"Making porn is fun": The startling rise of DIY erotica

Online pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry, and a handful of amateur sites are cashing in

Published May 18, 2015 12:00AM (EDT)

Belle Knox       (Fox News)
Belle Knox (Fox News)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Online pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry — 35 percent of all internet downloads are pornographic, and more than $3,000 is spent on internet porn every second. Every second! In the time it took you to read that sentence, $9,000 has been blown watching people get blown.

Now that so many of us carry the internet in our pockets at all hours of the day and night, it’s not surprising that our access to porn has increased our consumption of it. But not only that, technology has also enabled the democratization of porn in truly groundbreaking ways, as evidenced by the popularity of amateur porn sites like YouPorn, RedTube, Chaturbate, Tube8 — not to mention social sharing sites like Reddit and Tumblr — and the ease with which smartphones have enabled us to shoot, edit, and share videos online with just a few clicks.

Madison Young, a porn director, actress, bondage model, writer, sex educator, and founder of Femina Potens Art Gallery, is a pioneer in this brave new world of DIY porn: "We can't wait for the mainstream to represent our stories and our sexuality in a way that is authentic and resonates with us," she told me in an interview. "Mainstream porn, as well as mainstream television and film, will always be looking at content based on its commercial capitalistic value."

With that in mind, Young created ArtGasm, a monthly erotic film screening in the Bay Area that showcases diverse filmmakers and points of view, and she also recently held her first Erotic Film School, a three-day certification program that walks participants through the process of making their own porn — from concept to editing to distribution and even to marketing. In addition, the school also offered guest appearances from industry professionals like Maggie Mayhem, Andre Shakti, Penny Barber, Danarama, Creamy Coconut, Annie Sprinkle, and Jiz Lee. “We had a wonderful turnout of students from all over the country,” Young said. “Ninety percent of our students were women or genderqueer, which was truly fabulous.”

Young is already gearing up for next year’s film school (happening in spring of 2016), and is currently taking applications for enterprising pornographers on the website. “I'm excited to continue offering erotic film making courses and providing resources to the new DIY pornographers ... who are expanding the vision and voice of what erotic film and porn can be, and the way in which it can impact how we view sex in our culture,” she said.

On top of the film school, Young is also writing a book for Greenery Press on DIY porn, aptly titled The DIY Porn Handbook: Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution, which will be out this winter, and which she said guides individuals step by step through the process of picking up the camera and creating a film. “I believe the most compelling, authentic, interesting voices in erotic film are coming from women, queers, the trans community, feminist community, and artists who are fearless in their representation of authentic desire,” said Young. “There are more women than ever before in history picking up the camera and documenting and filming their desires and the world of sexuality as seen through their eyes.”

Why create your own porn? Some are drawn to DIY erotic filmmaking because they don’t see their desires and fantasies reflected in mainstream porn, which is often made for a limited audience (for men, by men), and excludes a vast world of different sexualities and bodies (See “10 things porn gets horribly wrong about women” and men). Young wants to broaden our conceptions of what porn can be, and for enterprising filmmakers to “create imagery and stories that bring the audience into the world as they experience it. I'm really focusing on empowering others to pick up the camera and tell their story.”

Others, such as Pandora Blake, also find making porn to be a source of empowerment, as well as a political act, as she wrote about on The Frisky: “For years, porn has been considered a boy’s game. The early producers, distributors, and gatekeepers of the adult industry were all male, and for some this has given the genre a bad name. But porn isn’t essentially male-dominated any more than the world of fine art is; it just historically has been because of patriarchy. We can fix it, and I think we have a duty to do so.”

Blake also noted that making her own porn taught her to “love my own flesh. It’s provided a safe space for me to be sexual, and to explore some of my deepest, darkest fantasies. I’ve learned confidence, body pride, and self-love.” And “above all else, when you’re your own boss, making porn is fun. There’s the performance adrenaline, the thrill of being center stage. With some fetish porn there’s a hefty endorphin kick, too. When the camera’s rolling, your movements and reactions will become more theatrical, more expressive — which results in better communication between you and your partner and gives them more feedback on your pleasure, leading to a better time for all.”

It remains to be seen whether amateur and DIY porn will have a substantial effect on mainstream porn, but what is clear is that such sites are here to stay, and they are giving traditional pornographers a run for their money. As The Guardian put it, “The arrival of free YouTube-style porn sites meant that consumers could download pirated scenes from the vast backlog of old content for free. The phenomenon of DIY amateur sex ... also put a dent in the professionals' paychecks. Suddenly an industry that was a byword for easy money, raking in billions by exploiting the anonymity of point-and-click purchasing, was fighting for its life.”

The rise of DIY porn has also proven that there is definitely a market for porn that is more diverse, authentic, artistic, and feminist. “It's up to us,” said Young, “the artists, the activists, to care about and create change for the cultural advancement of our communities, and the way in which we are represented as individuals and sexual beings.”

By Anna Pulley

@annapulley writes about sex and social media for SF Weekly, AlterNet, After Ellen and the Chicago Tribune. She's also attempting to lead a haiku revival on her blog, annapulley.com. Let her send you overly personal emails: http://tinyletter.com/annapulley.

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Alternet Bondage Diy Erotica Porn Pornography Youporn