Dan Savage on the Hump! Film Festival, amateur porn and fetishes

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Dan Savage founded the Hump! Film Festival.
  • Dan Savage founded the Hump! Film Festival.

The amateur pornography in the Hump! Film Festival is not like other porn, at least in several ways. For one, it's not available on the internet (except for the trailer, which is below).

The 2015-2016 films screen Friday and Saturday at The Broad Theater. There are 22 short (all under five minutes) homemade porn films, and they feature everything from comedies on sexual topics to straight, gay, group and fetishized sex — bondage, animal masks, stuff with food. The premise of the festival is that the amateur filmmakers are making porn for the right reasons, according to founder and sex advice columnist Dan Savage. He spoke to Gambit about Hump!.

Savage started the festival 12 years ago after watching a video, basically of a woman jumping on a trampoline, who seemed to be enjoying herself. Savage invited people to submit their own homemade films, featuring anything they enjoyed, fantasized about or cared to make with their lovers or friends. Eventually, even professionals started submitting films. More than 125 films were submitted for the 2015-2016 festival, and many included one of two suggested props to prove that it was made specifically for the festival.
  Here are some excerpts from Gambit's interview with Savage.

Gambit: What sort of films do you choose for Hump?

Savage:
They’re overwhelmingly straight, because world is overwhelmingly straight. They tend to be sex positive and hip. A lot of people come to the fest the first time because it’s shocking and crazy, but then I think people are moved by the humanity of it.

I really think the difference is at Hump you’re going to watch porn that is deeply humanizing. Not dehumanizing. Whatever objections you have porn — that it’s made under economic duress or for all the wrong reasons — Hump porn is made for all the right reasons. It’s what (the filmmakers) want to do. It’s something they enjoy. It’s something they want to share.

You never look at a hump porn thinking "How bad should I feel for watching this?" Am I watching someone at the lowest moment in their lives doing something they’ll regret. You never get that feeling. One of my favorite things is this woman came up to me in the lobby and said just that. "I hate porn. It’s dehumanizing. My friends made me come. But I loved it. That was great." The next year, she made a film for Hump. Literally the next year, she was in a Hump film.

Do some films seem like things people really aren’t into but the filmmakers wants to see if they can get it in the festival?

Savage: A lot of those films get in the festival. The ones that tend to not get into the festival — when we started, 75 percent of films were like this — the films aping the tropes and conventions of mainstream commercial pornography. I have no beef with mainstream commercial pornography. There’s a big audience for it. I have a lot of friends who work in porn. … Respected people work in the porn industry.

But that wasn’t what Hump audiences responded to. There’s plenty of commercial porn out there, you didn’t need to go to this offbeat film fest to see more of that. (Now) those films that almost never get in. You didn’t need to reproduce a Vixen Video kind of movie. We’ve seen the audiences weed them out. A few would make it in — when it was about what we had to choose from. But it wasn’t what Hump juries gave awards to. Many of our filmmakers have been to Hump! and have seen what audiences responded to and looked at won. They realized 'I can do something personal and off the wall and audiences are going to love it and respond to it.'

Is anything prohibited?


Savage:
 The only rules are no animals, no shit, no minors. No one wants to see that. No one wants to see poop.

The announcement for the 2016-2017 Hump says there's finally a tentacle porn film in Hump. How does someone realize they're into tentacle porn?

Savage: They don’t know where fetishes come from exactly. What we do know is that they seem to be formed early in life through exposure to some thing. There’s no way to control for it. You can’t kink-proof your child. What happens is some kid goes to a public pool and sees some woman wearing a rubber bathing cap and is fascinated by it, and then 30 years later he owns 5,000 rubber caps and he’s rolling around in them before masturbating. But other kids at that same pool who saw that same bathing cap don’t have that same reaction. They don’t know why that happens. They don’t know what shapes that. But there’s no controlling for it. There’s no preventing it. There’s something about our big brains. There’s a theory that it’s related to our capacity for abstract thought and speech — to make this abstract attachment to something that’s not expressly sexual.

A lot of fetishism — this is my theory, and there are a lot of sex researchers who agree with me — lot of our fetishes are eroticized fears. These are things that we are terrorized could happen to us. We obsess about it until the point where we make lemonade out of that lemon by eroticizing it. You think of women who most of their lives are terrified of sexual violence, and one of the most common fantasies among women is the rape fantasy. And a lot of women are deeply troubled by the fact that they are aroused by these rape scenarios. There are people who say we shouldn’t call them rape scenarios because these fantasies are about women being taken forcefully by someone they want to have sex with. So it isn’t rape, they’re having sex with someone they want to have sex with, but they’re being overwhelmed by this person. Why do women have these fantasies? Because they struggle with that fear. Some women, not all women eroticize that fear. Look at gay men. All the gay male erotic archetypes tend to be gay bashers. Cops, firemen, truckers, Marines. These aren’t guys you see at the gay pride parade unless it is a gay guy dressed up as one. These are people gay men historically had good reason to be fearful of. Through the eroticization of fear, men become aroused by them.

Hump tours cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Do you ever have problems  with people protesting porn?

Savage: Censorship makes people want to see it. It’s useful to us in a way when people say "Stop Hump!" A theater outside of Pittsburg had protests. The city shut down Hump. So we moved over the border.

These people who want to shut down Hump realize the internet is a thing, right? They do realize that everyone is carrying a porn festival around in their pocket. In their phone. Shutting down the screening of a short film fest isn’t going to cleanse your community of porn. People are going to watch as much porn as they want to. Compared to what people can see on their phones, Hump is practically wholesome.

The highest porn consumption rates in the country are in Utah. Where we don’t go. Why don’t we go to the South? The South loves its hypocrisy — the public performance of morality versus whatever you want to do in private. There is this feeling that public appearances must be maintained. Putting "porn festival" on a marquee calls the lie. It makes people confront what people are actually watching on their phones.

It’s about the fear of sex and it goes back millennia. It wasn’t invented by the U.S. If you look at the map where Hump goes, versus church attendance, It’s going to be the same map. But paradoxically, porn consumption is high.

Is that why Mike Huckabee's name comes up in some of these films?


Savage: Whenever I host, I say, "Please don’t tweet at Mike Huckabee that you saw him at a porn festival." Because the last thing we would want is the publicity of a lawsuit. But it still hasn’t happened.

The prop a couple of years ago was Hillary Clinton. There was one film called Butt Bowling. It was a bowling set you could buy for kids — with Little plastic bowling pins. But instead of rolling a little plastic ball, you put a butt plug in and bent over and shot it across the room — which you can do — to knock the pins down. The incorporation of Hillary in that film was an endorsement at the end, where someone in a Hillary Clinton mask leaned in and said "I bought four for my friends for Christmas."


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