CineKink NYC 2017

I spent last week in New York City, exploring the city and attending CineKink NYC 2017, a film festival based around sex positivity and the erotic and sensual. Due to the impending blizzard, the first night’s festivities were postponed indefinitely, which meant I instead  spent the day inside with CATS, food, and my favorite, sex-positive, girls-as-friends movie, “For A Good Time, Call…”

On WEDNESDAY, I spent the day with one of my nonbinary friends, trying on short haired wigs with boy-drag and gender presentation in mind. We went to Purple Passion to look at leather and latex. We drank tea, ate scones, and took an imaginary shot each time we were misgendered that day. I slowly made my way to the East Village, went to some high-end thrift shops, and got to the Film Anthology Archives just in time for the evening’s presentations.

The night began with Secretary, a mainstream film exploring aspects of BDSM. This was chosen as CineKink’s opener because it was the tribute selection for the film festival’s 2003  inaugural event. Despite being a mainstream film recently promoted by BDSM and film communities as a better alternative to the Fifty Shades saga, I’d never seen it. James Spader plays closed off lawyer E. Edward Grey, whose secretarial position is filled by Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Though a sexy classic I was disappointed as someone seeing the film for the first time. How does Mr. Grey go from fitting Miss Holloway in saddle and bit to firing her as a result of his perversions? I do think it’s worth watching but I had slightly higher hopes for it.

In Search of Candy followed Secretary. The former is short film that takes place at Camp Crucible, a kinky week+ long retreat in Maryland. It centers around the search for Candy, a toilet slut who said she would attend the camp, who seems too good to be true. Spoiler alert: she is. Perhaps it would be more enjoyable if I were someone who had attended camp, but the shaky footage made me nauseous and the inside jokes didn’t make sense to this outsider.

The night closed with Horse Being. I’ve never been interested in pony-play,1Where someone takes on the role of a pony in an extension of pet-play and/or being a furry. but the gorgeous shots and intimacy in Horse Being give me a better understanding of the appeal. Karen takes a trip to Florida so she can be intensively trained as a pony by Foxy. Her training involves 10lb weighted hooves on each foot and stumbling on uneven ground, while wearing blinders that separate her from one of her senses. The film blended human & horse experiences beautifully by including snippets of folks talking about their most enjoyable aspects of pony-play and by interspersing shots of horses (or ‘equines’ as Foxy calls them) with shots of Karen and later of another pony (how Foxy refers to humans participating in pony play) during training. My favorite thing about this film was its sound mixing, especially in hearing human breathing layered with the huffs, neighs, and whinnies of horses and how the film would fade between these sounds. Oh and the gorgeous forest shots of sunlight filtering through woods. As an art-piece film, Horse Being succeeds with intimacy, beauty and substance.

On THURSDAY, a variety of shorts showcased the overarching theme “More Than Two” by exploring relationships that involve just that. I didn’t really get MonkeyLion and Wolf, but the ethereal visuals, costuming, and makeup reminded me of something Julie Taymor would make. I think this short would make more sense presented alongside Horse Being.

We then saw a few episodes of the webseries The Ethical Slut, based on the book of the same name. In the context of the clips we saw, the series did not make sense. The characters were not really introduced, which made it confusing. Having now found the Facebook and YouTube pages for the series, I understand it better. A few of the episodes were really cute and heartwarming, but the lack of context was hard to get over at the time.

To say I was not impressed with Daybreak is an understatement. While the production value was high, it didn’t feel like it brought anything new to porn as a genre. A perfectly made-up & airbrushed woman gets up topless, puts on a shirt, and makes breakfast for the person waiting in bed. Artsty Food Network-esque shots are interspersed with shots of her butt peeking out from the shirt she casually threw on. She brings breakfast upstairs and wakes her partner with oral sex. Surprise! Her partner is another (perfectly made up & airbrushed) woman! They proceed to have the most boring oral sex I have ever seen, first one and then the other. Did either climax? I don’t know but I do know their mani-pedis were picture perfect. Afterwards, they sit topless in bed and I’m glad it’s over. Could it get any more heteronormative and male-gazey? Apparently! The film closes with a husband’s excitement that his wife is in bed with another woman. Groundbreaking. I’m hardpressed to find what in this film was “breaking the norm” as the filmmakers described.

On the other hand, Four Day Weekend also had great production values and felt very real and relatable. It was a great addition to show that, for some folks, polyamory works differently or doesn’t work at all. Like Totally Hot Couple Seeking Same also explored how polyamory doesn’t work for everyone, but was HILARIOUS. A perfectly timed comedy, and well deserving of the award it won. Been Too Long At The Fair was a fascinating memoir-style piece about The Fair, a movie theater in New York that still shows porn in the back screens. The Fair and remains a one of the only theater/gay hook-up combinations in New York. The narration over the top of clips at the theater combines storytelling history and is the perfect style for the story to be told.

In comparison to the earlier male-gaze disaster, Trinity was ACTUALLY A GOOD THREESOME! It starts out by leading the audience to assume that the (white) narrator is watching his female partner engage in a cuckolding scenario with a black guy. But then he joins the two, which leads to really hot multiracial, gay, fucking cute sex. After the scene, we learn that the couple is actually the two men in the scene, thus ending this set of shorts on a very positive note for me.

Afterwards, I was joined by my nonbinary friend and a friend of his for “Kink and Community” shorts. Folsom Street felt very ‘Chicago: The Musical.’ I’m a sucker for choreographed dance scenes and this one was bittersweet since Kink.com recently stopped production of porn at The Armory in San Francisco (where this was filmed). It was awesome to see a wide variety of bodies & kink expression. You’ve Got Tail was another great example of kink and trans bodies that were not sexualized in a fetishizing way, but I got personally upset when peanut butter was put close to internal genitals (that’s just asking for a yeast infection!). As my nb film-companion for the evening said, Playing Scrabble was excellent in providing warnings for MANY of the kinks portrayed in a short amount of time.

Coming of Age was a very intimate look into age-play between two older German men, exploring ideas behind Daddy+son ageplay that I hadn’t previously considered. Similarly, Please May I Come Mistress portrayed a softer & gentler side of female domination. Thursday night’s films ended with By The People: 25 Years of Community Archiving at Leather Archives & Museum. It was fascinating to learn how oral & passed down history has been & continues to be collected by the people whose history it is.

After the screenings, we went for one drink… which naturally turned into karaoke until about 4am and warm friendship feelings.

On FRIDAY, the audience size was much larger than previous nights. Films are designed to stimulate 2-3 senses (feeling, sight, sound) and Mi Coche barely hit two. It’s an interesting idea and I think it was a sex scene taking place in the back of a car as it drove, but the lack of visualization couldn’t distract me from its mediocre sound design. Better sound design would have made it a really good film but it was confusing and frustrating in its current form.

The Bedroom was very reminiscent of a film I enivisioned. This film  gave facts about sexuality alongside scenes set to occur in different decades spanning from the 1960s to the 2010s. I loved a lot of of this film, especially the varying couples and types of sex present. The production value was really great but I couldn’t get over the male performer in the ‘60s scene with inaccurate hair for the period.

At 9pm began another program of shorts centered around female agency. This series, titled “Nasty Women,” meant to comment on the current political climate. F*ck Yes: Protection was so hot! In such a short period of time! A great example of boundaries and consent, and an easy short to show to folks who want help keeping barrier methods sexy.

So then came Sapiosexual. I’m personally sick of the elitist term ‘sapiosexual’ which limits sexual partners to people who have bourgeoisie knowledge of topics most often accessible only to those with money. This film follows that sort of relationship but it was pretty funny. Since You Asked So Nicely basically immediately had me by showcasing eye contact. Eye contact is so fucking hot. Can it be considered a kink? I think chemistry can actually be created between people if they just look deeply into each others’ eyes, plus it didn’t hurt that this scene resulted in pegging & cunnilingus which are two things considered the epitome of undermining patriarchal pleasure.

I don’t really get how My Moaning Neighbor subverted norms, but both performers in it were amazing and it was pretty funny. I have absolutely no recollection of Pancit Canton and I can’t find anything about it online. See Me succeeded where Mi Coche fails by matching sound to close-ups that didn’t provide the whole picture until the end. Though Broken Hearts Are For Assholes got a lot of laughs, it told a semi-heartbreaking story and was really touching. In the same manner, Birth was exceptionally deep and raw. Lilith Luxe shows intense emotions while discussing her infertility and how she experiences that alongside her sexuality. The program ended with F*ck Yes: Fingers, another great way of showing how consent can be both kind of scary but also very sexy.

I sadly missed the filmmakers Q&A on Friday night, as I headed to the Chelsea Cinepolis to perform alongside the NYC RHPS shadowcast.

I missed the first SATURDAY screening, SEX and The Silver Gays, because I was up until about 5am after the shadowcast. A pity I missed this, since it ended up taking home the prize for best documentary. I also missed most of Guillame Masterbates but I did make it in time for Pithuahua. This is the beginning of a series, but out of context it wasn’t especially funny, moving, artistic, or good. chUrchroad, on the other hand, was an insightful documentary about gay nightlife at Club Church in Amsterdam. Beyond exploring the club & its culture, the filmmaker also explores his own boundaries.

At 4:30pm, the porn showdown “Bring It!” began with its opening act, Gonzo Girls. The production values were rough, the non-sexual acting was also rough, and I hope no one ever uses that font for opening credits again. That said, the sex was GREAT and it starred two of my porn faves, Andre Shakti & Jiz Lee. Having My Cake unfortunately ended abruptly but  the pairing was very cute.

Can you say feminist utopia? Hey, Baby, Hey! basically can. Andre Shakti is rescued from a cat-caller by Mona Wales and then they have really good sex. Following that, Merger felt as if an opening montage to ‘Gossip Girl’ was actually porn. There was no real chemistry between the performers and the scene didn’t make up for the awkward pillow fight paired with the good angry fucking.

The first thought I had, as a strawberry hit lips, was that the makers of The Party must have really been inspired by ‘Firefly.’ This was the film that really sealed food being on my nope list because, as well-shot and acted as it was, I couldn’t get over watching someone eat what felt like a nauseating amount of food and then watching someone else have the same VERY SUGARY FOOD rubbed on their genitals. On the other hand, Squirt Machine had things I’m totally fine with, including body stockings with well placed zippers, very secure and comfy bondage, and using a fuck machine to repeatedly make someone ejaculate. I barely remember What I Like, and that’s because its unscripted nature was awkward and not fun or sexy to watch.

After grabbing a couple slices of pizza down the block, I returned to the longest day of the festival for the collection “Surrender.” This opened with the well edited & musically sound Vibrato, which showcased well done shibari and the clever use of a remote-controlled toy to turn a submissive into an instrument of play. Watching La Petite Mort was pretty but it made little sense to me at the time. When the filmmaker explained afterward that it was a reflection of her first, painful sexual experience, it made a lot more sense. Still, it would have helped to have this information while viewing it. Breathtaking showed happy and fun breathplay, an aspect of BDSM I’d previously not encountered. Heimat XXX felt like a funky music video made by eastern European lumberjacks.

Dominate Me was another Erika Lust film, which took anonymous fantasies and made them into porn shorts. I wasn’t into it, but the visuals were stunning.

I never asked for 50 Shades of Grey meets American Horror Story: Hotel but that’s what The Erotic Dreams of the Chelsea Hotel gave me. Yes, the production is amazing. Yes, the art direction is gorgeous. But there wasn’t any sex onscreen, and it felt over-acted. The filmmaker described it as a way to show women that it can be empowering to be submissive, but that’s not the message I left with. It felt more like a pretty coffee table book than a story with any semblance of plot.

The final films of Cinekink 2017 included The Hutong Vibe, the first feminist porn film to come from mainland China. Though production values were less than stellar, the chemistry between the participants was adorable. I loved seeing different types of female bodies and the film showed an interview between the actors afterwards about the making of it.

Snapshot, a film by CrashPad Series creator Shine Louise Houston, rounded out the festival. As with much of Houston’s work, the characters felt real. She mentioned at the end that she is there for the performers in all the porn she makes, not the other way around. It shows. Though the conclusion of the movie didn’t quite hold up, there were times when I thought to myself, “okay, enough fucking, get back to the thriller!” which goes to show how deserving this film was of the Audience Choice for Best Narrative Film.

As someone who surrounds myself with trans-inclusionary and queer-affirming sex positivity, Cinekink left me wanting. As someone with experience attending film festivals all over the world, the curation of films & the order they were played in also left me wanting. If I curated it, I would put all of the films involving food play together, since there were a good number of them, which would allow folks like me who are not interested in food play to bypass those screenings. That said, Cinekink is a festival that has lasted a really long time. I’m excited to see them grow in the future and I loved having the opportunity to explore NYC and spend time with close friends. I hope to provide write-ups of every day next year and you can count me in as attending!

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Where someone takes on the role of a pony in an extension of pet-play and/or being a furry.