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SexPlusCinema: Darryl's Hard Liquor and Porn Festival
Sonya JF Barnett: “HL&P is an interesting mix of music, bodies, and jokes”

Last weekend I attended Darryl’s Hard Liquor and Porn Festival. Darryl Gold founded the festival after the sharing of booze and porn clips in his bachelor pad spawned something that required more space and more participants.

Not a festival of porn by its standard definition, HL&P celebrates films that may simply hint at sex, and are often infused with at least a bit of humour. You may never even see a nipple, but simply the name itself is enough to be worthy of a ticket purchase.

An event that champions the risqué on screen, its filmmakers and filmgoers arrived stoked at the prospect of watching clips “about sex or anything else naughty.” Encouraged by Gold, people come dressed to the nines, many as porn stars. My favourite of the night was a giant super fluffy pink fur coat and thigh-high white latex lace-up boots, an ensemble deserving of a gold star.

Cozied up in my seat with my pretty dominatrice date and a flask of champagne, the unsurprisingly late-starting fest proceeded to pique my interest about what people find sexy and/or funny. The acronym MKINYK comes to mind – My Kink Is Not Your Kink (a colloquial version of YKIOKIJNMK). I’ve always stood by this mantra, knowing that there are different strokes for different folks. But when you get all those folks together in one room, staring in the same direction, it’s interesting to see who laughs at what, and who gets turned on or off, depending on what’s on screen.

Not that all of these films have to fulfill a mandate to get someone wet or hard, but seeing what people find funny in relation to sex is interesting. From obnoxious singers in lamé unitards to talking dildos with googly eyes to genital surprises, HL&P is an interesting mix of music, bodies, and jokes. There was an unfortunate undercurrent of intolerance in some of the films, like the Unexpected Cock & Balls series, where what you would assume to be typical scenes of pussy galore instead reveal… you can guess. Unfortunately, it was always to the chagrin of the recipient, who often retaliated in disgust. Doesn’t bode well for non-heteronormative acceptance. Pornstar, Girls Uncovered was another that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, satirizing porn performers’ lives leaving nothing but a typically depicted trail of sad. Nothing new here.

There were some gems, however, like the Czech short animation, Tram, reminiscent of a sexy Triplets of Belleville, and the cute Canadian short series Getting Down about a skilled mattress salesman. For me, the night’s winner was a two-year old short from the UK, Jack Tew’s One Night Stand, which touches upon an all-too-familiar experience for many of us.

Despite some obvious missteps, and me thinking most of them weren’t really worth the video megabytes they were shot on (partly because of that aforementioned MKINYK ideal and partly because some people need more storytelling skill), it’s important that this type of festival exists. Not merely for the display of the final product, but to show that a topic like sex can be shared with the mainstream, without terrifying viewers into thinking there’s nothing out there except what you find on redtube or that sex can’t be mixed with humour or fun.

When I’m in a more salacious mood and want to see films that make me smile downstairs, I’ll head to the Feminist Porn Awards, hosted by local sex boutique, Good For Her. Coming up on its 8th year, the FPAs have grown to enjoy international status, inviting and awarding filmmakers from across the globe for their work in creating porn that carries more than just a money shot in a bad motel. FPA films are infused with thoughtful creativity, and are inclusive of more forms of sexuality than you’ll probably ever see at other porn fests. Though much of it is content doesn’t cater to my own porn needs, it does to others, and that’s a good thing. And the awards ceremony is a blast.

CineKink, Good Vibrations and a handful of other fests are scattered around the globe, showing that there’s certainly an audience for sex-based films. Festivals like these are important in making the topic accessible and approachable, pulling taboo ideas about it out of the gutter and into happy, sunny light. Films about sex needn’t be created for the sole purpose of reaching wet climax. They can be created for the same reasons that any other film is made: to entertain. And the more support they get, the better.

Despite some of the content not being my cup of kink, the fact that events like Hard Liquor & Porn and the Feminist Porn Awards are full of enthusiastic attendees (with many who would seem extremely ‘vanilla’ on the outside) is a testament to the willingness for open and healthy sexuality, ready for mainstream consumption. Though I’m still waiting for just the right mix of witty humour and hot fucking, I’m more than happy to buy their tickets to see just what’s out there.

____

Got a question about sex in art, relationships, parenting? Send Sonya a note at dearmadame@torontostandard.com. Anonymity assured.

Sonya JF Barnett, also known as “The Madame,” is the founder of an erotic arts community called The Keyhole Sessions and the co-founder of SlutWalk Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @KeyholeSessions

For more, follow us on Twitter @TorontoStandard and subscribe to our newsletter.

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