Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

The nationwide traveling film festival featuring short “porno” films is changing the way Americans treat and view the taboo subject.

By Olivia Wickstrom, Portland State University


Living in Portland is great for a number of reasons: There’s phenomenal hiking trails, the music scene takes over the city nightly and you can bike pretty much anywhere.

But more importantly, the city harbors a number of bizarre events. Weekly, one can expect to find an ale festival, a pinball championship or a concert taking place on public transportation. So when a friend invited me to an “independent porn screening” over the weekend, my automatic response was: Why not?

I had heard of “HUMP! Festival” before. The tour comes to the city annually, and every November newspapers and telephone poles become buried under advertisements for the event: women in lingerie, men holding sex toys, an ass with the word “HUMP” written on it. But for some reason, I’d never gone out of my way to attend. All I knew was that the festival had to do with porn, and honestly, I’ve never been a porn kind of gal.

After doing some research on “HUMP!” this is what I discovered: The festival features 22 “dirty” movies less than five minutes long, all made by independent directors and actors “who aren’t porn stars but want to be for one weekend.” Though the festival receives hundreds of submissions annually, the show is curated to appeal to a wide audience; the short movies feature different “body types, shapes, ages, colors, sexualities, genders, kinks and fetishes.”

The overall goal of the event is to promote sex-positivity and change the way Americans generally view porn.

Instead of looking at the genre as something forbidden, secretive and taboo, “HUMP!” forces us look at it as a mode of self-expression. Through “HUMP!” porn becomes a way for people to convey “what they think is hot and sexy, creative and kinky, their ultimate turn-ons and their craziest fantasies.”

The festival took place at Portland’s Revolution Hall, an old high school that has been turned into a bar, performing arts center and concert venue; so after having a drink in an old classroom, we headed upstairs to the theater. Before entering we were given a ballot with four categories: “Best Humor,” “Best Sex,” “Best Kink” and “Best in Show.” We were told to pick our favorite movies and cast our votes at the end of the night. We were also told that there would be security guards in the theater, and if they saw our cellphones out they would take them and “never give them back.” As mentioned before, the festival makes individuals into porn stars for the weekend; with an audience on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, it could make them into porn stars for life.

As the host took the stage and introduced the films, he told us that we were about to see things that would make us laugh, things that would make us cringe and things that would make us gasp. I looked to my friends and smirked thinking, “I’m twenty-two-years-old, I’ve had a good amount of sex and I’ve seen it all.” But it wasn’t until the short films began that I really believed him. We saw everything from a heterosexual couple having sex while skydiving, to gay men dressed as kinky dogs and obeying their “master,” to an animation of a woman being screwed by an octopus. I’ve never seen a more involved audience; people squealed at the gore and shrieked at the disgusting. There was never a moment of silence.

The films were in your face, pushing boundaries and “norms” in what one would consider pornography. It wasn’t just about a hot girl with big boobs and a cum shot in the end.

It was about emotion and passion, terms I’ve never associated with the word “porn.”

Plus, it got pretty awkward at times. Being surrounded by hundreds of people watching orgasms and ejaculation and moments of intimacy―is there a more uncomfortable situation?

But that seemed to be the whole point of the festival itself. “HUMP!” strives to make the uncomfortable comfortable. It’s an obvious fact, and we all know it: People have sex, people enjoy sex and sometimes people like weird things when they have sex. So why has intercourse and pornography become so hush-hush in our modern society? Everybody does it, so let’s talk about it, let’s watch it, let’s let it be a form of self-expression. “HUMP!” reminds us that sexuality and sexual exploration are nothing to be ashamed about; rather, they’re things to embrace. In addition to this, “HUMP!” shows us that sex can be sexy whatever the body type, gender, sexuality, race or fetish of the individuals involved.

“HUMP!” made me realize that porn is not something to shy away from. Rather, it’s something to explore. We should be proud of our bodies and their abilities and their cravings. We should feel comfortable to express ourselves sexually and view other’s sexual expressions. That’s what porn is all about, and if filmed correctly, it will fulfill that.

The best part about “HUMP! Fest” is that it’s a traveling tour. Through next year it will be held in multiple cities across the U.S. Los Angeles, Washington DC, Albuquerque, Pittsburg  and Chicago are just a few places hosting the festival (a full schedule can be found on their website). If “HUMP!” is coming to a city near you, do yourself a favor and purchase tickets. I guarantee you, it’s a night you’ll never forget. After an evening at “HUMP!,” you’ll never view pornography the same way again.