It's a cold day when I turn up at Tommy Hol Ellingsen's and Leona Johansson's flat, so it's not much fun to find that they aren't here. After half an hour shivering on the front doorstep, I get impatient. "Don't worry," laughs a friend, when I phone them to kill time. "They'll turn up. They're probably busy having sex."
Tommy and Leona are acquiring a reputation for having sex, usually in public, and involving as many trees as possible. They are the brains and brawn behind Fuck For Forest, the world's first environmental porn movement. In little over a year, Tommy, a 29-year-old Norwegian activist and ex-theater student, and Leona, 22 and a former nursery teacher from Sweden, have shocked the world, and their parents, making not-for-profit porn to save the rainforests.
"I was just so tired of crying about the state of nature in the world, you know?" says Tommy when he finally pitches up. "Human tragedy, you know, I can deal with. September the 11th, terrorism, war, all those kind of things. But when I see destruction of the forests, the state of rivers, I just feel like killing myself." He plonks himself down cross-legged on the floor and rolls himself a smoke. Taking a long drag, his eyes glaze over momentarily before he gets serious again. "I had to do something."
Yeah, but amateur porn, Tommy? As campaigns go, it hardly has "take me seriously" written all over it, has it? Why not engage in something more sensible? Charity cake-baking, perhaps? Fun runs? Swimathons?
Eco-porn: Great Sex For A Good Cause
Leona Johansson and Tommy Hol Ellingsen share a rare fully-clothed moment in their Berlin apartment. The impresarios behind F--kforforest.com, the pair has raised nearly $100,000 for rainforest protection. Photo (c)2005 F--kforforest.com )
"Have you ever had sex outside?" Tommy asks, harshly. "Really outside with the trees?" I have a little think. "Erm, not exactly." Tommy looks at me as if I am some kind of nun. "Oooh Ruuuth," he says in his thick sing-song Scandinavian accent. "You haaave-n't lived."
Their scheme is simple enough. Tommy and Leona advertise for like-minded souls to have sex for free on camera, then upload the finished movies and pictures on to their website. Subscribers pay $15 a month to access the pictures and movies, and the subscriptions are donated to save the world's forests. Though the product is amateur and invariably involves lots of twittering birds, insects and twigs as props, it seems even this kind of sex sells. The couple say they have collected more than $100,000 since the site went live in April last year. These days the site gets 800-1,000 subscribers each month, and extra cash is raised by selling their own branded T-shirts for $20 a pop. It's a success, they say, because their subject matter and charitable goal are intrinsically linked. "Sexuality," explains Tommy, as if I am a bit stupid, "is a reee-ally natural thing. Like nature, you know? I think we're all a little bit afraid of the natural nowadays and I think that's why we're ignoring nature. I think if people all got a bit closer to that primitive voice inside them, then things would get better in the world. It's based on the old concept: make love, not war."
Ah. It doesn't take much talking to Tommy and Leona to realize that they fancy themselves as dead-serious revolutionaries, a 21st-century John and Yoko. They have been together for three years and lead a completely open relationship. "We share FFF but like to have sex with other people," says Tommy. Their old, wood-floored apartment, in Berlin's trendy f Kreuzberg district, is in hippie film-making chaos: clear plastic bags of basques and knickers are piled up on mattresses; pot plants jostle for space with boxes and half-full coffee mugs. In their lounge, which doubles as an indoor studio when it's too cold to venture outside, a digital video camera and tripods rest against the sofa.
Tommy, his blonde hair in two messy plaits, is dressed for work in his uniform: green cord dungarees modified for his cause with sewn-on pictures of male and female genitalia in various states of sexual frenzy. Leona, a shy, softly spoken, pixie-sized character, has probably spent years perfecting her sexual-Swampy look: bra-less and bright-eyed, dark hair dreadlocked, lip pierced and legs clad in neon pink stockings and suspenders which poke out cheekily from a short, black puffball skirt.
Like all sensible rebels, they realize the importance of getting their cause noticed. That they did rather successfully last summer, at Norway's Quart Open Air music festival. As The Cumshots, a Norwegian band, started their set, Tommy and Leona ran on stage naked and had sex in front of the 4,000-strong audience. Engaging in such naughtiness in public is illegal in Norway and the 10-minute stunt was front-page news for five days in a row. "My mother is really very liberal, but rang me to say she really wished she could turn on the television and not see her son having sex on stage," grins Tommy. Leona becomes subdued when reminded of the stunt. Though she says her parents now "really understand" why she works so hard for FFF, they refused to talk to her for months afterwards.
When the pair ended up in court, their antics continued. Tommy, not wearing any underwear that day, dropped his trousers in front of the judge, "a short moment of love," he grins, "between me and the Norwegian media". After giggling their way through the trial, they were fined 20,000 kroner (£1,750) but refused to pay. Instead they fled to Germany. If they ever return to Norway, they face 20 days in jail, but they don't seem to care. "Norway is such a stupid country," says Tommy. He proudly explains how he got €7,200 (£5,000) of government funding by telling the authorities he was starting an "alternative environmental project which would include movies". He smiles naughtily. "I, er, somehow forget to tell them about the erotic part."
The Norwegian government has stopped the funding and the World Wide Fund for Nature refuses to accept their money - it is apparently not overly happy about the way the cash was raised. "But I think porn is a misused word, you know?" Tommy sighs. "Large organization get scared so easily." The pair say they will use the money to work independently, on smaller environmental projects in Costa Rica and Brazil.
Meanwhile there is more eco-porn to be made. "The demand for new stuff gets greater every day," says Tommy. The past year, they say, has been a blur and they are exhausted. Leona has documented everything in a video diary. She says she hopes maybe one day she can sit down and think about what she's achieved.
"We work 24 hours a day, always looking for new models," adds Tommy. Mostly, they find these "sexual environmental fighters" ("couples, random girls, homosexuals, anyone"), he says, at outdoor "Goa Trance" music festivals and erotic parties. "They usually get a bit giggly when they make the porn," says Leona quietly. She, more often than not, plays camerawoman to Tommy's director/editor. "They've never had sex in front of the cameras before, you see," she says. "They're nervous." They encourage the stars to improvise and "do what's natural". Many of them come back to make more.
But Berlin, where they've been for the past eight months, isn't as sexually liberal as they'd hoped, and now they want to move on to Portugal. "I think the Portuguese are a lot more comfortable with being naked outside and sex and all that, you know?" says Tommy hopefully. "The Berliners, they like the kind of sex that goes on in dark clubs and keep it all very secret afterwards. A bit pervy, you know? It's not really our scene." Then there is the weather problem. "It's warmer in Portugal," he laughs, pointing at Berlin's slate-grey sky. "We thought it was going to be hotter here. We're getting pissed off with having to make porn indoors."
When they get to Portugal, Leona tells me, they want to live in a bus. "Yeah, we've heard you can modify diesel vans to work on vegetable oil," nods Tommy enthusiastically. "Apparently it smells like you're constantly frying something when you drive around, but who cares? If it's good for the environment, that's the most important thing."
Time to leave. I maneuver my way past the G-strings strewn across the floor. Tommy and Leona place their hands together and bow gently, to say goodbye: "Namaste," they chorus calmly. I am a bit dazed as I walk down the rickety stairs and into the cold Berlin street. Tommy and Leona are no doubt more than just a little bonkers. But you get the impression that their hearts are in the right place.
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.