Feeling It!: Petra Joy’s “Art Core”

From German-born Great Britain-based Petra Joy (1964) comes a series of “art-core films; collections of sensual vignettes characterized by their creative commitment to fluidity and softness even when they feature explicit sex. Candida Royalle recently made available in the US under her Femme Productions label Petra’s third film, Feeling it! Not faking it ¦ (2008). As Candida notes, “Joy’s work is completely unique and never wavers from her commitment to a feminine vision. Both women were honored as pioneers for their work at the first PorYes! European Feminist Porn Award in Berlin in 2009.

With a Master’s in Film and Women Studies, Petra has a long background as a professional photographer. She launched her company Strawberry Seductress in 2003 and has since released four “art-core collections. Feeling it! is her third installment.

As a whole, Petra’s films reflect her artistic vision. Explains Petra:

The focus of my erotic films is female pleasure. I would like to empower the women who appear and who view my films to experience their own personal pleasures away from the stereotypes of female sexuality in mainstream porn ¦ I feel the need to create an alternative to the flood of images that reduce women to their genitals.

I believe in a return to sensuality and portray a sex play that is enriched by intimacy, creativity and humour. I love to show women being caressed and receiving oral sex as we do not see enough of this. Many women still feel guilty to ask their partner to pleasure them. I hope that my showing lots of women being pleasured will encourage more women to receive pleasure, rather than to just give it all the time.

I also like to show men as objects of female sexual desires as there is a lack of male pin-up culture that is aimed at women rather than gay men in our culture. I choose to embrace taboo subjects such as male bisexuality and the prostate as an erogenous zone for (heterosexual) men.

I call my films art-core, rather than hard-core. Even though I do feature erections, penetration and show “real sex, I do not feel I have much in common with 90% of films in the genre of hard-core porn. I am an artist and enjoy making sensuality the subject of my visual experimental art.

For Feeling it!, Petra won the award for Most Erotic Film at Barcelona International Erotic Film Festival (FICEB) in 2007. About an hour long, it contains eight unrelated vignettes, all without dialog, and instead accompanied by sensuous and sexy rhythms.

The collection begins with a series of close-ups of lips and skin that are painted by brush strokes, creating sensual contrasts before and as they are touched, licked, and kissed; many by explicit invitation. “Lick me! say the words painted on a woman’s torso with an arrow pointing down towards her pussy. On a man’s abdomen, the sign “use me is painted with an arrow pointing down towards his penis.

Next is a vignette featuring a woman dressed in white old-fashioned underwear standing on a balcony with her back facing us, gazing at the blue sky, puffy white clouds and birds flying. An “angel\’a man in white thongs and white feather wings\’comes down to her, leans up close to her from behind, caresses her hair, her back; kisses her. Her back wears the marks resembling scars as if she once had wings there too. The crack on her thin white knickers reveals her anus; he fondles it. They embrace and then he licks her pussy. And again. In the end, he penetrates her from behind before lifting his arms up in the air to fly away. She gazes up after him.

The next vignette features three women: two dressed in sailor boy costumes and smoking cigars, the third in a cabaret outfit with high heels and long red gloves. She is handcuffed and pleasured in multiple ways by the two sailor boy-girls. The picture remains soft with warm red walls and dark purple satin sheets. The two sailor girls, each equipped with a black dildo as it turns out, at one point begin to kiss. And then all their tongues and limbs and lips are eventually intertwined as their circle of pleasuring moves between them.

A man hot in the sun from mowing strips down to his underwear in this vignette while still mowing the lawn and before hosing himself down and then masturbating, lounging in the sun. Sexy close-ups capture the muscles of his arm flexing, his lips moving as he speaks on his cell phone, his hand stroking his cock, faster; the head of his cock shining as he comes; he licks his lips.

My favorite vignette follows, featuring the mutual exploration of the bodies of a white woman and a black man. He begins by stroking her with a feather; then she begins to stroke and discover him. She tickles him with her pearls and lace lingerie; drips massage oil over him, then lies down on top of him.

The sexual energy moving, the music shifts to a rhythmic trance pop club music as the tension mounts and she begins to photograph him lying naked on his back in bed. Then he, helped by her, stimulates her with a silver bullet vibrator while caressing her breasts, pinching her nipples. He licks her, she him. She takes his cock in her hands and massages it as he continues to lick her pussy. And penetrates her with a silver dildo as both face the camera, capturing the pleasure in her face. Then in one of the most sexiest scenes ever introducing a condom, she wraps one over his cock, helping with her mouth. Sucks him. Then rides him. He rides her, comes \’ then she while helping with her hand.

The next scene features a woman dressed in a tight black dress and high heels, sitting in a red leather chair by the fireplace of a mansion’s library. Next to her is a side table with a glass of white wine and a lowball with some ice cubes. She sips her wine, leafing through the pages of an old leather-bound book, its pages yellowing, featuring kinky illustrations. Then she lifts up the receiver of a phone, dials a number, and utters a formal “come over and serve me. Repeats it. A man arrives. Wearing black pants, he is otherwise naked. He bends down and kisses her feet. A cutout on his pants exposes his buttocks. She takes an ice cube from her lowball, strokes it down his naked back, tickling his butt with it while he’s leaning over her legs, still kissing her feet. Then she teases it up along her own legs; and he follows it with his licks. The two kiss.

The rhythm shifts to a faster darker beat; he licks her pussy. She lays him down over her lap and lightly spanks his bum and licks his buttocks before ever so gently teasing a finger into his anus. She penetrates him with her fingers while he himself strokes his cock; she then penetrates him with a long black dildo while she also strokes his cock. Eventually he penetrates her while she helps with her fingers. They finish with him penetrating her from behind as she rocks her hips before they linger in embrace, kissing as the picture fades out.

The following vignette is filmed in black and white: a woman in a garden is lounging in a wicker chair, reading while holding a parasol shading the sun. At one point, she sets the parasol aside and begins to touch herself. A woman wearing only delicate underwear approaches from behind, puts her hands over the woman’s eyes; kisses her. A mutual exchange of naked pleasuring follows. The entire vignette is filled with a series of floating intimate shots from alluring camera angles, and the pictures bleed in and out of one another, filtered by the patterns of the parasol and the shadows and shapes in the garden.

The final scene features a group of girlfriends in party mood lounging in a select upscale club. They order champagne and are so served by a man, naked except for a black apron. They slap his bum teasingly and toast with champagne, throwing out and sharing kisses. Bent over, the man’s naked back serves as a tray for the sushi the women are served next. They feed each other while stroking the man’s buttocks with their chopsticks and fingers. The women ring the bell again; a silver plate of oysters arrives. They toast with the oysters. Strawberries shimmering with glossy glitter follow. Hungry for more, their teasing play with the server’s body becomes more charged as they savor and explore his naked body, lifting the apron aside. Then a black man dressed in tuxedo pops out of a big gift box and an erotic orgy between the women and the servers ensue to the heat of a jazzy beat.

Included as an extra is the porn parody “Girls & Vegetables; a spoof on mainstream hard core that shows how different Petra’s art core is, in this case as it pertains to the featuring of girl-girl sex.

Concluding the credits is a quotation from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.

And indeed: Powerful behind-the-scenes documentaries included on Petra’s DVDs\’Feeling It! also includes an interview with Petra where she speaks more about her artistic vision; the “making of documentary features interviews with the actors and actresses too about what being a part of Petra’s work means to them\’demonstrate her very compelling intentions and creativity while working with fairly limited resources. How much she herself actually moves with her camera around the actors as she films them to achieve the flow she seeks; how she plays with canvases, curtains, parasols, and more to create soft and artistic filters; how she comes up with creative ideas for more arty shots; how she shoots in very simple settings that she then adds more onto in post-production. On the documentaries, we also get to see how everyone from the staff and even cast pitches in to help with everything from make-up to props, sets, and lighting. A democratic project indeed, as Petra herself underscores.

On that note, Petra also deserves recognition for her outreaching efforts inspiring other women to get involved behind the camera with their new visions.

As Petra points out:

It is important that more and more of us get behind the camera to make our visions of sexuality seen and heard ¦ Only 6% of Hollywood directors are female. This percentage is even smaller when it comes to the porn industry. What this means is that most films show us life from a male perspective. I would like to adjust the balance, and I want to empower women to show us what is erotic to them.

With that in mind, Petra created the Petra Joy Awards, to “encourage newcomers and look into the future so that the genre will continue to thrive. She invited women around the world to submit their work and assembled a jury of qualified women to judge the short films. The results were announced at the first Petra Joy Awards, which were held in conjunction with Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2009. The winner, Louise Lush’s That’s What I Like (2009), and the follow-up films were then included on Petra’s Her Porn Volume II (2010).

(Volume I of Her Porn (2009) is a compilation of short films and clips from porn made by women over the last decade.)

(This post is an excerpt from my book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters, forthcoming fall 2012.)