Thursday, May 21, 2015

Delving into SMUTFest

SMUTFest, Edmonton's very own queer, sex-positive porn festival, enters it's second year this summer. I am writing a column for VUE about what it's like to produce a piece of sexy film-making for SMUTFest. When I asked its amazing producers, Prairie Oyster Entertainment, for a comment for the column, they responded with so much beautiful insight about sex, relationships, art, and porn, that I couldn't fit it all in.

I would love for everyone to hear what they have to say, so here it is. The creators of SMUTFest on making queer, consensual, sex-positive, body-positive porn.

Kristina: You know, obviously we can't speak to each person's individual motives, but I really think that SMUTfest let's people be super vulnerable about themselves. So much of the porn people have easy access to is full of people that are the mainstream, that is thin, able-bodied, white, hetero, cisgender, and the festival allows people that aren't part of those demographics to take up space. Even for folks who don't submit but attend the festival, it can be really huge to see someone that looks like them or has similar desires, etc. on a big screen, and then get turned on by it! Add in exhibitionism from some of the people, I'm sure, and it adds another sexy element to the whole thing. Another thing that we hoped to provide last year, and of course again this year, is a safer space for marginalized identities to literally just have a safer space to present themselves and their sexuality however they want to, without judgement (or ratings), just celebration. And we had a lot of feedback after SMUTfest'14 that it was one of the only spaces people have felt so comfortable being in, and I think that for those who attended last year, they probably want to have that again, and I hope that the word is passing that that is our number 1 concern when organizing this festival each year.

The thought of filming something sexual is still kind of nerve-wracking for folks, though, but I'd say that the thing we hear the most is that people say they aren't going to submit a film because they don't have a fancy camera, or don't have experience filming anything. But that's the whole point of SMUTfest! It's grassrootsy, we encourage folks to mess around with their phones and take videos! And I think that's what sets us apart from other adult film/porn festivals. If someone wants to submit a 3 minute long video off their phone of themselves dry humping pillows and getting off from it (which is a super common masturbatory practice), then we welcome it with open arms! We are looking for SMUT, but to everyone, that can mean really different things! It can be intimate, it can be raunchy, it can be fucking loud, or no sound at all, it can be "artistic" or not at all, it can be of one person, or 9. As long as it's consensual, and not demeaning towards certain groups of people, we want folks to just get out there and make SMUT happen!

kiyl: As Kristina mentioned, motives for creating amateur porn are going to differ from person to person, for sure. Themes that have been coming up for me a lot lately, and I feel were underlying themes when we initially started this work, are community and connection. SMUTfest started as an initiative to connect and celebrate our various communities in a way that we felt was not getting the space it deserved. Publicly celebrating bodies and sex and sexuality, especially of woman and non-binary people, can be super political, and it doesn't necessarily need to be public, either. Even giving yourself the permission to celebrate your sexual identities and pleasures in the privacy of your own home can be huge for some people. There is still a lot shame and embarrassment around sex and bodes, especially those of women and non-binary people. having the space and medium to unapologeticly share our experiences and identities and desires in this respect can be incredibly powerful and inspire connections we may have never other wise considered.

In respect to getting started with this work, i've been involved in a lot of conversations lately about porn and art and legitimacy and (most importantly) accessibility. funny enough, i am writing this from an artist residency in Toronto, which i think is hilarious because all of the content i submitted to get here was smut that i shot on my iPhone and edited in iMovie or on a free photo editing program. what i feel makes the work i am involved in "legitimate" isn't a super fancy camera, or artistic angles and lighting, or even smooth editing and sound that makes sense - it is the fact that it is an authentic, unapologetic representation of what those involved take pleasure in.

What's unique about doing all of this work in the context of SMUTfest, is that it also offers a space for us to get into some of these deeper political conversations that inevitably come up when we are working with bodies. From conversations around consent, which is mandatory, to what it means to be intersectional and inclusive, to the ways we can use our work to actively subvert the systems that seek to exploit. I realize that this might not be a partially sexy component of creating pornography, amateur or other wise, but it is necessary, for me at least, in creating pornography that I know I can feel good about.

SMUTFest 2015 takes place on July 18. Tickets are available at The Traveling Tickle Trunk. It's not too late to submit your art to SMUTFest. Find out more here.

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