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10 Things I Learned about Sex and Porn from the Berlin Porn Film Festival

By Beatrice Behn | Indiewire October 31, 2013 at 10:00AM

Berlin hosts around 50 different film festivals each year, but the most eye-catching of them all remains the Porn Film Festival.
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Cristina Voros' "Kink," which opened the Berlin Porn Film Festival.
Cristina Voros' "Kink," which opened the Berlin Porn Film Festival.

Berlin hosts around 50 different film festivals each year, but the most eye-catching of them all remains the Porn Film Festival. Created eight years ago by a group of queer porn experts (aren’t we all?), the festival draws a huge crowd to each edition, exposing jolly viewers to anything but the usual mainstream in-and-out action. The latest edition opened with James Franco produced "kink" (a documentary about the bondage site kink.com) and featured an overall program as eclectic and varied as sex can be: fiction films, documentaries, experimental and short films of all shapes and sizes. Here are a few takeaways from this writer's excessive exposure to porn.

1. There is no single definition of what constitutes a "porn film." While choreographer David Bloom's "Quintet" attempted to combine sex and improvisatory dance, "Bike Smut 7: The Porny Express" showed much love for sex on -- and with -- bikes."Would you have sex with an Arab?" filmmaker Yolande Zauberman asked Israelis on camera in her film of the same name. And these are just a few of the riches the program had to offer.

2. It can be overwhelmingly awkward to sit in a cinema filled to the brim with all kinds of (mind you, very normal) people and watch a porn film together. Why? Not because it's porn, but because we're all so accustomed to watching this stuff in private. And not in a movie theater. With a hundred other people. This situation leads to one of two feelings: a) the total death of your libido or b) a feature-length lesson in what sexual "tease and denial" means. Especially when sitting through something like "50 Shades of Dylan Ryan," an all-female and much more raunchy version of the infamous book. No matter how much you want to look away, you simply must keep watching it.

3. A porn film is generally not made to be watched in its entirety. Porn films are what Germans would call “Gebrauchsfilm” (imagine this word being uttered with a lot of rasping sounds and an overstretched “rrrrrrr” to strip the films to which it refers of any kind of sensuality. We sure know how to make things sound sexy, don’t we?). By its nature, porn is a basic commodity with a rather clear structure and an exact aim: to arouse you and deliver a payoff. Its structure constantly builds on that appeal: more sex partners, more diversity in settings, positions, different uses of toys, body parts and orifices – all to turn us into a happy puddle of post-orgasmic bliss, at which moment we turn it off immediately. So, have you ever watched one until the very end? They even have credits! But to get there you sometimes have to go through seemingly endless redundancy. Turns out penetration is kind of boring after a while, even if you change the body parts involved.   

4. When watching a porn film in its entire length and getting bored, the background becomes very interesting. Dead flowers, stains on the couch? A landmark from Chicago if the film is supposed to take place in New York? This is unacceptable and will only lead to your film getting its own "Goofs" section on IMDB.    

5. Porn sex is performance art. It is highly stylized. It is a sport. It is precision, choreography, contact improvisation dance, tantra, yoga for the boneless. It has nothing to do with real sex. Nothing. Only a choice few of the world population could (and would) have a boner for five hours in a row and do the "corkscrew entry" into their partners' vaginas while stimulating her at 100mph. Who among us would have the multitasking skills to take on a dozen people, all wanting to be pleasured at once? Or to bend over in these positions without having to schedule five physiotherapy sessions afterwards? Exactly! Porn film is not a manual; in fact, it has one quality in common with many other kinds of movies out there: performed fiction. If that doesn't keep you from feeling uncomfortable, use the old William Castle trick and keep repeating: It's only a movie, it's only a movie...   

Queer porn experimental artist Jiz Lee.
Queer porn experimental artist Jiz Lee.

6. Mainstream porn bodies have almost nothing to do with real bodies. Alternative and queer porn, on the other hand, often does. How immense the difference is will only hit you when you have tried some non-mainstream porn. No blond extensions, fake fingernails and boobs, no humongous schlongs and perfect abs. Just normal bodies, with cellulite and stretch marks, all kinds of breasts, butts and other body parts -- and, most importantly, people who seem to truly seek to bring out the joy in sex. Less performance, more humanity. Yes, this is very sexy! For example, check out gender queer performer Jiz Lee or Shine Louise Houston's amazing "The Crash Pad" series.

7. There are cultural differences in dirty talk. While Germans have a tendency to bark out orders or harshly point out the obvious (or a mixture of both), Americans say "fuck" a lot. ("Oh, yes, fuck me in my fucking [fill in your favorite body orifice here]," etc.) When climaxing, they usually have a tendency towards the devout ejaculation and, thank god, it sounds passionate. Meanwhile, Germans are more of the affirmative kind and go for a simple "Ja, ja, jaaaaa" (which, in case you were wondering, translates to "yes").

8. BDSM porn typically has one thing which every other type of porn should have and which should be adopted in your private life: consent. Outspoken consent, that is. Check out BDSM websites online: They always negotiate what will happen first. No assumptions, no misunderstandings, only adult people being conscious and responsible. Or go more into depth with "kink," a behind-the-scenes documentary of the correspondent BDSM website. I'd love to see what Lars von Trier would make of such negotiation scenes.    

9. If you are a film student or future filmmaker, you should watch some mainstream porn. For research. Seriously. Why? Because it will diligently and most blatantly show you the common structures of feature fiction filmmaking, and it will also show you what happens if you don’t use their potential: A cool idea and a nice title don't make a movie. Beautiful actors don't save you if your characters are underdeveloped. A constant ascending action line can become redundant and boring, too. So observe closely, know what standard is – and go beyond that. But don’t forget the money shot.   

10. If you are a film student or future filmmaker, you should also watch a lot of experimental porn. These films will teach you most diligently how to take a topic that is as old as mankind and turn it into something unique, engaging and different. They are perfect examples of artful ways to break boundaries. Watch Colas Ricard's "L’Escargot et la Limace," whose macro-photography of genitals turns them into aliens and animals. Or Julie Simone's "The Perfect Woman Awakens," which uses fetishized, bound and gagged women to portray the limitations of being a house wife. The truth is that if you can make a short film of a couple having intercourse in missionary position and make it interesting, you've done a lot more for the medium than Michael Bay . Trust me, I’ve just watched around a lot of porn films. And I've seen more than my fair share of Michael Bay films, too.


This article is related to: Berlin Porn Film Festival, Berlin, Porn, LGBT, Sexuality, kink, James Franco, Jiz Lee