How to Be a Better Porn Viewer: or, what I learned at the queer porn film festival

The long, snaking, up- and down-stairs line to get into the QPFF.

The long, snaking, up- and down-stairs line to get into the QPFF.

On Sunday, April 19, I attended the first-ever Queer Porn Film Festival in Brooklyn.  It was pretty fantastic. I mean, aside from the fact that I was surrounded by beautiful queers who love porn, the festival itself was great. It was curated and hosted by queer porn icon Courtney Trouble and Brooklyn DIY porn princess Jacquline Mary, and featured screenings of like a bazillion queer porn films, as well as panels and workshops with performers and community activists, a full bar, and… well, a bunch of beautiful queers who love porn.

As obvious as that might sound, I’m repeating it for a reason: it’s remarkable to find oneself in a space with dozens of other people who show up to this kind of event not because they’re seeking a thrill, but because they want to be actively involved in supporting this kind of work. It’s a unique feeling to be part of a crowd that doesn’t see porn as a sort-of-hot, sort-of-icky curiosity, but as an important and enriching part of human sexuality. The crowd paid to be there, to support queer porn filmmakers and performers, to talk and watch and ask questions about how to be better porn viewers. How to help more of this stuff get made and seen and taken seriously. I basically wanted to kiss everybody there.

But I digress. The point here is that over the day I heard a lot of industry insiders giving tips about how to actively participate in making sure that you have access to the kind of stuff you want to watch. How to make sure it gets made in the first place. And I want to share those tips with you, so you can be the best porn consumer you can be! Yeehaw!

  1. Pay for it. This is pretty much the mantra that all porn fans should be quietly whispering under their breath at all times. Although a large portion of queer porn filmmakers don’t agree with or really want to be a part of capitalism, the fact remains that without the cash flow to make and distribute their art, that art just doesn’t get made or distributed. Period. So, when you discover a new film or scene or clip or cam show or anything that showcases the kind of sexy stuff you’re looking for, pay for it.
  2. Talk about it. This sounds so simple, but performer and now filmmaker Cinnamon Maxxine pointed out that one reason the topic of porn remains taboo in our culture is that people are nervous about exposing their own tastes and ideas to others. Their advice? Just start talking about it with your friends. Mention porn you’ve been watching. Who makes it. What you like about it. What you don’t like. Start the conversation. If we all do it, the topic will become more normalized, and tearing down the taboo could be the start of a whole new epoch of easier access to money, opportunities, and distribution for people who make sexy stuff.

    Cinnamon Maxxine holding court at the QPFF.

    Cinnamon Maxxine holding court at the QPFF.*

  3. Contact the producers and distributors. Courtney Trouble jumped into the Performer Panel to offer their advice, and I couldn’t agree more with them on this. One of the things that makes the porn industry very different from most other entertainment industries is a noticeable lack of communication between fans and producers… and between fans and the people who sell the product. Again, because of that cultural taboo, we are much more likely to just take what we’re given when it comes to porn than most other products we consume. And that doesn’t help anybody, especially not people who want to make porn that looks new and different from the mainstream varieties we’ve all seen way too many times. If you like what you see, particularly from indie, queer, and/or feminist filmmakers, get in touch with the filmmaker or production company and tell them so! If you want to see something you can’t find anywhere–especially if you know other people who would pay to see it–tell a filmmaker they should try making it. Tell someone who sells porn that if they carried x, y, or z, you would purchase it. As Courtney put it, “They’d be stupid not to stock it if you tell them you’ll buy it.” Speak up.
  4. Donate when you can. If a performer or filmmaker you love is raising funds for a new film or to buy a camera to make a new film or to start a company, and if you  have the ability to help them monetarily, do it. CinnamonMaxxine pointed out to us that a lot of people who make specifically indie, queer, and feminist pornography are not rich or famous. Most of them are artists and activists who are driven to make something worthwhile and get it to the people who want to see it, but that’s not easy or cheap. Help out when you can, and see your contributions reflected directly in the porn you’ll get to watch later.
  5. Share. Whether you can donate monetarily or not, you can always help by spreading the word. If someone is raising funds or awareness, share the link on social media, via word of mouth… hell, print up fliers! Tell your community about it. Raise awareness! Porn makers will thank you!
  6. Call people out when they’re doing it wrong. Another tip from the amazing Cinnamon Maxxine: If you’re a fan of a company or a filmmaker or a performer, but you see them getting involved in things you find offensive, unpleasant, exclusionary, or any other badness, don’t be afraid to let them know. Like I said above, there’s sort of a gulf between a lot of porn consumers and the people making content. People might not know that they’re doing something offensive or outmoded or exclusionary–or they might not care–unless their customers point it out. They want you as a viewer to be happy, to talk about and share and support their work. If you ask for them to consider including more, say, trans bodies or POC or anything else–or less of something–in their work, it’s entirely possible that they will do so. It’s always worth a try to make an impact.
  7. Host screenings and panels and workshops and speakers. Jacqueline Mary is a big fan of taking her work on the road and sharing it with people around the country. Lots of queer porn people (and other people in other kinds of porn) are also performers, sex educators, public speakers, and more, and they’re happy to show up and talk about what they do, or show their work. If you facilitate it, they will do their best to come, especially if you can help them get there!
  8. Even if you can’t pay for it, find a way to get involved directly. Jiz Lee pointed out that the company they work for, Pink & White, is more than happy to share screeners of films and scenes with people who can be involved without paying–people who can translate films, for instance, into other languages, or write reviews. There are lots of ways to get fabulous queer porn and help promote it, spread it, and make more people happy. If you really want to see a new film but you can’t pay for it, get in touch with the filmmakers–often they’ll be happy to help you find a way to see it in exchange for something you can help them with.
  9. Support porn literacy education for kids. Canadian performer Drew Deveaux championed this idea during the Performer Panel, and though it may seem like a reach to those of us in the Puritan-minded USA, it’s an excellent idea. Kids today have access to so much porn at the click of a button–it’s imperative that someone talk to them about what porn is and what porn is not to help them parse what they’ll see. Talk about porn, people.
The Performer Panel at the QPFF (Cinnamon Maxxine, Chelsea Poe, April Flores, Drew Deveaux, Stoya, and Tobi Hill-Meyer moderating).

The Performer Panel at the QPFF (Cinnamon Maxxine, Chelsea Poe, April Flores, Drew Deveaux, Stoya, and Tobi Hill-Meyer moderating).*

 

Any other tips or ideas? Feel free to let me know!

Now get out there and start participating, future Perfect Queer Porn Fans! You can start by getting to know more about the work of the people and companies mentioned, and linked to, in the above list.

Of course, there are plenty of other people who could use your feedback and support, too, (like Tobi Hill-Meyer and James Darling and April Flores and Ignacio Rivera and Chelsea Poe and…) so please check out the Queer Porn Film Festival website for more info on them!

And, of course, the same tips also apply to every other kind of porn. And every other kind of entertainment, really.

So get talking, and donating, and sharing, and giving feedback! Watch your porn options grow! Rejoice!

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*Apologies for the blurry photos. My phone was not being a team player.

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