The erotic filmmaker taking it slow after a sexual awakening

Queer director Damien Moreau opens up about prejudice, gangbangs and using our sexual power to change our state of spiritual, social or political being

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Damien MoreauPhotography Claudio Díaz

Two minutes into Damien Moreau’s erotic web series OHBOY and it’s clear that this isn’t your usual cinematic filth. Everything is kaleidoscopic. As the character of Sébastien bikes through México City we’re shown slides of his existence – and any whispers of nakedness are quickly snuffed out by the voice of the urban landscape. The sexual flirtations Moreau affords us are teasingly short, the dance choreographer flexing in curve-clinging leggings, the glint of fuck-me eyes washed out with a blink. 

Ten minutes pass before Sébastien starts to touch himself and we see some flesh, quite a wait for an erotic film. Moreau admits that some people were confused by OHBOY’s simplicity. “I wanted to inspire people,” he says. “Challenge their preconceived notions of what turns them on.” He purposefully sought to “blur that line.” 

Moreau may be pulling the strings, but in many ways OHBOY is a collection of erotic encounters between viewer and performer. All four episodes follow a similar format. They begin with vaguely sexual glimpses into a stranger’s life (fingers licked clean of vanilla ice cream, a couple sharing soapsuds in the shower) before accelerating into (mostly) self-love, then orgasm, and closing with a silent period of ‘pillow talk’. The going is slow. As well as admiring the performers’ bodies, we take in their perceived personalities as well so that when the ‘porn’ finally does arrive, it’s a shared experience, not a voyeuristic one. We’re passive viewers perhaps but we’re not impersonal. 

Indeed, the “soft cinematic introductions” to each character’s world were intended to arouse the mind first and the body later. As Moreau says, he wanted to “lube up” the viewer so that by the time the sex is on screen they’ve already been stimulated by the “physical subtleties of the character and the sound of their environment”. In contrast, he says, most high-end porn is the “standard five min pump-n-pop” devoid of any beauty or art.

“It’s just fucking,” he says. “Imagine if what you saw on the screen really transported you somewhere. I guarantee you’ll wish more porn carried feeling and impact. At the very least,” he says, “it’s going to stick with you long after you’ve reached for the cum-towel.”

OHBOY was “envisioned to bring together all bodies, genders, sexualities and races.” As Moreau says himself, it is queer in theory and concept. In one episode we watch James Darling, trans model and FTM (female-to-male) porn star, pleasure himself on his birthday. In another, Freshie & Ryan fall for one another in the space of a day. And in Episode 2 we follow the story of Xavier, as he views gay porn on a smartphone. But as Moreau points out, that doesn’t “make him gay”. OHBOY is beyond labels. 

“Being queer is the antithesis of heteronormativity. Queerness has everything and nothing to do with gender and sexuality. It’s limitless. By nature, everybody is queer,” he says. “OHBOY tried to imagine a world in which the characters were not conflicted by the stereotypes that may be assumed of or projected onto them by the viewer. I’m more interested in the viewer having a chance to piece together their own narratives of who these people are. These characters are theirs to interpret.”

This stance of letting people figure out their own place in his work rather than forcing it on them is mirrored in Moreau’s personal story. Moreau grew up on a small farm in Wyoming, USA near where Matthew Shepard was murdered. He vividly remembers the day the openly gay University of Wyoming student was found tied to a fence, beaten, robbed, tortured and left for dead (he would die in hospital six days later). Moreau was at school at the time and when the news broke on the television he remembers the exact words of the homeroom teacher. “The queer was asking for it.” Students jumped in to agree with him and suddenly the classroom broke into passionate hatred. Moreau says it’s a memory that still haunts him.

“I sat there observing the violent slang and disgust for someone who had been brutally killed for being human, for their desire, their trusting in the goodness of others only for that trust to be violated and destroyed (the two murderers had pretended to be gay in order to get Shepard alone],” Moreau says. “I spent the next several days trying to understand and process their hatred and immediate disgust for something they had made no attempt to understand.” 

As soon as Moreau could he left Wyoming. Years of transition followed. He went to Art School in Boston, abandoned that for a dancing opportunity in Europe before returning to US soil in 2007 to live in New York as an artist assistant. Seven years passed. He moved to Denver and it was here that he “really began to do the mandatory soul searching required of any successful creative person.” It was also at this time that he underwent a period of “internal sexual revelation” that lead to him working in the porn industry (he first performed for BDSM website Kink.com in November 2013). 

“I got into porn to express my internal struggle with my sexuality, who I was then, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to feel in my body. I had a sexual awakening, which was very spiritual, and it led me to want to share that openly with others,” he says. “It was great fun to be in front of the camera getting gang-banged and flogged. But the artist in me saw this as a step into my next evolution.” 

“Being queer is the antithesis of heteronormativity. Queerness has everything and nothing to do with gender and sexuality. It’s limitless. By nature, everybody is queer” – Damien Moreau 

Eventually, as performer and director, he channelled all of his energy into his first short, Kangourou (NSFW). It was an outstanding success. Since its release in 2014, on 4umag.com, it has been screened 3.8 million times. A period of bouncing from queer and short film festivals followed until he landed in Mexico living with “a vibrant and diverse group of creative occupants” in a house designed by artists Juan Segura and Diego Rivera.

“Moving on has been a real trial for me, from cities and careers to friends and lovers,” he says. “I’m always learning how to exist in the moment and let that influence my creative flow. In not micromanaging myself I’ve opened up this whole other space for creative output and I find myself spending my days maximizing on that abundant creative energy.”

Currently this creative energy is overflowing. He has two films in the works. One is an adaptation of science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany’s 1967 short story Aye and Gomorrah and the second is a “utopic future narrative about the fall of the USA due to uprisings generated out of the Ferguson Riots”.

And he’s just finished his first feature too, Lust for Life, which is about “a nameless vampire on the verge of an existential epiphany during which he begins to interrogate his hosts to expose personal information about their humanity as observed through love, longing, despair and sex.” 

Yet as Moreau says himself he’s not just about making hardcore films. “I’m about a rooted investigation into the human condition and how we use our sexual power to do actual good and change our state of spiritual, social or political being.”

Indeed, one artwork stands out for its complete lack of sexual content. Dreams is a collaboration with artist Manuel Solano documenting his visit to the ocean for the first time since he became blind due to the Aids virus. It’s a breathtakingly moving study of the fragility of the human form.

It’s testament to how Moreau can switch from extreme BDSM gangbang hardcore pornography to moving artistic shorts without missing a beat. And when I ask him to compare performing with three cocks in his mouth to shooting a friend experiencing the sea for what seems like the first time, he doesn’t flinch.

“Where there is joy,” he says, “there is beauty.”

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