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Once upon a time, there was a man and a woman.
These two met and became inseparable.
Sick of New York’s snow —they planned a getaway.
She pulled looks.
He made a deal.
Off to Miami they flew.
They got sweaty in the sauna.
Fornicated in the bathroom.
Went skinny dipping after-hours.
Took over the massage room.
And left a memorable mark with their sexiness and red sequins... To be continued...
Bella At The Cross
Their newest series, featuring Bella completely naked at the Cahuenga Cross in Los Angeles, sees the duo delving deeper into the often confusing world of being femme, illustrasting the process of undoing preconceived ideas about vulnerability and the female form. Naked, wet and in a highly public area, Bella is, physically, at her most vulnerable—but all we see in Merten's photos is strength.
Read our interview with the duo, below.
How did this project come about?
Amanda Merten: Ever since I met Bella a few years ago, she has inspired me. I’ve had a running list of shoot ideas for her and figured, 'Why not make a bigger project out of it?' I love that her roots are in Los Angeles and how that makes her the person she is. Also, I’m originally from Las Vegas, where she has family, so we are hoping to stretch this project between the two cities.
How would you describe the relationship you two have built both inside and outside of your art?
Amanda Merten: Strong and trusting—as friends and collaborators. [It's] the real thing, and I’m grateful.
Your work seems to reference female energy, both in your relationship with Bella, and how you often photograph the naked female form. Can you talk a bit about that?
Amanda Merten: Within my work I'm definitely interested in two different sides of women: female but not necessarily feminine. I've always been more interested in women than men as a subject, but stylistically, I'm attracted to the little pieces and elements of both my subjects and culture at large that are female but aren't traditionally feminine,' and to me, are more tough, unconventional and sometimes seen by others as 'weird.' With Bella—and many of my other subjects—there is a natural quality I see that comes from her shape, her mindset, her vulnerability and the personal struggles that are part of everyone's life. I'm interested in tapping into and showcasing all of those elements as a collaborator in a way that also comes from my own experiences, point of view, and style—which for me, as a woman, happens to be undeniably female.
Why has Bella has been such a continuous muse for your work?
Amanda Merten: I love how versatile and fearless Bella is with her own makeup and style, and within our work together, I always find myself wanting to add to that in a way that also reflects me and my interests. I feel as though she is a vessel that can tap into multiple dimensions and I can’t help but love that.
Bella, do you feel like you're just being yourself in these photos or do you take on some kind of role?
Bella Ferrada: I feel like I play both myself and a character. In my head, I kind of played this woman from the '70s who wanted to be in Playboy. However, that is kind of who I already am today. But I always envision some sort of character any time I shoot, it's just with Amanda, I always feel like myself—just an exaggerated or enhanced version.
The Cahuenga Cross is a pretty popular cultural monument—what was the significance of shooting there?
Amanda Merten: I’ve ventured up to the cross multiple times and am obsessed with the warm light it omits. When I’m up on that little mountain I love that the city lights are glaring back at us from all the way around, with a stream of lights from the 101 zooming by below. It feels so vulnerable, yet intimately private.
What's next for you and your collaboration with Bella?
Amanda Merten: Hopefully a show and/or a book. I just want to capture and showcase multiple characters, but all and each are truly a reflection of Bella, or myself, just through her.
June 22, 2018
Madame Ette's new photobook is a racy exploration into her own sexual psyche.
Brooke Candy: Bound
Having practiced the ancient art for over 20 years, Kinoko views Shibari, and bondage, in general, as something far different than a sex act. For him, it’s an art, and a means of empowering his subject, rejecting the typical slave/master, dominant/submissive relationship you usually find in BDSM.
“Many people have master and slave relationships in Kinbaku,” Kinoko told office when he spoke to us after his performance a the Museum of Sex last year, “but in my case, the model and I have an equal relationship, or if anything, I am the inferior—the woman is the main subject, and I am just a supporting role. [...] I do Shibari because I like to make women feel beautiful in that form.”
Taking a few minutes away from filming another forthcoming music video, Brooke told us about her experience with Kinoko and what it’s like to lend one's body to the art form.
Read our interview and see photos from Brooke’s Shibari session, below. You can also watch the 15-minute documentary about Brooke’s experience, here.
Did you have an interest in Shibari before you met with Hajime? How did you get in touch with him?
Yes, I did. I’ve always had an affinity for pain and things that seem impossible, and to me, Shibari, and certain shapes, and ways of being tied up, feel that way. I love to push my mind and body to the limit and Shibari is perfect for that.
I got in touch with Kinoko through Yulia [Shur], who shot these photos—she said he was the best in Japan, if not one of the best in the world!
Tell me about the experience of giving yourself over to Shibari.
It’s a bit dissociative. It’s painful, but also in a weird way, arousing. It’s like you’re becoming completely submissive while at the same time you feel so powerful, because you’re choosing to endure an enormous amount of pain. I’m finding I’m addicted. I’m trying to weave it into every music video and every photoshoot—just everything I do.
Shibari began as the martial art of restraining captives. Did you feel trapped, liberated, or something in between?
I feel liberated and powerful while bound—definitely liberated and powerful.
How did your mind and body feel after the experience?
A bit high—at ease, like my mind was clear and relaxed.
Would you recommend the experience to others?
Yeah, actually I would. I mean, I’m a sucker for pain, so I like things to be really extreme, but I think there are more simple forms of Shibari that everyone can enjoy.
Could you ever see yourself becoming a rigger?
No. I love the submissive element, that’s I guess where I feel most powerful or sexual. So, rigging or doing the opposite would make me feel less high and horny.
September 08, 2017
Richardson x Pornhub
Hooters, haute-couture enough to ease NYFW exhaustion.
October 12, 2018
Lust For Life
Feminist porn director Erika Lust talks pleasure and the female gaze.
Launched in 2012, Chakrubs was born from Cuccia's growing interest in crystals and her own sexuality. Following the breakup of a six year abusive relationship, the then-23-year-old found herself living in LA, feeling disconnected from herself and her body. After taking a job at the infamous Pleasure Chest, and learning more about crystals and their healing properties, she had an idea: sex toys that could get you off spiritually and sexually.
The resulting line features dildos, anal plugs and Yoni eggs in Amethyst, Quartz (rose and clear), Aventurine, Jasper (red and white), Obsidian and wood; Cuccia also released Crystal Healing & Sacred Pleasure last year. For Cuccia, though, Chakrubs isn't just about giving her customers the tools to give themselves a giant orgasm—it's about giving women the power—and the tools—to explore themselves and their bodies, and for self-love.
office called Cuccia to talk more about Chakrubs, Yoni Eggs and overall good vibes.
Tell me about Chakrubs. What was the impetus for starting the brand?
I do feel like a lot of things from my past led up to the ‘Aha!’ moment that I had [before starting the brand]. When I was living in LA, I was getting out of a six-year relationship and realizing that it was sexually and emotionally abusive. So, I was at this point where I realized that a quarter of my life was already done and I always thought that I would always really enjoy sex, but because of this relationship, I dissociated myself from my body—I had become really numb in my vagina. I felt like I was walking around asleep—I really wasn’t connected to myself at all. And I knew I couldn’t go on like that. So, I decided to take some steps towards connecting to myself, and one of the ways was taking a job as a web order fulfillment person at [sex toy shop] The Pleasure Chest [in LA].
Yeah! It was really amazing because in the employee training process there, they teach a lot about not being judgmental and being really sex positive. They had every kind of toy under the sun—and I had a discount! I was finally in a position where I could try different toys and I really wanted to, but there was something missing for me, because I knew my issue was not only that I couldn’t experience pleasure with a partner—I needed something on a deeper level. Previously, I had been taught things like, ‘Pleasure is for him,' or that I have to perform during sex. The toys were great—but it just wasn’t clicking for me. During this same time, I was living with a spiritual teacher and we were studying a lot about crystals and learning about subtle energy systems. One night, I went with him to this woman’s house and saw a crystal that was carved into a point, and realized that crystals can be carved and shaped. So, I thought, ‘Why not make one insertable?’ That way, you’re getting pleasure with a vibrational shift, while also having an orgasm.
You mentioned having to re-educate yourself sexually, which I think is a huge flaw in our current educational system, especially concerning women. What kind of significance do you think this structure has in our current society?
It’s so major. Something that I would love to see change—and a way that I feel Chakrubs could help—is by opening up a conversation between mothers and daughters. I’ve thought about this a lot and it’s a very progressive idea, but if Chakrubs was available when I was entering puberty and my mother had presented me with my own Chakrub, and took that as an opportunity to teach me about my body, my pleasure, self-love and boundaries, and said that it would help me explore all of these things, then maybe my life would have been different. It’s an opportunity to teach young women, but it's also something very sacred. A lot of parents get nervous about this subject, but sexual liberation teaches youth that’s it’s not this big thing—it’s a really happy medium.
That’s something I’d like to see because I think we need to start opening up conversation with young people about all of the things that have been coming to light recently. I think the entire concept surrounding sex and women is often taught as something negative, so to be able to switch that idea and actually give the power back to young women, is really liberating. Starting from a place of exploring yourself rather than it being just about being with a partner would really help women to be more self-aware in their journey into adulthood.
I know you guys offer a number of different toys, made from a bunch of different crystals, like the Jade Yoni Egg, for example. Can you tell me about the crystal healing practice that comes along with your toys?
Well, regarding the Jade Egg, [the Yoni Egg] is a practice that’s been around for centuries. I had no idea. So, when I started the company, people were asking me to provide this ancient practice that’s good for strengthening the pelvic floor and so many other things. When it comes to the healing properties, it really combines a physical strengthening as well as strengthening your relationship to your sacred space. The different crystals hold different meanings and properties.
What’s the difference between Rose Quartz and Jade, spiritually speaking?
I talk about a lot of this in my book, Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure. One thing I’m really passionate about teaching is why crystals work, and sort of taking away the mysticism behind them. But on a metaphysical level, Rose Quartz would be different from Jade first based on their history—each crystal holds a collective awareness of why it was used for a specific practice based on ancient usage. There’s also the color—colors vibrate on different frequencies—that’s just science. McDonalds uses red and yellow in their advertising because it evokes hunger. So, in terms of the Rose Quartz, its pink color is going to bring along feelings of comfort, peace and softness; whereas the green of Jade is going to be more associated with things like abundance. Finally, the shape holds a lot of meaning. The Jade egg toys represent fertility.
Out of every toy Chakrubs offers, which one is your favorite?
It depends! My favorite right now might be the Original Prism Chakrub—it’s just so pretty. It’s made of clear Quartz and the thing about clear Quartz is that it’s a very useful tool for intentions. It can be programmed with different things depending on what I need that day, but ultimately it’s very good for clarity.
You've published a book, you have a full sex toy line and there's also the Chakrubs blog, where you post about everything from politics to breast health and the benefits of CBD, to the zodiac. So, what’s next for your vision?
In 2019, we'll have a bunch of new products coming out, a few new books, and new wellness-based products, as well. But we’re also going to be doing a lot of more workshops. We're excited.
February 28, 2018
Full Female Kinbaku
These girls are taking over the tying side of this male-dominated discipline.