villain also has to know how to use sharp and dulled knives, prop guns and various other weapons safely. Woodman’s work also requires a high level of interpersonal skills – the capacity to read and respond to a scene partner’s particular comfort level.

“It’s actually very demanding work,” Woodman asserts, “And it took me years of training to achieve the skill level I have now. This is definitely a ‘Don’t try this at home, I’m a professional’ kind of job.”

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(pictured: Tim at work)

It’s one thing to talk about professionalism and expertise when it comes to porno villainary. Experiencing it, though, is something entirely different.

I spoke with Chanel Preston, an adult performer who’s been featured in nearly 400 porn titles and host of the sexuality-themed web show “Naked with Chanel.” In spite of her stigmatizing occupation as a sex worker/porn performer, however, Preston is very “mainstream.” She’s featured frequently in mega media outlets and works regularly in projects that are considered fairly judicious — pretty and vanilla (for porn) — which causes one to wonder: Why rape, abduction, and Tim Woodman?

“I am pretty open minded when it comes to types of niches I work in,” Preston told me. “I understand that people have fantasies of all types, and as a performer, it’s my job to depict that fantasy for them.”

And the fantasies Preston worked with Woodman to showcase include “Chanel Preston Raped” and “Chanel Preston’s Nightmare,” among others. She explained what was essentially a series of consent check-ins, occurring throughout the process of creating the scenes. First, Preston and Woodman established a non-sex related working relationship. (They work on an adult industry performer advocacy committee together.) Then, they discussed scene ideas, making sure working together on the specific type of content was something she was interested in. And once they were on set together, they had a conversation about how Woodman envisioned each scene unfolding. In that conversation, Preston told him what she was and was not comfortable with. For example, in a suspension scene where Woodman hogtied Preston and hoisted her up in the air, they had a conversation about restraining her hands behind her back and which types of grips were comfortable for her.

“Sometimes expectations between performers are different initially, so clarity is very important before you begin work together,” Preston told me. “Also, we communicated what our overall likes and dislikes were so we both could have a good time while working. Even though this is a job, it’s possible for both parties to have fun while doing it.”

“Tim loves what he does and he genuinely cares about everyone on set feeling comfortable and having an enjoyable experience. Communication is very important to him,” she added.

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(pictured: Tim at work)

Of course, even though Woodman and his scene partners clearly negotiate their boundaries and establish what is and isn’t OK beforehand, it’s understandable why the viewer watching at home might believe otherwise. On one hand, a porn film is a highly staged production, making it no different from a new release playing at your local theatre. On the other hand, most people don’t know what goes on on set, and if we see something on-screen that’s sometimes challenging to process — like, for instance, a staged rape scene — viewers may wonder: How “real,” exactly, is it? The fact that Woodman is a man and is often seen dominating women also plays into how many might view content.

The varying degrees of unease we have with narratives showcasing things like rape and abduction and men dominating women is obvious when we compare Hollywood narratives with Woodman’s porn. Consider Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic BDSM novel that showcased everything from stalking to rough sex and domination. While both the book and film versions enjoyed tremendous mainstream success, it was also subject to backlash and criticism from feminists, who argued that the book’s portrayal of a man controlling and dominating a woman was inherently misogynistic — even though it existed purely in the realm of fantasy.

According to Emily Prior, Executive Director of the Center for Positive Sexuality, rape and abduction fantasies are fairly common in heterosexual women.

Prior told me, “Several studies, some even dating back to the early 1970s, suggest that at least 50% of women have fantasies about being overpowered in a variety of ways. Participant reports change depending on the language used – rape, force, domination/submission, etc – but it still comes down to the same idea.”

But just because something is commonplace doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good. Is fantasizing and/or actualizing these sorts of scenarios via consensual role-play somehow “dangerous”?

“There’s a lot of support around the idea that fantasizing about things can be quite healthy,” Prior said. “Not only does this allow us some creative expression, but it may also help keep us from actually doing harm to ourselves or others.”

But bringing any fantasy to life may have potential dangers – though when talking about rape and abduction scenarios, not in the way one might expect. Most of the “dangers” related to actualizing these types of sexual fantasies come from violating social norms related to conventional and acceptable sexual expression.

“Especially when we talk about sexual fantasy, what we fear most is rejection and ridicule – ‘What if my partner thinks I’m weird or sick for having this fantasy?’” Prior posited. “People think acting out these fantasies is bad because that’s what society says. There is a lot of rhetoric about not giving into your desires, especially in relation to sex, because somehow this will start you down that ‘slippery slope’ of deviance. There’s really no evidence to support this.”

“If we can get past that hurdle, acting out our fantasies with a consenting partner in a safe environment can be extremely fulfilling and helpful,” she added.

According to Prior, however, in spite of the taboos operating in real life, media exploring these topics is not uncommon at all.

“Certainly in mainstream film and television, rape and murder fantasy gets played out all the time. You can go to any bookstore and see The Ravishment of Whomever, and that’s a rape fantasy novel. You can use pretty words to disguise it, but it’s all the same topic really,” she explained. “I think porn and erotica in some ways may be more honest about what it’s showing, so those industries have to be more careful.”

Although the acts depicted in his films are safe and consensual, Woodman struggles to simply make his content accessible to people on the internet. His work challenges informal, long-standing, internal production codes in adult entertainment intended to avoid things like obscenity prosecution and trouble with credit card processing and distribution. Credit card companies and other gatekeepers forbid porn from using things like knives, guns and chloroform in scenes (props included), or even mentioning them in ad copy.

“I have to do careful workarounds and stay in the shadows to avoid problems and be able to process sales. At the same time I somehow have to let my customers know how to find me,” Woodman explains. “It’s frustrating sometimes that the taboo of my job creates such challenges. It’s totally worth it, but frustrating all the same.”

In a world that continues to freak out over sex, sex work, porn, and sex that operates outside the margins of conventional acceptability, it’s not surprising that Woodman’s content is pushing boundaries.

“In real life, these acts would be morbid and unethical. They go against the moral context that we function in daily,” Preston explained. “But it’s ok to explore outside of this moral context in a safe and consensual way. If fantasies abided by the parameters that we usually function in in everyday life, then there would no point in having fantasies at all.”

Though we may know this rationally, the types of fantasies Woodman depicts still strike sharp cords, ones that are tied to ideas of social and sexual propriety, as well as gender.

“For many people, rape is considered a worse crime than murder. The social taboo is overwhelming. Sure it’s exotic and okay to show a female consensually taking power over a male, but society turns pale and looks the other way when they see men force themselves on women in a movie,” Woodman explains. “Ironically rape fantasy is one of the most popular fantasies among women all across the planet – but finding a safe way to enjoy it or even admit to it is still very difficult.”

“I find myself lying a lot at parties when people ask me what I do for a living,” he says with a bit of chagrin.

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(pictured: all images via Tim Woodman, used with permission)

Reprinted from Mic.com (12/10/15)

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