Feminist Porn Awards — April 15, 2013 at 9:06 am

Feminist Porn Awards 2013 – Wrap Up

Ever since I blogged about the first Feminist Porn Awards in 2006 I’ve been wanting to attend. Finally, eight years later, I made it to Toronto for the awards as well as the first ever Feminist Porn Conference. It was quite the trip, in every sense. Now here’s my wrap-up of the awards and associated events. I’ll do a separate post about the conference (here it is).

First up was a special pre-awards lecture given by sex-positive legend Carol Queen from the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco. Her presentation was called “Absexuals and Erotophobes: Why They Hate Us for Our Freedom” and it explored the idea that being anti-porn is actually a sexual orientation of sorts. She described the concept of “erotophobia” as a fear or denial of sexuality and sexual variety and hypothesizes that “absexuals” are erotophobes that take their fear to the next level, seeking to control the lives of others – even as they deny their own arousal. One of the examples she gave was a woman at an anti-porn conference who insisted on reading an extensive list of porn titles she found disgusting, all the while becoming flushed and short of breath.

Carol’s idea isn’t backed up by evidence beyond research showing that homophobes – the best known type of erotophobe – tend to get turned on by gay porn whereas people who are more comfortable with sexuality can take it or leave it. Still, it’s a really interesting idea. Her talk was wonderfully interesting with plenty of personal anecdotes and some great interaction with the small audience. I’m so glad I went.

I also got to chat with the lovely Kate and Indiana from Canadian indie porn site CherryStems.com. I recommend you check out their fab site.

The next day saw the start of the official events with the Public. Provacative. Porn screening. Twitter informed me that various porn performers and producers were arriving in Toronto for the awards and I found myself wishing there had been some kind of pre-screening drinks at a pub somewhere, just so I could have a chance to meet people and chat. As it was, I didn’t get to see anyone until we got to the Hot Docs cinema where – gasp! – there was no bar! What’s an Aussie pisswreck pornographer to do?

Instead we chatted in the cold while lining up outside and then briefly in the foyer of the cinema. I caught up with Liesbet from women’s porn cable channel Dusk TV and also Christian Slaughter who is one of the organisers of the Berlin Porn Film Festival. Fellow Australian director Gala Vanting was there, jetlagged after a marathon plane trip. Inside it was a case of “spot the star” as so many of the well-known performers and producers were there including Jiz Lee, Courtney Trouble, Dylan Ryan, Nica Noelle and Wolf Hudson as well as the directors of the films to be screened.

The theatre was huge – apparently there were more than 500 people in attendance. I haven’t experienced that before; Berlin is held in a very small cinema which makes it rather cosy. But this was BIG. I have to say, I’m jealous. In Australia public screenings of adult material are banned. We aren’t allowed this kind of grown-up viewing of erotic film and I think we’re poorer for it. One day, perhaps.

My spouse and I sat all the way up the back, the better to film the evening. Next to us were a couple who were amorous before the show even started. No doubt they had quite the evening afterwards.

Good For Her showed seven shorts/excerpts. These were: Taken by Gala Vanting, Jumpcut by Saskia Quax, Because I Want You To Watch by The Madame, Biodildo by Christian Slaughter, Bound Rubber Dolls (excpert) by Julie Simone, Krutch by Clark Matthews and Forbidden Lovers (excerpt) by Nica Noelle. Each director gave a short speech about their work before the films were screened.

Biodildo and Krutch were audience favourites and I’m not surprised. Both shorts were engaging and erotic. Biodildo skewers classic depictions of domesticity and introduces the idea that a real-life flesh penis can also be seen as a disembodied sex toy.  Krutch is so beautifully executed, a gem of a short film that gets its message across without a word of dialogue. It juxtaposes images of Mia walking through New York city with footage of her masturbating, creating a sharp awareness of the way we often desexualise disabled people.

Gala’s Taken also made waves and I heard many people praising it afterwards. This short isn’t explicit but uses a rapid voiceover and dreamlike images to invoke a strong power play fantasy.

Watching porn in the cinema can produce interesting reactions. The earnest romantic setup of Nica Noelle’s trans reveal had many in the back row laughing, though they settled down as the scene progressed. I don’t think anyone expected that; perhaps after the ebb and flow of the short films some weren’t ready for a standard porn scene.

After the screening there was a panel discussion featuring Clark Matthews, Mia Gimp, Nica Noelle, Jiz Lee and Julie Simone, hosted by CoCo La Creme. The discussion was really interesting and I think everyone fell in love with Clark and Mia’s sense of humour. I was honoured to speak with Mia after the screening and on several other occasions AND I got to dance with her at the awards. She’s such a cool person and it seems she’s headed for a big career in feminist porn.

There was an after-party at the Henhouse but, being old and boring, I opted to go to bed instead, especially because I had a huge day ahead of me.

At midday Friday I attended the official FPA press conference as part of a larger group of nominees, past winners and conference presenters. The official panel of Good for Her’s Carlyle Jansen, Tristan Taormino, Nan Kinney, Carol Queen, Jiz Lee, Wolf Hudson, Mireille Miller-Young and Clark Matthews did a great job of discussing why feminist porn is important. Tristan in particular was at her soundbite-producing best. After the panel all of the “extras” were introduced… and we outnumbered the press significantly. In the end it turned into the meet-and-greet that I’d hoped for on Thursday and it was so amazing to finally introduce myself to the names I’ve long known online. I also got chatting with a student documentary maker and I ended up doing a long interview with him on Sunday.

Alas, I couldn’t stay at the presser as long as I wanted because – lucky me – I’d booked in a shoot with Jiz Lee from 2 til 5, after which we had to get ready and head to the awards at 7. The shoot involved Jiz in a claw foot bath and we ended up getting creative by filming with an iPhone in a ziploc bag. The footage looks to be fabulous and I can’t wait to edit it together. Jiz was great to work with and is such a beautiful, giving person. There’s a reason why Jiz is a fan favourite – they’re simply gorgeous! You’ll see the final scene at Bright Desire in the coming weeks.

Having raced back to the hotel room, it was time to get ready. For weeks I’d been tweeting about what to wear to the awards and had bought a rather lovely purple chiffon number at a bargain price. This plan went right out the window when I got to Canada. I have never been anywhere so cold and I knew I wasn’t going to cope well in that dress, even if it was warm inside, because Canada’s idea of warm is still cold to me. To solve this problem I ended up heading to a Goodwill second hand store in the city where we struck bargain-hunting gold – a sexy velvet top and shrug to go with the corset I’d bought as a back-up clothing option. I added my silly purple sequin hat and the make-shift look was complete. Not perfect but good enough.

Me doing the "director point". I forgot my long gloves. The necklace is the same one I wore to my wedding in 1995.

Me doing the "director point". I forgot my long gloves. The necklace is the same one I wore to my wedding in 1995. Photo by Good For Her

The awards were “north of Bloor” – a Canadian term that means “out in the sticks” but the Capitol Theatre was a classy venue and was packed to the rafters with eager porn fans. Plenty of people were getting their freak on clothing-wise and the result was a rather glorious sexy fashion show, accompanied by a welcoming and accepting vibe. We drank, we mingled, we shouted as the noise and the crowd got larger. Finally, the show started (see the official list of winners here).

Comperes Lex Vaughn and Ryan G Hinds were a lot of fun, especially when Ryan went out into the audience and did vox pops with the stars. The cheering nearly lifted the roof when he and Wolf Hudson shared a kiss, the moment beamed via camera onto the huge screen on the stage. As each award was announced a short snippet of the winning film was shown on the screen and then the winner gave their speech. Awards nights can drag on a little and this was no exception but the hosts did a decent job of keeping things moving along OK. CoCo La Creme and another burlesque performer spiced things up between blocks of awards.

After the intermission came the Honorable Mention awards. I will admit I was rather shocked to be called up. I figured I’d missed my two shots at winning – Sexiest Straight Film and Best Website – so I really didn’t expect to hear my name. I was grinning from ear-to-ear as I walked up to the stage accompanied by my fellow winners Gala Vanting (for Amber) and Lynsey G (for Consent: Society). I was last to give my speech and I admit I may have said the word “Crikey!”. But one has to be an idiot Australian abroad at some point.

I want to re-iterate my thanks, firstly to my husband, who I’ve dragged rather unwillingly into the porn filmmaking business and who has become an adept hand at filming sex. Secondly, I want to thank my performers – the real couples in Connections and all the others at Bright Desire. It’s an honour that they have shared such an intimate part of themselves with the world and they deserve utmost respect for it.

I walked off stage gripping my butt plug award and feeling on top of the world. Thanks to the judges and Good For Her for giving me the award! (There are pics of me receiving the award plus other great images at She Does The City).

After that I didn’t pay as much attention to the show as I should have… at least until two two amazing male pole dancers appeared, clad in high-heeled boots and skimpy underwear that only covered half of their butts. We made jokes about their “half-assed approach to pole dancing” but it was actually incredible. They twined themselves acrobatically around the pole and really imbued the whole place with an erotic charge. People were going insane by the time they finished. It was magnificent and I think I want to find a way to film a male pole dancer at some point in the future.

There were some high points during the ceremony. One was where lesbian porn pioneer Nan Kinney received the Trailblazer award, the introduction and trophy given by fellow trailblazer Shar Rednour of S.I.R. Productions. Nan received a standing ovation in recognition for her work in creating On Our Backs magazine and making the first authentic queer porn films. Another high point was Jiz Lee’s Heartthrob of the Year, when the entire auditorium practically swooned with love.

And the cheers were incredibly loud for Clarkand Mia when they won Best Short (sharing the honour with Biodildo – yay Christian!). The fact that there was no way for them to get onto the stage to accept their award highlighted how accessibility is still a huge issue; it was a little sad that all we could see of them from down the back were hands (and the legendary crutch) waving in the air.

Still, that isn’t enough to stop them and – as I said, Mia was up and strutting her stuff as soon as they’d cleared away the chairs and cranked up the music. We grooved together to “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart and I had a blast.

One thing that struck me about this years’ awards is there were a lot of past winners getting up on stage again. This may simply be because of a contraction in the industry – I don’t think as many films have been released in the last year as previously. And while the nominee list was extensive with a lot of new names, perhaps many of those were short films (I’m not sure). I hope that next year the award categories can adapt to suit these circumstances. I also wish there was more than one category for websites; yes, I’m biased because I live on the internet but I do think this category needs to be expanded simply because most people get their porn that way.

One other thing: last year I pointed out that there were no gay films nominated. And aside from Christian Slaughter who normally directs gay porn, this year was the same. The issue was brought up by a conference goer on Saturday during the Ladyporn session. Carlyle Jansen from Good For Her said that at the moment the judges were totally stretched dealing with the existing number of submissions and the awards ceremony was too long as it was. But she did agree it would be good to include gay porn at some point. There’s also the issue that the nominations are self-selecting and so far only one gay porn director has sent in their films for consideration.

So, the FPAs are over for another year. It was fantastic to be able to attend in person and partake of the unique vibe that surrounds the event. Feminist porn is definitely growing and I think its fair to say that 2013 was the biggest FPA to date, with extensive media coverage and large audience numbers.

I had such a good time, I might be back next year. And hopefully it won’t snow quite as much.

Some media reports of the awards:

Organic, fair trade porn: On the hunt for ethical smut by Rachel Kramer Bussel, The Daily Beast. This is perhaps the best article about the awards and conference. Rachel was at the Ladyporn session and the article includes quotes from the other panelists.

The rise of ethical porn: She chooses her co-star and fantasy – The Globe and Mail

 

PS. I want to add: it’s great that French director Ovidie received the Film of the Year award for Infidelite. Ovidie has been doing her thing since 2000 and has made a whole bunch of artistic and feminist erotic films so it’s great she has got some recognition.

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