Gareth May | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Is Marriage 2.0 The First Ever Mainstream Porn Film?

The Debrief: Described as the 'Holy Grail' of porn, Marriage 2.0 hopes to redefine how we view sex on TV. Gareth May speaks to screenwriter and producer Magnus Sullivan to find out what's next for the porn industry...

It’s been called the 'the Holy Grail' of porn by NY Times best-selling author Dr. Christopher Ryan; author and sociologist Carol Queen has said, 'it's the movie mainstream wants to make but can’t'; and independent movie website Indiewire.com exclusively hosted its soft core trailer, a rare feat in itself.  

The movie is Marriage 2.0. An Adam and Eve and LionReach production charting a couple’s first tentative steps into an non-monogamous open relationship; featuring adult stars India Summer, Ryan Driller, and Nina Hartley, with cameos by relationship expert Emily Morse and Reid Mihalko. I interviewed screenwriter and producer Magnus Sullivan to find out why Marriage 2.0 is a potential game changer for the porn industry.

Hi Magnus. Marriage 2.0 is a very different kind of porn film. It’s almost like porn’s answer to mumblecore. What was the motivation behind it?

Economically, the adult market must appeal to a broader audience. We have been reduced to increasingly irrelevant markets (i.e. men who want only to masturbate) and increasingly niche markets.  The primary value of adult (to get men off) is very easily obtained for free now. The idea of paying for adult content seems silly to most young people as well as older audiences—tubes have cratered that market. 

Marriage 2.0, by using hard-core sex as a narrative tool in a compelling and controversial story, deviates from all current forms of porn.  Traditional porn is explicit in every respect; there is never any question about the direction of the plot or the progression of the sex. Marriage 2.0 is filled with ambiguity on many levels and there is certainly a sense of tension around the question of 'what will happen next?'

There are some great performances in the movie. India Summer especially excels. And Nina Hartley’s brief role shows she clearly has comedic timing and talent. Did you purposefully want to shine a light on adult stars with talents away from the bedroom?

I feel very strongly that adult performers have been misused. There are certain personalities in our industry that are quite capable of delivering acting performances equal to those commonly seen in mainstream, but they're not given the opportunity to do so. 

When properly supported by skilled directing, well-written narratives, creative styling, masterful editing and professional musical scoring, these performers separate themselves from the mainstream performer in a profound way—they not only display emotional vulnerability required to emotionally connect with the audience, but they also present themselves in the most vulnerable and intimate act. 

I wanted to celebrate this; I wanted to show the industry and the world what the adult performer is capable of, and what our industry is capable of. I wanted to show that there is beauty, sophistication and meaning in what we do. I wanted to show that adult cinema—porn—can be a relevant cinematic genre.

It’s very rare that a porn movie tries to say something about life. What do you think Marriage 2.0 says about love and relationships?

[That] it’s time that we expand our understanding of what a 'successful' relationships look like. 

I wanted to redefine marriage as a platform for growth and adventure rather than a contract based on compromising the very things that keep us vibrant as we age. There are vast landscapes that go un-discussed between couples due to fear and shame, and the repression of these conversations creates tension and compromised lives. I wanted to show that honesty and not compromise is the better starting point and suggest that much of the pain and suffering created by marriages and relationships that end due to 'infidelity' is unnecessary. 

Marriage 2.0 aims to stretch the spectrum a bit—albeit through the genre of adult. 

The movie is most remarkable for its limited use of hardcore sex. There’s no ‘spreading’ to camera, no anal, no rimming, no cumshots. One sex scene is even cut short because one of the characters needs to take his son to ‘football in the morning’. Why did you take this decision?

Look at HBO and Netflix? Look at Nymphomaniac, Wetlands and the various serial shows, like Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Girls, House of Cards—all of these have far more erotic and sophisticated uses of sex that drive the narrative [than the porn industry]. What mainstream is showing is that they can do more without showing hard cock and penetration than we can showing it—that should be a wake up call.

We need to better understand how to build drama into the sex in the same way we build drama into a narrative.  It needs to develop. We need to understand the 'amuse bouche' and appetizer and main course and wine parings, and stop dumping a heap of ice cream on the plate. That approach doesn't appeal to the informed diner and to those willing to pay for a good meal. 

Marriage 2.0 is an attempt to change that—it's an attempt to drive a real wedge between mainstream and adult by skillfully weaving sex into the story and using the sex to build tension, sex which escalates with the narrative.

Do you think the mainstream TV and Hollywood do sex better than porn then?

I think simulated sex in mainstream is better than almost all explicit sex in porn.  One of the reasons is that mainstream understands that making movies is all about showing you something that never really happened. It seems odd, but the things we see in movies are usually not things that actually happened; they have been stitched together through editing, effects and scoring to create an emotional reality that has nothing to do with the actual raw performance. 

In adult, we let the camera run; it's one endless and predictable run-on sentence. We don't know how to make the act of disrobing truly erotic; we don't know how to make the act of having sex before a camera for all of us to see—we don't know how to make that moment unbelievable. We don't know how to slow down and let the power of that moment seep into our body, into our minds. We just go right to it.  

And adult movies that narrow the gap between narrative and sex are the answer?

The sense of eroticism, story and believability of characters, and connection to their lives and all of the other aspects of filmmaking—mainstream does it better right now. It shouldn't be the case but it is.

[However] witnessing real sex, even if not designed for masturbation, is very different from simulated sex: it gets into the animal in us all and ripples through the skin in a way simulation never will. It's a threshold, it's one of the most potent thresholds for humans, and we know when we're crossing it.

This is where the promise of adult lies in a world that's free for wankers. You must get into the mind and provide a holistic erotic experience. We have brains; our eroticism starts there. You seduce the brain and the rest is easy.

So this is the future of porn?

I hope that in 10 years, adult cinema will recognize Marriage 2.0 as the movie that started an entirely new effort to use real sex to charge the narrative and deliver relevant, artful stories in a way that mainstream simply cannot. And I think we're going to see that there's not only an appetite, but rather that there's a deep hunger for storytelling like this.

Marriage 2.0 is available on AdamandEveTV.com

Tags: Sex, NSFW, Sex O\'Clock, Porn