The Swiss Woman Spreading the Gospel of 'Intelligent, Feminist, Life-changing' Porn

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: The organizer of the Porny Days festival talks about her effort to 'inject broader meaning into porn'

Talaya Schmid.
Tomer Appelbaum

Talaya Schmid, 34, from Zurich; flying there

Hello, can I ask how you spent your time in Israel?

I visited friends in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Where do you know these friends from?

I met one of them at a festival, and the other’s a friend of a friend. Four years ago I needed a vacation really badly, and I got here randomly and have been keeping in touch since.

What do you do?

I’m the organizer of an independent porn festival called Porny Days.

Wow, interesting. Tell me about it.

It’s not mainstream, it’s a fun thing, it’s intelligent. Also educational. It’s porn with a number of layers, in contrast to commercial porn that deals only with instant gratification, without changing anything in the life of the consumer.

How did you get involved in pornography?

I was actually an art student. One day a friend brought me a DVD of experimental feminist porn. I invited friends over to my apartment. We watched it, held a discussion over a glass of wine, and reached the conclusion that if there were other films like this we would watch them, too. And then I said I would organize a festival on the subject.

Great initiative – so what happened?

It started small and grew from 75 people to 2,500. Now it’s a three-day festival held in Zurich. We also have pop-up events called one-night stands. We did one like that in Israel last year.

Where?

At the Anna Loulou Bar in Jaffa, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the Kabareet nightclub in Haifa.

Is the festival meant to be sexually arousing?

That’s a small part of it. There’s an educational emphasis through panel discussions and workshops. There are documentaries, animation, performances. The sexual-arousal part is minor, but the other aspects are something that stays with you and goes home with you.

What kind of workshops are there?

Last year there was a “do-it-yourself vibrator” including the building of a small motor.

Nice. What’s happening in indie porn?

For example, there’s a porn site called Pink & White, which isn’t divided into categories based on external appearance but only based on activities. When doing a search you can write what happens in the act, but the results that come up will include people from different genders with different appearances.

Is this taboo in Western, progressive Switzerland?

Switzerland is a bit stuck-up, but it can be liberal in the sexual sense. They make problems for us because of the festival’s name, Porny Days, because it includes the word “porn,” a term with a problematic image.

Which you are reclaiming.

Yes. There are still prejudices; I feel I need to apologize and explain that it’s not commercial porn. But our effort definitely injects a broader meaning into porn.

Did your own sexuality change once you launched the festival?

Yes. It’s the connection of the festival to my ego – I wanted to create a place for myself where I could learn positively, not like the day-to-day talk about women’s sexuality.

What’s that talk like?

It takes place in a medical form: hospitals, diseases or making babies. For example, science books say the clitoris can be up to two centimeters long, but it’s actually 10 centimeters [3.9 inches] long, into the body. Imagine if science books made a mistake like that about the size of the kidney. Think how calming the realization is that the clitoris and the G-spot are the same organ.

But why hold a discussion at all?

Because no one taught us how to talk about sex. People literally don’t know how to ask and how to say no. Sexuality is always secret, and if there’s a sex party, it’s held in some strange place outside of town. We hold ours in the heart of the city. We hold parties with a special place set aside where you can play. There are condoms, there’s supervision, but you can also not participate, just dance. Last year 800 people showed up. The whole Zurich techno scene was there.

When’s the next festival?

November 23 to 25. It’s always at the end of November. Also, in May 2019, we’re having a screening at the Haifa Independent Film Festival.

What’s next?

I want to go to the art schools in Switzerland and encourage the students to create their own content, because at the moment most of it comes from abroad.

Nimrod Ben David and Karin Tsabarim.
Tomer Appelbaum

Nimrod Ben David, 38, from Ramat Gan, and Karin Tsabarim, 30, from Rehovot; arriving from Sofia

Hi, can I ask you what you were doing in Bulgaria?

Karin: It was supposed to be a ski trip, but it was one day of skiing and the rest was a fight with Bulgarians.

Really? What did you fight about?

They gave us a faulty snowboard. The plastic bindings that hold the feet were torn and it was unusable.

Oy, I hope you didn’t fall.

Obviously I did. Luckily for me I wasn’t going fast.

And how did it come to a fight?

Because they were obnoxious when we asked for compensation. The girl at the counter refused to give her name and shouted at us. I took out my phone and she screamed that it’s against Bulgarian law to take pictures. She said she’d call the police.

And did the police come?

Yes. We complained to them, but they only made sure we didn’t have photos in the phone and said “Okay, bye.”

Did the place apologize to you?

Nimrod: No, the woman from the place just screamed at us “I’ll break your phone” in a Dracula voice.

Karin: We told them we would tell the press about them, and here you are!

So you came back disappointed?

Nimrod: Yes, snowboarding was an old dream of mine.

So why only now?

Nimrod: My friends didn’t feel like it. Then I met Karin two months ago and she was also into it. We went for it; we just needed to organize ourselves for dealing with Shabbat.

Karin, was Shabbat important for you, too?

Karin: I violate Shabbat actively.

Nimrod: But she respects it.

Where did you meet?

Nimrod: We met in a Facebook group called [in Hebrew] “The Secrets of the Eternal Truth of Trance.” We started talking, clicked and went on.

“The eternal truth”? What kind of group is it?

Nimrod: Spiritual messages about awareness, nature. Writing about biblical verses and where they encounter us.

Karin: But it’s not a religious group. The truth is, ideologically, the group doesn’t really suit me. I’m not especially spiritual and I tend not to use phrases like “the energy of the universe.”

Then why are you there?

Karin: Because I feel like I’ve connected with the group’s content and people, thanks to looking positively at things and mutual support. I totally find myself entering there at frustrating or boring moments – and fueling a smile for the rest of the day.

Nimrod, are you more connected to spirituality?

I believe that Judaism and Buddhism are two faiths that can intertwine, and the people in the group speak in those two voices. I admit there’s less Judaism, but in contrast to the outside dialogue, which is scornful, in the group there’s acceptance of everyone. People post messages that are right for them, they respond and argue. But mostly they listen.

Do people sometimes come out of the Facebook group and meet in reality?

Nimrod: There are meetings and parties – I’ve only been to one party. There was a dating post and there are workshops.

Have you been to a workshop?

Yes, a psychodrama workshop given by a girl named Chen Maimon.

Did they dramatize a story of yours?

I haven’t had a story of mine dramatized, but it doesn’t matter, because the stories converge. It might be someone who finds it hard to accept “no” in his job or in a relationship, or a girl who has issues with her father. You can find yourself in every story.

How did it help you?

It turns the story in your head into something verbalized, game-like and creative. So the pressure drops. An alter ego is created in the workshop, and afterward it can come out in everyday life, too, because it receives a place to express itself.

So you can say that thanks to the group you met Karin and you finally had someone to go with on the snowboarding trip you dreamed about that lasted half an hour.

Half an hour is better than nothing.

Karin (laughing): Really mature.