The future of porn is non-binary

These queer performers are transforming the industry, making porn more inclusive, more experimental, and much more interesting too.

by Abby Moss
|
17 March 2022, 8:00am

Performers Ze Royal and Indigo in AORTA films' 'Hard at Work'

A banqueting hall about to descend into a Dionysian orgy. Thrusting buttocks in gold latex. Close ups of cucumbers and whipped cream cast in a purple-blue glow giving both 1970s sci-fi and gorgeous high-fashion. A surreal BDSM scene in which a figure in white Y-fronts is pulled forward by ropes around their face as a straight-faced audience watches on. A pastel-coloured water balloon fight in the bright summer sunshine. Interpretive dance. Buzzcuts and beards. Knee socks and jockstraps. And, often, a lot of laughter. This is a new kind of porn. One that questions outdated gender binaries and offers not just representation, but celebration, of queer, trans and non-binary bodies; of real pleasure and true identity.


Mahx Capacity, a self-proclaimed “fat queer trans/non-binary pervert”, is the Creative Director of AORTA films, an award-winning film studio that creates monthly short films that walk a path between queer experimental cinema and pornography. “It’s lusty, opulent, glorious fuckery,” Mahx laughs on a call from their home in Brooklyn. Having started out as a choreographer whose work was very experimental, Mahx was curious to work with bodies in a more explicit way. “Experimentation is central,” Mahx says, “Play, explore, innovate. We swing from super campy to intense BDSM. Creating a new tone or lens is central because it mirrors the fluidity central in queer identity.”

The founder of home-made porn platform Lustery, Paulita Pappell, is one of the creators of the micro-documentary PornograHERS, which celebrates female and non-binary pornographers, and features AORTA films. She notes that there are so many non-binary filmmakers out there, it was impossible to fit them all into the 10 minute documentary. “There has definitely been a huge increase in interest in non-binary and queer porn,” says Paulita, who used to be an adult performer before focusing on filmmaking, including porn. “I started in this industry in 2013, and since then there has definitely been a shift. Things are opening up. Distributors are becoming more open too, particularly when it comes to male bisexuality. I think there’s a greater understanding of the variety and complexity of human sexuality, and a slow breaking down of taboos.”

Jiz Lee is a non-binary adult performer. On the shifting landscape of queer and non-binary porn, Jiz explains that as demand changes, so do the kinds of films that are being made. “Consumers hold a lot of power to shape what porn looks like – from the bodies on the screen to the stories that are told,” they say. “The mainstream porn market is that of free (primarily stolen) content on tube sites shaped by algorithms. Other large markets include custom, bespoke content consumers, and paid subscribers. It's the latter that are interested in queer and gender-diverse representation – they're willing to pay content creators, crave content that is more representative, and see the people who make it as artists whose work has value.”

Lustery and AORTA both work on a subscription model, charging a monthly membership fee similar in price to a Netflix subscription. The variety of content available on these platforms is vast, showcasing a huge range of bodies, kinks and fantasies. And, by showing the complex facets of human sexuality, porn evolves into more than simply a form of entertainment. It becomes a tool for breaking down harmful and sexist ways of thinking.

“Non-binary porn challenges sexism by holding a mirror up to a flawed logic,” says Paulita. “Old misogynistic views of sex, and of pornography, see a woman as passive. And so the implication is that women need to be protected from porn, and from sexuality itself. But what happens when a porn film features a woman and three non-binary people? What do we say then? We start to see how that logic, how binaries around gender, don’t have to apply.”

Notably, Paulita believes the innovation inherent to the porn industry makes it a leader when it comes to representation. “I saw myself in porn long before I saw myself in any Netflix shows,” she says. The filmmaker describes her own work as ‘documentary porn’, which she distinguishes from ‘fictional porn’, where the performers are playing roles and following an idea for a scene or scenario. “There’s no script, no roles, it’s just people being themselves,” she says of the documentary porn genre. “It’s about reclaiming pleasure, reclaiming joy. Some mainstream porn sells a sense of ‘authenticity’ that isn’t authentic at all for the people staging it.”

Non-binary porn moves away from this, working in a much more fluid and dynamic way, with filmmakers, performers and sometimes even consumers, contributing to the end result. “It’s great when someone feels like they’re seen,” explains Mahx. “Then it does something past representation and goes into something deeply emotional.”



When queer and non-binary porn works collaboratively with performers, it can create something that is truly for them; for their own gaze and that of the community, avoiding fetishising their bodies or desires. In this way, it becomes all the more real (no matter how surreal the scenes may become) and opens up a space for true celebration of individual sexuality, in all of its kaleidoscopic and ever-changing forms. “My favourite thing,” says Mahx, reflecting on their work with AORTA, “is finding that moment of holy presence, where nobody dares take a breath because something really magical is happening.”

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