The Feminist Porn Awards, Conference & Toronto Wrap-Up

 

Me with my Honorable Mention Feminist Porn Award. Pic by ToTheTProductions

Me with my Honorable Mention Feminist Porn Award. Pic by ToTheTProductions

I’m home at last and still recovering from an incredibly hectic, stressful and rather thrilling two weeks in Toronto. In that time I attended the Feminist Porn Awards and conference, a film screening and storytelling night, won an FPA, shot five scenes, caught up with heaps of friends and suffered horribly from jetlag and a major bout of the flu. So here’s my attempt at summarizing what went down at the FPAs 2014.

We arrived on Sunday the 30th and spent two days being generally floored by jetlag. Canada’s timezone meant that our regular bedtime was time to wake up so it was hard going. By Tuesday we were coherent enough to go bike riding, take in some local brews and then head out to dinner with longtime feminist porn friend Jennifer Lyon Bell. We talked so loudly about porn at dinner that they closed up and herded us out the door early. We had a great chat, though Jen wasn’t well the next day.

tellmesomethinggood

Tell Me Something Good at the Gladstone Hotel. Photo credit Nikki G

Wednesday saw me madly trying to finalize shooting details before we went to Tell Me Something Good, a regular social event where people are encouraged to get up on stage and tell amusing anecdotes about sex. The lovely Sophie Delancey invited me to be a guest judge and I was honoured to accept, even though it felt a little bit wrong to judge people’s rather personal sexy stories. Still, it was all in fun and I heard some amazingly cool anecdotes that made me laugh, think and cheer. We heard about first-time fisting gone awry, Sybian riding at a sex club, the emotional rollercoaster of appearing in porn and first encounters with dirty magazines or VHS tapes. I loved being in a room with so many like-minded people, openly discussing sex without shame – and with a shared goal of laughter and entertainment. It was great to hang out with fellow judges Kate Sinclaire from CherryStems.com, writer Jon Pressick and filmmaker Tobi Hill-Meyer. Better yet, my casting call at the end led me to meet Harley Jay… who went on to help me create my “porn unicorn” (more on that later).

My appearance at the storytelling night meant I missed out on the second night of erotic films screened by Good For Her. They showed Women Will Come, a doco on feminist porn filmmakers. I know that Jen and Zahra did a Q&A afterwards and it went well.

Zahra getting spanked by Pandora for the first time.

Zahra getting spanked by Pandora for the first time.

On Thursday morning we shot a spanking scene with Pandora Blake of Dreams of Spanking and Zahra Stardust, (who’d arrived on Wednesday in time to squirt all over Courtney Trouble at their fisting workshop). Zahra had needed someone to shoot so we decided to do a three-way content share which means that this scene will appear on all of our sites. Zahra had never been spanked in porn before but had attended a workshop on it the previous week and was curious. Thus, the spanking scene, filmed in the hotel room with a bit of last-minute story added. As a filmmaker it was interesting to shoot a kink that I’m not personally into; it meant we needed Pandora to give us direction on which bits were the most important to capture. She has her own style and methods and I’m not sure if we met her standards but we did our best. Three things I learned: 1. spanking porn requires vision of both the bum and the face so two cameras are important. 2. Spanking needs to be shot chronologically because the spank marks have to be accounted for. And 3, spank marks don’t come out on camera in direct sunlight.

The filmmakers at Public. Provocative. Porn.

The filmmakers at Public. Provocative. Porn.

Thursday evening saw pre-screening drinks for nominees at Good For Her (so many friends, so little time!) and then we trouped off to the Bloor Hot Docs cinema for the screening of Public. Provocative. Porn. This year the FPAs made an effort to screen more films which meant a lot of excerpts combined with regular short films. The films screened were:

1. No Artificial Sweeteners – The Madame
2. Trains – Paul Deeb
3. Bed Party – Shine Louise Houston
4. Sexual Freedom – Ovidie
5. Best Slumber Party Ever – Samuel Shanahoy
6. Power at Play – Carey Gray
7. The One on the Bottom – Zahra Stardust
8. Alice Inside – Lucie Blush
9. Trans Grrrls – Courtney Trouble
10. Silver Shoes – Jennifer Lyon Bell

There was a lot here to love and each film was unique in its own way. I enjoyed Trains by Paul Deeb – I shared the Best Experimental Short Cinekink award with him this year – because it was interested in making the artifice of porn filming explicit. Zahra’s The One On The Bottom made waves, of course. Her film is a big “fuck you” to the censorship laws of Australia so it’s always fun to watch. No Artificial Sweetners was well made using only an iPhone and featured a song (In Michigan by Sunny Side Up) that got into my head for days. DAYS, I tell you. It was great to finally have a peek at Jen Lyon Bell’s new film Silver Shoes – beautifully shot and acted as usual. And I think the audience favourite was the hilarious Best Slumber Party Ever by fellow Australian Samuel Shanahoy.

Afterward I made the mistake of attending the screening afterparty at The Steady cafe and bar. Mistake because it was late, it was crowded, it was incredibly loud and I needed to be shooting porn at 9am. Still, I managed to have some great screamed conversations with Paul Deeb, Lucie Blush and Pandora Blake about what films we liked best and which were most cinematic.

-------------------------------------------------------
Advertisement

Support independent, ethically made, award-winning porn. Bright Desire features all of my erotic films and writing. A membership to Bright Desire gets you access to every movie I've ever made and lets me keep making female friendly porn!
Click here to find out more.
-------------------------------------------------------

Friday I woke up with the beginnings of The Most Heinous Flu Ever. Like, EVER. Determined, I downed a cold and flu tablet and went off to collect a BBC journalist who had requested to sit in on a porn shoot. I’d arranged with Pandora to do a solo shoot as a content swap and we’d come up with a seriously steamy premise: her Dom had written a secret letter full of instructions that we would film. I knew what was planned (it was pants-soakingly hot) but Pandora didn’t. I printed out the letter and we filmed her reading it and then carrying out his requirements. Yes, it was incredibly sexy.

Pandora about to open the sexy letter

Pandora about to open the sexy letter

Our new journalist friend sat in the cluttered-up doorway and watched the scene unfold, I’m not sure what he made of it but he was very polite and helped with the towels. Afterwards we went to a cafe and had a great chat with him about why we do what we do. He attended the awards ceremony and then went off with Zahra, Wolf Hudson and James Darling to watch their all-night threesome shoot which I’m told was rather mind blowing and probably eclipsed our little solo scene in terms of reportability.

Midday Friday saw me wilting but I attended the official press conference which was mainly populated by performers and directors with a small scattering of press. Everyone in the room was invited to say what feminist porn meant to them and we heard some very intelligent and articulate comments. Tobi Hill-Meyer said that trying to define feminist porn was just as impossible as trying to pin down feminism itself. My turn was late in the proceedings; I said that I thought feminist porn is the future. We are manifesting the change we want to see in the world.

With Jiz Lee at the Feminist Porn Awards 2014. The full horror of the muppet outfit.

With Jiz Lee at the Feminist Porn Awards 2014. The full horror of the muppet outfit.

My outfit for the awards was ridiculous. I mean, if you want proof that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to fashion, I give you the Muppet Zebra Ensemble. I wore it partly to stand out and partly because I had wanted to be warm. I started out searching for an unusual-looking overcoat that I could survive the Canadian weather in; I ended up sporting a cheap and crazy number from a Halloween costume shop. Five pink muppets and a nylon zebra gave their lives for this monstrosity… and I’m not sure I pulled it off successfully. Redheads know never to wear hot pink and I disobeyed that rule. Still, I definitely stood out and I did have fun wearing it. Also, you can’t tell in the photos just how sick and horrible I felt.

We chatted at the pre-party drinks, got seats up the front and happily enjoyed the show. The male pole dancer Mahogany Storm and strippers were fabulous, as was Coco Le Creme’s latest burlesque number. Comperes Ryan G. Hinds and Lex Vaughn were good fun and kept things moving. This year they instigated a way to get award winners off the stage if they went too long: a whip. Luke wasn’t happy with her technique (“she’s cleary never mustered cattle!”) but it certainly made for a thrilling end to some speeches.

fpa14_pole

The amazing Mahogany Storm

fpa14_whip

Ryan G. Hinds and Lex Vaughn get things cracking

The theatre was a happy place to be. Producers, performers and fans had got their freak on for the evening and the place was awash with wild and wonderful outfits. Gender lines were blurred, guys wore dresses and suspenders, gals wore suits and moustaches, non-gender-identified people wore whatever the fuck they wanted. Actually, everyone wore whatever the fuck they wanted. It was a beautiful, liberated, sexually free space where the regular “rules” didn’t apply and that’s one of the glorious things about the FPAs.  It’s a glimpse of a more cheerful, accepting world.

fpa14_award

I was surprised to receive an Honorable Mention award for my small documentary Something Better: Performers Talk About Feminism and Porn. I’d hurriedly put the film together in the last week before the FPA deadline and submitted it as an afterthought. The full film is available at Bright Desire and I’m going to edit a short, tame version for Vimeo in the next couple of days [EDIT: Here it is!]. In any case, I’m pleased and honoured to have received another FPA.

Zahra hugging Jiz after being announced as Heartthrob of the Year

Zahra hugging Jiz after being announced as Heartthrob of the Year

The awards night saw a lot of familiar names on stage – Shine Louise Houston, Tristan Taormino, Madison Young, Courtney Trouble. I was thrilled when Zahra received Heartthrob of the Year and they played an excerpt of the film we made together, An Open Letter To My Lovers, Friends and Mentors. I was also very pleased for Jennifer Lyon Bell when she won Film of the Year for Silver Shoes. And I was moved by the wonderful tribute to Indie Porn Icon Carlos Batts, beautifully read by Tristan Taormino and responded to by Carlos’ wife and muse, April Flores. There was a standing ovation and many tears.

feministpornpanel01

Feminist porn: what it is, what it isn’t and why it matters

Saturday morning I almost didn’t get out of bed. Couldn’t get out. Everything hurt, I was an utter wreck. Still, I’d travelled across half the planet in order to present at the Feminist Porn Conference and I refused to let the flu get in the way. So I downed some pseudoephedrine, put on my “Smutty Feminist” t-shirt and dragged my sorry arse through the freezing morning to the University of Toronto. I attended my first panel session at 11am and you can read about Feminist Porn: What It Is, What It Isn’t and Why It Matters in this blog post.

I had lunch with old school internet friend Seska Lee and we talked about her plans for getting back into the business. Seska started making porn sites in 1998 and we both have a bit of an “Old on the Internet” vibe happening which is fun. Things have really changed since we first started, uploading tiny pics on 56k modems.

Pornographers Without Borders

Pornographers Without Borders

After that I appeared on my second panel, Pornographers Without Borders, along with Ovidie, Jennifer Lyon Bell and Pandora Blake. This session was well attended and I think we surprised some people with our stories of legal restrictions and other issues when making porn outside North America. Ovidie talked about how in France it’s only legal to screen porn in official porn cinemas… and they don’t exist anymore. Pandora discussed the UK’s “extreme porn” laws and creeping internet censorship, especially in light of the fact that she runs the only feminist kink site online. And I talked about how the legal environment in Australia is pretty harsh when it comes to porn… but we’re making it anyway. Even the Netherlands has been cracking down on the adult industry. I think people who attended came away feeling more aware of how rare freedom of speech is around the world and how relatively easy the US has it with regards to porn.

On top of censorship, we all agreed that isolation from our peers and from the wider feminist porn community makes things difficult. It can be harder to find performers, to source funding and also to obtain shooting locations. Even so, we’re making porn that comes from a different perspective which is great. We didn’t have a lot of time for chatting afterwards and I’m sad that I didn’t get to speak properly with Ovidie, whose work I greatly admire.

One other thing: Pandora promoted Nichi Hodgson’s Ethical Porn Partnership which aims to quantify ethical standards in the adult industry. Worth a plug.

After that I went to the session Evaluating The Outcome which featured jessica drake, Danny Wylde, Dylan Ryan, Shine Louise Houston, Tristan Taormino and Carlyle Jansen. The panel was discussing the ethics of porn production and how to find out – as consumers – whether the porn was made ethically. Carlyle talked about the idea of actually contacting performers of FPA-nominated porn to ensure they were OK with the production. Tristan talked about her desire to keep performers fed and comfortable on set, partly out of a selfish desire to make sure their performances were better. There was the inevitable talk about the need for snacks (it’s become a joke that the defining aspect of feminist porn is whether there’s carrots on set) although Shine questioned whether it’s worth having them if you’re only conducting a short 2-3 hour shoot.

For me this session was really useful because I got to hear feedback from performers about what they wanted on set and also hear ideas from producers as to what they think makes an ethical set. I was able to compare my own methods and think about what I was doing right and also what changes I might need to make when filming. I also am going to instigate a few ideas on my sites to make my ethics and production methods more apparent to the audience.

The Opening Keynote by Lisa Duggan broadly looked at the changes to porn and feminism over time. Perhaps my favourite quote was her lambasting of the 70s movement Women Against Pornography:

I had originally planned via Facebook to have a quiet post-conference drinks and dinner session with a bunch of people but instead I staggered back to the hotel thinking of going to bed. Even so, I did end up having Sushi/Korean for dinner with Jennifer Lyon Bell, Annabelle Lee, Pandora Blake, Cheyenne Picardo, Chris Lowrance and Kitty O’Possom. It was lovely, though I was not exactly sparkling company.

Sunday I dosed up on more drugs and headed back to the uni for the 10:15am special screening of Aussie Porn with Zahra. We showed:

Zahra Stardust and Ms. Naughty, An Open Letter To My Lovers
Zahra Stardust, The One On The Bottom
Gala Vanting/Sensate Films, Touch
Morgana, Duty Bound
Anna Brownfield, The Band excerpt
Aeryn Walker, Waking Up To You
Ms. Naughty, Tease
Ms. Naughty, Dear Jiz

Zahra watches "An Open Letter". I took the pic, Zahra owns it (thanks!)

Zahra watches “An Open Letter”. I took the pic, Zahra owns it (thanks!)

The screening was pretty well attended for such an early start and I think people liked our stuff. It was nice to show the diversity and talent that we have here in our little feminist porn posse. Unfortunately the screening ran a little long and we didn’t have time for questions. I’d also hoped Jiz would be available for the Dear Jiz screening but they had another appointment. We haven’t managed to watch this film together, though it’s been screened around the world. One day I hope to achieve this.

 

 

After lunch I attended Chris Lowrance and Jiz Lee’s biz track session If You Build It They Will .com: Web Development and Troubleshooting. I was curious to hear their ideas on creating porn websites and, while I didn’t really learn anything new, it was good to compare notes and think about what business practices I should be pursuing with my own sites. Chris and Jiz discussed buying domains, hosting, billing companies, membership plugins and customer service. The session was pretty packed so I think we’re going to see a spate of new feminist porn sites in the coming year. You can find the course handout material here.

Authenticity and Consent panel

Authenticity and Consent panel

The panel on Consent and Authenticity featured Sophie Delancey, Madison Young, Pandora Blake and Gala Vanting, who was still in Australia and got up at 5am to appear via Skype. The technology did a good job and I think Gala’s talk about how an idea of “real girls” is constructed on certain sites had people feeling a little shocked. Some sites define their “girl next door” paradigm in extremely narrow ways e.g. no butt pimples, thin, no tattoos, no piercings etc. Gala also talked about when it was her job to vet submissions to an orgasm-focused site, following a pre-defined list as to what qualified as an “authentic ograsm.”

Pandora absolutely nailed her presentation, talking about the difficulties of depicting consent when her porn is based on non-consensual fantasies. She doesn’t want to break the fourth wall and so instead makes extensive use of outtakes, interviews and other behind-the-scenes footage on her site. Sophie talked about the problems of maintaining an idea of “realness” and “intimacy” when the star couple of the site have broken up. She questioned the idea that real-life couples automatically make for better porn. And Madison had us doing stretches before talking about her own negotiated boundaries within her relationship and within porn. She and her partner have written agreements regarding what they can and can’t do on screen and how they will maintain their intimacy, even when they are enacting sexual encounters publicly. The whole session was fascinating and clearly appealed to a lot of people as we were sitting on the floor in the aisles.

Next was Courtney Trouble’s intense keynote speech in which she publicly talked about a history of sexual abuse and then appealed for more inclusiveness and diversity in porn. Her speech clearly touched a lot of people and resulted in a standing ovation. I found it inspiring though somewhat prescriptive in places. It certainly gave everyone a lot to talk about at the party afterwards.

By the way, BrightDesire.com was one of the sponsors of the Feminist Porn Conference!

By the way, BrightDesire.com was one of the sponsors of the Feminist Porn Conference!

One of the more frustrating things about the conference was my inability to attend other sessions due to presenting or scheduling clashes. I would have loved to have attended Maggie Mayhem‘s presentation on the history of queer porn which sounded fascinating. I also didn’t get to see the session Feminist/Porn Battlegrounds – Disability, Law, Religion and Tumblr. There was a lot there to take in and I hope to find some transcripts or videos of it soon. Similarly, I would have loved to hear the discussion on Porn and Sex Work in Academy, which dealt with the problems academics face in trying to study these (unnecessarily) controversial topics. I also didn’t get to attend the film screenings of Ovidie, Shine Louise Houston or Jen Lyon Bell; it almost felt like we could have had a third day just for screenings and discussion. I think it was fantastic that the conference made space to actually show some of the work that we are talking about.

The conference done, my day wasn’t over. I then gathered up our cameras and took a taxi to the wonderful Oasis Aqualounge to film a scene with Mickey Mod and Siouxsie Q. I’d originally planned to shoot with the lovely Arabelle Raphael but she became ill and had to cancel, thankfully arranging for the gorgeous Siouxsie to replace her.

So the taxi driver got a little lost on the way to Oasis and then asked us, perplexed: “What is this place?”

“It’s a sex club,” I said, feeling rather liberated and crazy at being able to say such things. Normally I’m not that “out”. And it didn’t matter that we were lugging a suitcase full of filming equipment; it felt very naughty nonetheless.

The Oasis has a great dungeon room which I thought would make for a perfect “50 Shades” style light BDSM scene. Unfortunately the club was also hosting a party for furries enthusiasts which meant there was much giggling and thumping up and down stairs outside the door. Still, I think the shoot went well and Mickey and Siouxsie were amazing [EDIT: A bit of drama happened after I wrote this post. Read more here]. Afterwards I was treated to a rather surreal moment where we opened the door and found the furries lining up outside, eager to use the sex swing. With them was a man in a full Winnie The Pooh suit. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder what happened to my life.

A pic from the start of our dungeon scene with Mickey Mod and Siouxsie Q

A pic from the start of our dungeon scene with Mickey Mod and Siouxsie Q

On Monday morning I had brunch with Lynn Comella and Jen before saying fond farewells to many people in the hotel lobby. By this point Luke had erupted into a fever with the same flu. We changed hotels and then hunkered down for two days, being sick. I had to cancel two shoots because filming was just beyond us. Even our shoot with Jade Janvier on Wednesday night was hard going thanks to this horrible illness.

On Thursday, our last day in Toronto, we shot Max, Vivienne and Harley in an MMF bi threesome scene. This was my “porn unicorn”, so named because I’d had such a hard time trying to find “straight-looking” bi guys for this scene, I wasn’t sure they existed. It’s for my upcoming feature film about female fantasies and I’m so thrilled to have found the perfect people for it. As mentioned above, I found Harley through Tell Me Something Good and he suggested Max and Vivienne, who are partners. All three of them had done porn for The Spit Magazine and they were very eager to have a threesome. The scene was a lot more directed than some of the other scenes I’ve shot but it was also very erotic and free-flowing. It features double cunnilingus, multiple positions and – of course – the two guys kissing, touching and sucking each other’s cocks. Beautiful! I’m so thrilled with how it all went and can’t wait to edit it and get it out to the world. I know a lot of women want to see this scene, especially because porn steadfastly refuses to show this kind of thing.

Max, Vivienne and Harley at the start of the amazing MMF threesome scene.

Max, Vivienne and Harley at the start of the amazing MMF threesome scene.

Friday we got on the plane and did a 30 hour trip home. I’m so very pleased to be back sleeping in my own bed. The two weeks in Toronto were amazing and exhausting and it was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done with porn. But I think it was worth it.

I need to add a small shout-out section to all the friends, old and new, that I spoke with over the weekend and haven’t mentioned above. Thanks to my favourite academics Kevin Heffernan, Lynn Comella and Constance Penley for being great to talk to and always inspirational. A big wave to Maggie Mayhem who I was so glad to finally meet, even though we had to cancel our shoot. Hugs to Jiz Lee, so nice to see you again. A shout out for Liesbet and Yvette from Dusk TV, you guys rock. Cheers to the girls from Cherry Stems, you’re great. As is James Darling and Andre Shakti. Thanks to Mara and Azura from The Den of Nine Tails, sorry it didn’t work out. And a big cheer for Robert, the fan and conference attendee who was so nice and asked interesting questions despite being very shy. I’m so glad you were there.

I would like to extend an apology to anyone who got sick during or after the conference (apparently a lot of people did). It’s entirely possible you caught this monster from me. Normally I wouldn’t leave my bed if I was sick but I couldn’t NOT go to the conference after so much expense, travel and effort. So I’m sorry I gave people the flu but I’m glad I got to hang out with you all!

For me, the ability to have smart, honest conversations about sex and porn is vital; it keeps me interested and eager to pursue new ideas. I can happily go for weeks without speaking to other people but at a porn event like this, I want ALL THE SOCIAL CONTACT. These are my people, this is my space. And though I may have come away feeling uncertain of where I fit in to this big feminist mess (or even if I belong at all), I still want to connect with this community.

I want to thank Tristan Taormino and Colten for all their work in organizing the conference, it was superb. Also thanks to Good For Her for making the Feminist Porn Awards into an amazing event.

I have a whole bunch of video that I shot of the awards and I’ll compile that shortly. It’s here! In the meantime, that’s my wrap up. Please check out these other posts for alternative views:

Tristan Taormino’s summary of the conference

Chris Lowrance’s recap of Feminist Porn Week

Jiz Lee’s recap

Kitty Stryker’s summary in The Frisky

Pandora Blake’s FP weekend summary

Dusk TV’s video wrap-up

Related posts:

2 Replies to “The Feminist Porn Awards, Conference & Toronto Wrap-Up”

  1. Wow, amazingly in-depth recap! Thanks so much for writing this, and for the solidarity during the week. I’m really glad you won an award, your work deserves heaps of recognition. It was fun to shoot with you and I can’t wait to see the results of the threesome scene!

Comments are closed.