What I Learned At A DIY Porn Class

Photo: Kate Anglestein
It’s difficult to describe how it feels to sit in a room with 100 other people and watch as one woman inserts her arm elbow-deep inside another woman’s vagina, but I’ll try.
I am at a DIY porn workshop hosted by the very impressive and uninhibited Pandora Blake. Pandora is a non binary trans person who has been making pornography for 12 years (Pandora's pronoun is 'they').
The room, downstairs in an east London pub, is packed. A dozen or more people rock up to the door hoping to get in, but it’s sold out and they are turned away. Inside, a diverse crowd take their seats, giggle nervously and queue for drinks at the bar. There is a mix of young, old, black, white, Asian, gay, straight and bisexual people. There are men in chinos and navy merino wool jumpers, and tattooed women in leather trousers. They are all here because they share an interest in making their own sex tapes.
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Pandora welcomes the crowd, tells us a bit about the work they do as owner and director of the website Dreams of Spanking, issues a few housekeeping rules (no touching yourself please) and then breaks us in gently. With fisting.
Over the course of the next three hours we watch several clips of pornography, starting with the most amateur. There is a very intimate lesbian oral sex clip, and a straight couple who seem very into each other. When one faceless man comes after a blow job, the room breaks into a round of applause. For me, the most disarming thing is that none of the people in these clips look like your typical porn star – the women are not shaved, the men do not have bodies like The Rock, none of them look like they've had their anus bleached.
It's not just watching porn though, there is a slideshow presentation and questions from the audience, too. It's all very thought-provoking. Pandora asks us all to think about the motivations, pros and cons of DIY porn. What do you like and what turns you off? What do you want to see more of? It makes me think that human sexuality is incredibly varied and if Pandora is right and porn can be anything you imagine, then why is so much of what we see white women with acrylic nails being jizzed on?
At one point, Post-it notes are passed around; on the yellow ones, people write what they could contribute to the world of porn and on the pink ones they write what would hold them back. One woman is scared about watching herself back and seeing her sex face. One feels insecure about her size – will watching her and her partner have sex make her feel less attractive than him? Then there are questions from the audience. They range from the practical to the perverted. The man behind me wonders if making his own porn might turn him into some sort of sex monster. A lesbian couple in front of me don’t want their home-shot porn to end up online (this is a concern shared by many). One man asks about rape porn.
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Porn enables you to find a niche community who are into the same stuff you are, whether that’s big butts or threesomes

Overall it feels like there are more doubts than anything else but Pandora’s testimony of the pros of porn is powerful. "It's given me self-love. I've made a hobby and career out of making footage of myself having fun. I’ve had very hot fun with very hot people.” They say porn enables you to find a niche community who are into the same stuff you are, whether that’s big butts or threesomes. They believe having sex on camera leads to better sex off camera, because of the conversation that happens around it. “It's grounding,” they say. “You have to be in your skin, right in the moment, in a way I find quite therapeutic.”
There is no right and wrong here, but there are risks if you make and share your own porno movie. There are trolls who will say mean things. People might steal your image and use it without your permission. You should think ahead: If you make porn with your partner, what happens if you break up? How will making your own porn affect future career prospects? On the flip side, choosing a porn name is super fun and you may discover that what you perceive as your 'flaws' are someone else’s fetish. That sounds cool.
About an hour and a half in, Pandora suggests we take a (very welcome) break. I use it as an opportunity to be nosey. "Jeremy, my boyfriend, brought me," the man sitting in the row behind me says when I ask why he came. "I didn't know what it was going to be until we got inside and saw the sign. I haven’t seen so many tits in years." Are they here just for a laugh? “We are thinking of this in a practical way,” he says. The lady next to me is celebrating her birthday. “I thought, 'That’s hilarious, buy tickets' when I saw it. I think it’s awesome. I really liked the stuff about not worrying what I looked like.”
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Overall the discussion is more 'why' than 'how' but Pandora doles out pragmatic advice, too. Apparently all you need is a smartphone, natural light and a good friend.
“Your biggest asset is yourself," they say. There are tips for deciding what you are going to do (do you want a script? Do you want to be naked?) and how to look your best (it’s not about clothes and makeup, it's about being true to yourself).

Porn is a way to bring your own fantasies to life.

After almost three hours of filth, Pandora delivers an impassioned speech about expressing sexuality and body confidence. “I appreciate what I’ve got and enjoy the way I look and move. Porn is a way to bring your own fantasies to life. When you are the director, you can self-define and choose how you are described,” they say.
"I honestly believe that porn can change the world" they conclude, adding that porn addresses the key issues of our time, such as consent and boundaries. It's become a sneaky way to do activism, they argue: "[By] catching people when their pants are down, we can teach them about queer rights and trans rights and bodies and consent."
Pandora has a point. With porn we can challenge body fascism and celebrate difference. If we make porn of all variations we can change what the world thinks of as 'sexy'. If you are fat, or your cock is small, making porn of that could help other people who are fat and have small cocks, Pandora says.
Imagine a world where we see people of all abilities, genders, sexualities and colour making porn, not just the heteronormative Hollywood version. More women shooting porn could topple the male gaze. By showing consent, and men putting on condoms, maybe we can dismantle rape culture.
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After the workshop, I walk down the street to my bus stop, trying to process what just happened. I'm not thinking about what I saw, I'm thinking about what Pandora said about believing pornography can change the world. I think they may be right.
DIY Porn: How to make it and feel good doing it took place at The Book Club, 100 Leonard Street, London
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