Life

It's My Job to Watch Amateur Porn

Sociologist Sven Lewandowski is trying to learn more about human sexuality.
25 February 2020, 9:26am
Amateur porn design
Woman: Getty Images/Caiaimage | Camera: Alex Suskind/Barry Suskind | Collage: VICE

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

Sven Lewandowski watches amateur porn every day and gets paid for it. As a sociologist, he also does all this in the name of science.

For the past year, the 50-year-old has been researching human sexuality with a small team at Germany's Bielefeld University by watching amateur sex tapes featuring real sexual partners. Lewandowski analyses the tapes and then interviews the subjects – people in casual and serious relationships, and of all sexual orientations – about their behaviour between the sheets. He wants to examine our unique sexual habits and how they're formed.

The sociologist finds his subjects through callouts of the university, posts on dating sites, leaflets and in sex shops. He'll be working on his theory of sexuality for the next two years, leaving you plenty of time to send him your own videos if you want to help with the study. In the meantime, I had a few questions for Mr Lewandowski to answer.

Sven Lewandowski vor einem Bücherregal

Lewandowski collects and watches amateur porn for research. Photo courtesy of Sven Lewandowski.

VICE: Why are you so interested in people's homemade sex tapes?
Sven Lewandowski: If you ask people exactly what they do during sex, they can hardly tell you anything. It's really difficult to put into words what your own body does during sex. Sex research doesn't actually know anything about sexual interaction. People's own sex tapes are good material because they're not not produced for sociologists. It depicts reality and shows sexuality in a private environment. There is no point in putting people in your laboratory and saying: "Now have sex."

And what's the purpose of the research?
The question is: how does sexuality work and how does amateur pornography work? I believe our sexuality is as unconscious as any other physical practice. Playing football – everyone has a certain style of handling the ball. I think it's similar with sex; even if they want to role-play, the videos ultimately show their regular sexuality. People normally aren't very good actors in everyday life.

How many people have you interviewed so far?
A handful. If you work precisely, it's slow. Our longest interview lasted six hours. The prerequisite is that all of the people depicted in the films are consenting adults. We also exclude masturbation videos from individuals because the study is about sexual interaction, meaning at least two people. But we don’t care what relationship the couple has to each other. They can be affairs, friendships or long-term relationships.

What kind of people make amateur porn, and why do they make it?
Ordinary people – you wouldn't be able to point them out on the street. Their motives are incredibly diverse. Some shoot porn for the same reasons they shoot holiday videos – for self-documentation. Others find it exciting to film themselves and watch the video afterwards, or to know that other people will see it later. Others film themselves to use the clips on sex and dating platforms.

Nowadays, most people have a camera on them at all times and can film spontaneously. People post their food and children – why not their sexuality? I don't find it that unusual.

Is amateur porn actually representative of the average person's sexuality?
Yes, because people forget about the camera relatively quickly, especially when they're at home. Of course, you can't rule out people trying to be a bit more spectacular than they are in everyday life, especially when the video is intended to go public. But you notice quite easily when people are acting and when they're not.

How do you recognise that?
For example, we've been studying one scene that's really excellent because the couple is obviously very in tune with one another: she slides up the bed and he grabs her buttocks through her legs. It is so perfectly coordinated that it couldn't be acting; it's more like clockwork. She probably makes the same move every time they have sex.

You can see how well people know each other, like for example when breakdowns occur. Be it slipping out or pinching too hard. Couples who have had sex with each other for a long time can turn it around within half a second, without verbal communication. The question is: how do people and couples develop a sexual style together? You don't go to a training camp like footballers.

Is it exciting to watch the videos?
Everyone always thinks it's great to watch porn in the office – but that's not true. You have to acquire a professional outlook. In other words, the ability to look at sexuality without arousal. We watch the videos very closely, fast-forwarding and rewinding. If we want to describe a one minute, 30 second video reasonably carefully, we need about ten pages to do so. In total, you can definitely spend two weeks working on one short video.

What is the most exciting finding so far?
The diversity of sexuality: different desires, different practices, different approaches. The most exciting thing is the micro-interactions. The flow of things that you wouldn't normally notice, but that are crucial in order for sexual interaction to work.

Bielefeld University is looking for more participants for the project. You can find more information here and email Sven Lewandowski with any questions at: amateurpornographie@uni-bielefeld.de