Audio porn is on the rise, but what makes it such a progressive alternative to traditional, image-based mediums? Writer Jake Hall attends a workshop to find out.

Audio porn is on the rise, but what makes it such a progressive alternative to traditional, image-based mediums? Writer Jake Hall attends a workshop to find out.

Can you name a sound that really turns you on? This is one of the first questions asked by Dick Twitch and Venus Flytrap, the charismatic couple behind the ingeniously-titled audio porn workshop Fuck Me In The Ear’, which kicked off London’s third annual Porn Film Festival last weekend.

More than a dozen of us are gathered in a small room ready to learn all about audio porn, but we quickly realise that participation is key – and that participation can be nerve-racking, especially when it involves detailing your fantasies to a room full of strangers. Still, the initial reluctance to share soon dissipates as we reel off our answers to that initial question: the *spank* of wet skin, the sound of heavy, laboured breathing that can only signify an orgasm.

“We thought people might be shy,” Venus tells me after the workshop. “So we tried to ease them in with some icebreakers and discussion, to get everyone thinking about what they find titillating. It turns out those worries were completely unfounded!” It’s true: during the exercise, that everyone seems to overcome the awkwardness pretty quickly. Just minutes later, we’re branching off into pairs and recalling – eyes closed – some of our most intimate sexual stories.

Of course these icebreakers aren’t just to lighten the mood – they’re also designed to cut through the shame and embarrassment most of us still feel when talking about sex. But once that’s out of the way, we arrive at the key question: what is audio porn?

In essence, it’s exactly what it sounds like – audio clips that are designed to get you off. The genre is still in its infancy, but Venus lists a few different types. “There are the fantasies and the scenarios spoken at you in a soft, sexy growl; there’s the ASMR; and then there’s the ‘just moaning’ type of audio porn.” We hear a few examples, none of which sound hugely surprising: there’s the woman begging to be fucked, the man groaning his way noisily through what – to be fair – sounds like a mind-blowing orgasm.

But Dick and Venus are convinced there’s more to audio porn than what’s currently on offer, so they’ve made it their mission to stretch its possibilities. “We both work in audio professionally, so when we first met at Berlin Pornfilmfestival in 2018, we bonded over our shared lament that so much attention is paid to the images in porn, but so little to the audio. Often, the most lovingly-crafted images will just be pasted over with music.”

 

Prior to their introduction, Venus had already been researching audio porn – what she’d found was a lack of real, first-person stories. This has long been the case across all genres of porn, but sites like Lustery and MakeLoveNotPorn – which take an intimate, social media-style approach by allowing couples to monetise videos of their sex lives – have emerged to fill the gap. But a well-known audio porn equivalent doesn’t currently exist.

“So that documentary-style audio porn really came to us in a brainwave,” Venus explains. “The more people participate and share their stories, the more we’ll be able to show the entire spectrum of human sexuality and get to know the people behind the moans – while getting off, as well!”

That’s where the workshop’s participation element really comes in – we’re ultimately here to record our own audio porn. Microphones are placed in random spots around the room, and there’s a small table laden with handcuffs and leather straps to get our creative juices flowing. Others have brought their own props: someone has a small, interactive vibrator (it can be controlled through a mobile phone app) whirring in their hand; another attendee slips off their belt and cracks it with satisfaction.

By way of an example, Dick and Venus play us a clip of one of their own post-coital conversations. It’s littered with giggles and moans, but there’s a core element too often lacking in mainstream porn: communication. “Most porn I watch is ethical, feminist and queer post-porn,” says Dick. He emphasises that, ultimately, his desire to see scenes where the acts are clearly “consensual, loving and fun.”

The London Porn Film Festival has a schedule stacked full of these kinds of films. Some are queer and kinky, whereas others are more documentary-style, but they’re littered amongst panels about consent and desire. The aim isn’t just to get people talking about sex, it’s to show what a pleasure-focussed porn industry could look like if it broke free of stereotypes and stigma. This mission is vital, especially as conservative backlash – propelled recently by the porn ban and the  homophobic LGBT sex-ed debate– has strengthened.

Incidentally, the festival itself got caught in the crossfire. Just days before Dick and Venus’ event, ticket-holders received an email detailing a last-minute venue change prompted by a “transphobic and sex worker-exclusionary hate campaign,” which almost derailed the festival entirely. But the weekend passed without a hitch, and the proposed ‘protest’ amounted to nothing more than a few conservatives brandishing limp placards in the rain. (The venue change leaked online.) “We will not be silenced, censored or shamed,” the organisers later tweeted.

 

Our own audio clips aren’t exactly censored, but they also don’t veer into the clichés – the exaggerated moans, the non-stop dirty talk – which define most hardcore mainstream porn. We drag chairs and crack whips to mimic the tension and release of a BDSM fantasy; we recite monologues begging our partners to rip off our clothes; we even imagine the kind of illicit thrill that would come with wearing a vibrator in a coffee shop. Some of us create sexier results than others (it’s surprisingly difficult to act out your prostate being massaged while you’re ordering a flat white), but the point is that we’ve all communicated, shared our fantasies and broken through the shame that still too often lingers around sex.

There’s also scope for audio porn to bring new realms of pleasure to visually-impaired listeners. The cheesy soundtracks and obligatory dirty talk littered throughout most mainstream porn leave much to be desired, but the industry is already working to be more inclusive – with the rise of closed-caption porn just one example. “I hope that hearing people telling their own personal stories will create a sense of kinship between listeners,” says Venus, as Dick confirms they’re already looking into how audio porn could be translated into different languages. In this sense, communication lies at the core of audio porn – and of the London Porn Film Festival more generally.

There’s something freeing about describing your fantasies to a room of like-minded strangers, a release that feels particularly intense during the ‘orgasm choir’ (exactly what it sounds like) that we end the workshop with. This liberation is politically important in a society which weaponises desire: we’re taught about sex through a fear-centric lens, which focusses on pain and infection rather than intimacy or pleasure. In other words, it’s hard to know what good sex looks like in practice if nobody feels like they’re allowed to talk about it. That’s where people like Dick and Venus come in; they’re fighting the increasing stigma to pose the simple, but still surprisingly controversial question: what really does turn you on?

Follow Jake Hall on Twitter.

Find out more about ‘Fuck Me In The Ear’. 

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