Taking a DIY Porn Class is Awkward, Amazing

Madison Young, porn star, sex educator and kinky gal next store, shows off her love of bondage

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a class in how to make my own porn, DIY-style, at the Armory -- that lust-laden, brick fortress of pornographic pleasure.

But let's be clear. This was a crash course not in how to hone your "O face" from a pained, wind-sucking wince into more of a blissful moan that someone might find arousing, but, rather, about the practicalities of porn: How to find actors, raise money, where to shoot it, the legalities surrounding this wonderland of flesh.

I arrived just before dusk on my bike, already sweating, which seemed appropriate. Taking the stairs two by two I glanced behind me to spot an older yuppie couple (white hair and khakis) sheepishly walking in behind me.

I was greeted by a security guard flanked by a slew of flickering monitors. He gestured to a sign-in sheet and waiver that basically stated I was relinquishing all rights to be offended -- I was poised to see all sorts of shit, genitals and otherwise, so get ready.

Next, a house manager led us through the labyrinth of marble stairs, faux baroque, and exquisitely lewd oil paintings of sex acts -- from rope bondage to gay orgies -- to the third floor where the class was being held. I did my best not to gape -- "Dang, is that gonna fit in there?!" But I walked as slowly as I could, basking in the erotic strangeness of it all, the vast ceilings echoing my timid steps back against my ears. I could feel the frantic waves of suppressed self-consciousness radiating off the couple making their way beside me.

A look inside the Armory...

There, amid plush red velvet curtains, gilded chairs, and sweeping views of the street below, was a pint-size redhead in a sundress -- her name was Madison Young -- and she was to be our fearless leader tonight.

Self-described as a "sex positive Tasmanian devil," Young is not only a porn star herself, but a director, producer and founder of Femina Potens, an LGBTQ arts organization. All of her films have a feminist perspective, showcasing indie artistry, sensuality, safety, and authenticity (real orgasms!) rather than the more "classic" pussy-pounding porn that dominates the space.

There on the oriental rug, a beautiful grab bag of humanity of all shapes, sizes, and sexual proclivities gathered in straight-backed chairs in a make-shift boudoir, and began brainstorming: Just what is porn anyway?

Silhouetted against the looming windows and setting sun, Young looked like a naughty fairy, waxing poetic about the subtleties of porn. "I can tell a secret between two people, I can document it without their actual words ever reaching my ears," she said, when asked if porn wasn't inherently voyeuristic.

Young soon asked us to to take 10 minutes and write down the "mission" statement of our porn. What's the thrust (!) of our dream film? What would make our project different, creating a newfound dialogue?

Now, what's tricky about this exercise is that when you ask people what their imagined porn film would be about, involve, or celebrate...it's really like asking them what their own sexual fantasies are.

She was forced to call on us like reluctant children to read what we'd written -- happily I was spared sharing my inarticulate sexual ramblings scrawled across my notebook.

Not surprisingly, the class was about two-thirds male -- and many of the men described a different kind of desire for porn, one that actually echoed Young's own ethos, which strives to explore intimacy, clever cinematography, a strong narrative, and a kind of honesty, a celebration of the inherent awkwardness in making whoopie, no matter how high or firm your tits are.

Then we were broken into groups to write our own porn together -- I was with three couples -- the older folks I first walked in with, a young intellectual-type pair, and then a couple of pretty party-people who were on a first date. (Kid you not.)

Young looking a little more demure as a sex educator, complete with glasses. And a dildo.

Young asked us to write down a "shot list," meticulously documenting how the film would open and proceed scene by scene, keeping in mind we had a shoe-string ($2,000) budget.

In trying to just get some ideas on the proverbial table, the male half of the older couple basically began discussing his sex life with his wife as though she wasn't there -- "I love watching my wife come" -- while she stared at the table vaguely smiling and twisting a ring on her finger. I confessed I was a writer -- but intrigued nonetheless -- and in the end we all decided to go a bit "meta."

Our film would involve a DIY porn class...that becomes a porn. We decided the lights would go out at some point and in rooms all over the studio people would be actualizing the fantasies they had just written for the class. We also hoped it could culminate in an orgy. Young was totally into it, but warned us about shooting in the dark -- streetlights, flashlights and candles would have to come into play. She also said orgies are rather tricky largely due to safe-sex concerns, but there are ways to cheat it.

Another group came up with a porn to be shot in Iceland. The story follows a young heterosexual couple at a wedding who start fucking in the bathroom only to realize (because they overhear their mothers talking in the hall) that they're cousins. Ah, nothing says erotic like latent incest. Young was mostly confused as to why it had to be in Iceland. So were we.

Lastly came a film set on the beach. Young was already dubious, remembering a few of her own films that were beachside. "Sand gets everywhere," she warned, "but continue."

Basically it opened on an older man sunbathing on a pristine empty beach. He is approached by a beautiful young woman in a bikini who asks if he'll rub lotion on her. She disrobes and as they're about to get it on, he says, "Why do you want me?" And she says, "Because you're you."

Young wasn't wooed. "Why is this woman approaching him? Does she know him? Why would she say that?"

The older man who had been chosen as the spokesperson bristled at her criticism. "We're in the realm of fantasy here, it doesn't have to make sense."

"If the storyline doesn't make sense, you'll lose your audience," insisted Young. "They'll be wondering about the holes in the story instead of watching the story unfold."

"So she'll speak French," the old man sneered. "So it doesn't matter what she says." Young shook her head, disappointed, but offered a few scenes that might flesh out the relationship between them. "Maybe she's observed him somewhere unbeknownst to him... or she's on the prowl to seduce someone today, so we see her getting ready in her bedroom."

Young wrapped up the class with a few words on the nitty-gritty of porn -- making sure your actors all have government-issued U.S. ID's, everyone signs a release form, and educating yourself on the Free Speech Coalition (a porn nonprofit) that combats censorship and obscenity laws, if the feds should come around.

If you're serious about making "dirty" movies, Young (and the Armory) are incredible resources. This little minx is brilliant, self-possessed and knows her ins. And outs.

For more information: Check out Madison Young's classes.

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