Happy June and happy Pride!
I’m cooped up inside, feeling blue about the loss of my impending summer, the lack of touch, and the heartbreak and rage at all that’s so deeply and infuriatingly wrong with this present moment. At the same time, I’m feeling excited to announce AORTA’s first-ever BEDDED festival—a collection of three incredible international short films that I have the deep pleasure of sharing with you.
These days I’m continually caught by the feeling that to celebrate or be excited about anything right now—even small things—feels dangerous and unwieldy. These days it’s been feeling much safer to stay walled off and protected than risk feeling the side effects of joy. For me, pleasure requires presence—it demands it. I must first arrive in my body, in time, connection, availability, and vulnerability to be able to experience and understand pleasure. Before the quarantine hit I heard both Michelle Boulé (an incredible choreographer and healer) and Kathy Couch (a genius lighting designer) talk about art as aesthetic, and understanding aesthetic as the opposite of anesthetics like Novocain—something that enlivens us rather than numbing us out. (I later learned that this idea is attributed in turn to Professor and social sculptor Shelley Sacks, though it seems to have a thrillingly wide net of oral citations as it’s been passed around!) More and more, I understand pleasure as aesthetic, too. And regardless of the artistic medium, enlivening isn’t just intellectual: it happens to/with/in bodies. But, once we’re enlivened and once we’re present, all the ache and loss and wild fear is there too, right where we left it somewhere deep down inside. So these days I’ve been vacillating—feeling a little safer for feeling nothing, then occasionally unleashing the need to feel everything, good and bad, then retreating back into the safety of numbness again. It’s a weird time to be a pornographer.
Or maybe it’s a right, necessary time? This demand of presence (I’ve talked about it as “holy presence” when working with performers on live, improvisatory scores) is why I love queer porn, and why I find it to be so powerful. Art and pleasure, yes, but Queerness is also aesthetic, it is inherently embodied and live. It pulses in electrostatic bursts along a spectrum of unimaginable joy and suffering (and like many spectra, it often eats its own tail, hello BDSM!) For me, queer porn (one of queerness’s three official team sports, alongside with Rugby and Softball) cracks me open to feeling—to embodiment, to pleasure, and to joy. I was moved to tears so often in screenings at the Berlin Porn Film Festival last year—not only because the films were incredibly resonant and beautiful—but because I was reconnected into the present reality of my self, and that necessitated processing the things I had been disassociating from or numbing out. Queerness understands ache as necessary to fully understand pleasure, and vice versa. And at it’s best, queerness understands that being present to our ache is necessary to fight for change, to believe that pleasure within other possible futures is a possibility.
So even amidst a time that calls for numbness, I’m making space to be excited about today’s announcement, and to hold that little shifts into joy and embodiment are microscopically connected to the big picture work of finding our way out of the current hellscape. When I was building the idea of BEDDED, I was excited by the prospect of getting to share a small curation of films that I’ve seen and loved from our global queer porn community with AORTA’s fam of watch-at-home viewers. Thankfully, there seems to be more and more awareness around how bountiful our community’s work is—I’m excited and grateful for folks like PinkLabel.tv who are housing the immensity of what queer porn can be and mean these days!
Getting to share a few of my favorite films with you feels sweet and wholesome, like it’s something I should be able to do with a neighbor, my mom, a co-worker. At festivals I often find myself thinking that if the world could see the porn I get to see, we’d bypass years of debates about the inherent value of the form instantly. I’m never more sure that queer porn is a medium of immense value–just like literature, or music, or opera–than when I’m seeing the brilliant work of my community. I’m thrilled to get to share these first three films with you as BEDDED I. They’re near and dear to my heart; they call me into pleasure, joy, and presence.
When I attended the Hacker Porn Film Festival in Rome last spring to show (W/HOLE), it was my first time traveling truly on my own internationally. I had met a few of the artists and organizers at the festival, but didn’t know any of them deeply yet, and was feeling both the electric charge and the loneliness of being in a place and moment without tether. The very first film I saw (as I slipped in late to the Food Shorts program) was Nicky Millier’s LEMON TASTE. 6,883 km away from Brooklyn, I was instantly, gorgeously home. I’ve wondered often since the festival if there were other factors that made me feel like it’s one of my (if not the single definitive) favorite porn shorts I’ve ever seen. (Was it just that it’s the first thing I saw? Was it the adrenaline of solo travel?) But every time I’ve seen it since, it’s that same transcendent experience, the lush erotics of queer porn bridging gaps of distance, gender, sexuality to find something that feels like home. I’m not as familiar with their other work (though I am a new backer of their patreon project, and finding it delightful!) but this film on its own was enough to convince me that they’re one of the queer porn greats. A French and Vietnamese performer, writer, and filmmaker who lives in Berlin, Nicky Miller makes gorgeous, reality-bending porn. The clarity of their vision, their pacing, their imagery—they blend it all together to create the timeless, gravity-less, untethered erotic humidity of the cruise, and then just at the right moment veer hard into the fantastical wild of art and metaphor that sex thrives on. It’s gorgeous, charming, and (for me) a brilliantly perfect short. I can’t wait to see what they’re making next, but for now, I’m so excited to share this film with you.
I also saw Gender Beast, created by Turita Q and Eris, for the first time when I was at the Hacker Porn Film Festival last spring, and am thrilled to get to include it in this collection. Turita Q and Eris are both transfeminist activists in Italy’s post porn scene, who met through their work with pornographer Morgana Mayer. Gender Beast has so much of what I love about queer porn—hot chemistry, clever sweetness, and of course, the ability to turn literally any object into a pervertable ready to be put to kink-full use within a scene. I always know if I’m truly loving a film, because I’ll find myself mouth open in a huge smile, leaning forward off the edge of my seat, gasping with each new reveal. It’s joy, pure and simple. This film has me hot for gardening tools ever since I first saw it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I think it’s a prime example of what queer porn does so well—taking itself seriously, in order to have ridiculous, irreverent fun. Getting to meet Turita Q and Eris in Italy was equally a pleasure—the energy and joy that abounds from these two is utterly charming. They embody so much of the DIY spirit that I love about this community, and I’m grateful that they’re molding their energy into film form. I hope we get to see more films from them in the future!
I didn’t see Ritual Waves until a bit later—last fall at the Berlin Porn Film Festival—but I’ve been watching Lina Bembe with glee and reverence since I attended the Berlin PFF for the first time in 2017, where she was one of the Performers in Focus. Lina Bembe is a latinx performer, filmmaker, and writer based in Berlin—she is a true indie porn powerhouse, and appears seamlessly across indie, queer DIY projects, mainstream porno, sex education, and TED talks. I remember watching her work as a performer for the first time, and realizing she was the living, breathing embodiment of another thing queer porn does so well—existing simultaneously in the produced and invented fantasy of performativity, while having this undeniable realness of individual human embodiment and experience at its core. When I watch Lina, I never forget that she is a virtuosic performer (arguably one of the best of our time), and yet it never feels purely fantastical—her work balances expertly on the razor’s edge of fantasy and realness, to the ongoing pleasure of her audience. Seeing her directorial debut at its premiere in Berlin was a thrill and an honor, and while I would expect nothing less, I was still blown away by the depth and textural vision of this film. As a performer, Lina Bembe is phenomenal; teamed up with all-star cinematographer Max Disgrace, her work continues to astound. This film is so beautiful in its textures, and light, and softness, and so powerful in performance and aesthetic. At just under 5 minutes, it feels like a crown jewel—it’s certainly included in my internal canonical library of the important films of our queer porn generation.
In planning our first BEDDED festival, these three films were instantly on my mind to feature, and I feel so honored to get to share them with you. If you feel drawn to these works and these creators, I strongly encourage you to support their work directly – more info is available on each film’s page! We’ve already got our December lineup evolving, so please don’t doubt that there are many, many more queer porn shorts of immense craft and value to share—whittling this program down to just three felt near impossible, but immensely exciting.
And, to top it all off, megacrush and international queer porn star extraordinaire Kali Sudra will be MCing our BEDDED I festival launch on June 1st on AORTA’s instagram! I had the pleasure of performing alongside Kali when we shot Documenting Desire: First Thing at the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2018, and I can’t imagine a dreamier babe to help us introduce these films, celebrate, and get our watch-at-home festival kicked off!
Hope you enjoy, and remember to tag us in your #BEDDEDredcarpet selfies as you tune in at home–if we can’t all watch together, we can at least get all blushy about how cute everyone is on the internet. At the end of the month, we’ll draw two winners who will receive a 3-month and a 6-month membership to AORTA films!
See you in bed,