Dan Savage: Plenty pumped about HUMP!
Ten years ago, syndicated sex columnist launched HUMP!, a film festival designed to “challenge his Pacific Northwest readers to ‘get their hands dirty’ and create good, old-fashioned homemade porn.” The shorts from that year ran a wide gamut, representing straight, gay and transgendered shorts made by amateurs from the area. Until last year, HUMP! screenings were limited to the Pacific Northwest. Last year, the “Best of HUMP! Tour” hit the road and played to sold-out audiences in 16 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. This year, the tour features an all-new program that mixes the recent winners from the 2014 Festival with past crowd favorites. We recently phoned Savage to talk about what to expect from the program.
Did you imagine that you’d be curating Hump Fest ten years down the road?
The first year we did it, we weren’t sure we would be doing it that year. There was skepticism about whether anyone would attend an amateur porn film fest showing films that were made by people who lived in that city. Even after we booked the theater, we weren’t sure if people would come to a movie theater and watch porn like their grandparents do. They would. A lot of them. It’s become a big arts festival, if you can call it art, which I can and I just did.
What inspired the first festival?
There was an amateur porn genre that took off after the VHS recorder came along. Porn is so ubiquitous and we consume so much of it. People who watch it complain about it all the time. They say it’s too commercial and dehumanizing and passionless. We turned to people and said, “Okay, if you’re so unhappy with porn, make your own. You can participate in this porn festival, share your stuff, be creative and get your exhibitionist freak on. You won’t have to worry that it will follow you around on the internet for the rest of your lives, your children’s lives and your grandchildren’s lives.”
What is your definition of “sex-positive”?
It’s complicated. Some people mean anything goes. That misunderstands what most people mean when they say that. Our culture has a sex-negative attitude. The thinking is that sex is a problem and the world would be a better place if we had less of it. People who don’t have sex are better people. People who don’t think about sex are deeper and more interesting people. That’s just not true. Sex is more powerful than we are. Sex is a quarter of a billion years old and our species is 200,000 years old. Sex positivity means you have an open mind and you regard it as a potentially wonderful and positive thing in someone’s life and in your own life. You think constructively about sex as pleasure, which is almost all the sex we have. Very little of the sex we have results in children. It’s like defining pornography. You know it when you see it. Keep your eye on what matters. It’s not that this act or that act is wrong. No, nonconsensual is wrong. Hateful and harmful is wrong. Sex brings people closer together. We need to stop acting like it’s a bad thing. We’ve made most of the sex that most of the people have most of the time a sin. It warps people’s attitudes and doesn’t stop them from having sex. It just makes them feel miserable about it. There are things that people do that they should feel ashamed about, but that’s not a certain sex act or certain kinds of partners.
How have the films changed?
Here in Seattle there are big cash prizes for the films and there’s a $5,000 “best in show” award. Audiences have seen what’s won and the films have moved in that direction. The films that tend to win are the ones where there’s humor and arousal in a way that’s not usual to see. Sometimes, you watch porn and it seems so deadly serious. You can be having sex and something can happen to make you laugh.
Talk about the current program on tour.
The film festival takes place in November. What’s on the tour is the best of the 2014 festival and a best of collection from previous years. It runs the gamut from hardcore porn to erotica to musicals and animation and comedy shorts. It’s all over the place. Sometimes, you don’t even think it’s porn. We had a film featuring people getting hitting in the face with pies. It was a fetish. It was their special thing and they shared it with us and it was super interesting and cool and sexy.
Do you have a personal favorite?
It’s trying to pick your favorite child. I do like “Glory Hole,” which is on the tour. What I love about it is that it’s two middle-aged guys reminiscing about the night they met. Actors recreate that night through flashbacks. It’s sexy and hot and funny, and it illustrates that many great relationships have these starts. These two guys met at a glory hole. All too often I hear from people who disqualify someone as a potential boyfriend or girlfriend because they met in such a sleazy way. You wouldn’t disqualify yourself from consideration. You talk to people and sometimes there’s two stories—the story they tell their friends and family and then there’s the real story. What I love about “Glory Hole” is that it’s the real story.
Do you imagine Hump Fest will be around for another ten years?
Absolutely. We’ll change it up in the next year. Instead of doing the voting in Seattle and Portland and then doing a tour, we’ll have a tour and have everyone vote. We tried getting submissions from other places this year. There’s a couple that came from other places but the majority are Pacific Northwest. We love how diverse it is. It’s gay, straight, transgender. It hasn’t nailed racial diversity. Seattle and Portland, where most of the films are made, are really white places. We want to encourage people in other cities to embrace Hump!
HUMP! Tour Dates
April 30-May 2
May 14 – 16