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Regular Folk Bare All in Competition

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – As Aaron Strickler sees things, the world would be better off if others could see him having sex on film.

“Filming sex is fun and bringing joy and levity to other people is the biggest thing we can do in this life,” he said before he premiered a short film of explicit footage in a split-screen, black-and-white format.

Strickler, 36, and the other six finalists at San Francisco’s Amateur Erotic Film Competition were following a long tradition of homemade porn that has often helped inspire the mainstream industry.

People have filmed sex since soon after the invention of movies, and such “stag” movies were in underground circulation by World War One.

The introduction of video recorders in the 1970s and 1980s gave people cheap tools to film their own exploits. Then the Internet sparked a new wave of home production.

The competition’s runner-up, with a film about three swinging couples, said he wanted to make movies that were more real and compelling than commercial pornography.

“I’m so fed up that there is nothing to watch,” Mark Fowler said.

One pioneering effort started in 1949, when famed researcher Alfred Kinsey filmed his own home sex movies, pressing members of his staff, their wives and others to have sex before a camera in his attic.

“I performed because I thought it was necessary. How could I refuse to refuse to perform if I was asking other people to do so?” Paul Gebhard, 89, a close Kinsey associate, said this week in an interview from his Indiana home.

“We were quite interested in finding out how people behaved during sexual response,” said Gebhard, who succeeded Kinsey as director of the Institute for Sex Research from 1956-82.

Explicit home movies have helped change commercial pornographic films. Out went the contrived plots and dialogue leading to sex popular in 1970s films, as filmmakers focussed instead on hard-core action in a style known as “gonzo.”

“It could also be argued … that this amateur stuff with the camcorder really inspired a huge segment of the market which is called ‘gonzo’, which is the dominant form of pornography now,” said Mike Ramone, editor in chief of Adult Video News, a trade publication.

He said amateur porn made cheaply with camcorders helped inspire professional directors, including the one seen as perhaps the greatest porn movie maker, John Stagliano.

In a telephone interview, Stagliano, 55, a director and actor also known as “Buttman,” said at its best amateur erotica brings a reality missing in much professional porn.

“The really, truly great thing about amateur is that you find somebody incredible, some really sexy girl who wants to show off and it’s all real,” he said.

“Whereas in the conventional business it’s mostly real in the very first few scenes and then it kind of becomes more professional as you go on.”

A few amateur filmmakers at the San Francisco competition tried to take an artistic approach by using experimental editing techniques or a different approach to erotica.

“We hope to make revolutionary headway in the world of pornography,” said Tallulah Sulis, whose film featured eight women including herself.

In the end, the judges awarded the $500 first prize to Cory Wees for a film portraying his bondage and discipline by a woman.

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