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In the previous post, Anna Ehrlemark shared some impressions about the XXX Politics, or as we prefer, For Fuck's Sake workshop we held at the 2009 Pride Istanbul week. Here are some of my additions...
The workshop took place in a dance studio called Çıplak Ayaklar or, in literal translation, Naked Feet, a name that, if you ask the neighbors, seems to suggest more than you could ever imagine seeing at the hammam right next door. Not only did we listen to on-screen moans and sighs at lower volume; during the workshop, the entrance door was locked – just in case another guardian of pub(l)ic morals would decide to check up on yet another shameless exposure of conscientious objectors who, among other kind and brave people, run the venue.
The studio is placed in a small dead-end street beside a metal workshop where a large sun-tanned man was smoking a cigarette, resting in the fading daylight while people began gathering for the discussion and screening. To my great surprise, there were people there who said they never watch porn but have come to see whether the independent and possibly queer porn films have something “less revolting” and more ticklish to offer.
After seeing portions of Trans Entities: The Nasty Love of Papi' and Wil and The Crash Pad, a girl said she could only enjoy these films if she put herself into a “male mindset”, a comment that needed further explaining since the exact characteristics of a “male mindset” seemed to be unknown to male and female participants alike. And yet, our demands to explain her claim might have been too pushy. In fact, it looked like we were too busy proving our point to actually hear her answer.
Did she say that the pleasures embodied on-screen were too far from the ones she likes? Or that the use of porn for arousal is, in her eyes, a domain so traditionally male, that it is easier for her to imagine herself in that role than it would be to claim that space, make it comfortable for her as a woman? Perhaps all she was saying was that she could not identify with those filmed bodies – an issue that seems to enter reflections on porn use only at workshops like these. As an abundance of sources claims, the essential condition for one’s enjoyment of porn is the opposite: you have to accept the objectification of another’s body in order to let your fantasies go, and allow yourself to scribble your own handwriting on those bodies. And then again: if you feel objectified and reduced to a sex object in real life – how can you be expected to do the same to people acting in virtual representations of sex? Especially those that deliberately try to familiarize you with the actors, de-objectify them, by interviewing them and showing the interviews before the sex, for example.
If we were satisfied with Barbara DeGenevieve’s amusing definition of queer porn as porn in which “queer people are having queer sex”, feminist porn proved to be a more difficult subject to pin down. As mentioned in Anna's notes, Jennifer Lyon Bell’s film received quite contradictory responses, all made in the name of feminism. In order to make any kind of discussion possible – in spite of the very articulate and respectful participants – it seemed that everybody has to define what they claim in the name of feminism first. And we tried.
There were people who have already seen all the films we brought for screening, and willingly shared other film suggestions with us. Like Abby Winters, an amateur lesbian site that prides itself with moral, or rather, ethical integrity. Also recommended were the Straight Guys for Gay Eyes site and the award-winning documentary about female masculinity by Gabriel Baur, Venus Boyz (2002). And, of course the fabulous “erotic noir” SM film by Maria Beatty, The Black Glove.
During The Crash Pad scene screening, I was smoking a cigarette in the studio’s kitchen. While watching familiar scenes, I realized that I must have reached my limit. I must have seen that film four times, and like it happens with “real” unimaginative sex, I definitely had enough. The scene that aroused me at the first viewing seemed terribly long and predictable now, and the only joy I could find was in the fact that I was looking at the scene in a mirror that reflected another mirror’s reflection of the screen.
I was thinking about what Luca Donnini said earlier that day: that from a genital point of view, the number of possibilities, sex positions, is very limited: our bodies are too predictably familiar, too similar to each other. And yet, if you talk about genders and their possible expressions, the details and differences multiply into infinity. While the challenge of making interesting, challenging, arousing queer porn would seem to lie right there – in the ability to portray that playful variety – it seems, strangely enough, that a whole lot of people are turned on more (and therefore keep looking for) visual representations of sex that are familiar, mirroring more of the same familiarity.
Why do you watch porn, and what do you miss in mainstream porn? were the two questions that framed the Red Dawns XXX-Politics discussion/filmscreening at Istanbul Pride in june. Sex sold better there than in Ljubljana (where the porn screenings on this years festival were surprisingly empty) and the workshop had over thirty participants that willingly shared personal facts about masturbatory habits as well as conflicting thoughts and critics on the subject of so called independent porn. Coming from a queer-feminist festival in constant identity crisis ;), also this discussion soon came to circle about what exactly makes porn queer or feminist and how to deal with different feminist critics of mainstream pornography while letting your mind turn on "wrong" fantasies. The interpretation of the feminist intentions behind for example Jennifer Lyon Bell's Headshot where diametrically different. Somebody watched it as a feminist revenge-blow-job, humiliating the man by exposing him vulnerable on film, another as a revelation showing that the so battered male pleasure isn't the mysogynic core of porn at all – pleasure is good. One voice stated that there is absulutely nothing more feministic about Jennifer's remake of Andy Warhol's Blow job than the original at all, while somebody else pointed out that from a feminist point of view the prologue-epilogue showing the actors' mutual consent means everything. An intense and relevant discussion interrupted only by the films and Rüzgar running to turn the volume down in an attempt to hide our immoral intentions from the neighbours...
Revolutionary free love to Istanbul Pride from Red Dawns!
And Rüzgars photo-story is here.
LaD.I.Y.fest is a non-profit, volunteer run ‘Do It Yourself’ (D.I.Y.) festival of music, art, film, discussions and workshops organized and orchestrated by feminist activists, artists and musicians of various genders. It helps to showcase the skills and talents of a diverse group of groundbreaking feminist people working in the arts, community building and activism. It is a participatory festival, and most importantly, a community festival that is bound together within a worldwide network.
Read the program here!