“Hump!” And The People Who Watch It

How “Hump!”, Dan Savage’s Porn Fest “By And For The People”, Touches Its Viewers’ Lives By Karma Said

East Village, New York: Karen and Carlos aren’t a couple. He’s a “strictly gay” kinkster, searching for a male soulmate.  She’s a straight, happily married (and not to Carlos) homemaker.  So why was she pinning him to the wall, with her other hand groping deep down his pants? 

“What we’re doing together has no broader purpose. It’s an experience for the sake of experience,” Karen sought to explain. “We taste the excitement and pleasure we can give each other as people, regardless of our specific gender and sexualities… and then we let it go.”

K&C were among the hundred-plus viewers at the NYC premiers of HUMP! Film Festival, which took place last week, at Manhattan’s Cinema Village. “Hump!” is an annual grand tour of five-minute-long, independently produced amateur porn films. Founded by Dan Savage, author of the popular sex advice column and podcast “Savage Love,” the festival seeks to “disrupt the way America sees, makes, and shares porn,” according to its website. In defiance of the commercially-driven, monolithic industry standards, Hump! porn features a uniquely diverse “cornucopia of body types, shapes, ages, colors, sexualities, genders, kinks, and fetishes.”

“People are kind of knocked back in their seats a little bit after the first three of four films, because what they’re watching isn’t their thing. All they can see is those differences,” Savage said in a 2018 Newsweek interview.  “About halfway through the festival, everyone is cheering and laughing. There’s this point when the audience sees what’s the same. The vulnerability is the same, the desire is the same, the sense of humor is the same, the passion is the same. I go to the festival every night in Seattle and watch for that moment.”

“There’s specific stuff that turns me on, and most of what I saw wasn’t it.  But getting turned on wasn’t the main point,” wrote Daddy-D. D, who had RSVP’d to the event on Fetlife, describes himself as “an authentic old-guard leather Daddy” in his late seventies. At the behest of his young leather boi (a term for a female-bodied or feminized male-identifying submissive), D had watched the festival that night for the first time. “I was surprised by it… Mindblown, really,” he wrote in a post-screening email. “When people talk to me about ‘the sex-positive community,’ I always think, ‘There is no such thing’. There are just different groups, who like different things, and have too little in common to call themselves ‘community’.  But watching all these different lusts flow together, I was like: ‘Yeah, of course there’s a community, I’m looking right at it’.”

Since its 2005 inception, Hump! has become the nation’s leading alternative, amateur porn fest. Originating in Seattle, Savage’s hometown, it currently plays in 50 cities across the U.S., and, as of 2023, six more in Europe.

Over the past eight consecutive years, Dagger (They/Them), a sex worker in their mid-twenties, has watched the Hump! change.  “It’s got a larger pool of applicants now, it’s more professional, and maybe a little less accessible to most amateur filmmakers… but overall I think it maintained its spirit,”, they said, adding that the festival “might be reaching its tipping point.” Dagger’s partner, Rae (She/Her), is a filmmaker; the two plan  to submit their own porn  to it next year.

The festival’s 22 selected shorts run the gamut of styles and emotions, ranging from light-hearted to bizarre to eye-opening. The hilarious “Shadow Play” short featured  shadows of fornicating paper dolls, cast on a screen made out of  a stretched-out scrotum. ‘Grace’, by the Swiss artist Abcde Flash, offered uncomfortably close-up views of menstrual blood, trickling out of the artist’s clamped open vagina. 

“Feast of Fantasy,” a portrayal of a Thanksgiving dinner turned food orgy, had inspired movie-goer Evie Amore to recognize a previously unacknowledged culinary kink, and swiftly make her own porn about it. “I was surprised at the inspiration and permissions a few snippets on human sexuality gave me,” She wrote in a post-screening Fetlife post, titled “From HUMP! to Donut Stomping”.  “I want to, need to… PLAY with my food!” An elaborate photoshoot combining foot and food fetishes manifested the very next day.

Inspired by Dan Savage's "Hump!" Festival, viewer Evie Amore created her own food porn.
A Sexy Donut Stomp, by Evie Amore. Photo Credit: Cat Orme, LMB Productions

Gina, a 63-year-old Brooklyn-based caregiver, claims she had never watched porn before in her life. She only came to the screening for Mika, her trans daughter. Mika had already watched the festival online and wanted her mother to see one film in particular: “No Translation,” which featured a compelling sex scene between a Translatina immigrant and a Transmasculine Brooklyn boy. “I felt that if she saw it she would understand me better,” Mika said in a phone interview. 

“I always tell my daughter I accept her as she is,” said Gina. “Now I realize I wasn’t really accepting her, I was just keeping my reservations to myself. I couldn’t imagine how her love life works, so I tried not to think about it.  But now that I’ve seen it spelled out like that on screen, and it was beautiful to me… now I feel real peace.”

Karen concluded her evening with an overall feeling of “something missing.” “I don’t think I heard the words ‘I love you’ once,” she noted, upon exiting the theater. “Porn can still have emotions. So much genitalia with so little heart… it left me feeling kinda hollow, you know?”

In a follow-up phone interview, which took place on the festival’s closing night in Brooklyn, she noted that after she and Carlos had “parted ways” that night.

“He wanted to focus on a long-term relationship he’s building with a man, and I need to focus on my marriage,” she said. “Taste and let go, that was the deal. Still… I’m glad we had Hump. There’s a lot we couldn’t share, physically, but in those two hours, it was like we shared it all.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

More To Explore