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On set at a pansexual orgy with people making political porn

‘We Are The Fucking World’ features queer and trans performers from around the world – they want to change conventional ideas of what porn should be

Beneath a willow tree on the edge of a lake outside Berlin, a group of performers have formed two concentric circles. Some are clothed, some are topless or in their underwear. As the human rings move in opposite directions, they exchange touches and breathe with one another. A slim black man with purple mascara around his eyes puts his hand on the shoulder of a dark-haired woman with a silver chain connecting her eyebrow, nose and ear piercings, sharing a moment of connection before passing to the next in the circle.

“Everybody was getting really turned on,” says Finn Peaks, a transgender porn performer and director based in Berlin. “We were buzzing with sexual energy, it was almost impossible to stop ourselves, but we had to because the cameras weren't set up yet.”

We’re on the set of We Are The Fucking World with some of the leading figures in Berlin’s alternative porn scene, including Bishop Black, a queer British performer; Lina Bembe, a model and performer from Mexico, and Sadie Lune, an American performer and sex worker. They’re about to shoot a pansexual orgy featuring queer and trans performers, to challenge intolerance and make a stand for LGBT rights. Presenting themselves loudly and proudly on their own terms, they’re conveying a message that says: ‘We’re normal, beautiful and nothing to be afraid of.’

Berlin has become the epicentre for a wave of progressive, diverse and artistic porn that has revolutionised the medium, creating content that is radically different to what most people understand porn to be. This new sex-positive generation of female, queer and trans performers believe that porn can be art, education, activism and so much more. The focus is on ethical production, with performers’ rights and identities respected throughout the process.

“Porn has become an artistic and political medium,” explains Sadie Lune. “Often what we make doesn't have a commercial audience - sometimes you might just get a free lunch at the end - but we feel really driven to do it. Budgets can be small but they employ good feminist labour practice, with each performer treated fairly and equally. Whenever we get a new idea we're curious about, a new political stance, a new understanding about love or society, or realise a piece of ourselves that we don't see reflected back to us from mainstream media, our impulse is often to make a porn about it.”

Today’s shoot is their way of speaking out and fighting (or fucking) for what they believe in - with half of each performers’ fee going to Amnesty International, to support their work fighting homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Amnesty pressures governments around the world for pro-LGBT reforms and supports rights activists who speak out against abuses and homophobic policy in countries from Russia to the US. Everyone involved in the film tells me they’re passionate about supporting this work.

As the shoot gets underway, it’s not long before they become a kaleidoscope of mouths, genitals, skin colours and body shapes, with moans of pleasure radiating around the lakeside idyll. As two camerapeople glide among the group, the director, Olympe de G. is checking the unfolding action on the monitors.

“I want to explore how women can be sex subjects, not just sex objects” – Olympe de. G

With tattoos up and down both arms, and long, dark hair, Olympe is one of the rising stars of this female-led porn movement. Her work is stylish, provocative and original, combining a sex-positive philosophy with slick execution, drawing on her filmmaking background in advertising and music videos.

Olympe got into porn to challenge the policing and repression of female sexual desire, which she has been aware of since she was ‘slut-shamed’ for dancing with a boy at a high school dance aged 13. Now 34, she creates work to encourage women to embrace their desires without judgement. Her 2016 directorial debut The Bitchhiker, which she also starred in, was based on a long-held fantasy about picking up a hitchhiker on her motorbike, driving him to an empty workshop and taking him with black leather strap-on. “I want to explore how women can be sex subjects, not just sex objects,” she says.

Mainstream porn is churned out by an industry designed primarily to serve straight, white, male consumers. Female performers fit a narrow formula for attractiveness, and their needs and desires are mostly ignored. Young performers are often pressured into going beyond what they feel comfortable with and it reinforces tired gender and racial stereotypes - think “horny Latina sluts.”

“When I used to watch porn I was looking for bodies similar to mine, but I would feel very angry when I saw material that represented people like me, brown people like me, in a very exoticised and racialised way,” says Lina Bembe. “[Ethical porn is different], it's about taking ownership of your body, your desires and being able to find a medium to assert them with as much freedom as possible. For me, [making porn] is about being true to myself and doing whatever I want to do. I don’t want to use labels because I will never only be one thing, I think of myself and my sexuality as an unfinished product. It will be evolving and changing until the day I die."

Olympe’s work exists to share new perspectives, broadening the canvas for female sexual expression. So far, each film has all been funded by Erika Lust, perhaps the most well-known feminist porn filmmaker, through a push to find and fund a new generation of female erotica directors. The performers’ €2500 donation to Amnesty was also matched by Erika’s production company.

Even in the 21st century, it’s still too easy to amass political power by demonising minority groups. Trump’s blatant misogyny and intention to ban trans people from serving in the US military is the latest reminder of how fragile rights are for women and LGBT people. Even in countries without demagogic leaders like Putin or Trump, there is still significant support for turning back the clock on all hard-won victories for equality. “Trans people have to fight on a daily basis for equally paid work, getting access to healthcare and staying safe,” Finn Peaks says.

The actor identifies as genderqueer or non-binary transgender. His slight, boyish face is framed by bleached blonde hair. Chatting after the shoot, he speaks with enthusiasm and warmth, a grin breaking out from ear to ear at the easiest opportunity.

Growing up in Vienna, Austria, Finn turned to trans porn as a means of understanding himself. “Showing different bodies in porn helps people find their sexuality, their gender identity and know they’re not freaks. They have a right to exist, to feel pleasure and not to be harmed.”

Perceptions of transgender people are often limited and problematic: exoticised or presented as oddities. Transfeminine people, especially, are usually represented in one-dimensional extremes: glitzed-up, ballsy drag queens or as vulnerable victims, in reports of abuse and attacks.

Aged 26, Finn moved to Berlin two years ago in search of a community that didn’t exist in Vienna. With total creative freedom provided by Olympe, Finn had to think about how to present himself - settling on a tight black binder to cover his chest. “As a transmasculine person I want to show my femininity on set, that I'm not one or the other: a man or a woman. I'm a person with a body, I enjoy getting touched and it doesn't have to be labelled,” he says.

“As a transmasculine person I want to show my femininity on set, that I'm not one or the other: a man or a woman. I'm a person with a body, I enjoy getting touched and it doesn't have to be labelled” – Finn Peaks

For Olympe, the project’s major goal is to normalise the broad spectrum of identities represented in the Berlin scene. “People can easily be freaked out by things they don’t understand, but I want to celebrate diversity, so that people freak out a bit less and respect a bit more,” she says.

After three hours of frolicking by the lake, the cast are played out by naked cellist Christian Tan as the orgy begins to wind down. Once the cameras have stopped rolling, the atmosphere is one of jubilant exhaustion - and there’s a palpable sense the cast have made a powerful statement.

“Porn can be used as inspiration and as a weapon,” Finn says. “It is a direct way for us to say ‘Fuck you’ to the bigots.”

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