The Naughty Garden

During her junior year, Tanya Bezreh ’95 donned a moose head and ran naked through the Leverett and Mather House

During her junior year, Tanya Bezreh ’95 donned a moose head and ran naked through the Leverett and Mather House dining halls. She and 14 followers—with phrases like “Be Mine” and “Hot Stuff” painted on their bodies—threw condoms at onlookers while outrunning the Harvard police. Bezreh organized this Valentine’s Day stunt, entitled “From Dunster With Love,” to raise the spirits of sullen singles at Harvard. “No one has to spend Valentine’s Day feeling horrible because they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend,” Bezreh says. “Do something crazy instead of something horrible.”

Eight years later, Bezreh is still doing crazy things. A former English concentrator turned graphic artist, she has taken her own brand of performance art all over the world. Last March, at the International Festival of Women in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Bezreh transformed herself into a saran-wrapped mummy that chanted, “I’ve got something that you’ll really like.” She then gave birth to a baby doll with scissors and saran wrap sleight of hand.

While close friends and fellow performance artists have always been privy to Bezreh’s art, it has never been readily available to those outside her inner circle. That all changed on September 13 when Bezreh’s “musical spanking porn,” entitled “The Naughty Garden,” was featured on the HBO special “Real Sex: Porn 101: XXXtra Credit.” Anyone with a cable box—including Bezreh’s parents in St. Louis, MO—could watch Bezreh getting spanked in her birthday suit.

The five-minute film follows a cast of women auditioning for a musical. The women—dressed as ducks, bees, flowers, and strawberries—dance while singing an original song called “Flowers in the Garden Have No Rights.” Bezreh, who portrays the main strawberry, soon encounters a dominating and burly stagehand who shifts the film’s focus to sadomasochism. The stagehand forces Bezreh to shed her strawberry and submit to pain.

The film, Bezreh says, is about more than S&M.; “He grabs and eventually chases her,” she explains. “She has to sing and dance and keep up the routine while he’s spanking her. The process of spanking awakens her sexuality. It’s a surrealist eye-candy fantasy.”

Prior to making the film, Bezreh’s interest in pornography was fostered by Harvard’s openness towards female sensuality. “When I was at Harvard, pleasure feminism was huge,” she says. “The idea that you could enjoy sex or even make porn and still be a feminist—that’s what I graduated with my degree in.” In this atmosphere of freedom, Bezreh was already expressing her desire to create an erotic short. In the March 16, 1995 issue of FM, Bezreh prophesized that “The Naughty Garden” would happen. “I want to make my own pornography,” she said. “Maybe with some hair on the woman and situated in an intellectually stimulating space.”

Although porn visions had long danced in her head, Bezreh needed concrete motivation to make a film. When Kim Airs, the owner of the Boston sex-shop Grand Opening, told Bezreh that HBO was making a documentary on the “You Oughta be in Pictures” Erotic Film Festival at Coolidge Corner Theater, Bezreh found her needed drive. “I have a fascination with making dirty stuff, but I didn’t have the guts,” she says. “I knew [the festival] would push me.” HBO was choosing films for the festival, and Bezreh immediately submitted an idea.

And her idea was immediately rejected. Before “The Naughty Garden” entered her radar, Bezreh envisioned a film called “Naughty Cherubs.” In her original screenplay, a “Devil Woman” shoots poisoned darts at cherubs in heaven. Said cherubs begin telling dirty jokes and God must spank them to restore their innocence. God and the Devil Woman also sing a duet, culminating in another spanking scene. “HBO thought it would be too offensive because of the God element,” Bezreh says.

Determined to land a spot in the festival, Bezreh started over. “I would just meditate and then I would take a nap,” she says of her time drafting the plot. And then one day it happened. “The song came to me in the shower. I wrote the song in about twenty minutes.” She finally had the basis for a viable porn musical.

HBO expressed interest in Bezreh’s screenplay and invited her to an interview which ultimately landed her a spot in the festival. She attributes her success to two key factors. “I had just gone on this meditation retreat and I was just so relaxed,” she says. “And they liked the Harvard girl gone bad storyline.”

Bezreh decided that she should star as the spanked strawberry that bares all. “It was unclear whether HBO would be kind,” she says. “I didn’t know if it was going to be exploitative and if anyone was going to be exploited I wanted it to be me.” Bezreh easily recruited friends for chorus members, but had trouble casting the dominant stagehand. “He had to have a terrifying presence,” she says. She eventually found an actor at Spooky World, the Halloween-themed amusement park in Foxborough, Mass.

Since filming “The Naughty Garden,” Bezreh says she’s expanding her work to help others. “Strawberry Scene” is Bezreh’s initiative to encourage discourse on sexual fetishes and offer outreach to people who want to better understand their fantasies through activities such as a fetish essay-writing contest. “Tanyavision” is her video diary series detailing her life during the making of “The Naughty Garden.” Finally, Bezreh has founded the Society for the Appreciation of Musical Spanking Porn with the hopes of making musical spanking porn available to the public. “Naughty Cherubs” and “The Naughty Garden”—the first two installments in the spanking trilogy—will be available with “Naughty Chickens” in September 2004.

At the conclusion of the festival, Tanya’s film was awarded “Most Creative,” beating out a variety of erotic shorts that focused on topics such as clown and animal-fetish.

While the positive reaction from her fellow filmmakers was relieving, Bezreh was more concerned with her parents’ reaction. To her chagrin and delight, Bezreh’s parents left a message of qualified approval on the phone: “We thought it wasn’t very embarrassing and we’re very proud of you,” Bezreh recalls her father saying. “But the full frontal nudity was a little much.”