Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A letter to Dan Savage: Share your righteous anger with us

Pornotopia Film Festival fan, organizer and friend of Self Serve asks one of our favorites, Dan Savage, to hear our story of censorship in Albuquerque.  Elisa sent this letter to Dan, and her message is so important, we wanted to share it here:

Dear Dan,

I have been a fan of your work for more years than I can remember, and I have always appreciated your humor and direct approach to advising a variety of people in some…let’s just call them “interesting” situations. More recently, I have come to appreciate your righteous anger, especially since it is directed at deserving targets.

What prompts this letter is not so much a sexual problem, rather a problem with sex or, more specifically, the depiction of sex. I am one of the organizers of Pornotopia, an erotic film festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico started by the amazing ladies of Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center.

Pornotopia was conceived as a showcase for porn that is healthy, tender, raw, beautiful, and real, where pleasure is paramount and everybody gets off. We highlight independently produced porn, and we aim to please our hetero-, homo-, trans-, and just plain sexual audience.

For its first three years, Pornotopia ran a three-day program at the Guild Cinema in the Nob Hill section of Albuquerque. Before the first film ran, the festival and the Guild were threatened with citation for violation of zoning codes. Despite the Guild’s previous incarnation as a full-time adult theater, its current status as the town’s only independent movie theater was not congruent with the exhibition of adult entertainment.

The ACLU has been valiantly fighting for our right to an exemption to these zoning codes for this less-than-1%-of-the-year event. So far the zoning commission has argued that 10% of the city is appropriately zoned for our festival—except that this magical 10% is primarily warehouses and car dealerships and heavy industrial areas. For a multitude of reasons—not the least of which includes public safety mandated fire codes—these “appropriate” areas are not conducive to the needs of a film festival.

Our dedicated committee spent more than nine months scouring the city for a space that could legally and practically hold Pornotopia. When we finally found a downtown theater that simply needed an exemption to allow adult entertainment, we were told BY THE ZONING OFFICE it should be a simple process.

It was a mere month before the event that a third call to zoning yielded a big fucking hiccup.  A “downtown corridor revitalization” overlay prohibited even the possibility of an exemption for any venue downtown. This gentrification plan was already in play when we first contacted zoning and got the “should be a simple process” answer, but no one in the office seemed aware of its existence until we were ready to sign contracts.

We are only so grateful that the brakes were slammed on prior to signing contracts. And because we aren’t in the habit of bending over and taking it up the ass without a sufficient amount of lube and foreplay, we are holding a “Pornotopia Censored” event at our downtown location with live Burlesque/Boylesque, drag, and comedy performances in lieu of the actual film festival.

The Pornotopia 2010 festival is ready to roll when we find an appropriate home. At this point, it appears that home will be outside city limits. We could take the festival underground, or offer it online with the rest of the wide world of internet porn. But our purpose in holding Pornotopia in a public space is to remove the stigma of shame, to show how porn can educate and enlighten, and to take back the good name of porn and perverts everywhere. To step back into the alleys and shadows means to accept defeat, even if we are grudgingly allowed to show the films in this setting.

We never set out to be porn crusaders or to start a sexy revolution, but here we are on the frontlines of the fight for freedom of speech, and we’re looking for allies. No one is saying this isn’t porn; it’s hot and heavy hardcore fuck action, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we have a right to make this available to a consenting, adult audience, and our rights are being violated.

From one open-minded, sex-positive, fellow porn festival organizer to another, would you be kind enough to use your mighty forum to bring attention to this travesty of justice? We want to shine a national spotlight on our city’s restrictive zoning, shaming them as they would like to shame us. You can find more information at,, or contact me at

Sincerely and passionately,

Elisa McGovern

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