On Saturday I had the pleasure to meet the goddess of sexual liberation herself: Annie Sprinkle. Annie was performing her new show LOVE ART LAB in London with her wife Beth Stevens.
Annie has always been fiercely fearless in sharing her most intimate experiences and innermost thought. But this time round her performance was not just about sex but about love and death too. Sex, Love, death – the eternal themes that touch all of our lives – whether we like it or not.
After years as a bi prostitute, porn star, photographer, filmmaker and performer Annie came out as a lesbian. She fell in love with Beth Stevens, an academic and artist. They fell so truly madly deeply that they decided to commit and get married. It was not a popular step to take in the gay scene – many still see it as Annie giving in to conservative family values and betraying alternative life styles. Annie and Beth relived their vows in front of us – they pledged to support each other and give each other all the freedom they might need: a powerful combination of holding on and letting go…Their deep commitment got across as an empowering partnership for both of them enabling them to be even more themselves than they could be on their own. But it has not all been romance and rose for Annie and Beth since they got married 3 years ago.
One particularly touching scene of the show was when Annie received a boob massage from Beth, revelling in the thought how much pleasure her giant real boobs have given thousands of people and of course herself. They re-enacted the moment when Beth found a lump in Annie’s breast. Annie, the goddess of sexual pleasure has cancer.
Being the vibrant, positive and creative person she is, Annie turned her surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy into art performances. She and Beth turned up to the chemotherapy sessions in fancy dress and projected their most flamboyant looks during the show with a live catwalk style commentary. When Annie’s hair fell out they both shaved each others heads. Annie said “This is so un-sexy” and proceeded to take her wig off – her trademark auburn mane gone, replaced with a short crop.
Annie is a unique star in a scene where it is all about looks. She is letting go of all vanity and allows herself to be vulnerable. Within her fearlessness and honesty lies beauty. Feeling it, not faking it – even the pain and the sadness… I felt strangely touched because in the past I also had a lump in my breast and have been through nightmarish thoughts myself. It was not cancer, so I did not have to go through what Annie had to survive. But the fear of cancer is very real for most women. So Annie sharing her fight to survive is an empowering experience for many women. Surviving cancer has made Annie stronger than ever before. Strong and filled with a positive energy that seems to transcend any negativity.
At the end of their show Beth and Annie sang “What the world needs now is love, sweet love…” and we all joined in. It was a magical moment of un-ashamed soppy happiness and testimony to “the power of love”.
Sex is great, love is great too and if you have both rolled into one – it is amazing and can be life changing.
After the show I was able to give Annie and Beth a goodie bag with the “Female Fantasies” DVD (I hope they watch it and like it), Lush soap, champagne truffles and a bottle of bubbly. It was my way to say “Thank You !” to Annie for paving the path for women like me who believe in the freedom of sexual self expression and the power of female sexuality. Annie once said that “The answer to really bad porn is not no porn but to make ally good porn !”. And she is right. I do not understand feminists who say ALL porn is bad porn. What about women who get turned on by sexual images ? Why not give them a choice to watch what they want? It is about variety. It is the spice that keeps sex interesting and exciting. The answer to sexist porn is not no porn but feminist porn.
This afternoon I was finally able to catch up with Emilia who has starred in two of my films and has recently had a little baby boy named Croft. Emilia looks absolutely stunning right now, a glowing skin, radiant smile and big, beautiful breast. She has blossomed into a stunning woman and her natural beauty is perfect. She asked me if I wanted her to colour her hair blond for the film as it has gone quite red since her pregnancy and I said “No way ! Stay how you are. You are beautiful”. Even though Emilia is right now absorbed in motherhood to cute little Croft, she is really looking forward to our shoot in November. She is ready for a big sensual play session and I am sure that as always she will really enjoy it.
Today against all odds we finally filmed the angel scene. Phil from Germany came to my rescue after Ciciolino pulled out from the shoot last minute. Phil flew over especially even cancelling a lucrative photo shoot to help me out. I can not even begin to say how much I appreciate his commitment to the project and spontaneous support.
The weather was perfect: a sunny day promising a glorious sunset. We shot a very slow, sensual scene with stunning images. Phil and Vanessa looked gorgeous together – him being the hunk in angel wings and her being a petite beauty.
The only problem was that the sunset came way too soon and I felt overwhelmed with multi tasking – sometime times there is just not enough time for me to do it all: directing, camerawork and stills photography, especially when the clock is ticking. I have always wanted to work with a minimal crew to keep the set intimate but am seriously debating to possible hire a camera person so I can focus on directing and taking stills. It will be difficult to find the right person: someone with a good eye, un-phased by the sex and able to relate to the whole team in a non-judgemental, supportive way.
I am also looking for a runner who can help out during the next shoots whilst gaining production experience. I guess it is time to make the team stronger as when there are 7 performers like in the imminent group scene shoot, I can simply not do it all!
I woke up from nightmares. Nightmares about a hailstorm during the angel shoot on the rooftop. Nightmares that I booked a flight for a performer to the wrong destination. Nightmares about shoots and maybe the whole production of the new film going wrong. I also have a stinking cold and am worried simply sick about the new film. Until now there have been so many complications already and the new film already looks to cost twice as much as Female Fantasies due to travel costs and location fees.
Suzanne N. called. She produced two adult educational films called “Modern Loving” a year ago. She told me that casting for her films was the hardest thing she ever had to do. We swapped stories about unreliable performers. People tuning up at a porn shoot and then not being prepared to sign a release form. People assuming they will get to have sex with the whole crew. People bluntly lying about their appearance. Suzanne recommended two sexy guys she knows that might be interested in working with me and I have already texted them. Fingers crossed. She also recommended a professional porn casting website. Some of the guys on it are really good looking but there is no information in their profiles about what makes them tick and what they enjoy sexually. There is no contact information. How am I supposed to book someone based on two or three photos without ever having spoken to them, explaing about my concept and finding if we click? It seems like the easiest thing in the world to find players in a porn film but it is so hard to find someone gorgeous and genuine, sexually liberated and sensual, creative and caring.
I just got back from the beach. I was filming seagulls in the sunset for my angel scene. I need to believe that this scene is still going to happen. But it might not – after Cicciolino pulled out of his role 48 hours before the shoot. We were supposed to film tomorrow. The conditions are perfect. In England we are having an Indian summer with a golden sunlight and pink sunsets and wispy clouds right now. The location, crew and performers were booked and after weeks waiting for the right weather it has finally come, we were all rearing to go.
I spoke to Cicciolino only a few days ago to check we are still on and all is OK. He told me he was looking forward to the shoot and I booked his manicure and bought him some underwear and army boots.
When I asked him about his “Ex” girlfriend he said that they are not seeing each other right now and even if they did, he would still be up for the filming and I could definitely count on him. Then he phoned me the following day sounding shifty and vague. He said his girlfriend (rather than “ex” girlfriend… I now have a feeling that they were together all along and he simply did neither tell her nor me the truth) has bought them tickets for a trip to Spain over the weekend and so he can’t do the shoot.
I was speechless. He was not even apologising for letting the crew, performers and me down with very short notice but tried to talk his way out of the situation he created by feeling sorry for himself. Based on past experiences with Cicciolino I do feel that this is going to happen again and again. I simply can not afford to work with someone who is letting me and the team down. So I told him that I will not consider booking him in the future. Ciccolino was the one with big porn star ambitions. He does not realise that it requires reliability, hard work and commitment to be successful in this business. If he had broken the contract at a big commercial porn production he could be sued now. Because I am a small, independent producer, some people think they can mess me around and it really upsets me. It is so hard to organise everything all over again from scratch. If one element changes, the whole shoot tumbles like a deck of cards. I have no idea where I will get a new performer now at such short notice. And even if I find one, I need to find a day when everyone is available at the same time, the location is free and the sun will shine. Wish me luck.
Today was not a good day. My car blew up on the motorway and I had to be towed home. It was the first car I spent more than a few hundred pounds on and it did not even last a year. I was only grateful that I was able to pull over onto a nearby hard shoulder. Otherwise the consequences could have been horrible. As the engine is ruined now this will be a very expensive repair or I have to buy a replacement car as soon as possible. One way or another it means an unexpected expense at a time where I need literally every penny for the new film production.
Then I came home to an email to Joerg who I had cast in Germany and had high hopes for as one of the gorgeous male players of my new film. He had only now gotten a chance to view my first film “Sexual Sushi” – his reaction to my first film was harsh criticism. He felt that “it looks like not a lot of money was spent on it”, “the performers were not attractive” and that “the sex scenes were very upfront, limited to too few body parts and the activity of the performers stressed him”. I was stunned.
What did he expect? Yes I DO produce porn films with erections and penetrations rather than soft-core films. If he had seen a bit of average mainstream porn, he would realise how little hard-core activity Sushi actually shows and how different my way of lighting, shooting and editing is. He showed the film to three of his male flatmates and they shared his criticism – a surprising experiment as clearly my films are made for women and couples and not the average single man.
He still wanted to appear in my film but I realised after his profound criticism that he does neither truly understand nor support my concept. I need to work with people who trust me as a director. Trust into my creative vision and that I will look after them as a person as much as a performer. I will always honour someone’s personal preferences when it comes to the sex and welcome and thrive on constructive input of my team members in developing a play scene together. But if I shoot with six performers in an expensive hired location it is simply impossible for me as the director, camerawoman and stills photographer to get involved into detailed discussions about my way to direct and shoot.
So I decided not to take the co-operation with Joerg further. I simply feared dramas on the shoot when we all should be working together, supporting each other – an atmosphere where creativity can flow freely. The quest for the ideal male part-time porn performer continues…
Last night I went to the “Night Of The Senses” – an amazing annual event where the “Erotic Oscars” are handed out to creative talent working in the erotic industry. The event raises money for “Outsiders”, a charity promoting relationships and sex for handicapped people. It is refreshing to experience a sex scene that does not involve body fascists but welcomes able bodied people just as much as disabled players. It has always annoyed me that at some swinger parties and fetish events the door policy is strict and only the young and beautiful are allowed in and made welcome. We are all sexual and sensual creatures and attractiveness to me has nothing to do with a perfect body but a with a sensual mind and the ability to give and receive pleasure.
Because I admire Tuppy Owens and her relentless fight for sexual equality and freedom for women and men of any colour, body shape or fetish so much, it was a huge honour to be awarded three years ago with the erotic award for my photography.
This time I came back to network and be inspired. My new casting flyers are ready so I had a stash in my bag to stick onto walls and mirrors.
The event is like nothing else. Whereas many sexual scenes are fiercely protective of who attends and is considered “normal” – at the night of the senses pretty much anything goes. The only rule is respect. You don’t touch someone without being invited and a “No” is a “No”. Apart from that the night celebrates sexual diversity. There are loads of different play rooms where people can live out their sexual fantasies. From adult babies to swingers, strippers and slaves… it is here where you can meet people of a huge variety of sexual orientations. The stereotypes of “straight and gay”, “fetish and vanilla” blur and melt and the huge variety creates many spicy flavours that you can sample by watching or actively getting involved into the play.
The “anything goes den” is surrounded by black sheets and has slits for voyeurs cut into its floating walls. I love to catch glimpse of other people’s ecstasy. Depending on which slit I choose to peep through, I get up close and personal to another persons fantasy. As this is a free peep show what happens in the space is not a performance but looks and feels more like a Roman orgy. I watch a naked guy in Victorian black cloak and top head fuck a blonde woman doggy style. She only wears a collar and a lead and moans when he pulls her towards him. Two biker couples that are enjoying the variety of a foursome and as they spot my curious eyes on the other side of the sheet, they invite me and another person to join in. I like the way the tables were turned and the voyeurs became the watched ones. I decide to stay behind the sheet and watch more action through another window, the kick being not to have to do anything but just being inspired by the sensual scenarios that are unfolding before my eyes.
A woman is riding a bloke who sits on the sofa. She arches her back and moans and by the way her buttocks spasm I can tell that she is coming really hard. He looks at her in awe… that look guys give a woman every time they realise that women are truly multi-orgasmic creatures. A woman in a white PVC nurse outfit lies back and rest her booted legs on her lovers shoulders. He is broad-shouldered and slowly slides a condom on before he penetrates her slow and deep. His bum is chiselled and I think that male bums and backs are highly underestimated in erotica. I also think that here is quiet a bit to be said for missionary: the eye contact and her being completely relaxed and at ease, letting him please her. He obviously knows how to please her as he hands her a small vibrating bullet for her to stimulate her clit whilst he is fucking her. I do like a man that enjoys giving pleasure.
The room is like a sensual garden of Eden with people tasting each other like ripe and ready fruits. I enjoy the food for thought. Much of what I was blessed to witness would not be shown in a mainstream porn film and might not have been generated by my naughty mind either (I never thought of using a cloak as a prop for a naked man, but its hot).
Another room, another world. I hear a woman’s loud moans. They draw me in. Her moans are not high but she groans with pleasure almost like an animal. When I step into the room I see men, lots of men surrounding a kind of metal bed. All I see of the woman is her raised hips and pussy. She is being fingered slowly and deeply by just one guy and watched by all the others. The guy’s eyes meet mine. He appreciates and enjoys being watched. This is so different from the group wank scenario of a “Bukake” party. The guys are not her to degrade the woman. The guys watch a woman being pleasured. And they know they are lucky to witness this intimate moment – a glimpse into the world infinite female sexual power. A woman receiving total pleasure without shame. She is not serving but being served. Pleasured by one man and adored by the others. To me it felt like a temple to worship to female lust. Deep wet and roaring. And a shiver goes down my spine.
I love to step into such unknown worlds. It is like every room unravels and reveals even deeper and darker fantasies – many of them censored in “real life”. The ball is a rare event where people can let go enjoy without being judged. I love looking through the kaleidoscope of pleasures, watching, witnessing and verifying that yes, we are free to live out what we desire if only we dare to be ourselves.