Frisky Q&A: Joanna Angel Talks About The Evolution Of BDSM, Safe Words & Her New Sex Toy Line

Joanna Angel is the queen of alt pornography. With hot pink streaks through her raven hair and a petite frame adorned with colorful tattoos, the Brooklyn native “punk princess” of porn created her production company, Burning Angel, shortly after graduating from Rutgers University with degrees in literature and film. This time of year, Joanna is a busy bee. Burning Angel was nominated for numerous awards at this weekend’s AVN Awards, she has movies to make, a Fleshlight to promote, and most recently, she inked an exclusive deal with LA-based sex toy and bondage boutique the Stockroom for her new line of BDSM sex toys.

“There’s a flogger, and it’s really good, I tried it out and I got whipped pretty hard and I didn’t have any markings on me or anything so I think that’s great. You can fun with it and not have to worry about having to look like an abused housewife on the beach the next day,” says Joanna. “It’s pink and black, everything is pink and black.” The collection also includes a cock ring, ball gag, collars, leashes, and handcuffs, among other articles of pleasure (and pain). Check them out here.

Rihanna and a little book-turned-film you may have heard called Fifty Shades of Grey brought BDSM out of the closet and into our Top 40 playlists and mothers’ living rooms. Yet once upon a time, the kink community predominantly thrived in an underworld of sex clubs, dungeons, swingers parties, and a side shelf of VHS tapes in grungy adult film stores. The social norms have changed. Curious how the kink evolution has looked from the eyes of a seasoned adult star with her own empire, I spoke to Joanna about her new toy line, the BDSM revolution, and how safe words are overrated.

Sophie Saint Thomas: Tell me about the new sex toy line.

Joanna Angel: I’m really excited about it. I love Stockroom. They’re a smaller company kind of like mine, the kind of company where you can walk in and you see the owner working all the time, it’s not like the owner lives on an island and you never see them. I really think they are the reason BDSM and fetish has become more attainable; they’ve managed to create something that’s really sexy and really high end. I feel like they were the first people to do that, or the first that I saw. They kind of do things differently than other novelty companies, I’m really thankful to have a name behind it.

How does your line differentiate from other BDSM stuff out there?

I do love Stockroom, but when you go there there’s a lot of things that are definitely meant for those very advanced in the BDSM world. There’s marketing towards very specific niche market of people who are experienced people in that scene, and I really wanted my line to kind of gear more towards the beginners. A lot of the stuff that Stockroom carries is deep red or blacks and grey and I think by having my line be all hot pink, I just want to make it more accessible to people. I might be representing something a lot of the BDSM people don’t like, like I know a lot of people in the community they don’t like that it’s more accessible and fashionable and mainstream, but I am all about couples trying out handcuffs for the first time.

So you don’t have to have a large background in BDSM to use this.

I have a lot of couples that are fans, and I have these fans that have told me they watched my movies and they’re like married with kids, and they like rented a hotel room for a night and got a baby sitter and experimented with things they had never tried before, and I think that’s really great. It [toys] could get used every single night, but if it’s only one night of the year that the whips come out then that’s fine. I don’t think you have to be like 24/7 like a lifestyle person to enjoy. It’s the same way with me, some of the sex scenes I do are really rough, and other ones I do are really passionate, and I think like … if you’re a sexual person you don’t have to be limited to one thing. So that’s kind of what I was trying to get my line to do. But I mean all the products they are hardcore, I used the hog tie for my photoshoot and all the restraints that go along with it, if you put it on there’s no way of getting out of it!

From your perspective, as someone with a lot of experience in the sex industry, how has it been watching BDSM evolve to become so mainstream?

It’s become mainstream; it’s also become extreme. Sometimes I see a scene shot in porn and I start feeling like a big prude. I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, that is some extreme shit right there.’ So I think there’s just so many different levels of it. You can call something BDSM that’s just someone getting whipped, or I’ve seen it labeled BDSM where it’s just me with like a blindfold on and you see me walk into the room like with a collar and a leash. And then there’s other people shooting like the kink stuff where people are getting electrocuted with wires. I just think there are so many different levels and everyone can figure out what turns you on, ultimately that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Do you think there’s any pressure to up the ante, to be the most intense when shooting BDSM porn? 

I don’t do that, I’m like a neurotic Jew, I don’t want anyone to get really hurt on my set. We do hire a lot of new girls or a lot of girls who don’t do porn full time, and I never want to put them in a situation where they’re getting hurt, you know, like hurt in a way that’s beyond sexy. I do think people get really extreme in the porn industry, that’s what viewers want sometimes. But I think just like real life, in porn different people like different things. There’s an audience for everything. With us, I find that people like the more light BDSM. The stuff that’s a little more light-hearted. I tell the girls, like, if we’re shooting rough stuff to be very vocal, like beg for it, like ‘please choke me’ so the viewers are sure that the girls are into it. I mean there are some sites where part of the fantasy is the girl is supposed to look like she is not enjoying it. It’s all consensual but that aspect is part of the role-playing on camera, and we do the role playing, but I do like to make it clear that the girls are on board — and if the girl’s submissive, she’s begging for things and asking for things.

What advice would you give for a couple looking to explore BDSM for the first time?

You’ve just gotta let yourself go and explore. I know a lot of people and a lot of sex educators kind of put it out there that you’ve got to have some big lecture before you go into BDSM. If you’re practicing stuff with your partner, you should know your partner. There might be things you’re into that you don’t even know you’re into until you try it. I really think you should kind of go into it just not knowing what’s going to happen, and kind of have some fun with it. Some people make it out like you really need to plan this shit out and really discuss it, like, I don’t know, do you really need a safe word with your partner? It seems like everything has to be so formal. I feel like that was a term that was invented when someone was with a professional dominatrix; that’s someone that you don’t know. It’s a great way to communicate with someone, but do you really need that when you’re just having fun with your partner? I think starting with handcuffs is the best. Practice it with someone that you feel comfortable with; I think that’s ultimately the most important thing. You can go to a dangerous place if you don’t have that level of comfort.