Dan Savage’s Hump! Film Festival graced Madison with its unabashed presence at the Barrymore Theatre this past weekend. Featuring 21 short films, the erotic film festival showcases sex positivity in the best way possible as it redefines perspectives on pornography.
Hump! 2018 tours in 35 cities across the U.S. and Canada, sharing sex-positive vibes with various audiences. Each amateur film shown must go through a selection process that aims to create an array of films exemplifying creative sexual expression.
In Madison’s Schenk-Atwood neighborhood this past weekend, the Barrymore Theatre exceeded capacity as people rushed in to grab a seat for the viewing. While the crowd skewed towards an older population, everyone seemed genuinely enthused about being there.
Before the films began, three simple rules were outlined for the audience. First, no cellphones — a well-known rule in movie theaters so as not to distract your fellow viewers, but for Hump!, it is as a strict rule to maintain the filmmakers’ and actors’ privacy. Second, no assholes — which meant no catcalling, no yelling at the actors on screen, essentially no harassment of any form. The last rule, of course, was to have fun.
Fun was had. Throughout each film, the audience’s reactions made the experience that much more enjoyable. Whether it was a collective gasp as the audience witnessed a trans man fisting another man with a latex-gloved hand or a roar of laughter during a slow-motion clip of a mass of penises flopping around, Hump! truly exhilarated the audience.
While some films such as “The Code” and “Is Queefing an Instrument?” were comical and light-hearted, other films were more experimental in their exploration of sexual expression. “A Sunday Hike,” a film in which a trans man escapes into the forest and encounters a coven, was disorienting and intriguing, making it one of the more memorable out of the 21 films.
Beyond the eroticism and kink, the most striking aspect of Hump! is the vast degree of diversity in the chosen films. In the professional pornography industry, race, sexuality, gender and body types are consistently linear as heteronormative storylines dominate, with mostly cis-gender white actors. In the films presented at Hump!, a wide range of races, sexualities, genders and body types are depicted to represent sexual expression. With only a few heterosexual depictions, the amount of queer representation was extraordinary.
Most porn films and productions have an intensely staged look that forces them to remain only in the category of pornography. Hump! depictions of sexual expression have what normal porn often lacks — intimacy. The actors in the film were by no means professionals, offering a connection and a level of intimacy that made Hump! so unique. It is pornography so unlike pornography that it creates its own category. Wildly sex-positive and educationally entertaining, Hump! is definitely pleasurable.