NSFW (but safe for people): 5 questions for Portland’s brainy bike pornographer

NSFW (but safe for people): 5 questions for Portland’s brainy bike pornographer

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The inimitable Phil Sano.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

For some people, the connection between bikes and sexuality starts and ends with 5,000 nude bodies at this Saturday’s World Naked Bike Ride.

For seven years, the man who created Bike Smut has been proving that those people aren’t thinking nearly big enough.

Next Wednesday, Portland-based porn pro and self-described bikesexual revolutionary Phil Sano — often known by his nom de guerre, “the Rev. Phil” — launches the latest edition of his globetrotting revue, the Porny Express, at the Clinton Street Theater. Its press materials promise a “variety of representations of human sexuality, entirely created by amateur bike pornographers from all over the world.”

Then there’s Bike Smut’s recent DVD, Come Find Me, in which “a woman wakes up to an enticing Polaroid, inviting her on a bike powered scavenger hunt. After a lot of teasing, she gets her thrilling reward.”

“Both have virtuous cycles that result in better conditions to live in.”
— Phil Sano on sex and cycling

But the most surprising thing about Sano might be that he’s an exceptionally earnest, thoughtful guy with a deeply felt political agenda: he looks at boringly patriarchal sex concepts (and puts them on his cultural hit list) the same way some of his fellow bike-lovers look at SUVs. And he’s managed to build a career doing something about it.

In a few words, what’s the big idea of Bike Smut?

Bike Smut is fun, smart and aware. Goal is to gather mature audiences for candid sharing of creative, enticing ideas. Ideas like sex and cycling.

Both have virtuous cycles that result in better conditions to live in. More cyclists in the streets make the streets safer, and more honest communication about desires makes fucking safer.

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Sano at last year’s Naked Ride.

How long have you been spreading the bike porn gospel, and where has the work taken you?

Each year we have a new theme and ask artists from around the word to submit their short movies. In the past couple years we have had hundreds of shows in 24 different countries from Ankara to Edinburgh to Oaxaca.

We are about to start our seventh year of programming, which will premiere at the Clinton St Theater in Portland as part of Pedalpalooza. Then a few days later, we will be having a screening on top of the world in Anchorage, Alaska (which is [at latitude] 61 degrees north, as opposed to our current northernmost screening, of Gothenburg, Sweden, at 57 degrees).

Finally, a massive personal challenge will be bike touring across North America this autumn. Leaving Oregon in August, we hope to be in Montreal before it gets too cold.

Have you noticed changes to people’s reaction to the shows over the years?

I remember a few people complaining that the show didn’t have enough porn. The past couple years we have heard people complain there was not enough bike!

How do you see the smut business changing in general?

The business of pornography has changed a lot. Whereas before there were only a handful of distribution channels and everyone was trying to build up, now the tide is over the wall and everyone is trying to stay light and mobile. If the levees break, maybe we will finally behold our sexual revolution.

It is not just the increasing number of people in pornography, it is also the intentions of those who are producing it. We are seeing ethical erotica being produced by feminist pornographers like Tristan Taramino, which may only be slightly less radical than Annie Sprinkle‘s ecosexual movement. In both cases, there is more awareness and a desire to make something that resonates with audience. Most of porn is so ephemeral. It feels great to create something with more value.

What’s the highlight for you of next week’s show?

Sano at a Sunday Parkways event.

We have been asking for more honest representations of male sexuality. People sometimes say porn is degrading to women, but really, most porn is just degrading to people. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We are excited to show real, honest representations of sexuality by people who are excited to share their vision.

Sex is usually depicted as this very serious, very rigid, very delineated activity. Cycling is also looked upon in a similar way. The reality is there are a variety of feelings and expressions and we shouldn’t let an unseen other (e.g., patriarchy) put limitations on how we get around.

I think of limitations like screws in a derailleur. They keep you running smooth but you have to play with them every once in a while to keep them dialed in. And sometimes they need serious readjustment.

Qs & As edited for brevity.

NOTE: Hi everyone. We had a mix-up about the lead photo used in this story. I apologize for the image. I had sent (or thought I sent) Michael an email about the story with a different image but for some reason he never saw the email. I’m still in Europe and communication has been tricky. – Jonathan

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