Pornland, pornland, ya done us proud again. How do
you lure such brilliant vixens to your soggy small town
shores? What is it about you that coaxes the hotties to
pour out their souls for your fortunate sons? Most of
us know by now just how cool our local sex workers are,
that they are artistic, intelligent people with choices
and that they choose to entertain us to pay their rent.
But even by high local sex scene standards, the Sex by
Sex Worker Film Festival is in a league of its own. It
put Portland on the map way back in 1998, spawned a copycat
in San Fran last year, and rears its gorgeous head again
next month, on October 4th and 5th at Cinema 21.
This years festival features 24 films, each funded
by, inspired by, and/or directed by sex workers. The flicks
run the gamut from a glossy 50-minute how-to lesson in
hard core to a 10-minute radical short about sex and vegans.
All, however, have the same quasi-radical sex-positive
tone. The sex industry is still an underground movement
(I keep forgetting...), and films about it are by nature
Like most human endeavors of breathtaking moment and beauty,
the Sex by Sex Workers Film Festival was born in a bar
in the wee wee hours. This was a few years back, when
co-curator Gina Velour was pushing her indie film hit
The Operation at festivals around the world. She
was surprised by the number of people she met who used
sex work to fund their filmmaking habit. Velour was discussing
this with Teresa Dulce, the founder and editor of danzine
and the person voted most likely to get a project
off the bar and into history books, and they decided to
make it happen. Theres tons of material out there
and theres an audience out there. All that was needed
was to get the two together. This, however, is a huge
and thankless task in any arts medium, but when your focus
is SEX, youve got to be especially diplomatic. A
liberal venue had to be found to host the festival, and
sponsorship was needed as well.
Gina Velour put postings on film festival websites, and
Teresa Dulce reached out to the sex worker community via
danzine. Within three months, they had enough material
to do a two-day festival. Finding a venue presented something
of a challenge, however.
In 1998 we approached virtually every theater in
town, and no one would touch the festival if they had
to put the words sex work in the marquee.
However, Cinema 21 was absolutely interested from the
get-go. The owner there, Tom Rainieri, is very dedicated
to not censoring works of art. The first year he told
us there was nothing that we couldnt show. He was
ready to have the festival again a year later. Hes
been completely behind us. Once you have that kind of
freedom, the skys the limit. We didnt have
to be afraid of what was going to offend whom. All we
had to do was find the work and get it out there.
The festival was a smashing success. Its co-curators were
featured in every local publication. People donated time,
talent, and money. Sex worker celebrities like Scarlet
Harlot from San Francisco flew north for the big nights,
and Portlands favorite working girls and boys were
the talk of the town.
That was 1998. Now, two years later, I asked Teresa Dulce
what was different about the festival and the films submitted.
Now a Portland sex worker filmmaker scene, and we created
Were seeing a lot more local films. Theres
now a Portland sex worker filmmaker SCENE, and we created
it! Plus the word is out, and films are coming to us from
all over the place. San Francisco now has their own festival,
the first of which was last year. Were going to
alternate every-other-year with them. But we were first!
The festival kicks off with Scarlot Harlots short
film Outlaw Poverty, Not Pros on Wednesday, October
4th at 7pm. Scarlot Harlot is a leader of the sex workers
rights movement, nationally and internationally. She invented
the term sex work in the late seventies and
has worked as a prostitute, activist, and artist in the
San Francisco area for the last twenty years. Four of
her films will be shown at the festival.
After Outlaw Poverty, Not Pros will be shown VICE,
a true story about the prosecution of a topless dancer
for indecent exposure. Writer/director John Woodward is
an Academy Award winner who worked with the Coen brothers
on Blood Simple. Woodward worked very closely with
the actual dancer, Tammy Stones, who produced Vice.
The flick also features indie star Maxine Bahns, who
starred in The Brothers McMullen (and is perhaps
the most terrible actress Ive ever seen on celluloid,
but she doesnt speak for the first forty minutes
of Vice, and thereafter manages to do ok). The
story is absolutely rousing in a first amendment sorta
way, and thats the kinda rousing sex film I totally
Wednesday night will feature local shorts from 10:30pm
to midnight. This is the most exciting part of the festival.
No-budget and low-budget utterly honest stuff by people
in your neighborhood. Arty guys Jacob Pander, Ernest Truely
and Dave Queen put out, stripper gals (and a whole lot
more) Queen Ruth E. and Tonya Hurt throw down, and Gorilla
Theater from Outside In show us their street smart message
of being safe, staying sane, stopping AIDS, and speaking
Also playing Wednesday will be one of two documentary
features by Sharon Mitchell, a short comedy by Gina Gold
about lap dancing, and WADD, The Life and Times of
John C. Holmes, a feature about the first porn superstar
and the odyssey of his 13-inch penis, from the cornfields
of Ohio to the killing fields of California. What a night!
Pitch a tent in Couch Park with the salt of the earth
and get your coffee early, cuz the festival kicks off
at NOON on Thursday with more supercool shorts and a how-to
Porn 101 by Sharon Mitchell and Nina Hartley. At
7pm is the must-see Live! Nude! Girls! Unite! by
Julia Query. This stripper-written and directed feature
documents the fight by employees of San Franciscos
Lusty Lady peep show for their constitutional rights.
Another film to file under first amendment porn, the kind
I like best.
At 10:30 pm on Thursday, porn actors who get behind the
camera are featured. RimFest sounds especially
intriguing.Teresa says, Eight glorious butts get
licked and worshiped and theyre female!
Of the films I previewed, my favorites were always the
ultra-indie shorts, and of those the two stand-outs were
Big Girls, by Sara McCool, and G-SPrOuT!, by
Mirha-Soleil Ross and Mark Karbusicky (Canucks!). Both
are pretty damn subversive and extremely well-done. Both
also show before 3pm on Thursday, so I hope some of us
late bloomers actually get to see them.
Big Girls blew my mind. First off, its always
refreshing to see people who will be sexy, stereotypes
be damned. The short features some large n lovely
ladies who work as prostitutes, models, and in phone sex.
The women all have the strength and intelligence that
comes from mindfully living on the edges of society, and
they tell it like it is. They raise the question of whether
being fond of fat is abnormal. Are the women blown up
into caricatures and exhibited in Playboy normal?
Do you have a thin fetish? The film also interviews
fat devotees: the guys who love fat women or who just
plain love fat. Evidently, its a much larger market
than I imagined, with many magazines catering to the various
preferences, and conferences for fat aficionados and their
fat companions. Call me naive, but I had no idea there
was a whole form of fetishism around feeding fat people.
Big Girls contributed two words to my vocabulary:
feeder and feedee. Feeders feed their lovers
for sexual gratification. Feedees feed for sexual gratification.
The one gets so fat that he/she (but usually a she...including
many lesbians) is totally reliant on his/her partner,
needing to be wheeled about, fed, and rolled over to prevent
bedsores. Who knew?! But anyway, I digress.
G-SPrOuT! is on rather the other end of the spectrum,
but is an equally subversive, just-say-no-to-society kinda
flick. Teresa says, I dont know if this is
gonna help us or hurt us. I say, Im vegan
again goddamnit! I hate evangelical condemnatory veg-heads
as much as the next fellow, but I was pretty moved by
this movie. Its basic theme is Vegans
taste better. Who cares. But its neat to see
the radical link between sex workers and militant vegetarians,
all on the fringe of society, many for sociopolitical
However, the vegans arent gonna have a film festival
sponsored by WW, Exotic, and The Mercury and
playing at a theater near you anytime soon. Cuz they hate
you, the common man (and the way you taste). And we sex
workers, we pretend to love you, or maybe even love you
(and maybe even let you taste). Better diplomacy. So,
amazingly, we got a platform to spread our good word.
And we have a lot toahemspread. Its
why I strip, and why lots of hos and nasty girls
and boys are in sex work, and why theyre now making
films! Really, it makes perfect sense. Yet still its
remarkable. And not to be missed.
Many of the filmmakers will be in attendance during the
festival, and there will be a Sex Worker Symposium featuring
them at Mu-Mus from 2-4pm on Thursday, October 5th.
The symposium will be $20, and seats are very limited.
Sharon Mitchell and Scarlet Harlot will be there, as will
John Woodward and Tammy Stones form VICE. San Francisco
writer, filmmaker, former sex worker and activist Gina
Gold will be there, as well as almost all the local filmmakers
and the festivals fabulous co-curators Teresa Dulce
and Gina Velour. The panel will discuss sex work and filmmaking,
then answer questions from the audience. (Email email@example.com
if youre interested in reserving a space for the
The festival wraps up on Thursday evening with the party
of the century at Dantes, featuring song and dance
by Portlands most fabulous creatures. Even porn
star extraordinaire Sharon Mitchell will grace the stage.
If the bash is anything like 1998s sell-out extravaganza,
itll be the best $10 youve spent in years.
Wear something drop-dead gorgeous, and youll fit
right in amongst the human parade straight out of Fellinis
La Dolce Vita. See you there!