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Next to posing pantless on a bed heaped with oversized stuffed toys, Rielle Hunter's second-most bizarre move may have been forgetting her sex tape.

The tape, reportedly filmed by Ms. Hunter, then about five months pregnant, features Senator John Edwards performing oral sex.

The now infamous tape - and several copies of it - are at the centre of an invasion of privacy lawsuit between Ms. Hunter and Mr. Edward's archrival and former aide Andrew Young. He's claiming Ms. Hunter left the salacious evidence at his house and never asked for it back.

The case of yet another mortifying sex tape on the loose bears testament to the growing popularity of homemade porn. As videos become easier to shoot, they're also frighteningly easy to disseminate. Yet for many, the idea is irresistible.

Alison Lee, manager of Toronto sex shop Good For Her, says she is seeing "a growing market of people who are looking to tape themselves. …

"It's the idea of putting yourself centre stage," says Ms. Lee, who also organizes the annual Feminist Porn Awards.

Seska Lee was much more careful than Ms. Hunter when she shot her first sex tape on "some old Camcorder" with a boyfriend at age 21, almost 20 years ago.

"We filmed it, and then we watched it and then destroyed it," the Montreal woman says, "with a hammer and scissors."

Today, Ms. Lee has fewer concerns about her privacy: She owns and operates an amateur adult website starring herself, her husband and other couples. The allure of the sex tape, according to her, is "to be a little bit of a star."

At Good For Her, customers have asked Alison Lee for tips - and cameramen. Ms. Lee sometimes points them to the adult gigs section on Craigslist, where people such as Kiseli offer their technical expertise.

"It's different when you have the video on a tripod and you record yourself [than]when you have someone who can change the angle. Different angle - better picture," says Kiseli, a Toronto graphic artist and photographer who moonlights as a camera-for-hire.

Over two years, Kiseli, who did not want his full name used, has filmed about two dozen clients ranging in age from 22 to 50. There was group sex, a "gentleman and two ladies" - "all kinds of variations you can imagine," he says.

Typically, Kiseli will meet with clients ahead of time to discuss the details and secure a deposit. As for trust, all he can offer is a contract he's signed stating he will not redistribute the footage.

"Then we set the date, go to their home or hotel room and set up the equipment. They do their business and I do mine," says Kiseli, who brings a camera and lighting.

For those who find the prospect of a stranger off Craigslist fiddling with a tripod in their bedroom unthinkable, there are now a number of how-to manuals available, including Do-It-Yourself Porn by adult-film star Adam Glasser (a.k.a. Seymore Butts).

The video has been selling "very well" at Toronto sex shop Come As You Are, according to worker-owner Cory Silverberg.

"We're more inured to being filmed," says Mr. Silverberg, who is also a sexuality educator.

He notes that swingers have long used and shared use sex tapes as "their own pornography" and points to Homegrown Video, a porn empire built originally on amateur tapes submitted by couples.

The appeal is both voyeuristic and exhibitionist, says Susan Quilliam, British psychologist and co-author of The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition: "Seeing yourself from the outside as the star of your own movie and being filmed gives a real excitement."

But as some amateur stars are no doubt learning, there is the possibility that watching yourself - sans lighting, Photoshop or sound guy - won't turn you on after all.

An early sex tape Montreal's Ms. Lee made with her husband James was "atrociously lit."

"Once we became professional about it we knew how to light it and which positions are flattering. There are so many positions that feel the best but look awful, and vice versa. A lot of missionary does not look attractive."

That tape, Ms. Lee said, was intended as a memento for her husband to watch while she was away on vacation.

"A lot of couples with a really intense connection really want to document that connection just even so they can relive it for themselves," Good For Her's Ms. Lee said.

But therein lies another risk: Once a lover is gone for good, a videoed romp can also become a painful reminder, Ms. Quilliam said. "Sooner or later, you reach a point where you can't understand why you ever loved the person and then you look at yourself making love with them and it becomes disgusting. There are emotional risks as well as practical risks."

Of course, the greatest risk of all is a leaked tape, a scenario that's played itself out countless times in Hollywood, and one that outsiders sometimes guiltily lap up.

"There's a narrative of betrayal. There's this idea that we are implicated in someone getting tricked," Mr. Silverberg says.

Even so, the B-list embarrassments haven't appeared to dissuade homegrown pornographers.

"Nobody thinks they're going to be betrayed," Mr. Silverberg says.

"Who among us at the height of our passionate lovemaking is going to think, 'One day, I'm going to hate this person - what are they going to do with this tape?' "

DIY dos and don'ts

"There are ways to do this without putting your future at risk, especially in the age of Facebook and YouTube," said Seska Lee, who runs an amateur adult website.

Dodge the Web

"Never digitize it. Never put it on your computer," Ms. Lee said. Just think: computer techies and customs agents.

Play with cables

"If people are really interested in doing this but they're really worried, just hook up your video camera to your TV. Don't even film it. Just watch it while you do it. You don't have to record," Ms. Lee said.

Leave the tape with the lady

If it's not a long-term, cohabitating relationship, "the woman gets to keep it because she is more at risk," said Susan Quilliam, co-author of The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition. "It's unlikely that a woman will show off to friends or reveal her own cavorting on a sex tape. But it is possible for a man to be proud of his prize and show it off to his friends."

Invest in that tripod

"Shots do not work when you're holding the camera yourself," Ms. Quilliam says. "It's too up close and personal - too shaky."

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