Maybe you’ve heard the recent hype about a little adult website from down under called Bright Desire—it’s just received Best Alternative Website award nominations from both XBIZ and an AVN. While Bright Desire has for years been collecting Feminist Porn Awards and Cinekink, as well as acclaim from the feminist porn community here and abroad, these two recent nominations from the porn industry’s biggest and most auspicious organizations put Bright Desire squarely on the map with the biggest players in the mainstream porn world. And I couldn’t be more thrilled! I’ve been a fan of Bright Desire’s creator, Ms. Naughty, for years now. We’ve met at a number of porn-related events in the U.S. and have seen eye to eye on a whole lot of topics commonly discussed in feminist porn circles. And every one of her films I’ve seen at screenings and festivals has impressed me.
But I had never actually seen the entire website. I had a vague idea that I might like it, but that was as far as I’d gotten. So when these award nominations came in, I thought it was just about time to find out what all the fuss was about. I spent some time talking to “the librarian of porn” herself, Ms. Naughty (interview forthcoming from Luna Luna Magazine), and took a nice, long, luxurious, and very satisfying (ahem) look at BrightDesire.com.
After having fully satisfied (ahem) my curiosity, I think I get why it’s called “Bright Desire.” And I totally dig it. Bright Desire, you see, is a porn website: there are photographs and videos of people fucking all over it. Many of the videos are pretty hardcore in nature, and Ms. Naughty does not dissemble about calling herself a pornographer. But the site is much smarter than your run-of-the-mill porno site–along with all the fodder you’ll need to turn your body on, there’s ample fodder for getting your brain hot and bothered, too. Along with the photos and videos of naked people getting down (with themselves, with partners, with numerous partners…), there are also erotic stories by Ms. Naughty and others, thinky columns about everything from gender identity to porn in politics, and intelligent reviews of books, movies, and websites by other people. Bright Desire is, in other words, quite bright in its exploration of desire.
I get it! And I think you might, too.
Like I said, Bright Desire has more than enough hot visual stimulation to get excited about; the movies span a large spectrum from straight-up porn (but not all straight–there’s gay stuff and queer stuff, too!) featuring graphic depictions of people fucking at one end (“Taste”) to high-concept sensual art at the other (“Hand Jobs”), stopping by politically charged documentary (“Transported”) and gorgeous performer homages (“Dear Jiz”) along the way. Fans of hardcore, gonzo, mainstream American porn à la Bang Bros or Digital Playground might not find these films straighfrowardly arousing the way they’re used to, by way of anatomical closeups, derogatory language, and extreme sex acts, they are all designed to set off multiple areas of the sensual brain in anyone who watches them. It’s smart, sensual, and though it’s often hardcore in what it depicts, it is never that way just for the sake of being hardcore. In other words, there is much more going on in these films than the physical act of sex.
The thing that I noticed most, which sets Bright Desire apart from a lot of its competition, is that it’s possibly the most obviously “female gaze”-oriented filmmaking I’ve ever seen. Or maybe I should say that it most closely fits what I think of as the female gaze, since I’m sure many females have different kinds of gazes. So maybe Ms. Naughty’s gaze closely matches my own. It’s a difficult thing to describe, but many of the films seem focused more on the electricity of touch, the sensuality of human contact (whether it’s with another person, one’s own hand, or a vibrator), the breathlessness behind the ecstasy. The experience of the erotic is what’s on display, far more than the anatomy or the cumshot (though there is plenty of footage of both). The camera lingers on the sites of contact and the responses they elicit more than on the genitals, choosing to display the wiggle of a breast as the performer is penetrated, or the dimples on a back-lit butt cheek as a hand runs over it, or the passing of a thumb over the throat. This isn’t to say that penetration isn’t featured—hell, some of the masturbation scenes are pretty straightforward documentations of performers impaling themselves with large dildos—but the prize doesn’t seem to be on the visual of anatomical close-ups. It’s on the experiences the performers are having. The largest sex organ we have, after all, is the brain. And Bright Desire wants to get you off every way it can.
But it’s not just the videos that edify your throbbing mental hard-on. Bright Desire is a full-service, curated look at the rest of the porn world, too. This curation essentially makes your investment in Bright Desire go a lot further than one might expect: Ms. Naughty licenses photos and videos from other places and expands your horizons, all for one fee. It’s a one-stop shop for all your smart, sexy needs! Ms. Naughty is like a good-porn evangelist, collecting her flock at Bright Desire and shepherding them toward good porn from all over the world.
This is a display of good sportsmanship (sexmanship?) that is far too rare in the for-profit sex industry as a whole, but which I’ve seen changing. Feminist pornographers, as a minority in a large and spread-out industry, are often willing to band together to promote the ideas that Ms. Naughty champions: beauty and joy in smart, consensual sex, rather than degradation, misogyny, and shame. She reviews and promotes the works of others who agree with the premise that makes people feel happy, in the hopes that those who want to see that kind of material can find others who make it, and that we can all take over the world together, one orgasm at a time.
In other words, dear readers, if you like smart and sexy in one package–a package that goes above and beyond to deliver feminist, ethical, beautiful porn to you from wherever it can–Bright Desire might be just the place to look.