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Bald Love Blood
A still from Bald, Love and BloodPhotography Amaury Grisel

Behind the scenes at London’s first queer porn festival

As the UK’s censorship laws tighten up, the capital pays tribute to 36-year-old virgins, cybernetics, and ‘mystical queer blood bonding’

From the writhing cybernetic bodies of Eric Pussyboy’s Neurosex 3 to the tender flesh-piercing of Bald, Love and Blood, London’s first Porn Film Festival – held in the capital last weekend – was a boundary breaker. Pushing beyond the ripped-Californian-pizza-boy-bangs-tanned-Californian-beach-babe paradigm, it introduced audiences to a world of queer, feminist erotica with actual relevance to our messy, marginalised sex lives.

Serving as the perfect example of this was the festival’s first feature, The 36-Year-Old Virgin. The film was led by trans man Skyler Braedan Fox, a childhood member of the ultra-strict Brethren Christian denomination, and followed him as he attempted to lose his vaginal virginity on screen. “This isn’t porn, it’s a sex documentary,” he says through tears, after he is overcome with emotion and asks co-star Bishop Black to stop touching him. “People don’t cry in porn.”

But what makes something pornography? After all, many mainstream porn movies do feature tears on behalf of the woman or bottom – whether real or staged. “A lot of mainstream pornography is about what is sexy, who can be sexy, who can play what role in sex,” explains the festival’s programmer Rude Juud. “We were looking for films that don’t do that, and however they don’t do that is up to them.”

“In queer feminist porn there’s a lot of support, a lot of communication. It’s not about making big bucks for companies, so the productions are basic, but the content is more heartfelt” – Bishop Black

Here, films almost have to be unrecognisable from mass-market pornography to be included on the programme. Some of the films do feature what Juud calls “straight up fucking” – but there’s seldom anything entirely ‘straight’ happening on screen. As a result, we see fifty-something dominatrix Morgana Muses eating macaroons off the buttocks of a hunky male porn-star half her age, and films like Gala Vanting’s Vital Signs which leave behind penetration altogether in favour of “mystical queer blood bonding”. The organisers intentionally excluded “queer, feminist” from the event’s title, to “reclaim porn” from its unobtainable, mass-market conception.

Ethical and political considerations are at play here. The festival’s special guest is Bishop Black, an affable Adonis who served as Morgana Muses’ dinner table, and who also tenderly attempted to make love to 36-year-old virgin Skyler.

“If you see two people on screen and there’s this giant wall between them, it doesn’t work,” says the actor, who has starred in both mainstream and DIY films. Profit-motivated mass-market directors sacrifice intimacy and natural bonding for speed: “Directors say, ‘CUT – now start rimming his ass’. And I’m like, ‘I would have got to that! But you’re ruining what I was enjoying’.”

“But in queer feminist porn there’s a lot of support, a lot of communication,” he continues. “It’s not about making big bucks for companies, so the productions are basic, but the content is more heartfelt. People are engaged, there’s love… they want to fuck each other’s brains out.”

Some films show actors vocally seeking consent before introducing a new sex toy or act. To viewers raised on a diet of heteronormative, smash-and-grab porn, this feels weird. But it shouldn’t. Moving YouTube roll-calls of porn stars lost to suicide, murder and AIDs are just one reminder that the industry still chews up and spits out women and non-binary people, catering to consumers and disregarding sex workers’ demands for the rights afforded to workers in other industries.

“I take out a subscription to queer porn site Crashpad and I know these people are living, breathing, studying,” says Juud. “It’s ethically sound. Imagine if everyone was watching this stuff all the time… what a transformation there would be.”

But far from moving into the mainstream, some of the movies on show at the festival have recently been made illegal. Juud explains that 2014’s Audiovisual Media Regulation Act actually outlawed fisting, face-sitting, flogging, and female ejaculation in the UK. “Male ejaculation is still fine,” he says. “(But) this is actually the more forward-thinking, progressive, ethical stuff.”

“If you don’t care about the most marginalised, the most despised, the people who are being legislated against… then you condone the worse stuff” – Rude Juud

Meanwhile, the crass objectification of mainstream pornography – and mainstream film, music and TV – is allowed to rumble on unchecked. “Who cares about a bunch of queers not being able to flog each other?” asks Juud. “But that’s exactly the point. If you don’t care about the most marginalised, the most despised, the people who are being legislated against… then you condone the worse stuff.”

The programmers cite figures showing a steep increase in hate crime against sexual minorities post-Brexit. A paternalistic public consensus aligns kinky sex acts with queer identities, and seeks to outlaw them in favour of a glossy and wholly artificial vision of sex – a vision which kills sex workers, women and queers.

As anyone who’s had it knows, though, real sex is profoundly messy. We laugh as the heroine of lesbian B-movie Heartbreaker vs Obscura exhaustedly fucks her way past “40 identical cloned pairs of bionic step-sisters”, and see the scars from trans virgin Skyler’s breast reduction surgery heave as he sobs.

It feels odd watching porn in public, rather than huddled in your bedroom with the sound muted, glancing furtively at the door in case a flatmate bursts in. But which is really perverse – the sight of a lesbian superhero ejaculating in ecstasy, or the society which conditions us to fear everything but the most banal, mass-market sex?

If you’d like to start purchasing ethical pornography, the London PFF team recommend production companies Dreams of Spanking, Bright Desires, and Pink and White, and respected stars Erika Lust and Ms Naughty. Check out the full programme for more inspiration.