Seattle Gay News Covers SECS Fest 2023 : Seattle Erotica Cinema Society prepares tantalizing film festival by Teddy MacQuarrie.
Much has been made lately about the presence of sexual content in films. A phenomenon known as “sex-scene discourse” pervades online discussions, eliciting heated responses to titillating fare. And with a new report out of UCLA called “Teens and Screens” indicating that younger audiences prefer fewer on-screen depictions of sexuality, and social shifts arising from high cultural polarization, sex scenes are appearing in films less frequently than ever.
In the midst of this comes the Seattle Erotic Cinema Society and its upcoming event, the SECS Fest, Seattle’s own international erotic film festival, bringing together a diverse array of movies that all feature positive depictions of sexuality in its many expressions. The group’s mission focuses on “celebrating the artistry of erotic cinema while inspiring diverse communities to engage in adult conversations about sex.”
SECS Fest’s mission
SECS’s founder and director DeAnna Berger shared her passion for these films with the SGN. “I’ve always kind of had an interest in sex and gender specifically…, and it came to my attention that … films that don’t even have …very explicit content but [are] about sex work, films about coming of age… don’t have an easy avenue to a wider audience, not even festivals.”
Regarding their importance, Berger, who is Queer, noted that “I found so much of my own identity seeing these media portrayals… Seeing these depictions was very important to forming my own identity.”
Her stated goal is to ensure that everyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can see their sexualities depicted and engaged with in cinematic form. Her biggest hope is that audiences “find something that they can connect with. I do try to mix it up so that you don’t have, like, [only] shorts for Lesbians or things like that.”
Berger has felt the abovementioned cultural currents that oppose sexual depictions and sex-positivity more generally. This troubles her, because, “seeing positive depictions on-screen gives you an avenue to talk about it, and that makes it easier to bring it up with a partner or a friend.
“In a way, it freed me up to talk more openly about sexuality, and probably to have more honest communication with people around me.”
The SECS Fest’s 2023 lineup includes 42 entries, consisting of shorts, features, documentaries, and archival films. Shown over three days at Grand Illusion Cinema, the festival will be headlined by Nathaniel Dushku’s Gay erotic thriller Birder, about a stranger’s dark fetish at a New Hampshire nude campground, and will also feature Shaun Costello’s 1981 adult fantasy Pandora’s Mirror, about a mysterious antique mirror capable of showing the viewer the sexual escapades of everyone who has ever looked into it.
Berger recalled the process of selecting the lineup: “How we put the festival together is that we asked for film submissions, and based on [those, we determined] how the festival runs…This year we have so many really interesting shorts.”
The festival prioritizes diversity in sexual identities and expressions, with Berger clarifying that it tries “to focus on sex-positive images. We don’t want to see a bunch of stuff perpetrating myths about porn addiction, the absolute dangers of sex work. We try to avoid really stereotypical stories, as well as really heteronormative sexual expression.”
All of SECS Fest’s entries, with the exception of Birder, contain graphic depictions of actual sexual activity. Some of these have in the past been a challenge to audiences, with Berger recounting how she prepared some attendees for films about an expression that can be particularly challenging for some.
“We did the [Fred] Halsted restored films… I did a big intro about Gay men in San Francisco and LA and fist-fucking — it was quite the fun intro to give. I wanted to warn the audience about what they’re in for! That was a lot of fun.”
SECS Fest’s first year was graced with the presence of Stephen Sayadian, otherwise known as Rinse Dream, an iconic multimedia artist and Larry Flynt’s former advertising director.
Regarding this year’s lineup, Berger explains, “We have a little bit of darker horror content. One is a sex worker film that feels kind of scary but turns out to be scary in an unexpected and kind of more horrifying way… It’s perfect for our time currently.”
Collectively, entries in SECS Fest may help put a dent in the current negativity surrounding sexual depictions in cinema. At the very least, they can provide a needed relief for those worn out by today’s corporate offerings.
The SECS Fest runs November 10-12 at Grand Illusion Cinema at 1403 NE 50th St. Tickets to each screening, along with the full lineup and schedule, are available at https://www.secsfest.org
All screenings are for those aged 18 and over.
There was both an article and a podcast about SECS Fest’s first film event outside of Seattle; SECS Fest Midwest at Indiana University’s Cinema on March 3-4, 2022.
If or when a person views pornography today, it’s not likely in public, in polite company, or with aesthetic appreciation in mind. This is because mainstream pornography is often considered cheaply made, politically damaging, or crudely single-minded in its purpose: turning a person on or helping get them off. While there is certainly a strong grain of truth in those judgments, these assumptions still remain judgments — moral, aesthetic, and political — that don’t tell the whole story of what erotic cinema is, or more precisely what it can be. Read more.
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