Ron Jeremy (Photo: Karissa Gall)

Ron Jeremy (Photo: Karissa Gall)

It was a whirlwind weekend at the second-annual NYC Porn Film Festival. Who knew that getting slapped across the eyes with a regular throng of weens; being inundated with sauce shots, endless bumpin n’ grindin, butt pirates, fet fun, furries; and having to contend with a tarted-up unicorn who happened to have a passion for, well, piss could be so exhausting? It was almost as if we were the ones doing all the porking.

I’d be lying if I said that I was totally comfortable with the whole thing from the start. It took me a while to come to terms with my new normal– a pitch-black painted room inside an old warehouse space, lined with a peep show booth (nothing exciting to see, literally just screens set at AdultEmpire.com), merch tables, and a rotating cast of porn stars hawking iridescent butt plugs and posing for pictures under hot lights (ass out, tongue out). But there was something comforting, even heartwarming, about spying an old man napping in the middle of a moany bone sesh projected ahead. (My friend astutely picked out the senior citizen as someone to know– turns out, he’s Michele Capozzi, filmmaker and self-described “urban explorer and pornologist.”)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

There was so much to see and do at this place, and it felt like regular society’s Puritan mores were checked at the door– once you walked in past the clique of shirtless twinks in short-shorts puffing delicately on cigarettes, you were expected to comply. If that meant body hugging Ron Jeremy– “House rules,” I was told– and roaring with laughter as a dominatrix whipped at her slave with a rod, then so be it. (The tepid Modelos helped.)

But in case you missed all the fun– or let’s be real, were too busy being a wide-eyed sponge to take careful notes– we’ve got you covered with the top ten seminal moments from the fest.

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

10. James Franco, “Sword Swallower”

The film festival came out of the Secret Project Robot scene at the hands of Simon Leahy, aka Babes Trust, drag queen co-founder of Bushwig and member of the aggro-as-hell eletro-punk outfit, Bottoms. In its inaugural year, it attracted national attention with the help of an entry by Miley Cyrus that unfortunately went unscreened when the pop star became skittish and pulled her short film, “Tongue Tied.”

The whole incident sort of overshadowed the fact that James Franco was also participating in the fest, albeit with his previously released Interior. Leather Bar. Franco returned this year with another, far looser entry into the porn fest, which just so happened to coincide with the anticipated arrival of his hilariously named new HBO series about the porn industry, The Deuce – art imitates life which imitates art-life?

Who knows what this porn obsession stems from. All we know is that Franco’s 2016 porn film fest entry gave the actor/professor/MFA/writer/director/all around Renaissance man (ahem, with varying degrees of success) an opportunity to show yet another facet of his creative, um, powers– that of music man.

Daddy is Franco’s garage pop effort with composer pal Tim O’Keefe. The two have been intermittently releasing tracks since 2012; most recently, their song “I’m a Sword Swallower” was remixed by Prince Rama, whose music video had its illustrious world premiere at the NYC Porn Fest. The video popped off with a scene that looked snatched straight from IRL– that is, if your life consists of angel-dust-fueled orgies spontaneously forming on your living room floor. This isn’t some double-guy-on-girl, hospital-lit, anatomical sausage slap– as if. Instead, it’s a tasteful little music video (read: masks, obscured faces, possible Franco cameo, strap ons, body piercings, knife play) made “arty” thanks to the modern equivalent of psychedelic fractal effects, a sort of kaleidoscopic glitch filter inspired by altered states, slow internet connections, and amateur sex-tape making. The moving video image itself is framed by an undulating, glittery, Lisa-Frank-inspired screensaver.

All of this got us thinking about the what the post-internet age means for abstract approaches to sex-on-screen, but didn’t pose any real implications. This is, after all, a music video. So sit back and wait for a wider release of “I’m a Sword Swallower,” and you can be the judge of whether or not there are any discernible references to “The Deuce” on-screen and if this vid’s just another Franco effort that’s worth a brief click-by and hurried departure.

Dahlia Rain and her "loser" (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Dahlia Rain and her “loser” (Photo: Nicole Disser)

9. “Revenge porn” and the law.
Chicago-based civil attorney Daliah Saper seemed unconvinced that anyone was attending her festival programming for reason other than the fact that she had an opportune slot smushed between furries and the Ron Jeremy panel. “This isn’t my usual venue,” she smiled. But, truly, Saper’s presentation on so-called “revenge porn”– which has become something of a specialty for her entertainment/media law practice– was really pretty fascinating.

Victims of revenge porn, Saper explained, are most often women whose likeness (be it a sexy photo or compromising video) are leaked onto the internet after a breakup or dispute with a partner. “It used to be that people would place a camera in the bedroom,” she explained. “Now [revenge porn] is broadened to include consensual photos.” Saper often takes on cases when people are in danger of losing their job, or fear for their reputation. What makes her job really difficult is that most states don’t have any criminal statutes or civil laws on the books that specifically address revenge porn. Several states are in the process of reviewing laws that, if enacted, would address this especially bothersome kind of harassment.

But at the same rate, there are laws already in place that tacitly protect the people disseminating revenge porn. These include the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, a federal statute that impose criminal penalties on online porn sites for making their materials available to anyone under 18, while section 230 of the law shields platform providers from civil suits, making it impossible for victims of revenge porn to sue websites hosting a video they might appear in, for example, to have it taken down. “You can ask them to take it down, but they don’t have to,” Saper said. That includes sites like XHamster.com, that “exist solely for” hosting revenge porn. Yikes.

Another route for a victim of revenge porn is to sue over a copyrighted image. But, as we saw when Saper quizzed attendees about the ownership of images, not everyone was familiar with what constitutes intellectual property. If someone takes a photo of you, even if it’s on your iPhone, they have the rights to the image. Your only recourse is if that person uses your likeness to sell a product, which qualifies as a misappropriation of your right to publicity. “You have the right to control the way your face is used to make money,” she explained.

But even if you did take that photo, the Stored Communications Act makes it super hard to go after the dude who posted it on a porn site for all the world to see (unless, of course, he was dumb enough to use his real name along with it). That’s because internet providers, social media sites and, yep, even porn platforms cannot divulge their users personal information in the absence of a subpoena. Even then, there’s no guarantee the information trail they left behind is even real.

There have been a few major victories for victims of revenge porn (see: Hunter Moore, known as the “revenge porn king,” who bragged that his now-defunct site IsAnyoneUp.com made him a “professional life ruiner”) but they’re few and far between. One listener wondered, “How often do people get out ahead?” Saper said that she won a major victory for a woman who’d been a victim, to the tune of $250,000. “But the guy’s a DJ,” she said to resounding laughter. “It’s a lose-lose situation– unless the guy’s really rich, good luck getting that down.” However, bills up for review by New York lawmakers could make things easier for victims seeking recourse. And some individual sites, the fest’s sponsor PornHub included, are setting up ways for people who claim to be the target of revenge porn to get in touch with the site directly and discuss getting the content taken down.

Lesson learned: no more practicing duck face on Tinder randos if I don’t want people sending me LinkedIn invites based on our “relationship” that came about when they jigged it to my pucker face superimposed on Anthony Weiner’s bulge. “Congressional Aide” I am not. Ew.

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

8. Serious protestor, performance art, or total troll? 

It was pretty much impossible to tell which one of these would best describe a woman I found outside the Porn Film Fest venue on Ten Eyck Street in East Williamsburg. Or rather, I found her unmanned signs first, and then she found me. The black-and-pink picket poster stood propped up against a graffiti covered garage door, and bore slogans like, “Pornsick” and “PornHub profits off racism, misogyny, and rape culture.” You couldn’t really argue with any of this, except maybe for the strange bunny emblem that looked more like a depressed turtle than any relevant take on a Playboy bunny, but I digress. (It should be noted that PornHub has done a couple of things to make nice-nice with people concerned about issues like domestic violence, though it’s debatable whether a t-shirt does anything to stop the pervasive phenomenon of partner abuse.)

The protestor, whose outfit matched her signs, asked if I’d been inside yet. “No,” I told her. “Good,” she decided. But when I told her I was on my way inside, actually, her smile weakened. “It’s disgusting,” she explained, pausing before clarifying. “They’re actually my friends. I just fucking hate them.” Right. Makes sense.

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

7. Pioneering virtual reality porn.

The porn industry and fetish community alike have seen remarkable growth by way of the internet, which was probably the most important technological leap for the sex industry as a whole since the invention of the video camera. Now, the possibilities presented by virtual reality (VR) might suggest the next great leap forward. It wasn’t so surprising when PornHub, as a particularly tech-savvy porn purveyor, launched a VR porn channel this year.

I gotta admit, I wasn’t really convinced that VR in general (as the technology stands right now, anyway) was anything more than a passing gimmick, and I assumed the same went for VR porn. I thought that, actually, VR might be sort of limiting when it came to what you could do with porn (as counterintuitive as that sounds), and might actually push whatever “gains” have been made by porn, particularly in what we’ve seen shown as NYC Porn Film Festival, which has spotlighted queer-positive, all-inclusive, arty, and analytical approaches to the medium.

But all of this snobbiness flew out the window when I put those Oculus Rift glasses on my face. “Which do you prefer– we have guy-on-guy or female point-of-view?” one of the attendants asked me. Surprise me, I told her.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure where exactly I was once the screen flickered on a bit, and it took me a minute to realize that if I looked down, I would see breasts tied down with ropes and a baroque, red-and-black, velvet and gold furnished room where “I” was being treated to a sex act by a very blonde woman while being watched over by a guy wielding a tassel whip. The guy looked like an angry concierge charged with beating anyone who broke the rules of his hotel of pleasure (one that could quickly become a motel of pain, if you weren’t careful).

“Are you trying to get to the good room?” someone back in IRL land said to me after I bumped into them. I heard laughter around me, but otherwise the world I was immersed in was eerily silent. The woman below me was mouthing something at me– I couldn’t understand what, exactly– while the concierge creep seemed to be scolding me. As fake as the characters were in this extremely finite and ultimately pretty restrictive fantasy land (a “preview” only, I was told), the whole experience was sort of awesome, but at the same time felt very unnerving in what’s at once a sense of closeness and being trapped in an isolation chamber.

Kristin Smallwood (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Kristin Smallwood (Photo: Nicole Disser)

6. “Penis plugs ablaze.”

Possibly the most horrifying moments of the festival were contained in a poetry reading. That’s right– Kristin Smallwood, introduced as a Brooklyn-based artist whose work deals with pornography, read a series of poems inspired by the internet-spawned subculture of penis pluggers, who do so much more than what you might imagine is delicately pushing things into their urethras. Nah, these guys (and their dedicated assistants) stuff what basically amount to medieval instruments of torture down their ween holes. These pleasure tools (uh, depending on your view, I suppose) have names like “Circle of Tears” and “The Cross I Bear.”

It was easy to see some of Smallwood’s lines being pulled directly from docking message boards relegated to the darkest backwaters of the interwebs– either that or they’re just beyond a Google search you’ve never dared make and a swift click of the “I’m feeling lucky” button. Hearing the audience reactions (audible cringes, cries of empathy-pain from men all over, and one woman who belted out, “Not now!” during a video demonstration) was nothing short of amazing, especially coming from a seasoned sex-posi crowd like this one.

Smallwood read with a hiccuping, Death-Journal-like cadence, one that led her descriptions of peen plugs made from  “inferior metals” sound like castigations by eunuchs hiding behind Renaissance Fair garb (specifically, a hangman’s hood), an outdated desktop monitor, and cover of darkness by mother’s basement. Her poetry was as real as it gets, and maybe even too real.

Ron Jeremy and Geraldine Visco (Photo: KC Mulcare, courtesy of Eric Rivas)

Ron Jeremy and Geraldine Visco (Photo: KC Mulcare, courtesy of Eric Rivas)

5. An all-too-brief encounter with Geraldine Visco (aka the unicorn). 

I was introduced to Geraldine Visco– self-described “muse, fag hag, renegade, and rent girl,” but also a photographer, performance artist, writer, and longtime administrator of the Classics Department at Columbia University– by Eric Rivas, director of Vamp Bikers Tres, the soon-to-be-wrapped film starring Michael Alig as a club kid zombie. Unfortunately, I had missed out on her panel discussion with Ron Jeremy, but speaking with her briefly in person was maybe the next best thing. “I think we’ve met,” she told me, after hearing my name. “Did I urinate on your face yesterday?”

“Unfortunately, no,” I said.

4. Ron Jeremy, the man, the legend.

Though I missed Ron Jeremy’s discussion, I did catch a glimpse of him manning his own merch table on Sunday and had the opportunity to hear from Rivas about how he wrangled Jeremy in for a cameo in Vamp Bikers Tres (hint: if you want Ron Jeremy to take your project seriously, pick him up at the airport).

We’ll know more as soon as the the final film in the Vamp Bikers Trilogy is released sometime later this year, but Rivas explained that they were able to shoot in a “back room” at the porn fest. “How unique,” he said. Ron Jeremy was cast as one of the “head doctors” in a scene where Rivas’s own character finds himself in a clinic “wrapped like a mummy.”

(Photo: KC Mulcare, courtesy of Eric Rivas)

(Photo: KC Mulcare, courtesy of Eric Rivas)

“When I met him there was a demeanor to him that struck me that he would be great as a therapist or a doctor,” Rivas explained. In the scene, Ron Jeremy tells Rivas that everything he’d experienced leading up to his injuries was nothing more than a dream, and advises Rivas not to believe in vampires, zombies, or witches– all of whom are part of the trilogy. “He is almost a reality check on the film.” We can’t wait to see the results.

3. An illuminating lecture on Furries. 

Furries have gotten a bad rap over the years, something that has only been heightened by the community’s aggressive distrust of the media and hyper-secrecy (see: “the David Miscavige of the furry fandom“). It pretty much comes down to one question: why are furries so reluctant to admit that the community is at least partially a fetish one? As Tommy Bruce, an immediately likable photographer who has been documenting the furry community (conventions, private hotel-room play, and even erotic self-portraits), explained, furry culture offers an opportunity for escape.

Judging by the photographs Bruce shared and by his own admission, the community is dominated by gay white males of the computer dork variety. Dressed in a tiger-print button-down, Bruce tried to explain that underneath all that fur, it didn’t matter what you looked like or what your background was, and that it made for a certain degree of gender fluidity. Still, women remain only a very small part of the community at large.

Tommy Bruce (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Tommy Bruce (Photo: Nicole Disser)

As he clicked through his documentary series, Bruce explained the intricacies of furry culture with child-like enthusiasm. The costumes are all made within the community, which is responsible for a self-sustaining economy of its own– all the furry dildos, sex toys, even underwear designed specifically to fit over furry costumes. “I know that non-furries are into it because I get messages [on Grindr] every day,” he laughed. “I think people are just afraid of being weird.” He admitted that he was up there in an attempt to conquer that fear.

Maybe the bravest thing Bruce did was show erotic self-portraits he’d taken. “It’s still an incredibly sensitive issue,” he said of the community’s reticence to show what was really happening behind closed doors at fur-cons. The events, which are the primary means by which furries meet outside of the internet, offer an alternative way to think about sexual relationships. “We can have this sexy experience between friends, it’s not just about monogamy,” Bruce explained. “There’s this sexual community that you’re a part of, it’s like a family almost.” He added, “That sounds weird.”

Bruce explained that furries entered his “periphery” while he was still a teenager discovering his own sexuality by way of online gaming, 4chan, and World of Warcraft. He admitted that, as a guy who was attracted to men, he found gay porn alienating. “I found it to be gruff and impersonal. It felt damning to me.” Instead, the cartoon-like world of furries was an approachable, welcoming outlet for sexuality. “They’re these characters in this happy world,” he explained. “Cuteness mixed with sexuality erases that shame.”

Tommy Bruce and Martin the furry (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Tommy Bruce and Martin the furry (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Martin, Bruce’s furry friend who sat in the audience during the presentation and joined him for the Q+A to follow, agreed. “There’s still so much stigmatization about having sex in costumes,” he explained. Martin, who only got his first suit three years ago, admitted, “One of my first incentives was sex.” He got involved with the furry community when he joined a forum called Furry2Furry– it’s gone now– “I lied about my age,” he said, from underneath a blue dog-fox costume. “I could try on this sexuality. It’s not me, it’s my character.”

Atmus, Bruce’s furry alter-ego, looks like a built Bambi. He explained that, for him, “predator/prey” play was a big part of the eroticism, as well as deprivation. “You can hardly hear, hardly see, hardly breathe,” he said. He also explained that it’s not something that’s as rewarding to do alone. “A lot of the fantasy has to do with the community,” he said. “As Millennials, we’re all getting to having another self, a virtual self, having a fantasy that’s other than yourself. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with escapism.”

Dahlia Rain and her sub (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Dahlia Rain and her sub (Photo: Nicole Disser)

2. A #FinDom and her “loser.”

Mistress Dahlia Rain was kind enough to pose for a picture with Kenny, a man who trailed behind her, cowering. “Get down!” she ordered him, and Kenny obeyed like a well-trained dog. It probably helped that he was on a leash. When the two finally took the stage as part of the “live demonstration” of Financial Domination, Rain expounded on the benefits of such an arrangement. “We have a TPE– Total Power Exchange relationship,” she explained. “A lot of findoms only do this part time.” For Rain, however, this was a full-time undertaking, something that eats up most of her time when she’s not studying to complete her PhD in psychology.

At one point, Rain ordered Kenny to drop his pants. He started to fiddle awkwardly with his boxers. “Ew no! Nobody wants to see that– just your pants,” she said. Rain began slapping him forcefully on the butt with her rod until pieces of it started to fly off.

Paypigs, as they’re called, like Kenny will fork over thousands of dollars, gifts, cash, and even property in exchange for proximity to their “goddesses.” Rain cackled loudly as she explained that Kenny gave his condo to her, and even signs over his paychecks from which she doles out a pitiful allowance for him every week. Most importantly, Rain explained that while she practices findom, she’s more of a femdom–  something that requires a great deal more effort, and in the end is more interesting. However, rarely does a dom/sub relationship like this one involve sex, or even nudity, she explained.

Rain shared her promotional findom video with the audience, in which she shakes her ass at the camera, and makes it rain hundred-dollar bills. At one point, she rubs her Christian Louboutins around in the money pile, chuckling maniacally. “Keep jerking… and pay me,” she instructs her viewers. “I’m so perfect and you’re such a loser.”

1. Haven the Great and her “old ass dog.”

If this list were based on audience reaction alone, I would be compelled to list Goddess Haven’s short video at the top. But, personally, I agree that it was both the most hilarious and most educational of all the films at the fest. And yeah, it was simply wonderful to see such a bossy betch forcing an old white dude wearing a dog mask to grovel at her feet. “Yes, Goddess Haven,” was his refrain to her every request.

At one point, Mistress Haven requested that her dog-slave gobble down an entire bowl of Kibbles n Bits. His woofs turned to whimpers. “You’re my fucking poodle,” she yelled as she whacked him repeatedly.