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There's a Film Festival for People Who Get Turned on by Bicycles

"As long as people have been getting on bikes, people have been getting off on bikes," says the Reverend Phil Sano, founder of the Bike Smut Film Festival.

Still from Bitchy Tutorial #2, by Officine Sfera

​The genre of bike porn can be taken as literally or as figuratively as you like. Sex with bikes, sex on bikes, sex utilizing bike-related paraphernalia... With "pedalphelia," the possibilities are limitless. However, few have explored bikes and sexuality quite like Reverend Phil Sano, founder of the Bi​ke Smut Film Festival.

"As long as people have been getting on bikes, people have been getting off on bikes," he says while sitting outside Velowood Cyclery, the bike shop that hosted the annual festival when it passed through Denver on the first weekend in November. Sano—an ordained minister for something called the Church of Bicycle Jesus in Seattle who looks like what would have happened if David Cross had starred in Boogie Nights—has devoted himself to spreading the gospel of sex and bicycles.

Now in it's eighth year, Sano's open-submission film festival has traveled to Mexico, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Greece, and all over the US. Both the filmmakers and the audiences tend to be come from the queer, sex-positive community, but the films run the gamut from cutesy animations of twee romances to hardcore BDSM involving bike chains and tire tubes.


​Still from De-railed, by Quinn Cassidy and Creamy Coconut

Surprisingly, Bike Smut has been getting it's most enthusiastic audiences in conservative, religious areas like Salt Lake City rather than more sexually liberated cities like San Francisco.

"From the people who grew up with [sexual repression] in those areas and then rejected it, you get this incredibly strong counterculture," Sano tells me. "Not many sex-positive groups will go to these places, so they have to do it themselves."

For Sano, Bike Smut is more than just the eroticization of bikes, though there's no shortage of that. He sees bicycles as a key to sexual liberation, both historically and today. "Women's suffrage really came about because of the technological revolution of bicycles," he said. "Often, if a woman at that time wanted to go out, she had to be accompanied by a chaperone, especially if she was going on a date. It was considered unfeminine for a woman to ride a horse by herself, but the bicycle was this nebulous thing. They didn't know what to make of it. It took hold with women so fast there was no time to tell them they weren't allowed to use them."


​Still from The Hot, the Bold and the Foxy, by Mayssan and Simon

According to the godmother of first-wave feminism, Susan B. Anthony, bic​ycles had "done more to emancipate women than anything else." Their ubiquity drove women to abandon the Victorian era's restrictive fashion of hoop skirts and corsets in favor of bloomers and, eventually, pants. Suddenly women could be athletic and mobile, widening their dating pools and strengthening their sense of empowerment in society. "Emancipation is a very sexy thing," Sano tells me, a sentiment reflected in the number of erotic p​hotos of women and bicycles taken in the early 20th century.

"When you're riding down a hill and you're all amped up, it can be the sexiest feeling," says Courtney Helene Linclau, a co-organizer of Bike Smut currently traveling with the show. "For me it's about personal power, you're empowered in your transportation, you're empowered in your community—and sexuality is all about personal power."

Sano allows the filmmakers that submit to Bike Smut to explore the theme in any way they see fit. At this year's show we saw everything from a dildo bike seat plunging through a man's jeans as he rode through the city to a barber who (sexily) kidnaps and shaves bicycle thieves. Some films merely use bike-riding as a prelude to sex, while others treat the bike as a sexual partner, whipping it like a sub, grinding on the seat, or letting the spokes of a spinning wheel diddle the end of an erect penis.


​Still from Beaus and Arrows by Lala

There's an important distinction to make between the fetishization of an inanimate object (merely using it to get off), and seeing that object as an entity unto itself that inspires love and connection in a person. There is very little scientific data on "objectophiles," or "objectum sexuals"—people who claim to have intimate relationships with inanimate objects. This is primarily because of skepticism in the sexual science community and the way the media generally exploits objectophiles as sensationalistic freak shows, making those who might love a car, bridge, or a tree wary of speaking to journalists.

"They have some of the same challenges that other sexual minorities have, like stress due to lack of acceptance from family, coworkers, and clinicians," says Dr. Amy Marsh, a sexologist who has studied objectum sexuality. Marsh adds she sees no link between objectophilia and schizophrenia or sexual trauma, though she does see some overlap with OS and autism and Asperger's. 

In her essay "Love Among the Obje​ctum Sexuals" Marsh conducted surveys and interviews with 21 members of OS International, a group formed in 2008 for the advancement of objectum sexuals. One transgender man described having a series of relationships with soundboards, saying he loves "their rows of dials and faders," and is particularly fond of "VU meters of any kind, be them bar graph or sway-style. I love their shape, their smell, their texture.

"My least successful relationship was one with a soundboard at a church," he continues. "I was kicked out of the church for being OS because they claimed that I 'had the soundboard in my heart, and not Jesus.'"

Another respondent was sexually drawn to, and in relationships with, fisheye buttons, yet strongly detested all other kinds of buttons. "My objects are convenient and inexpensive, I can take them with me," he says, adding that he's aroused by "the feel on my fingers and lips. The coldness against me skin. The feeling of power they have for me. The control that comes from their perfection."


​Les Velobici performance at Bike Smut. Photo by Rev Phil

The media often latches onto stories like people who marry body pillows in Japan, or the man wh​o has had sex with over 700 cars in the UK. When OS International founder Erika Eiffel married the Eiffel Tower in 2007, she became the most public mouthpiece for objectum sexuals and has received a predictable amount of scorn from those who take exception to her use of the word "marriage." After Marsh appeared on a Good Morning America segment in 2009 profiling Eiffel, she found herself being invited onto conservative talk shows hosted by Christians who wanted to make the "this is the slippery slope of gay marriage" argument in response to OS.

While Marsh believes there is still a great deal of scientific research that needs to be done on OS, she finds a historical basis for this behavior in places like the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with his creation (echoed in the 1987 Andrew McCarthy film Mannequin), or the relationship between Quasimodo and his bells in The Hunchback of Notre Dame: "He loved them, caressed them, talked to them, understood them." 

If you're turned on by bicycles, cars, or motorcycles, you can be said to be engaging in mechanophilia, which is currently illegal in the UK. Those caught expressing their love for those machines can find themselves facing prosecution and being placed on the sex offenders registry. These stories often get picked up by British tabloids and become the public's only reference to people with OS—in 2007, a man living in a UK hostel was walked in on by a cleaning lady while he was "holding his bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex." The man was arrested and later plead guilty to "sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner." He was sentenced to three years on probation.


​Phil Sano and Courtney Helene Linclau at Bike Smut Denver. Photo by Josiah Hesse

As with all facets of human sexuality, Marsh said that when it comes to sex and inanimate objects "there's gray areas across the board. On one end you've got people who use vibrators, and then people who simply fetishize objects in the middle, and then on the far end you've got people who feel they have a multifaceted relationship with the object."

Some of the films shown during Bike Smut's stop in Denver contain themes consistent with objectophilia, but the event as a whole casts a wide net into the ocean of human sexuality. The event could be more easily compared to a modern screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with the audience heckling, booing, and laughing explosively at the characters on the screen—yet always with a timed and loving reverence.

"I'm really glad the Bike Smut Film Festival shines a light on the feminist aspects to the culture, and encourages a queer and trans positivity," Donna Matrix, a Denver resident who has been attending Bike Smut events for several years, told me after the show.

"Some of my first experiences with BDSM involved impromptu use of U-locks and bicycle tubes," she said. "I definitely get turned on by the sight and smell of bike grease on my hands. And I've come close to orgasm from the vibrations through my bike seat on particularly good rides."

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