Porn in Public: My Experience at an X-Rated Film Festival

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11:37pm. I yawn as I walk with Jonathan through northwests’ sleepy neighborhood. A light, steady rain falls from the sky, making us choose our steps amongst the wet, slippery leaves wisely.

Combined with the frigid air & slight tardiness, we walk quickly, drawing closer & closer to the event that’s keeping us up so late. An event so risque that it compels me to wonder, “What would my mother say?”

We’re going to an independent porn film festival.

At that notion, a mischievous smile began to play on my lips.

I first heard of Hump! Fest from a friend who told me that — in lieu of my having missed an exclusive BDSM/kink/all girls sex party months prior (no kidding) — Hump! was something I absolutely could not miss. So I purchased two tickets & proceeded to drag Jonathan along with me to a midnight viewing.

All for “research,” of course.

Upon approaching the theatre, a solid line of movie-goers wrapped around its entire block. It took us a few moments to get to the end of the line, & as we walked carefully through mud & gravel I surveyed the waiting crowd.

Young, hip Portlanders bundled up in scarves stood closely together, chatting boisterously with their friends, blowing cigarette smoke over their heads. They were all smiling, laughing even; a pleasant surprise.

I admit that I had different expectations of the Hump! crowd & its mood; perhaps that their disposition would be a bit sullen or on-edge. But standing on a dimly lit corner of 21st & Irving, nestled between stylish 20-somethings & the warmth of their excitement (to watch porn, no less), I was awestruck, exhilarated.

I felt right at home.

The line moved quickly & before we knew it Jonathan & I were in the lobby of the theatre, the smell of popcorn wafting past our noses. The concession stand was jam-packed. People were stocking up on beer & popcorn before the films began.

Right before we began to search for seats, voting ballots were thrust into our hands by a girl with long wavy hair & knitted handwarmers.

“Don’t forget to vote for your favorite films!” she reminded us excitedly. And we would have voted, but we were never given pencils. This made our ballots obsolete for voting but perfect as a program for keeping track of the films being shown (not to mention a great souvenir).

As we walked upstairs to get to the overhead seating, my eyes skimmed the titles of the films on the ballot:

Sexbox 360
Dick Saber
Double 0 Sexy
Night of the Giving Head
Go Fuck Yourself
Gold Penis 

Each cleverly titled film was embedded within at least one category: Humor, Sex, & Kink. There were 23 films total.

Our seats at Hump! — when we found them — were far from brag-worthy. Combined with our misfortune of being near last in line & our slowness at nabbing more appropriate seats, we found ourselves in the second row from the last above the main audience, a metal beam obliterating our view.

(Later, we would be joined by a threesome behind us that were slurring their conversations so loudly, we missed many of the films’ main dialogues.)

Because of such lackluster seating, I could only hear Dan Savage’s booming voice as he drilled the rules & regulations of Hump! into our (the audience) heads. (They had a very, very strict “No Cellphones!” policy.)

But I did manage to catch a quick glimpse of his forehead, which was seemingly illuminated by a glowing sex halo (it was likely perspiration from the heat of the stage lights, but the idea of a sex halo appeals to me more).

As the first feature began to play (aptly titled Furry Sex), I began to make peace with what Hump! really was: an honest-to-goodness, pornographic film festival.

I’m not sure why, but I imagined Hump! to be less like porn (full-fledged fucking) & more like homemade erotic movies (gratuitous nudity, but no actual “bits” showing).

Perhaps I thought this to quell this large part of me that was cringing at the thought of watching amateur porn flicks in public.

For a girl who still has trouble watching fictional love scenes in movies, I believe my cheeks turned several shades of red as blatant images of sex & eroticism blared on the screen amongst an animated audience. Never mind being seated next to my husband, with whom I rarely ever watch porn with even in the privacy of our own bedroom.

While most of the films were based on humor — which I thoroughly appreciated, as it took the edge off of the event in a big way — the sex scenes were real, the erect penises were real, the kink & bodily fluids were all real.

My mouth stood agape, my eyes never left the screen.

And I wasn’t the only one growing damp with discomfort. A guy in front of me fidgeted each time an explicit shot of male/male coitus flashed before his eyes. More than once I saw him look to the red wall next to him when the fidgeting didn’t suffice but walking away would’ve been too rash.

I found this utter display of uneasiness to be a poignant reminder of a disorder that plagues most of us on some level: shame, timidity, & fear of the portrayal of human sexuality.

For the record, each film — though incredibly unique in their own stories & messages — was tastefully, cleverly, & respectfully done. I couldn’t tag one porno I saw that night as smut, nor would I concur to an implication of depravity or exploitation — both words that are rampantly assumed when it comes to porn.

And because of the common knowledge of the festival — that these films were locally produced by people not labelled as porn stars but by your average, everyday girl/guy next door — there was an underlying kind rawness to each film that was hard to fully disregard.

These were real people. Fucking. Climaxing. Getting off. And they were doing it not because of the promise of a paycheck at the end (though there was a chance of winning a cash prize), but because they found immense pleasure in playing with their instinctive carnalities for all of us to see.

Because they wanted to.

After the last film left the theatre dark & the crowd cheering, Jonathan & I began the several block walk back to our car.

It was after 2am & a bit foggy, my head swimming with images of cocks, darting tongues, & duct tape.

Between deep yawns, Jonathan & I relived our moments at Hump!, highlighting what our eyes had just feasted on, noting our emotions & thought processes. We felt invigorated, turned on, incredibly human.

I remember thinking to myself as I drove through the tunnel that signifies my going home that I had just experienced a beautiful thing. That in the realm of the porn we’re associated with — the abusive, fallacious, & depraved depictions of misogyny we know so well — there is another option.

There can be wholesome erotica with pure intentions. There can be getting off for getting off’s sake. There can be enjoyment found in the representation of our eroticism as a species.

And we can celebrate it — view it, be aroused by it, relish in it — because it’s an integral part of our nature.

As a society, we are quick to villianize pornography for the role it plays in hindering our sexualities & how depressingly bleak & trivial it instills into the act of sex.

But when I laid my head on my pillow after two licentious hours of watching amateur porn films, I was hard-pressed to collar a single evildoer.

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© 2017 SLL / Fueled by orgasm and fierce self-care