by Rich Moreland, July 2015
For porn fans unfamiliar with what’s on the web (there are probably few of you actually), let me draw your attention to a podcast called mindbrowse.com. The host is Chauntelle Tibbals (Ph.D) and her show is moving the industry closer to mainstream entertainment. For a taste of what mindbrowse is about, here are some takeaways from a recent show featuring feminist filmmakers a generation apart: Candida Royalle and Jacky St. James.
Over the last thirty years, a woman’s voice in adult film production has moved from its embryonic stage to a viable maturity. More than anyone, Candida is responsible for this sea change.
Her company, FEMME Productions has cleared a space for women in porn’s patriarchal boardroom. Creating content for women and couples using “a woman’s point of view” is Candida’s raison d’être. But, cultural attitudes are tough to overcome.
Pick up a Camera and it’s Feminist Porn
Our society is invested “in this idea that women are innocent, that they are delicate and don’t want hardcore pornography,” Candida says.
It’s a double standard, the New Yorker points out, which allows men to have sexual adventures while women keep hearth and home. Traditionally, women are “arbiters of morality” and that extends to pornography. But attitudes are in flux. For the most part, Candida says, younger women “are much more comfortable watching porn” now than ever before.
This has fueled a “leap forward” in the business, she declares. Modern female filmmakers in adult are “creating their own vision,” but there is a downside.
“Whenever the culture sees something new happening,” it becomes a media darling, before being “eaten up” and losing “its intensity or significance.” Candida says.
This has happened with adult filmmakers. “All you have to do is be a woman and pick up a camera and its feminist porn” she states. In other words, if it is female created, it must be feminist. That may be too simplistic.
In fact, Candida prefers to avoid porn in describing her films because it is a broad avenue that includes content she would not shoot, like facials and harsh gonzo.
“Some of what I see is not very different from what the guys are doing,” Candida concludes, hinting that modern female directors and cinematographers shoot their scenes with a harder edge than does FEMME.
But the future looks bright. Candida hopes as more women come into porn, they will “do something that is truly different and truly unique.”
Return on Investment
Add a couple of decades to Candida Royalle’s perspective and we have Jacky St. James, the leading woman filmmaker in adult today. Candida is the pioneer and Jacky is the benefactor who is moving the legacy forward . . . with a broadened approach.
The native East Coaster offers that a woman’s fantasy cannot be put in a box that insists “it has to be a certain way or it’s not pro-woman.” Hardcore porn can be shot with “a feminist perspective,” she insists, and there are several filmmakers, such as Spain’s Erika Lust, out there today doing just that.
Jacky brings up tube sites which she finds troubling. Their content is free and reflects the triumph of gonzo. As everyone knows, tube sites are damaging the industry financially while shaping viewer preferences in the process. Hard and nasty are as popular as ever.
For all pornographers, the most important factor dictating content and profit is distribution which may not be important for tube sites since they are piracy in action.
We have “to cater to whose distributing our films,” Jacky says, and that determines what she can shoot. To make matters worse, “a lot of us don’t have full control” because many “distributors are owned by men with certain expectations.” Jacky asserts it’s about “return on investment” and “they might not be in line with what your overall perspective is [as a feminist filmmaker].”
Pleasing other people in a business sense is every woman’s albatross in today’s market. “Until you are your own producer, your own distributor, it’s kind of hard right now.”
There are parameters imposed on shooting that include the time devoted to each sex scene and the amount and variety of penetrations. That robs filmmakers of “creative control.” For women, it’s the oldest struggle in the business, Jacky insists,“fighting the men” on what to shoot and how to shoot.
The Market is There
Listening to Jacky, Candida asks, “Is it still that way, because it was always that way?” She fortunately had her own investors in her early days which helped tremendously. Candida believes a woman should “start her own distribution company” if possible, “because the market is there . . . there is a huge audience out there waiting for something truly unique, artful, and interesting.”
Like Jacky, Candida used “a traditional distributor” which meant that “you had to do this, you had to do that” held sway in content.
Not much has changed. “We’re still controlled by dinosaurs, unfortunately, who think they know what people want” and maintain a tight grip on budgets, Candida adds.
Despite these restrictions, Candida Royalle and Jacky St. James are feminist all-stars in the porn universe, verifying that the wisdom of two generations, mothers and daughters if you will, indicate the future is bright for sex, romance, and a woman’s view.