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SexPlusPorn: The Making of an Indie Feminist Porn Film
Sonya JF Barnett, armed with an iPhone 5, ventures into the world of porn production

Image: Terrence Drake

For the past eight days, I’ve been fully immersed in my latest creative endeavour. It’s a short film (I always prefer saying ‘film’ even though most things are shot on video; it’s just sexier) and done completely with my iPhone 5 over three mornings, two of those being so bloody cold, I couldn’t feel my fingers to press the ‘record’ button after 30 minutes.

Being a proud Torontonian, I’m a fan of its urban settings. The city’s infrastructure makes an amazing backdrop especially when random works of art spring up all throughout. Dingy alleys sprayed in multiple hues of aerosoled colour, whitewashed brick, black-iron fire escapes, a shock of fuchsia hair. Coupled with the uncanny quality of my phone’s camera, I find these things a recipe for the delicious and a perfect setting for the subject of my film: one lovely alternative model by the name of Nymph getting herself off.

I’ve been a fan of porn since my first discovery of it around ten years of age. My father didn’t do too grand a job of hiding his Playboys and Penthouses and I took every chance I could to rifle through them when nobody was home. It wasn’t long before I started using the phone number that all the kids were passing around school (“You don’t have to pay anything for it, I swear!”), followed by my first blue movie viewing, a VHS copy of Insatiable. I was hooked. There was something about looking at those smooth, naked women that made me smile downstairs.

This was back during Canada’s fledgling pay channels (remember First Choice and SuperChannel?) and my late nights consisted of me sitting right up to the TV, hand on the dial (dial!), ready to switch channels should I hear the creak of the rec room door– all so I could lay in wait for the scrambled static of coloured waves to suddenly clear up and I’d get a two-second glimpse of some feather-haired blonde getting licked silly. Ah, the good ole days of pre-21st century tween porn viewing.

My first ‘stash’ was a borrowed collection of a boyfriend’s Andrew Blake tapes. I was interested in the care taken with these ones: designed sets, shot on film, heavily stylized without ridiculous Delivery Man “plot” lines. I don’t even think they had any real fucking in them, just women spicing it up for the camera.

I stopped watching porn for a few years in university, partly because it wasn’t that easy to get, and partly because I dated a slew of guys that weren’t bright enough to think women actually enjoy watching porn– which meant my own consumption was a shadowy practice.

What followed shortly after was the rise of gonzo porn, with producers John Stagliano, Randy West, Seymore Butts and the ever-so-awful Ed Powers showing up in black ankle socks and a beer gut. Pretty women surrounded by the most egregious men, you could almost hear the saliva smacking on their lips as they spoke to the fresh-faced young star wannabes. Gross. Luckily, there was a small contingent of younger porn makers that did away with all the “tell the camera how old you are, sweetie” bullshit and instead went straight to the heart of the matter: P in V. My favourite was Shane’s World, a female-produced series where pretty women and pretty men would wind up in an exotic locale and fuck like college kids. No pretense, just fun. Unfortunately there weren’t too many series of this ilk, and I got tired of watching it over and over again.

A few years later I became fascinated by kink.com, a portal of heavy BDSM sites that, while filmed with good, old-fashioned honesty and no ugly curtains, can sometimes get a bit too intense for my liking. I’ve got a thing against seeing a man’s boot on woman’s neck and her breasts tied so tightly they look like they’re going to burst. If I come across one detail of porn that I don’t like, it ruins the whole thing for me. I get left with pink lips, the female equivalent of blue balls: throbbing, but with no release. Frustrating as hell, let me tell you.

Now there’s a fresh crop of porn filmmakers who are infusing more creativity into the genre, with consideration for sets, story, lighting. I came across Room 33, a stylistic erotic video by Barcelona-based Erika Lust, shot for Hotel Casa Camper. It was as close to porn perfection as I’ve come (see what I did there?) and I was inspired to finally create my own.

My first shoot was a mini series (I’ve shot various other movies for my own pleasure but nothing to share with someone other than my lover). Three two-minute shorts, all on my iPhone 3GS and run through an app filter to disguise the poor quality (though I do currently prefer the limitations of using my phone; makes things easier to just get up and go shoot). There wasn’t much to be done in the way of editing, since they each comprised of a single shot. One talented performer, a sunny day, addition of music (a good soundtrack is key to the experience) and voila! Three porn shorts. They were my entry into the world of erotic filmmaking for the enjoyment of others.

These three videos were cute and crappy and cheap (you can view the teaser episode, Drips, here), but they were also just a practice run. I wanted to go bigger, look better, be more professional. So a couple weeks ago I grabbed that same performer and we headed out to a local photography studio that suited my needs. New iPhone in hand, we shot all morning, her in various states of her own pleasure. I want to shoot natural-ish scenes, nothing too scripted, no silly storylines, all real orgasms, using available light. This isn’t porn for the regular Joe or Jane. It’s for a more discerning audience, and one more in tune with art and honest pleasure. No two-inch French manicures, schoolgirl kilts, or baseball hats here.

About five hours of footage was eventually whittled down to five minutes, no easy task. It’s little wonder there’s so much shitty porn out there – not many people have the patience to create a well-made film. Sadly, much of what I consider great footage wound up on the virtual cutting room floor for sake of length (though I admit to taking more than a few wank breaks after watching it. Hey, my porn works!). After all was said and done, I’m confident that my right place in life is behind the camera, shooting sexy people doing sexy things. From my first shot out in the cold to my final delivery of the film, I was happy. And I can’t wait to do it all again.

____

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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