Better living through porn

The Good Vibrations independent erotic film festival once again touches uncharted territory

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Fun fact: the tag line for Maxine Holloway and Lex Sloan's Outlaw is "Outlaws have a great fucking time."

When one door closes another opens: as summer comes to an end, Good Vibrations gives us something to ensure that warm sensation continues — porn.

Yes, it's that time of year again. On Sept. 23, the Castro Theatre opens its doors to the Good Vibrations Indie Erotic Film Festival's short film festival competition, after a lead-up week of diverse, sex-positive programming at various venues. The annual contest, now in its fifth year, offers filmmakers the chance to share their unique erotic visions on the big screen.

"As heavily censored as film and TV are today, it's important to have a safe outlet," says Steffan Schulz, who is screening his film Lorelei. "More importantly, and specifically to an erotic festival, the Puritan mentality that dominates American society today is really kind of hypocritical."

The short films vary wildly in terms of gender, sexuality, and explicitness. While Schulz's Lorelei is more sensual than hardcore, Maxine Holloway and Lex Sloan's Outlaw is a bit more raw: the titular character is a nine-and-three-quarters-inch dildo.

"When casting, it was important for us to represent the queer community and show a diverse selection of sexualities and bodies," Holloway and Sloan explain in a jointly-written e-mail. "Which mostly entailed Maxine making a list of people she really wanted to fuck or make-out with and then asking nicely."

For most of the filmmakers, who range from local to international, these movies are a response to the limited scope of the mainstream porn industry. That means looking at groups who are too often sidelined and approaching erotica from a different perspective.

Spanish filmmaker Erika Lust is screening her fetish film Handcuffs, which she hopes will help open minds.

"Primarily I thought that practice of dominance and submission might still be kind of a taboo for most women," she says. "In general, I would like to see more of a female view ... until it seeps into the mainstream that women are not only there to provide something for the male gaze."

It's significant that so many of the films shown at the IXFF delve into realistic portrayals of female sexuality. After all, the porn industry has long been derided as degrading to women — or at least a dangerous perpetuator of the fake female orgasm. Humor is another area several of the filmmakers identified as sorely lacking from mainstream porn. Allegra Hirschman, who also competed last year, is showing T4-2, a film inspired by 1960s and '70s sitcoms. Naturally, there's a sexual twist, but that doesn't mean it isn't funny.

"Sometimes erotica is so serious it can become somber," Hirschman notes. "We think adding some hilarity can help erotica remain relatable. It can be playful and still retain its erotic power."

On a broader scale, the festival speaks to Good Vibes' sex-positive vision. It's all part of an exciting effort to celebrate and redefine erotica. Those who have attended in the past know that the films step into uncharted territory more often than not — sometimes even rendering co-MCs Dr. Carol Queen and Peaches Christ temporarily speechless.

"It is always riveting to see people getting sexy outside the lines and being turned on by something you didn't know moved you," Holloway and Sloan point out. "And to be really specific, we also would like to see more sex in cars, vajazzling, sex scenes with food, 1960s hairdos, ponytail butt plugs, and humor in our erotica."

Seems like a lot to cram into one film. But hey, there's always next year. (Louis Peitzman)

GOOD VIBRATIONS INDEPENDENT EROTIC FILM FESTIVAL

Sept. 18–23, various venues, $7–$10

www.gv-ixff.org/film

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