It's been well-documented in New York Times trend stories that ournation has been swamped by a black tide of raunch. The perversion ofinnocence is sweeping through our schools ("friends, friends withbenefits, and the benefits of the local mall"), our placid exurbs("no longer taboo, pole dancing catches on in book club country"),even tainting our most scrubbed holidays ("good girls go bad, for aday," on skanky Halloween costumes). Well, the editors of the Stylesection are right: We are awash in raunch culture. As a matter offact, the waters have even begun to rise around such bastions ofmoral cleanliness as The New Republic--or at least, this oneeditor.

Last February, I was an extra in an erotic film called The Fold,directed by my friend Matt Lambert. This may come as a surprise topeople (like my parents) who know me as a modest lady editor fromgood New England stock. I should assure you off the bat that Ibehaved with total propriety at all times and removed no articlesof clothing. Actually (to make clear how truly chaste, how entirelysex-free, in fact, my role was), I was playing a journalist.

The Fold, written by Matt and his friends Ray Sawhill and PollyFrost, is a funny series of episodic shorts about Internetrole-playing games, time travel, civil liberties, and Joan of Arc.It's also about Swedish girls in hot tubs, world-wide orgasmepidemics, and transcentury sex. One sequence involves vaginalorigami, which Matt's talented set designer fashioned out of pinkorigami paper and some Vaseline. In another, a character gets soakedin a "blanket of cum" (hand lotion and a flour-water solution).Vaginal origami and cum blankets notwithstanding, The Fold isn'titself classifiable as porn since the sex scenes are simulated andthe nudity is limited (albeit enthusiastic); but the film bears anaesthetic resemblance to alt-porn, a new hipster genre chronicled,of course, by the Times in 2005 ("wearing nothing but attitude").And, as such, it represents a very timely shift in the way eroticais getting made. As the Times bemoans the smuttification ofupper-middle-class life, the smut itself is becoming moreupper-middle-class: urbane, ironic, self-aware, and intellectuallyas well as sexually titillating.

The scene I graced was actually one of the tamer ones in The Fold(secretly, I was hoping to be cast in the hot tub scene--but nosuch luck). Along with about 20 other people, I played an anonymouscolleague of Rachel Campanello (a feisty beat reporter for GamingBabes magazine) at a press conference convened by evil corporateCEO Avery Ferguson to announce his eponymous company's productionof a time-travel machine. Following this scene was another in whichStephanie Blommaert, a scheming Ferguson exec, coaxes Jack Fisher,the company's v.p. and a secret panty fetishist, into resigning byteasing him with her underwear. The assistant director sent out acall sheet earlier in the week that listed the props for the day'sshoot, including: "podium, podium mic, 15 press passes, ... 2 waterpitchers, plastic cups, 2 long tables, 5 voice recorders, 25chairs, Ferguson Corp. sign, dirty panties, resignation form."

I dressed up that morning as journalistically as I could, in theskirt suit I've worn exactly once in my professional life. Otherthan the clothing, it turns out that playing a journalist in asmutty film is very much like being a journalist in reallife--i.e., you spend a lot of time standing around, and there'ssome free food. I milled with the other extras in a classroom onthe Upper East Side campus of Hunter College, drinking orange juiceand eating bagels, and we shopped identities--I decided I was adivorced Financial Times reporter with two children at home,grouchy from running between soccer practice, PTA meetings, anddull pressers like this one.

The imaginary pressers may have been dull, but the actual presserwas anything but. Our big moment came halfway through, when AveryFerguson's son Cody storms in to inform him that the time-travelmachine isn't ready and the script calls for "media pandemonium."We extras loved performing pandemonium. One guy in the front rowflung his notebook to the ground each time with an increasinglyexasperated hiss, then picked it up again for the next take. As anactual journalist, I felt like I should be able to come up with amore realistic response. But most of the journalists I know wouldhave been too busy taking notes to respond at all. So I kept myselfto a faintly disapproving "tsk tsk" and head shake.

Later in the day, I met the actor playing panty-addled Jack Fisher.He introduced himself as Porno Jim, a connoisseur, critic, andproducer of alt- porn. When I talked to Porno Jim later on thephone, he told me that we were at the beginning of anInternet-enabled renaissance in independent porn--porn made, as hesaid, with a purpose that's "a little more than just the showing ofpeople who are naked having sex." The Fold, while not itself porn,is an example of the direction erotica could go in if moreambitious, creative people get involved. The scene with the cumblanket, for example, which exaggerates the traditional cum shot tothe point of subversive absurdity, represents the sort ofgenre-bucking experimentation Jim sees as critical to the alt-pornmovement: "The best thing you can do [with porn convention] is lookat it and take it apart and put it back together in another way."

Susan Sontag wrote in 1966 that pornography is "something one is foror against," in the way one is "for or against legalized abortionor federal aid to parochial schools." If this is true, I'm probably"for" pornography in the way I'm for legalized abortion--with someprivate qualms (for instance, I'm not altogether convinced thatalt-porn, despite its lofty goals, doesn't end up replicating themisogyny inherent in its forebears). But the experience of being inThe Fold does give one hope for a third way and perhaps even anantidote to all the panic over the spreading of raunchculture--light-hearted erotic art without too much to prove. It'ssmut, in other words, that even a lady editor can enjoy.