Written by MLNPstar Saulofhearts.
In 2015, I made about as much money uploading a few #metime videos to MakeLoveNotPorn.tv as I did selling e-books on Amazon. It was pretty remarkable to hold my tax forms side-by-side and compare them. From a financial standpoint, both of these projects were about equally justified — and one had been a lot more fun than the other.
For years, I’d held off on exploring my sexuality in art because I wanted to make a living as a mainstream artist. Once I was a published writer or an indie filmmaker, I thought, I could push the boundaries of my art with more explicit content.
But both of the industries I wanted to be a part of were impenetrable. Writing a novel or a film script now seems like a project from another era.
I can share the same ideas, and reach more people, by putting sex at the forefront of my creative expression.
Having sex in front of the camera doesn’t actually feel like much of a leap for me. When I asked my parents for a video camera during high school, I told them I wanted to film our vacations. But in reality, I wanted to set it up to record myself in my bedroom, masturbating for the camera, like the men and women I’d seen online.
Watching porn didn’t make me numb to or desensitized by sex; it made me think creatively about it. By the time I got to film school, I’d begun working through a list of movies that explored sexuality, from Y Tu Mama Tambien to Last Tango in Paris. Later, there would be Kaboom! and Shortbus and Secretary.
But my dreams of becoming an art-porn provocateur took a backseat to mainstream projects. My friends and I never talked about porn — and I was still too inexperienced to be having much sex of my own, never mind to direct a sex scene. I posed nude for my girlfriend a couple of times, but even she never knew the full extent of my fantasies.
As time went by, it seemed unlikely that the right opportunities would come along organically. I was too shy to try webcamming. I was too uncomfortable to ask my friends to take the kinds of photos I’d need for a modeling profile.
It was up to me to find a secluded spot to set up my camera and record myself—in the woods, in the bedroom, in the shower, in the mirror—creating some of the videos I would eventually begin uploading to MLNP.tv.
These days, I’m surrounded by a more open-minded community of artists and sex-positive activists. Being naked on the Internet is no longer the big deal it once was. Here in Portland, I live down the street from a popular S&M club; each year, a bunch of locals submit entries to Dan Savage’s amateur porn contest Humpfest.
Even my friends from college, whom I once thought would never see my point of view, have dabbled in erotic art themselves. On my last visit to LA, they were hosting a group of Airbnb guests who also happened to be porn stars from Europe.
“I’ve been thinking of getting into modeling,” I told the guests shyly.
They gave me their advice, and recommended a few of their favorite artists from the indie porn world: Jiz Lee. Lucie Blush. Erika Lust. It was the last bit of encouragement I needed.
Over the next year, I posted a bunch of pictures to Fetlife. I arranged for some photo shoots on ModelMayhem. I uploaded a few of my videos to MLNP.tv, which I’d heard about a few years earlier from Cindy Gallop’s TED talk.
MLNP seemed like the perfect place to test the waters: a progressive, sex-positive site where I could retain creative control over my videos and see what kind of responses I got.
I don’t have all the answers yet. I still haven’t shot any videos with a partner or a crew. I don’t know whether to keep my NSFW Twitter account separate from my mainstream account.
But I’m optimistic. We’re entering a new age of pornography — one with an emphasis on ethical production and consumption; one that values queer, trans, and feminist perspectives ; and one that welcomes intellectual discussion and sex education as part of our work.
We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible when we reclaim porn from the corporate, mainstream studios that have dominated it for the past few decades.
Recently, my friend showed me the Four Chambers project, an artistic porn series funded by a Patreon campaign. It’s exactly the kind of project that I want to be a part of. Erotic, edgy, beautifully shot — and independently crowd-funded.
I’ve also launched a new project, Kinky Hippies, where I’ll use erotic photography and video to explore some of my own values around gender and sexual orientation, rooted in an ecosexual, Pacific Northwest vibe.
It’s been a long journey—but almost ten years after film school, I’m finally making the kind of art I always had in mind.