Monday, April 25, 2011

Art House Sex Film: Anna Brownfield’s The Band

(This post, which was originally published online at Good Vibrations Magazine, is an excerpt from my forthcoming book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters.)

Brownfield at Berlin Porn Film Festival
The indie sex and rock feature film The Band (2009) by Australian Anna Brownfield (1971) stands out from all other new porn by women. In 2009, The Band was the opening film at the Berlin Porn Festival and was also shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Brownfield’s film gives association to Michael Winterbottom’s 9 songs (2004) and John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus (2006), films along with which Brownfield classifies her own: art house films with hardcore sex. 

The Band is a cinematically sound film, driven by raw catchy punk-rock music and hardcore sex. The music was composed by the Melbourne-based band Moscow Schoolboy, with the PJ Harvey-esque vocalist Jess Cornelius. And the acting is strong, with performers who fit their parts: believable punk-rock band members with their ups and downs.

Jimmy and Mia (The Band)
Photography and cinematography are striking on this film, for which Brownfield gives director of photography Sanne Kurz much of the credit. The pictures are exceptional in the depth, layers, and textures that they convey, communicating excitement, heat, and passion, as well as affection and tenderness; all of which is further emphasized by the nuanced soundtrack that captures the sensations of licking and touching. Shot on a Panasonic AG-HVX200 camera with its variable shooting speed, the sex numbers are shot in true slow motion, which gives them a fluid quality.

In content the film pushes boundaries, portraying a range of sexual relations and experiences that include fetishes and gender bending encounters, without being pedagogically preachy or overtly politically activist.

Friday, April 22, 2011

my very brief guide to feminist porn, part two

(This post was originally published online at Good Vibrations Magazine)

In the first part of my very brief guide, I responded more directly to questions about feminist porn. I offered criteria to help viewers analyze the quality of porn, with the intention of broadening our language for talking about this. Yet I emphasized that these criteria are not meant to be definitive but rather have worked for me as talking points. This second part will respond to more personal questions I hear about using porn.

There’s no telling how you will watch and react/interact when faced with porn. Here I shall relate my own experiences, with the belief that hearing people speak openly about this topic is an important positive step in breaking down dated taboos, inspiring others to listen constructively and look at porn with open minds. Until society has re-evaluated often misguided preconceptions about porn, it’s likely that, for most, watching porn at all will feel a bit awkward.

– “Sometimes watching porn with others, including my husband, makes me feel awkward and silly. Other times it really turns me on to watch something sexy with him.”

Anne G. Sabo (Photo: Agnete Brun)
It was a former boyfriend that first introduced me to porn. I didn’t care much for the kind of porn he wanted to share with me, because it was very mainstream: featuring a stud who, sought out by women, provided them with sexual release by coming all over their bodies. I remember feeling grossed out—even somehow forced upon.

When finally I started watching porn of my choice, I preferred to watch it alone at first. While on sabbatical and researching feminist porn at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Oslo, I remember colleagues sheepishly asking if watching porn turns me on. There’s somehow something incorrect for a scholar to be turned on at work, but as film scholar Linda Williams points out in her historical analysis of porn, HardCore (1989), the intention of porn is to stir a physical reaction, just as tragedies strive to induce tears, and horrors goosebumps (5). In the updated version of HardCore (1999), Williams encourages us to think more about such visceral viewing (289-92).

Monday, April 18, 2011

feminist porn awards: the winners

Last week, the Toronto based women oriented sex shop Good For Her  hosted the Sixth Annual Feminist Porn Awards (FPA). Established to support new progressive porn by women, feminist porn makers I follow have received FPA awards for their work.

Over the weekend, Good For Her announced this year's winners online. Among them are Barcelona based feminist porn producer Erika Lust who won the award for Movie of the Year with Life, Love, Lust; Great Britain's first female porn producer Anna Span who won the award for Best Bi Movie with Sex Experiments; sex educator Tristan Taormino who won the award for Hottest Kink Movie with Tristan Taormino's Rough Sex 2; and San Francisco based queer porn maker Shine Louise Houston whose new website HeavenlySpire.Com featuring masculine beauty and sexuality in its diversity, including queer and transsexual men of different ethnicities, was honored.

Check out this short video for a Feminist Porn Awards Retrospective. In this short interview from the launching of this year's FPA awards, Tristan Taormino speaks about aspects of feminist porn.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Femme Productions: Erotic Rock Videos

(This post, which was originally published online at Good Vibrations Magazine, is an excerpt from my forthcoming book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters.)

The new porn by women movement started when Candida Royalle (b. 1950) founded her Femme Productions line in 1984, shooting two video collections that same year, Femme and Urban Heat. Royalle used the music video, which had come into prominence only three years before with the launch of MTV, as the format for the short films on these collections, marketing them as “erotic rock videos for couples.” While avoiding potentially stiff lines by porn performers without much acting experience, the rock video format illustrates how effective sound can be in communicating the development and intensity of desire and pleasure when the music matches what we see.

At their best, these fifteen to twenty minutes long erotic rock videos present the audience with a sexual dance where bodies come together in a harmonized flow where neither is more or less active or passive. Among my favorites is "TV Idol" on Femme, portraying the masturbation fantasy of a young woman. The film begins with a picture of her. She’s in her early twenties, dressed in a long pajamas T-shirt, tennis-socks, and a bandana around her head along the line of fashion at that time, and lying casually on a bed draped with a well-worn velvety red blanket. The lights are dimmed; she’s watching television.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

my very brief guide to feminist porn, part one

(This post, which was previously published online at Good Vibrations Magazine, is an excerpt from my forthcoming book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters.)

Anne G. Sabo (Photo: Agnete Brun)
Feminist pornography probably doesn’t get brought up in too many casual conversations. But that’s precisely what a conversation led to the other night when my husband met up with an old friend at a concert. As it turns out, this friend and his wife had happened onto my new porn by women blog after following a link from my Facebook page and were curious: Where do you find it? How is it really different? Do you watch it together or alone? When and where?

I can imagine my husband yelling over the loud music! He didn’t exactly have the answers to all the questions and finally encouraged his friend (and wife) to contact me with any porn related questions. Here I’ll address the first two questions:

As to where to find it, knowing who makes feminist or progressive porn is a good place to start. On my new porn by women site, I list a few female filmmakers who make progressive feminist good porn. All sell their films on their own websites or link to retailers. On the Good Vibrations website you can find a category for women directed adult movies, some of which are feminist porn, including:
  • Erika Lust's Five Hot Stories for Her, Life, Love, Lust, and Barcelona Sex Project
  • Jennifer Lyon Bell's Matinée
  • Petra Joy's Feeling It!
  • Venus Hottentot's (aka Abiola Abrams') Afrodite Superstar
  • Candida Royalle's Femme, Eyes of Desire I and Eyes of Desire II, My Surrender, The Bridal Shower, Three Daughters, Christine's Secret, Rites of Passion
Some porn claiming to be female-friendly or from a female point of view are not what one could call feminist porn, and some certainly aren’t progressive. The films listed here are different from mainstream porn both in design and content. Let me break down these criteria into more specific sub criteria that works for me:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lust Films: Modern and Urban Porn

(This post, which was previously published online at Good Vibrations Online Magazine, is an excerpt from my forthcoming book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters.)

Erika Lust
Swedish-born Erika Lust (1977) who lives and works in Barcelona, Spain represents a new and exciting direction in adult sex films by women today. I first became familiar with Erika’s work when in 2006 she made her erotic short film The Good Girl available as a free download on her blog. I was on sabbatical in Norway at the time, researching feminist pornography, and immediately sent the link to the sex-positive retailer CUPIDO, which then became Erika's first vendor.

It didn't take long before Erika's artistic talents received wider support and acclaim. In 2007, she released Five Hot Stories for Her, which includes "The Good Girl." Firstly, Erika shows definite skills in film techniques. She has a good eye for picture composition and editing, with a style and rhythm that can appeal to modern urban people today. I immediately connected with her work, not least because I could identify with the main character in "The Good Girl," but also because I was grabbed by Erika's use of music and the cinematic quality.

Erika's films are shot in the style of modern music videos, with hip editing and catchy soundtracks. As she herself puts it, her porn speaks to a generation that grew up with MTV and shows like "Sex and the City." In "The Good Girl" we get to know a young woman, Alexandra, who despite a rich erotic fantasy life (of which the audience gets a few comical glimpses), struggles to give in to her sexual fantasies. Her friend Julie, on the other hand, seems to have no problems in that department at all. Alexandra’s frustration and exasperation over her friend’s lack of understanding is captured with a good dose of humor and self-irony.

"The Good Girl" is about how Alexandra finally overcomes her own shyness, so she, then liberated, can celebrate and enjoy her own body and sexuality, with, ironically, the pizza deliverer. And of course the two are beautiful to look at. He dark, almost Italian-like, but in a charming, unthreatening, and kind sort of way; she sweet in a natural manner, with long soft blond hair and smooth skin over her supple body. The rhythm in the editing and music works all throughout, and you can feel it in your body. We follow and feel with Alexandra from the first fumbling and uncertain touches, to the burning fever that takes over the brain when reason must let go. She does let go, receiving and giving; their sex a passionate life-affirming dance that lifts her up and carries her away. – “Fire! … I feel fire!” exclaims the male vocalist as she lifts up, full of desire, into a tense arching bow of pleasure. The film reaches its climax as she comes, before everything settles down and she whispers to him with a little smile, “Now come in my face like they do in porn!” When he does, it only looks creamy and delicate.
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