Porn And The Expansive Nature Of Sexual Creativity

A Q&A with performers from San Francisco's (brand new!) Porn Film Festival.

Katie Tandy
IfYouSteamItTheyWillCome

Sometimes the most satisfying surprises — the ones that quell a racing heart or send it reeling like a fistful of gravel across the placid surface of a lakeshore — are those you didn't even know you were pining for.

The San Francisco Porn Film Festival is such a surprise.

Can you believe this fair city — a 7x7 sanctuary for the love-sticky, queer, and drag-ing, the kinky, poly, gay as all get out, sex working, fighting the good fight with their bodies comrades — didn't have its own porn festival?

The mind boggles.

But happily, Pink Label TV, a veritable juggernaut of erotic film production has launched this inclusive, scintillating collection and here at PULP? We're juiced.

Running August 19th - 23rd (the festival burst open yesterday!) the cinematic celebration features more than 60 live streaming short films (the 23rd is dedicated to Come/Again so you can watch anything you missed!) and a host of meet-and-greets with filmmakers.

And the work is stunning, hailing from every corner of the globe.

Think queer brown fever dreams, sensual trans bacon-laden breakfasts, the beauty of amputee sex, abduction fantasies, sex in times of CORONA complete with masks and heavy breathing, Columbian pussy worship, ASMR for skin fetishists, and all the bodily bliss your corporeal self can handle.

Every permutation of every body in all its shining desire.

And I'm so thankful for these films and writhing bodies — lick their boots thankful — for their politics, their rage, their beauty and unrelenting refusal to let shame and stigma dictate their lives.

They are the best versions of ourselves — naked in our loving, loving in our nakedness.

I had the opportunity to pick the brain of two performers and creators whose films are featured in the festival — Venus Selenite and Lina Bembe — about their art, our society, and what the sexiest thing in the world is.

How did you find your way into porn? What role does it play in your life, art, the way you move through the world?

performer/producer Venus Selenite

Venus: Queer porn became a fascination of mine as a viewer, watching episodes of the Crash Pad Series and QueerPornTV, and it wasn’t long before I desired to become a queer porn performer. I struggled with internalized shame that accompanied this desire to make porn, alongside being active in literary and performance poetry scenes. It was very important to reconcile my passions. I wanted to be open about this part of my sexuality because for a long time, I’ve seen queer porn as a vibrant art form.

Filming my first scene is one of the proudest moments of my life and I cemented, within myself, purpose as an erotic artist.

I’m happy to continue moving forward with this kind of creativity. The late Mark Aguhar wrote, “Blessed are the sex workers,” and she was right. We, sex workers, are some of the greatest, powerful, divine, and magical people in the world. That’s what keeps me moving, knowing we’ve always existed. And I say sex work because I haven’t limited myself to queer porn.

director/performer Lina Bembe


Lina: Getting in porn was fairly easy. I followed a gut feeling, got in touch with a couple of directors and one month later I shot my first film. Porn first and foremost is my job. It pays some of my bills. There's work I truly enjoy doing and some other work that serves specific purposes.

All in all, porn for me best encapsulates the things I'm good at and enjoy doing.

It is the best way for me to express ideas, emotions and address certain political issues. Porn and explicit sexuality are an intrinsic part of my life and medium for dialogue and expression. I think I'll always be related to it in one way or another.


What is porn’s — showing sexual pleasure — relationship to social justice, to exacting change?

Venus: It’s often not thought about but there is a relationship to porn and social, systemic change. I believe much of this has been expressed as a response to the current protests in the United States. For example, many of us Black porn performers have demanded for our work to be recognized as a legitimate profession (because it is), for our right to exist, to be able to create porn safely, to be treated fairly and rightfully compensated. The other aspect is how porn is produced and exhibited, how Black performers and characters are portrayed and fetishized. These demands aren’t new, but I’m elated to see them amplified and expressed more often.

Sexual racism must be eliminated in porn.
A still from "Goddess Venus"

The Goddess herself...
Venus!

Lina: Porn puts back on the map the intrinsic power of sex and sexuality. These topics have been made taboo because monogamous heteronormativity plays a big role in sustaining the current racist, capitalist order we are immersed in.


Any medium, practices or collectives that elevate bodies, pleasures, community actions or ways of existing in this world as sexual creatures that fall out of the narrow frameworks that serve capitalist and governmental agendas, or holds political value, has the potential for simulating a form of change.   
Stills from "Ritual Wave"


What was your process like in deciding what to depict in eliciting and conveying desire in your film?

Venus: It was quick and easy to make the decisions about desire in my film on paper and very spontaneous when the time came to shoot. Because I was filmed in 50 degree temperatures, I had to adjust and I didn’t worry about what was caught on camera. My collaborator, Saira Barbaric (at ScumTrust), helped make this process enjoyable and it was my first time making a porn film independently.

Thankfully, the scenery didn’t appear to show off colder weather! But the desires depicted in “Goddess Venus” successfully made it and I was glad my body was able to make necessary adjustments and rise to the challenge of making this porn narrative come to life. I definitely consider this to be a “self-pleasure art film” and I believe it’s one of the few presentations of a Black trans body basking in the delight of sex at the San Francisco Porn Film Festival.

Lina: It was a somewhat visceral and introspective process triggered by a need of more agency. I love performing, but most part of my work has been about things I've done for others. I decided to shoot "Ritual Waves" at a time of deep frustration with certain problems and abusive situations within my niche porn industry. This film is a lot about finding healing in creativity. After being out and about for others, I just wanted to show up for myself, be with myself.   


Venus in a still from her film "Goddess Venus"

What’s the sexiest thing in the world? 

Venus: Knowing there are whores throughout the entire galaxy. That is fucking sexy to me. As a whore, that’s my answer.

Lina: The expansive nature of sexual creativity. 

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