Whether you have a nightly date with porn, think it's the devil personified, or fall somewhere in between, you've probably noticed that sexually explicit movies don't get much love in public. But how would people feel if they could make their very own porn, specific to their imaginations, turn-ons and principles?
Dan Savage, author of the nationally syndicated sex-advice column Savage Love (and an ex-Madisonian), wants to answer this question. Enter the HUMP! Film Festival Tour, which brings homegrown porn to the people. At least four HUMP! screenings will take place at the Majestic Theatre on March 7 and 8.
Savage started HUMP! in 2005 in Seattle, where he's the editorial director of the alt-weekly newspaper The Stranger. First he invited community members to create their own porn for a contest. Winning entries were screened in a short festival, which has grown into a national tour with 18 short films. The selections are a mix of Savage's personal favorites and audience picks from throughout the years.
Viewers vote for their favorite films, but there's also a jury to make the final decision. Savage says the winners tend to have a few key attributes.
"Originality, humor and humanity all help. And if I can borrow a catchphrase from RuPaul, we're also looking for creativity, uniqueness, nerve and talent," he says.
HUMP! features many body types, interests and sexual orientations. This may draw people who feel porn isn't for them. So might the humor.
"The X factor -- the thing that will definitely get you into HUMP! and may help you win -- is the perfect balance between hot and funny. Films that make people laugh while making them hard or wet tend to be audience favorites," Savage says.
In other words, expect to be surprised in more ways than one.
"Lots of people want to celebrate each other's sexual passions, orientations, interests and kinks," Savage says. "There's nothing like watching an audience that's mostly straight go crazy for a well-made gay porn film. There's nothing like sitting next to a gay person at HUMP! and seeing him clap and cheer for a hot cunnilingus scene."
What's missing from much conventional porn is an emotional connection between the actors. Watching real people flout that convention may be the biggest turn-on.
"What's palpable in many of the films is that these people are having fun," Savage says. "They're making porn with their lovers and friends, and the affection and the connection is evident -- even in the BDSM flicks."
It's interesting to consider what might happen if more Americans were exposed to films like the HUMP! selections.
"I don't know if HUMP! has the power to dislodge the sticks from the butts of anti-porn types, but if anything could, it would be HUMP!" Savage says. "People who think porn always has to be grim and dehumanizing, and people who think porn is exploitative and never joyful, really should give HUMP! a try. It might not turn you into a porn fan, but it'll convince you that porn can be human and humane."