Queer Porn Film Festival Brings Porn, Pancakes, and ‘Meaning Beyond Getting Off’

Bedford + Bowery
2015 Bedford and Bowery, “Queer Porn Film Festival Brings Porn, Pancakes, and ‘Meaning Beyond Getting Off’,” Maggie Craig
Still from Graphic Depictions.

The first-ever NYC Queer Porn Film Festival (QPFF) is coming to the Spectrum in Bushwick this Sunday, hot on the heels of February’s NYC Porn Film Festival, which was also held in Bushwick. Festival passes have sold out online, but pre-sales to individual events are still availableand tickets will be sold at the door.

Frustration with various aspects of the NYC Porn Film Fest worked as a catalyst for queer pornographers Tobi Hill-Meyer, Jacqueline Mary and Courtney Trouble to come together and plan something they’d already been thinking about for years.

Hill-Meyer, who does conference organizing for a wide range of topics, pointed to a lack of porn film fests in the U.S. in general, but also spoke about a need for more queer-specific programming. Trouble also voiced concern over events like the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto, which are “very straight and very white” and can lack a commitment to trans-feminism. The porn they’re making is different from mainstream or feminist porn in that it ventures into the realms of documentary, art and activism, and their event this Sunday is “built on values centering trans-feminism, accessibility, intentionality, and community based social justice.”

Courtney Trouble

Courtney Trouble

Over the phone from her home in Seattle, Hill-Meyer told me about a transexual woman who had approached her after seeing one of her films; the woman had believed that she would never have sex again after transitioning, she said that before seeing Hill-Meyer’s film she couldn’t even imagine what healthy sexuality for a trans woman would look like, but Meyer’s porn had given that to her. “That’s the reason that I continue to do this work,” Hill-Meyer said. “So many of us from minority communities, we either don’t have the opportunity to see people like us being sexual at all or the only opportunities we do have are very unhealthy sexual dynamics.”

In just two months Hill-Meyer, Mary and Trouble have curated an all-day event that includes a porn and pancakes brunch, community-building workshops featuring talks from Stoya (an industry star turned indie porn entrepreneur), screenings including work from Bruce LaBruce (whose retrospective will be featured at the MoMA later this month), a three-hour screening of Trouble’s “definitive visual guide to all that is the queer porn movement,” and an afterparty with Hill-Meyer and Trouble performing a live porn shoot that attendees are encouraged to film.

“I feel like we’re verging into experimental performance art instead of porn at that point,” Trouble said of the live shoot. They (Trouble uses gender-neutral pronouns) also cited John Waters and Salvador Dalí as influences, and said that whereas Hill-Meyer’s work can be very educational, their porn is more artistic and flippant and obscene. “We both are doing something which is actually creating meaning beyond getting off, but also at the same time says, this is sexy enough to get off to. This person has sexual worth. These sex acts have worth. And they’re hot.”

Stoya chooses her words carefully, stopping herself when she starts to say something she doesn’t quite mean, often dismissing a word for one that better fits what she’s actually trying to say. She says that, for her, the most important things in life are fucking and sharing ideas. She holds herself to the high standards of language that she demands of others, occasionally calling me out for a stupid comment or vague question, followed by a chiding look and comforting laugh. In her apartment in Red Hook we talk about sci-fi novels, hippie moms and, of course, porn.

Years of doing “porn for capitalism” and having studio promotion has won Stoya a solid fan base—she has 196,000 Twitter followers and writing gigs with Vice and Refinery 29. She left her studio after it was bought out, creating a monopoly on the adult film industry by bosses that she didn’t particularly get along with. And anyway, she was bored with doing the same stale plot lines all the time. She was thinking about retiring, was in talks with a publisher about putting out a book, but instead decided to take her savings and start her own porn production company, hoping that her fan base would follow her. She joined with fellow porn star Kayden Kross and started TRENCHCOATx, which launched just over a month ago. The site is based on a pay-per-scene model, something that allows allows for more creativity since they’re not beholden to monthly subscribers who expect a certain type of porn.

“I’m only interested [in making porn] if I feel like it has some reason to exist in the world,” Stoya said. “It doesn’t have to be art, it doesn’t have to have a statement, there just has to be some reason.”

Stoya.

Stoya.

The first episode of her first TRENCHCOATx film, Graphic Depictions, which sells on the site for $3.99, is to premier at the QPFF. It stars Jiz Lee (a good friend of Trouble’s, who they credit as having been one of the people to start the queer porn movement) and Lily LeBeau. The 15-minute film takes place on a stage where two people with vulvas, short hair, neckties, and stockings fuck each other on a red chaise lounge. Stoya watches from a director’s chair set farther back, wearing black lingerie, masturbating and occasionally smoking: the voyeur. There’s a cutout of an old-timey camera on one side of the couch, a cutout of what looks like a goddess on a bed of leaves on the other. A dental dam is taken out in the first two minutes. Instrumental music plays over the scene until heavy red theater curtains close at the end.

Stoya agreed to be a part of the QPFF because she knows Courtney Trouble, and she trusts them. But she’s also interested in the discussions that will happen during the day’s workshops—Stoya is sitting on the performer panel—since she hasn’t gotten much of a chance to discuss the ethics of porn with people in the queer porn community. “I don’t know that perfect and truly ethical is even possible in anything, but we can all make the effort to fight entropy and sometimes make some forward progress. And the way that happens is sharing ideas.”

Of the three event organizers, only Jacqueline Mary actually lives in Brooklyn. Hill-Meyer acknowledged that part of the reason the QPFF is happening in Bushwick is simply due to logistics, but also believes that it’s important to have the QPFF, “especially in NYC where there are a lot of queer people interested in seeing things like this, but not a lot of organizations making it happen.” Trouble said that Brooklyn is a great place for the movement to continue particularly because it’s an incredible place for art. “I see the Brooklyn movement being far more radical [than its Californian counterpart], far more feminist, far more DIY, and I think that’s just because it’s really young and new.”

Hill-Meyer said that the three are careful to call their event QPFF and not the QPFF; it’s not something that they want to take ownership of or commit to doing every year. Trouble said that the festival is modeled off of Lady Fest, an autonomous music and arts festival that started in Olympia, WA in 2000 and has since inspired independent events by the same name in cities around the world. They’re trying something new and seeing what happens and hoping that it might inspire others. “We’re actually not trying to attract that many people,” Trouble admitted. “We’re really hoping that a solid few hundred people show up. Have a blast. Get wasted. Get laid, you know, and not call the protestors.”

Correction: The original version of this post was revised to correct the spelling of Salvador Dalí.

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