Head’s up: I’m going to do the best I can to be as socially acceptable as I can, but maybe you shouldn’t read this at work. I don’t know what kind of job you have. Maybe you have the kind of job where you can do whatever the hell you want. I just don’t want to get into trouble if your work would deem this inappropriate. ‘Nuff said. Moving on.
While I was in Japan I would sporadically check my email on computers where the keyboards had some recognizable letters, but mostly not so much with that, so I would vaguely hen-peck my way across the keys in the hopes that I was hitting the right ones. This made checking my email a bit of an uphill battle, so I skimmed them for words like “emergency / flood / fire / catastrophe / no survivors” and as long as none of those popped up I felt pretty good. I saw an email from Snorth that said something along the lines of “You wanna do a thing three months from now with Dan Savage?” I knew that I didn’t have any plans in three months and I like doing things, so I said yes and tried to remember that I made plans for late April. Two weeks before the end of April I finally got around to asking Snorth, “What did I agree to go to in two weeks?” and Snorth said, “Oh, Dan Savage hosts a sex-positive film festival in the Northwest every year since the mid-2000s and for the first time it’s coming to New York and we’re gonna go see it.” It took me a minute but eventually it sunk it. “We’re going to see artsy porn, is that what you’re saying?” And Snorth said, “Yes, you and me and my husband are going to see amateur porn curated by Dan Savage in a theater with other people at 4:00 in the afternoon two Saturdays from now.” “Well, alright then,” I said.
First, who is Dan Savage. He’s probably most well-known for answering questions on a self-help column focusing on sex and romance issues called Savage Love. He is also well-known for starting the It Gets Better Project, where adults, both homosexual and not, film videos where they tell kids it’s not worth killing yourself because of bullying. I have found him to be arrogant at times so I am not a big fan, but Snorth likes him a great deal so she was excited to go see him. The film festival is called Hump Tour, and here’s a small snapshot of what it entails.
Since 2005 the HUMP! Film Festival has challenged ordinary people from all over the Pacific Northwest to become temporary, weekend porn stars-by making their very own five-minute dirty movies for a chance to win big cash prizes! And they did not disappoint! The resulting short films run the gamut of sexual styles: straight, gay, lesbian, transgender… every color in the sexual rainbow… and some we never knew existed. HUMP! films are funny, thought-provoking, sad, artistic, outrageous, and almost overwhelmingly sexy – because they’re real. And they’re real because they were created and performed by sex-positive people, just like YOU. That’s why we’re bringing the very best of HUMP! to your town! See 20 of the hottest HUMP films in action… they’ll make you laugh, squeal, and marvel at the broad (and creative) range of human sexuality. It’s the HUMP! Tour 2014!
Saturday rolled around and I met Snorth outside The Village East Cinema at about 3:00 (it was general admission and I wanted a good seat). As we rolled in the people taking tickets at the door told us Dan Savage would be answering any questions we might have, so if we did have any questions we should write them on the index cards provided. It occurred to me that I didn’t have any questions before the movies but I bet I would have A WHOLE LOT afterwards. After they took our tickets we got to sit in a big beautiful turn-of-the-century theater covered with Arabic motifs. Then Dan Savage showed up and gave us a talk before the movies commenced. He first answered some of the index card questions, and he gave what I considered some pretty phenomenal answers considering he didn’t have any time to prepare. One question was, “I am a gay man and I have recently begun a relationship with someone new. When I friended him on Facebook I noticed we had about twenty friends in common, all young Asian men. I am a young Asian man. Should I be concerned? Should I break up with him?” Dan Savage said, “There’s nothing wrong your new boyfriend having a preference. Everybody has preferences. If a white man only dates other white men, no one thinks anything of it. Here’s the key – as long as he treats you like a person with thoughts and feelings and opinions and value who happens to be young and Asian, that’s fine. If he treats you like an object, like a fetish trinket, then you should cut him loose.” Another question was, “I am a straight man. My wife just left me for a woman. She wants to keep it a secret from our kids, but I don’t feel like I should have to do that. What would you recommend?” “Ooooh,” Dan said. “People are going to disagree with me on this, but I don’t think you should have to keep that secret. When your wife left you for another woman, making it a possibility that she was a lesbian the whole time and the entire marriage was a sham, she wrote that story. But this is your story too, and you have every right to tell your side. If your children ask, you should tell them the truth. You don’t have to force it on them, but if it comes up, you can say whatever you feel comfortable with.” I thought those were terrific answers to some tough topics and my esteem for Dan Savage went way up.
Then he explained the rules to us. I LOVED the rules. I think people are entitled jerk-faces and these rules were a delicious treat to me, one in particular. I’ll explain. Recently I went to see the Broadway show Pippin with my parents and throughout the entire show a man sitting in front of me would pull out his cellphone and check his texts. The text screen is mostly white, so that light was blasting right into my face every time. I thought about asking him to stop but he looked scary and I didn’t want to start a situation, so me and all the people sitting around me seethed through whole chunks of the show. At Hump Tour it was explained that since these were amateur videos, these people are possibly professionals and didn’t want their jobs jeopardized for performing. “Therefore,” Dan said, “There are people standing at the bottom of the screen watching you the entire time. There are three of my staff scattered throughout the audience, and they will not be watching the movies, they will also be watching you the entire time. If you pull out a cell phone for any reason it will be taken away from you and never returned. If you automatically pull out your phone when it vibrates, turn it completely off so you won’t be tempted.” As he said this I closed my eyes and let it wash over me. Repercussions for poor behavior! So yummy and fantastic! It’s one of the reasons I adore this commercial by the Alamo Drafthouse:
After the rules were covered the retrospective began. I won’t go into the details but I will say that what I expected was exactly what I got. I had anticipated that 95% of the films would make me go, “Well, if that’s what you’re into…” and 5% would make me go “THAT’S NOT A GOOD THING TO BE INTO PLEASE STOP.” I will never be able to listen to the song “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” the same way again. I think I spoke under my breath a few times, once to say, “Sir, do not lick that oil-encrusted car part, that will give you cancer. Sir? Sir? He’s licking it.” Then was also “Wash you hands before you touch that pizza.” What was so surprising to me was how un-titillated I was. If I had to describe the experience, it would be, “White people have too much free time.” And before you judge me, you go see all these films and then try to tell me that we know how to fill the hours of the day productively. All this libidinous exploration makes me tired. I’m glad I went, but I don’t know if I would go again. If you want a more thorough explanation of the films, meet me in person and I will describe them in detail, complete with hand gestures and festive sound effects. In the meantime, the creators of one of the films put their entry up on YouTube. You can watch it and get a sense of Hump Tour.