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Sex-Positive Erotic Films: For the Spiritual Masses?

Sex-Positive Erotic Films: For the Spiritual Masses?
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  Naked Vs. Nude

Sexually explicit art moved me differently. The continuum of art and porn sometimes had fuzzy boundaries, and drawing the line between the two wasn’t always easy, but I allowed my intuition to guide me on this related journey down the path of subtle eroticism. In part, the difference had to do with perception, both of the viewer and the person being viewed. The discomfort I felt as a child when I was first exposed to these images now became clear—there’s a difference between nakedness and nudity.

For the sake of clarification, I define nudity as a state of intimacy and trust, free from implied or real subjugation, pretense and harm; to be naked, on the other hand, is to be stripped of respect, personal dignity and protection from the consequences, any consequences, of being viewed, objectified and used.

Accordingly, then, art elevates the nude—photographer, subject and viewer as well—so that we are left with a sense of awe and appreciation for the human form. It appeals to our higher mind.

Yes, it is evocative and quite often we may have a sexual response to it, but that is secondary to rendering us free from shame and embarrassment. Nudity sanctifies the human body, and is therefore art. Pornography exploits the human body, and is therefore not.

  Porn For The Spirit?

Or is this the complete story? For some time, I’d known of a new genre of erotic film, one that put art into our voyeuristic jollies and replaced exploitation with tenderness, intimacy and awe. At once applauded and reviled depending on the camp to which a viewer might align himself or herself with, these films hailed as sex-positive and feministic; hot and furious with a woman’s pleasure at the center of the plot.

Call me irreverent if you will, but I couldn’t help but ask in trademark cheeky and serious form, just what would God/Goddess say about this new breed of porn? If a film could pass this muster, which from my open-minded, vanilla, heterosexual, man-loving feminist AND, perhaps most critical to this essay spiritual POV (don’t we all just love labels?), then the whole pornographic kit-and-caboodle got way more intriguing.




Forgive me if it seems to the posse of porn-appreciating readers that I’m coming to these realizations social-eons behind the times. Trying to reconcile Spirituality and Porn in one essay is, quite mildly, impossible to do. This called for research; in this case actually watch some films and talking to the experts.

I reached out to Jennifer Lyon Bell, producer of Matinee (2010, Blue Artichoke Films), a movie she described as an “explicit erotic film” that tells the story of Daniel and Mariah, stage actors who surprise their critics and audience with real sexual heat in response to assessments that the show lacks passion.

Matinee has gotten significant press in Europe, and recently won “Best Short Narrative Film” at the CineKink/NYC Film Festival, “Best Short Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, and Honorable Mention at the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto.

I asked Bell, was there a place where naughty could play nice on film and in soul?

“There are a couple of reasons that I think ethically-made alternative pornography, including my own, could be an enjoyable and positive experience for a religious couple,” Bell explains. “Through the genuine respect that the lead characters, Daniel and Mariah, have for one another in the film, viewers glimpse the, ‘kernel of light’ at the center of every really transcendent sexual experience. You feel that the other person has truly seen you and that you have seen them, no matter how long you’ve actually known each other.”

Bell posits that “in truly great sex, the idea of selfishness disappears because your partner’s ecstasy becomes your own; you become more and more aroused by seeing them aroused. It’s a purely generous feeling. I’d imagine that many people could find that these emotions and feelings reflect and buttress those they are trying to cultivate in their own marriages.”



Daniel and Mariah disagree in Matinee

Says Bell, such couples watching Matinee might further be “drawn in by the interesting story and approachable characters, and relate to the film more like one they’d see in the cinema. By the time the sex scene starts gradually, they’d be able to enjoy it without being frozen by the embarrassment of realizing Aack! We’re actually watching porn together. And then they might find themselves turned on as the scene grows more intense … I like the idea that, after Matinee is over, the couple might be torn between the desire to discuss the movie’s plot and what ‘really’ happened, and the desire to turn off the film and make love immediately!”

“Does that mean we are in the midst of a creating a new sexual and spiritual film paradigm?” I asked.

“I hope I’m helping, in my own small way, to build that crucial cultural paradigm that delivers us from shame,” Bell told me. “As a self-identified ‘sex-positive feminist,’ I believe that women’s lives become more fulfilling when they can express themselves sexually without fear or shame … So many feel isolated because we’re not sure if our fantasies or wishes are OK.”

Bell’s conclusion? That ethically created and female-centered “porn and erotica are creative tools that can help you enjoy an imaginative fantasy, without actually doing anything you find immoral or scary.”

Will films such as Matinee convince the spiritual masses that feminist porn is a niche for them, too? There’s no telling how a mainstream culture still conflicted about real-life sexuality will ultimately respond to real-life making love on film, but I see it as a possibility.

There’s a scene at the end of the movie, after Mariah and Daniel have made love in which she’s staring back at her reflection on the mirror, and I couldn’t tell who was staring back: the lead actor, her film character, or the character she played in the story within the story. It really didn’t matter—all three were smiling, fully satiated and satisfied, humanely glorified.

I wanted to shout, “You go, Girl!” but I had, um, more pressing things to attend to.

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Comments

Amazing article! And now I really want to see that film!

02/18/2011
Martin  

"in truly great sex, the idea of selfishness disappears because your partner’s ecstasy becomes your own; you become more and more aroused by seeing them aroused. It’s a purely generous feeling...."
YES, YES, YES, Shout it from the roof tops YES !!! So happy to hear you say this! Thank you...

02/19/2011

YES! YOU ARE WELCOME MARTIN! And thanks for commenting - you too Darling Jen.

02/20/2011

Isn't it funny? The quote I immediately seized upon was the same as Martin. There's a sense that one person's unselfishness feeds that same trait in a partner. It's a force so powerful, it may even plant seeds and grow a fulfilling sense of sexual generosity one where none existed previously.

Great piece.

02/28/2011

(Let's try that one again, POST-coffee!)

Isn't it funny? The quote I immediately seized upon was the same as Martin. There's a sense that one person's unselfishness feeds that same trait in a partner. It's a force so powerful, it may even plant seeds and grow a fulfilling sense of sexual generosity where none existed previously.

Great piece.

PS: (I shared this one on my Facebook fan page.)

02/28/2011

love love love this article! My views on pornography are constantly changing. It is a subject I struggle with. This has helped me open my mind up. I have never understood the phrases such as 'female centered' or erotica or porn geared toward women. It seems sexist to me. Everyone is different. Some females prefer genres typically geared toward men, and vice versa.

05/01/2011
Philip Knight  

Well, geez, sister T, I read this a while back not realizing you wrote it - lol. I checked out whatever one could online about the Matinee movie and it certainly is intriguing.

A "Conscious Male" P.O.V.
____________________

I have to admit that I have my male shorts (in my case briefs, not boxers) a bit in a wad when when things like this are deemed female-centric. Not that I don't understand why -- you know me well enough, misogynist I ain't by a long shot. I've seen the pain of rape and abuse of women in very personal ways.

I suppose it's more a kind of sadness-laced "Why can't 'we men' come up with more soulful stuff of this genre or beyond?" reaction woven into my reaction to female-centric. Sure, my personal albeit gently exhibitionist video/photo work points in that direction, but it is as you know, the versions that "show all" are a very private, very limited viewing thing. Why so?

In part, simple setting of boundaries. But truth is it is the fear of being judged as a perver or narcissistic "Oh, there goes another man infatuated with his penis. Sheeeeeezus, guys are such morons...." That being what I'd not like from the women side of things.

The men side, well, that could be even worse. From being seen as some "pinko commie new age faggot" to who knows what else. And I'm not even gay - though also not a homo-bi-trans or any other lifestyle phobe either. I may not be a wild guy who skates around the sexual buffet table nibbling at every entree (and/or sortie? ;o) but also no prude either.

I'm also turned off by the vast majority of porn -- there is too much underlying desperation-to-be-sexy going on. Not to mention the thing that really pisses me off... young, stunningly pretty women I'd die to touch yet that "look" in the eye as they "service" some guy: "God, I hate doing this but I need the money... and this guy kind of scares me too." Let's not even go into kiddy porn.

I can only watch something that you would in fact call woman-centric -- where I see that the woman is actually REALLY enjoying herself. Be it a blow job or whatever with her boyfriend. Even if its technically "porn". One can tell right away (or at least I can) whether there is actually some love in the room or not.

One more reason I'd be considered a "pinko commie new age faggot."

Point: Call it prudence, dicernment and/or my being a weenie, but I'm certainly not ready to go out and show myself in a public way- solo or with another at this point in the nude. The only way I could do it would be that there would be love in my own or her own room if she would like to co-star in some very sweetly passionate sacred sex, "sex-as-prayer" with me.

Yet even then... I don't know if I'd want her to be subjected to the lances of judgment either.
Maybe it's a matter of being patient and waiting until there is a sufficient opening in the collective to be able to start to show sex as sacred passion.

I wrote a scene in a TV mini-series script now shelved in a way that was actually PG to R-rated and it was really cool -not female-centric, not male-centric. It was human love-centric yet also mystical due to some nice light effects.

That was in 1999 or so and the story was pre-911 so a bit dated.
But that scene is also still shelved.

Thanks for reading and glow on, sister.

Philip Steven Knight
CompassionSensuality.Net
[http://www.compassionsensuality.net]


"The softest thing in the universe overcomes the hardest thing in the universe." ~ Tao Te Ching

07/29/2011

Neat

11/21/2012

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