Tuesday, October 24, 2006

1st PornfilmfestivalBerlin

Over on Eon McKai's site, I just came across news about the 1st PornfilmfestivalBerlin that had just wrapped up. From looking at the schedule, they seem to be showing a range of films from Richard Kern's "Cinema of Transgression" work, to the more explicit end of queer cinema (by directors like Todd Verow and Maria Beatty), to straight-ahead alt-porn by Eon McKai, Benny Profane, and Octavio Winkytiki (including the premiere of McKai's "Kill Girl Kill").

The film festival is scheduled to follow a related Conference on Post-Porn Politics, as well as coinciding with a photo exhibit, "Achtung! FSK 18", featuring work by Nan Goldin, Charles Gatewood, and Richard Kern, among others.

There seems to be a definite theme at work about breaking down barriers between art and pornography, even adopting the logo "What is the difference between art and pornography? Art is more expensive!" My sentiments exactly.

There have been scholarly pro-porn conferences before, most notably the 1998 World Pornography Congress (which generated more than its fair share of bad press). Those conferences were more about academic discussion of porn, whereas the Berlin conference seems to balance the academic commentary with presentation of porn itself.

Its hard to say whether such a festival could have been pulled off on the US right now, in spite of our "pornified" culture. Even barring the inevitable political backlash, taking porn seriously generates all kinds of snarky commentary, and not just from the tabloid press.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"The Lusty Lady loses its innocence"

There was a really interesting article in this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian titled "The Lusty Lady loses its innocence". Its about the ongoing struggle of the Lusty Lady, a collectively-owned peep show business here in San Francisco, to try to live up to a sex-positive, but still strongly feminist ideal and still make a buck in the sex business. It seems like they haven't been doing too well, mainly because they've tried to implement the idea of non-discrimination based on appearance, only to find that customers aren't exactly coming in droves. (ha, ha) As a result, they're barely getting by financially.

Its also an object lesson in the kind of wars that sometimes take place within co-operative businesses, especially when you have one faction that's very idealistic and one that's more entrepreneurial. (And it somehow doesn't surprise me that one of the male support staff wrote such a less-than-diplomatic memo that started all of this, considering what surly bicycle messenger-type dudes they hire as support staff.) Its also a lesson in trying to do something different with the sex business, yet running up against the reality of the free market, issues that are touched on in Audacia Ray's recent post on the realities of shooting a porn movie.

The issues with the Lusty Lady are something I know very well, since I was a frequent customer of the LL when I lived in Seattle and am an occasional customer of the collectively-owned San Francisco one. (The two businesses used to be under the same ownership until the SF location was bought out by its union.) I used to go the Seattle one quite a bit and often spend more money there than my better judgment should allow for. Their stage show has the same kind of dynamic that drives SuicideGirls – super-cute somewhat alt-looking college-age girls (and some older dancers as well) getting naked, and often doing pseudo-lesbian stuff as well. Basically, something that's inherently hot for 95% of the straight male population and something that they'll part with their money in order to see.

Without picking on SF Lusty Lady too much, basically, the above description is not what you'll see there, and quite a few of their dancers are not exactly what you'd call attractive in the conventional sense. Hence, even though I think its great that they've collectivized and gotten control of their own business, I'm not a regular customer there (they did have a dancer there for a while I really liked, but she quit recently). Its the same reason I'm not a member of the website NoFauxx – its all very nice and idealistic, but there's nobody there who makes me want to part with my hard-earned money just to see them naked. (And being a brick-and-morter operation with a local customer base, the Lusty Lady is inherently more limited than an internet site in being able to make money catering to fringe tastes.)

Its an open question whether the SF Lusty Lady is ever going to find its niche and be able to make money in ways that the dancers find acceptable, or whether it will simply go under. Time will tell.

Update (October 2):

The Matier and Ross column in the San Francisco Chronicle has another take on the story, this time with details that weren't mentioned in the Bay Guardian story. It seems like the impetus for this was a 'Big Beautiful Women' strip night, that sounds like it might have been unannounced. This resulted in a mass customer walkout. It really sounds like some of the dancer/owners from the Lusty Lady feel that if they can beat people over the head with decidedly non-standard ideas about beauty, viewers will rethink their ideas about beauty. Instead, it just resulted in a bad scene for the customers, staff, and the big women on stage.

Also, a couple of discussions (link, link) about this are up at SFRedbook, the San Francisco "johns" board.