PhD's Make Intelligent Porn
Gracie sits down to talk with Ph.D. Marianna Beck of Libido Films. (Because after seeing Urban Friction
she just had to!)
Please give an overview of the company, its philosophy & history.
My partner Jack Hafferkamp and I started making films after we stopped publishing our journal Libido "The Journal of Sex and Sensibility" in 2000. We had started the magazine in 1988 because we felt there was no intelligent journal of erotica geared to both men and women.
After publishing Libido magazine for 12 years, we began making videos that echoed the same philosophy we had with the magazine — namely, the attitude that sex is celebratory and all-embracing. We also wanted to make the kind of videos that we hadn't seen — namely stories featuring women who were in control and making their own sexual choices.
We've now been making videos since 1999 and have a very loyal following, particularly in women's stores around the country. Our aim is that our stories and characters are about real people with real bodies dealing, more often than not, with relationship issues. Our very first video effort, Ecstatic Moments, based on stories we had written for Libido, won best erotic video of the year in London in 2000. So we knew we were on the right track.
What is least understood about your work?
I think the mainstream can't understand why a boring middle-class couple with Ph.Ds would want to make sex films.
What were you surprised to learn once you began Libido, both magazine & film?
I was surprised at how hungry people were to express their own stories and experiences. I was surprised how unsophisticated most people are about the subject of sex — but then again I shouldn't be surprised.
We aren't encouraged to integrate the subject into our lives in any healthy way....or learn much about it. In fact, it's discouraged and it seems that less and less information is being made available in terms of sex education. We're told from a very early age to keep it wrapped-up. Look at the way most media handles the topic: most family newspapers only cover the subject as long as it's about the pathology of sex i.e stories of STDs, AIDS; erectile dysfunction, women's inhibited sexual desire etc. Rarely, is there an article on the celebratory healthy aspects of sex. I am also disheartened by how much bad sex information is out there, so in a way, I like to see what we do as imparting good information about pleasure.
I'm sure you've had some folks attack you, or think you are 'denigrating' &/or 'exploiting' women/yourselves etc. How do you respond?
Well, I'm always fascinated when it happens — and it isn't very often — because so much is revealed about the person delivering the criticism. In fact, it's quite a Rohrshach test.
Oddly, I think we're doing something extraordinarily valuable in a society that is terribly conflicted about the subject. We're surrounded by sexual images but we're also surrounded by a lot of bad sex information. Women's pleasure, especially, gets short shrift. Sex should feel empowering. I absolutely feel that if you deny such an important, basic human impulse...in fact repress it, the result more often than not is people who act out in perverted, sick ways.
Are your fans mainly male or female? Any thoughts on your appeal?
At this point, our films are doing very well in women's stores and really, that's the audience we are striving for. As for our internet sales, it's men generally buying but I'd like to think they're ordering something to watch with their wives and or girlfriends.
Do you see your participation changing as you age? If so, when &/or how?
When we write our scripts we often make an attempt to integrate issues, ideas we come across in our own lives. So sure, if I'm still doing this when I'm 80 I guess the work will reflect what's happening around me.
Have you had any repercussions either with family, friends, lovers, or work? If so, what have the issues been? What has your response been?
The only repercussion is that I think my chances of being invited to the White House are fairly slim.
What is the best part about being a member of Libido? The worst?
It seems a privilege to not only be able to disseminate good sex information but also information about pleasure to people. I'd like to think our films light a little fire and keep boring sex lives humming along.
Is there a difference between erotica & porn?
Well, of course in the sense that people feel more comfortable with one and not the other.
I am always asked this question and I usually start by telling the old joke: erotica is about feathers; pornography is about the whole chicken. On a more serious note, the difference I think is in the presentation, the attitude, the respect for the subject.
If you want grinding body parts and orifices that would apply to a more visceral, hardcore porn — a gynecological/urological kind of porn which in my opinion is really tedious; if you want the same subject presented in a way that's smart, funny, sophisticated, touching and sexy, that, to me, is more challenging and engaging.
A cynic might say there is no difference between porn and erotica in that if the goal is to be turned on, it doesn't matter how you get there. I think it does matter...and one should always remember that one person's ceiling is another person's floor.
Do you think it's true that women don't like hardcore? Why or why not?
I think the choices women have are generally terrible because mainstream porn is made, for the most part, by men for men. It's often, repetitive, boring, all about male gratification, and in some cases, misogynistic. I think women would be more interested in hardcore sex if the material were at a level they could relate to...and that's what we're trying to accomplish with videos like Urban Friction and Stories of Oh.
Any interesting stories based on your work with Libido?
We made our first film in LA because we initially thought it would be impossible to do so in the midwest. But not so! People have been coming out of the woodwork to find us because they love what we do.
I'd much rather be shooting in Chicago... and have our videos have a midwestern sensibility. I mean, who can relate to those cartoon bodies, fake boobs and Ken-doll types you find in LA — or anywhere, for that matter?
What's next from Libido?
Well, we're shooting our next video right now called Trial Run....it's based on a woman who searches for a partner via an internet dating service. I think it's a very funny, touching script. I know a lot of people who have had this adventure — with mixed results. Stay tuned.