Tag Archives: Annie Sprinkle

Eros: Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2018

When I was researching feminism in adult film, my intention was to provide a historical resource for the college classroom. In the spring of 2017 that became a reality at San Francisco State University.

A student from the university was introduced to my work and contacted me concerning a film project she was undertaking. The discussion was an enjoyable role reversal for me because someone else was asking the questions.

The outcome of her effort is extraordinary considering this is a student film, not the product of a professional filmmaker. For that fact alone, it is a remarkable accomplishment.

(All visuals in Parts One, Two, and Three of Eros are courtesy of Davyana San Miguel except that of Dr. Tanya Augsburg who granted me permission to use a her image.)

*          *          *

Five Minutes

The filmmaker is Davyana San Miguel and the film, Eros, is a comment on how we as a society must create a space for a woman’s take on her own sexuality and, more importantly, how she expresses it.

Early porn feminists, specifically Annie Sprinkle, a member of Club 90, the original feminist support group in the industry, and the late Marilyn Chambers, who did not openly identify as a feminist but was in control of her image, are included. For a more recent take on feminist porn, the narrative offers a moment with director Shine Louise Houston whose Pink and White Productions is a well-known studio in the queer porn genre.

Additionally, the ideas of two feminists from the heady days of second wave feminism are juxtaposed as part of Eros’s message: Andrea Dworkin’s anti-porn feminism and “the erotic is power” philosophy espoused by African-American lesbian, Audre Lorde.

By the way, the film is brief, running a bit over five minutes. But don’t let that fool you, it is smartly done with an artistic verve.

Challenging Social Stigmas

So, who is Davyana San Miguel?

“I’m a filmmaker and multimedia artist,” she says. “As of right now, I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Cinema from San Francisco State with an emphasis in Experimental Filmmaking.

“I’m originally from Hawai’i and moved to California when I was seventeen, spending the first three years in Southern California and now residing in foggy San Francisco.”

Davyana explains that her filmmaking focuses on “challenging social stigmas.” To do so, she explores “open conversations about topics that may make people uncomfortable,” such as feminism and pornography.

Of course, modern artists must take care of the technical aspects of their work. In Davyana’s case, she and her “creative partner” Mehran Karimabadi operate “DSM Visuals, a production company and art collective that creates diverse and original content,” she says.


Early in her time at the university, Davyana took a humanities class, Images of Eroticism, from Dr. Tanya Augsburg, an Associate Professor of Humanities in the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies who describes herself as “a humanities-trained interdisciplinary feminist performance scholar, critic, and curator.”

I invited her to talk about her course.

First, she tells me that Images of Eroticism “is a popular upper-division general education humanities course” that has been part of the university curriculum for quite some time. Dr. Augsburg is one of several professors who have undertaken the challenge of defining the sexual and its place in our culture.

“Each instructor teaches it differently, according to their own interpretation of what ‘images of eroticism’ means as well as their own areas of expertise,” the professor points out. Though one instructor teaches the class as a porn studies offering, Dr. Augsburg’s version is not quite that.

Her approach is broader, examining a variety of erotic “representations” that focus on “art, philosophy, literature, film, and contemporary pop culture.”

To give me some specifics, Dr.Augsburg mentions that her course encompasses “erotic imagery” as it connects with “sex-positive cultural representations of women that are created by women and those who do not identify with toxic heteronormative masculinity.”

Dr. Augsburg uses a variety of sources. For example, she includes “clips from the ‘golden age of porn’ and Annie Sprinkle’s films,” on one hand, she says, and “the art of young ‘fourth wave’ and ‘sex-negative’ feminists such as Ann Hirsch and Leah Schrager,” on the other.

The professor also mentions Cheryl Dunye’s film, Mommy Is Coming.

(Note: I met Cheryl Dunye a few years back by way of Pink and White’s Jiz Lee who was impressed with what Dunye brought to the cinematic table.)

New Erotic Imagery

Although the college atmosphere often resists changes in methodology (we often teach as we were taught), Dr. Augsburg’s students are not passive receptacles of professorial pronouncements (my professorial words, not hers!).

“In Images of Eroticism I challenge students to create new erotic imagery that is consensual and that represents their own communities and/or interests. Students can take up that challenge for their final as long as they draw from the course material,” the professor explains.

Some will write “erotic short stories that draw from the course material as well as their own experiences,” she continues. “I’d like to think that Davyana also took up that challenge after the class was over in her film class.”

(Indeed she did. Eros was a project Davyana developed for her Experimental Documentary Workshop at the university.)

What impressed Dr. Augsburg was that Davyana incorporated elements from her course in her student production. Among the literary examples that stand out for the humanities professor occurs in the final frames.

“Davyana ends the film with a shout-out to yet another course text, the novel Story of O with the masked man and woman.”

And, of course, the young filmmaker boldly steps into her own production prompting high praise from Professor Augsburg.

“My class featured many examples of feminist art and performance so I was delighted to see Davyana doing her own performance art in the film,” she says.

The “Porn” Class

From Davyana’s perspective, Dr. Augsburg had a significant impact on a young woman’s educational journey.

“Images of Eroticism was one of the first classes that I took at SF State. I was intrigued by the name. My roommates at the time told me that it was known as the ‘porn’ class. Well, maybe, but it was more than that.

In fact, firsts were everywhere. Not only was the class new to Davyana, it was Dr. Augsburg’s first time teaching it and she was the first woman at the university to do so.

The experience was rewarding. Dr. Augsburg “gave the class a critical analysis and historical overview of erotic art and its effects on society from a female perspective,” Davyana says.

A couple of decades ago that would have been unthinkable and certainly not conventional when it comes to the erotic.

Incidentally, Davyana mentioned that the class read parts of my take on adult film feminism because it “represents a counter-narrative to the consequences of traditional gender roles.”

She goes on to say,

“My copy of your book is littered with post-it notes and I read the whole book after the course was over. When I studied your text and related films, the concept of feminism coexisting with pornography, no longer felt foreign.”

Cool. That is exactly its intent.

*          *          *

The filmmakers of DSM visuals.

*          *          *

Next we will delve a bit into Eros, the film.

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Whatever Name I Choose: A Review of “Coming Out Like a Porn Star”

by Rich Moreland, November 2015

Snugly bundled against the chill of a cloudy April day, I was leaving Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel when I stepped aside for a porn performer I recognized but had never met. I held the door and offered a brief greeting.

A few hours later an impromptu dinner significantly influenced the direction of my research at the time. My dining companions that evening were in town for the same reason that brought me to Canada, the Feminist Porn Awards.

Among those at our table was the performer I passed earlier that day, Jiz Lee. A handful of interviews with Jiz followed over the next couple of years and we developed a modest friendship.

Jiz became a central figure in my manuscript on feminism in adult film and now Jiz has a book out. It’s sensational, smartly edited, and I highly recommend it.

*          *          *


Author Jiz Lee has redefined “page turner” with Coming Out Like a Porn Star. The collection of personal essays are told with varied emotion–some hint of anger, others steeped in frustration and dark humor. Most are upfront with grinding doubt and the bravery required to deal with what everyone associated with the sex industry ultimately faces.

“Does your family know what you do?”

Jiz Lee Photo courtesy of GlennFrancis/PacificProDigital

Jiz Lee
Photo courtesy of GlennFrancis/PacificProDigital

That question, wrapped around issues such as stigmatization, feminism, gender preferences, and fetish proclivities, jumps from the book as the reader begins the journey.

Lee contributes the first essay and from there acts as editor, sorting and arranging the contributors who willing offer what they do and why. Sexuality’s personal definition for each writer is woven throughout the pages.

Coming Out Like Porn Star is certainly a seductive title, but the book is not an expose as we think of it. Rather, it is an intimate inside look at the people whose choices are in their own words. They are literary volunteers with a sense of accomplishment that refuses to succumb to shame.

What’s in a Name

At its most fundamental level, Coming Out Like a Porn Star is a lesson in social behavior and prejudice. Frustration, resentment, and shame, often resulting from religious upbringing and family disapproval, are crushing negatives. But they are ameliorated by the power of community and sex worker activism in which pride, joy, and a sense of strength are celebrated.

Here’s a quick look that is a mere sampling of well over fifty short entries.

Casey Calvert Photo Courtesy of David Hilton Photography

Casey Calvert
Photo Courtesy of David Hilton Photography

Casey Calvert talks about how she feels pretty in porn. “I have amazing new friends and strangers on the internet think I’m beautiful,” the fetish star writes. In a vibrant story of self-esteem, Casey loves a life without secrets, she says.

In their respective essays, “queer identified trans woman” Drew Deveaux and Connor Habib question what’s in a name? While Deveaux draws on a larger issue, noting that our culture is “reflected and reshaped” via the “medium” of porn, Habib asserts that having “sex publically” permits sex workers to “talk about integrating private and public aspects of life”

Adult company owner Courtney Trouble’s moving account of conversations with her father is an intimate expression of father-daughter love that contrasts markedly with bondage star Denali Winter, who recalls that the adult industry community saved her when family difficulties seemed insurmountable.

Both Denali and author Dale Cooper touch on the shame foisted on sexuality by religion.

The reader can choose preferred essays or take on the book cover to cover. Each writing is unique though limited, as Jiz Lee admits, to personalities of recent generations. The exceptions are legendary icons such as Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle, and the late Candida Royalle.

That is my Real Name

Regardless of how the book is tackled, two essays are a must read. Lorelei Lee’s finely crafted statement on “Naming” is balanced effectively with Stoya’s humor in “Noooooooodie Girl.”

Lorelei Lee Photo courtesy of Rick Garcia

Lorelei Lee
Photo courtesy of Rick Garcia

In fact, Lorelei Lee’s essay is the book’s linchpin. She is brilliant when speaking of her empowerment. “Naming a thing makes it real,” she says, then remarks with pride that “slut, whore, sister, freak, artist, wife—all of it is truly, wholly me.”

Her bottom line? “Whatever name I choose, that is my real name.”

My only criticism of Coming Out Like a Porn Star is really a historical comment. Feminism in porn today is heavily tilted toward the San Francisco queer porn community, though smart and resouceful women in Southern California are challenging adult film’s traditional patriarchy. Feminists, like the previously mentioned Nina Hartley and Casey Calvert, are making their voices heard. Others on Porn Valley’s expanding list–Jackie St. James, Tasha Reign, Jessica Drake, Dana Vespoli, Mason, Ela Darling, and the now retired Bobbi Starr, to name a few–have their own empowered statements.

Jiz Lee’s extraordinary work is worth six stars out of five for anyone interested in the adult film industry.

The book is available at Amazon.


  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: ThreeL Media (October 20, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0990557162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0990557166


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Far From Where You Are

Madison Young, Daddy: A Memoir
Rare Bird Books, 328 pages.

by Rich Moreland, May 2014

“Daddy’s cane was lightly tracing up and down the landscape of her quivering body. I recognized her internal conflict: the desire for so much sensation that you are carried away to somewhere far from where you are, while your psyche is rubbing against its edge. Sarah slowly, bravely nodded her head . . . .

I stood up in the corner that Daddy put me in . . . and walked toward Sarah, bringing my face close to hers, stroking her hair and putting my hand on her shoulder.

‘You need to breathe, Sarah. Don’t let the sensation control you, let it flow through you. . . . Recognize it as a gift.’

She was still just a girl, only twenty-four, and I felt threatened by her . . . I tried to disregard my fears of being replaced for a younger, newer make and model.

‘Too bad you can’t come without penetration. Isn’t that right, Slut?’ Daddy taunted her and their connection made my skin crawl. I don’t want to be in the room for her orgasm.

‘Cock please, Sir . . .’

Her words drifted into the hallway as I walked away, down the long corridor, until they were only a faint buzzing of syllables behind Beethoven’s quartets.”

Madison Young, from Daddy: A Memoir. Pages 221-223.

*          *          *          *          *

In writing Daddy: A Memoir, Madison Young reveals that we are a collection of psychological constructs that shape our loves, biases, and communities, be they social, religious, political, recreational, or in this case, familial and sexual.madison 4

Madison’s search for Daddy is a reconciliation of two men in her life, first her Ohio father and later her West Coast lover, BDSM dominant, James Mogul. But Daddy is greater than any one person, as Madison’s odyssey tells us.

The book is well-written with a brisk pace that moves the reader through Madison’s conservative Midwestern childhood to her sexual awakening in California’s sunny liberalism. Daddy is a personal experience with a bit of salacious writing tossed in to give the reader a look at adult film’s fetish and bondage community.

The Quiet Girl
The early pages of Daddy recount the anxieties that plagued Madison’s adolescence. The drama surrounding a dysfunctional family crippled by an absent father and an embittered mother brings the reader into her Ohio youth.

A spattering of dark humor flavors an atmosphere of brutal honesty. At age four Madison believes the word prostitute sounds like “a church or a deadly disease,” and she later characterizes the internet porn edifice Kink.com, where she films as a BDSM submissive, as “a bubble of myopic disillusions.”

The Quiet Girl: Cultural Hero, Art Curator, Sex Activist  Photo source unknown

The Quiet Girl: Cultural Hero, Art Curator, Sex Activist
Photo courtesy of Lydia Daniller

In truth, Daddy is more than a family father or a sexual guru in the bondage and discipline community Madison loves so much. A mystical animus living within Madison’s inner child, Daddy is older than the Little Girl who seeks him out. A lover who disciplines his pet, Daddy secures her from the vagaries of personal apprehensions and trepidations.

What initially captured my interest is the book’s dedication to the “quiet girl in the corner.” Sexual submissiveness can blossom in the nondescript students who sit in classrooms or eschew the anxieties of social gatherings. A female friend who markets sex toys once told me that the women most likely to purchase bondage gear at her seminars are the unnoticed ones in the back of the room, shy and very discreet.

Sins of Non-Conformity
Growing into puberty, Madison remembers that porn sex was considered “shameful,” rendering her fantasies as forbidden. In junior high, she kept her “eyes cast down” sensing that she didn’t belong. Gawky and self-conscious, Madison became a “natural target” for the taunts of other kids. Spawned by such cruelty, inadequacies haunted her until the emotional tools to confront her demons emerged.

Out of this battle of self-preservation comes her interpretation of Daddy—a concept, a spirit, a need, a belief—that no one individual in Madison’s life can completely fulfill.

For all children, there are turning points that define sexual journeys. Madison’s occurred in church. The preacher condemned adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality as “sins of non-conformity.” What is a girl who knows she is different to do? Create her own “imaginary community” that spurs a search for happiness? An eventual good-bye to Loveland, Ohio, followed, leaving behind an unfulfilled longing for the traditional family and its Daddy.

The Castro, San Francisco’s gay community, becomes Madison’s Mecca. With a realization that she is among the “outsiders” who sought “refuge” in California’s Left Coast sexual Disneyland, her search for Daddy expands. Is her mentor a leather man, a rigger (a technician whose rope talents satisfy the cravings of bondage models), a dominant, a master, or perhaps a leatherdyke? Madison is unsure, but realizes she needs someone to take control and comfort her inner “Little Girl.”

A Dignified Whore
Madison Young loves rope and discovers porn’s Kink.com, the San Francisco bondage empire of Peter Acworth. The company becomes another Daddy, providing the ecstasy and the agony of Madison’s SF existence. She does her first shoot for Kink and proudly announces, “If rope didn’t lead to my daddy, I didn’t know what would.”

Madison Young loves rope and discovers porn’s Kink.com, the San Francisco bondage empire of Peter Acworth. The company becomes another Daddy, providing the ecstasy and the agony of Madison’s SF existence. She does her first shoot for Kink and proudly announces, “If rope didn’t lead to my daddy, I didn’t know what would.”

A cathartic yellow brick road to a BDSM OZ, Daddy’s magic is more than a memoir; it’s a cross between a novella and a history. Gauge, a girlfriend lost, and James Mogul, a Daddy gained, shape Madison’s writing. A swirl of honesty and jealousy filters through her words sparking sympathy at some points and admonishment at others.

James Mogul Photo source unknown

James Mogul
Photo source unknown

Insights abound within the pages of Daddy. Madison’s close friendship with performers Bobbi Starr and Lorelei Lee, and her gut-wrenching jealousy toward a bondage model metaphorically named Sarah Chasm enliven the narrative. Madison’s accounts of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, “the depressing landscape” of the “mainstream porn industry,” while characterizing Kink.com as the “pornification and appropriation of the BDSM community for mass consumption and commercial gain” make this book a fascinating read.

Doubts engulf Madison as she uses adult film to fund her beloved art gallery, Femina Potens, whose future is doomed by high rents. She engages in a bit of self-imposed slut-shaming when she declares her income “felt like dirty whore money” earned by a “sexual outlaw in a corporation system.”

Madison in a Kink scene with James. Photo courtesy of The Training of O.

Madison in a Kink scene with James.
Photo courtesy of The Training of O.

Though her assessment of the adult industry is not always positive, Madison Young gives the reader moments of triumph. For example, confessing she sometimes feels like “a dignified whore,” Madison takes pride in being a Spiegler Girl (the performer agency for whom she worked), characterizing Spiegler models as “smart, self-reliant, and responsible.”

Because Madison Young is a woman of rich diversification, to stay on the Daddy message shortchanges much of who she is beyond a narrowly defined fetish performer. Understandable, but I want Madison to explore her time at Antioch College and her discovery of sex-positive feminism. Madison is a cultural hero of pansexualism, sexual masochism, and the queer porn community (particularly San Francisco’s Queer Porn Mafia) whose status is rising in this new century. She devotes deserved space to Femina Potens, to art and performance art, but what of her many honors at Toronto’s groundbreaking Feminist Porn Awards?

She is far more than the vulnerable Little Girl that Daddy presents.

When chroniclers examine the history of adult film in the twenty-first century, Madison Young will be feted. With Daddy, she has only broken the surface of her legendary status. Hopefully, this multitalented and intellectually brilliant queen of kink is considering a second book.

The Power Within
The beauty of Madison’s narrative is its contradiction. She attempts to reconcile all her varied families from Ohio to Femina Potens to Kink.com, but they are too kaleidoscopic for a clean, well-lighted heroic image immersed in a tale of sharply drawn parameters.

And, of course, there are her personal Daddies with their battles and foibles, who, like Madison, search to find their own definition of self.

Feeding Emma Photo source unknown

Feeding a budding feminist.
Photo courtesy of Madison Young

In the end, Madison seeks the power within to move forward. The birth of daughter Emma, a uniting force and an overwhelming gift, offers the metaphorical beginning.

Finally the reader is left with the overarching question the book presents. Who or what is Daddy: a religious-like spirit that dwells within all of us, a guide to find our way from infancy to maturity, the cycle of civilization, or simply a deep emotional need?

Or, perhaps Daddy is the community that secures us, as rope binds Madison to something greater to serve. Through that service she tells us that who we are is a fluid evolution and an enlightened journey that ceases only with our final breath.

*          *          *          *          *

By the way, don’t neglect the book’s forward by Madison’s porn-art mother and sex-positive icon, Annie Sprinkle. Her words set the tone for Madison’s story.

And, should you purchase Daddy, which I highly recommend, go for the paperback version. I did not and, like Madison and her rope, I miss the touch, feel, and smell of something I can hold in my hands and put on a shelf.



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“We Evolve to Now”

by Rich Moreland, October, 2012

On a recent Los Angeles evening, I sat down with the husband and wife team of Carlos Batts and April Flores. He is a film director; she is his artistic muse and leading lady. A couple of years ago at the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto, we informally exchanged brief “hellos,” but accomplished little else beyond that. This time around, with the help of Coast Anabelle Hotel staff, we made arrangements to talk. I wanted to delve into their views on making film and the porn community to which they belong. I got something I never anticipated, a profound insight, artistically and intellectually, into the genre we call feminist pornography.

Here are some segments of our discussion.

Making a Statement with Your Body

When we discussed definitions for feminist pornography, April began with her background in film work.

“I did my first scene in October 2005,” she began, emphasizing that an adult career was not her goal. The shoot was an intended “one time thing.” “I wanted to experience it and move on,” she said. Her thoughts reflect those of other performers I have met.

For April, her professional horizon quickly expanded. Stepping into the adult genre opened doors leading to friendships and an enrichment of her art. A “natural progression” began, she said, as one film led to another.

However, like other women who have entered adult film, April had the expected moment of reconsideration.

“By my third or fourth film I had to take a step back and evaluate what I was doing. If I’m going to keep doing this, why am I going to do this? It’s my body and I’m exposing myself on a really intense level.”

April’s hesitancy was not unusual; it was her resolve that shaped her future. She discovered feminist porn and wanted to be a part of it. “If I’m going to do this [appear in adult film],” April decided, “I want to have a message behind it, not just do it for frivolous reasons.”

Searching for meaning in her work, April found that feminist porn offered “real feminine pleasure.” Women create the product, defining a comfort level for her. “My peers and I are enjoying what we do and some of us are running businesses and using this medium as a creative outlet.”

Her selectivity has enriched the genre. Mention the name April Flores around those who are knowledgeable about feminist porn and affirmative nods result. She is an established star.

April and Carlos
Photo by Bill Knight

April sees a mission in her work. The projects she accepts are carefully chosen. “I have turned a lot of work down because I knew it would portray me and fat women and just women as a whole in a bad way,” she declares. For her, feminist porn is film with a woman-friendly attitude.

Incidentally, money is not central to her work. “Adult has never been my primary source of income,” April says. Her approach is a fit with the makers of feminist porn. The “primary motivators” for feminist filmmakers and performers is “expression,” she confirms, “making a statement with your body and your work.”

Feminism is not new to April. “I always considered myself a feminist,” April says, a feeling that is rooted in her childhood. She moved out of her family home at eighteen, becoming instantly independent. April never considered herself to be a “weak woman,” as she puts it, though she didn’t develop her sense of feminist empowerment until she matured into her late twenties and early thirties.

Carlos took his turn at defining feminist porn and credits Annie Sprinkle as his starting point. Adopting a feminist lens in shooting adult film, Carlos discovered April and other feminist performers to be “very strong and powerful” with “their own spirit and energy.” He considers himself lucky.

“I’m fortunate to be around people that have a very strong vision to not only create in that environment but be inspired by it,” Carlos believes. He goes on to affirm that “women artists can be strong spirited, feminist in their own way, and independent with their own voice or vision. Women record their sex and want to perform and fuck from a creative point of view.”

His words bring my thoughts to feminist talent like performer/directors Courtney Trouble and Madison Young.

Carlos identifies April, Jiz Lee, and Dylan Ryan as “a progressive group of performers, a very unique trifecta.” He praises them for caring about the product they make and his ability as a director. They believe in him, Carlos says, “there is no judgment and they are comfortable in their sexuality.”

Carlos credits feminist performers with caring “a little bit more about the outcome and how they are being portrayed which keeps you on your toes.” He’s blunt about mainstream film and television, pointing out that “there is a difference between an actress that cares about her performance and one that just shows up.” The same thing, I might add, can be said for mainstream adult film.

Asked about a timeframe for a movie, Carlos delves further into his filmmaking philosophy. “My own personal process is four to six months,” he answers, “we make one or two movies a year.”

Of course, budget is a consideration. If Adam and Eve or Good Vibrations are in the mix, things are done more quickly. For example, Carlos references one big budget film he made for Adam and Eve. The movie, Voluptuous Biker Babes, was “inspired” by the 1960’s classic sexploitation film, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill, Kill, and was nominated for an Adult Video News (AVN) award.

Photo Courtesy of Carlos Batts

No matter the financing picture, Carlos emphasizes that to do a film is a “personal process” that entails casting and examining shooting locations, among other things. Because “the sex is a very small percentage of the film,” he moves more slowly in determining “exactly what I want to do.” By comparison, a Porn Valley director once informed me that a two and one-half hour film may only have 20 plus pages of script. The average sex scene can last up to fifteen minutes or more.

Outsider Porn

I want Carlos and April’s take on San Francisco’s Queer Porn Mafia, a self-identified cadre of directors and performers. As a historian, I see the QPM as a film community and an informal support group. Carlos expanded my understanding of the QPM by suggesting that it is part of a movement, as we shall see momentarily.

April notes that they are late comers to the group. The QPM was around before Carlos and she “heard about it and met Courtney [Trouble].”

In 2009-2010, Carlos and April became part of the San Francisco film making scene. Inevitably, they met the QPM. “We became friends with them and started shooting with them,” April says, in an atmosphere that was different for Carlos and her. San Francisco is not Southern California. It’s “a different city,” she explains, “it’s small and the sexual presence is way more huge than it is here [in LA].”

April and Carlos share common perspectives about casting and filming with the QPM that are “very different” from “mainstream porn.” The QPM is a group of artists with “like-minded ideas,” April says, who are frustrated with the mainstream. We’re “outsiders from mainstream porn,” she declares, but we are “sticking together” and, she adds with conviction, “we are going to continue moving forward.”

Carlos points out that the QPM is “a select group to work with” which made developing and sharing an artistic vision “fun.” He pays them the ultimate compliment, “with all due respect to April and Courtney and Jiz, everyone works really hard. I respect them and their work ethic,” he says.

April defines their collective product as “indie porn,” sometimes referring to it as “outsider porn.” In short, feminist porn is apart from traditional adult film and the annual Feminist Porn Awards celebrates this difference.

Vanilla is Becoming Smaller

My final question concerns the overarching term queer as an umbrella identifier of a variety of sexualities. Carlos sees it as “more like an ideology” that revolves around “individual taste.” April describes her queer sexuality as “fluid, not straight or gay or bisexual,” simplifying her description by saying that it’s about “the person rather than their genitals.”

What I hear from Carlos and April is typical of what other adult film feminists associated with San Francisco say. Exactly what it means to be queer is difficult to define and individually based. April repeats the accepted norm. To be queer is a personal statement and “I guess you would have to ask them,” she says.

I mention to Carlos that I tend to categorize things into boxes. He agreed, saying, “When you are a historian and you are looking back, things do fall into compartments.” Taking the historian role a step further, I ask him if feminist porn is a movement, or merely a collection of individual attitudes. His observations summarize what I suspected, but needed to be confirmed.

From Carlos’s perspective, we are living in “an interesting time.” “Fifty percent of the population is like vanilla and the other fifty percent is filled with thirty-one flavors,” he says. “Everyone thinks that everyone is having the sexual desires of their parents.” But this idea is being challenged. Carlos points out that now all manner of sexualities are coming out. In other words, our parent’s sexuality does not have to be ours.

“The outsiders are maybe fifty-one percent, vanilla is becoming smaller.” Marginalized sexualities are recognized, voluptuous women are seen as attractive, he asserts. There is this “whole consciousness of what we want to see and how we want to feel. It’s not like it was fifteen years ago.”

Carlos characterizes this new revelation as “our movement” that’s “been cooking since the Nineties.” Then he adds, it has “spawned a bigger broader generation of understanding whether it is sexuality or color or culture.”

At this moment, he is drawing my research into feminist porn together.

“The biggest secret about the feminist movement,” Carlos proclaims, is its creativity. “It is dominated by the consciousness of freedom and expressing yourself.”

This is the Toronto scene where electric audiences at the Feminist Porn Awards turn the work of these artists into a love fest.

“The movement just happens,” he believes. “We will inspire another set of women to make movies, and people of color will make movies they want to see themselves. I just see the consciousness and being different. More young women will see April and say, ‘hey I want to do that,’ or Courtney or Jiz and say, ‘I look like them, that’s how I want to express myself.’”

“I don’t think anyone is purposely or consciously trying to be different. I think people are just expressing themselves in a very bold way.”

There’s more. Referring to marginalized sexualities, Carlos states, “We are all kind of banning together to make it more comfortable with coming out.” He believes technology is the tool that encourages people to “feel a bit more comfortable in expressing themselves.”

The movement is in the present, continually redefining itself. “We evolve to now,” he says, and hints that the end of this evolution, or revolution depending on point of view, is nowhere in sight.

April authenticates her husband’s analysis. I get “a lot of emails from girls saying I want to do what you’re doing and how do I start this?” She concludes, “So I do think it’s spreading.”

We indeed have evolved to now. And the journey is just beginning.

It’s time for dinner. The waiter offers us a table and our conversation continues, the remainder totally off the record.

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An Air of the Extraordinary

Annie Sprinkle, Gloria Leonard, Veronica Vera, Veronica Hart, Candida Royalle. Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

by Rich Moreland, June 2012

In mid-June Amtrak took me north to New York City for day trip. I haven’t visited the Big Apple since its transition to the “gentrified” New York. My last remembrance of the city was walking to Times Square with a couple of my buddies, looking for smut shops while avoiding the winos, druggies, and other assorted street people. That was a few decades ago.

This excursion to Manhattan was not a whim; it was book related and by invitation. I was accompanied by a friend and colleague in academia who doubles as my photographer. If nothing else, I’m assured of good pics  if my writing fails to capture the scene.

In 2008, I discovered the apparent contradiction that feminism and adult film are bedfellows (or bed sisters) in an industry that is patriarchal to the core. Deciding to chronicle this odd combination, I first wanted to know what other historians, journalists, and commentators had to say on the subject. At every turn in my research, the name “Club 90” came up. Scholarly paths pointed back to this circle of five women, actresses in adult film when acting was valued and expected.

On a cool and rainy June evening in mid-town Manhattan, the Museum of Sex on 27th Street paid homage to this venerated “club.” The museum is a storefront with a basement bar and an upper floor gallery. On this night the upstairs contained a long table and folding chairs neatly arranged into a relatively cramped space. Everything was ready for a panel discussion featuring these “Golden Girls of Porn,” as the event was labeled.

Josh and I made an effort to arrive early. I had communicated with all of the ladies individually, but up to this moment I had met only two in person, Annie Sprinkle and Veronica Hart. Gloria Leonard and Candida Royalle were telephone voices to me and Veronica Vera was an email correspondence and a postal address.

The women were “stars” in the “porno chic” days of the 1970’s when 35 mm film reigned and the big screen was where sex came alive. Adult movies demanded dialogue and plot to compliment the cinematography. Making a good picture required location and days of shooting. Nowadays porn films are cranked out quickly and, with some exceptions, very little style. Needless to say, there is rarely an aspiring actress in sight. But the seasoned Club 90 performers were blessed, if that can be said in pornography. They worked for some of adult film’s noted early directors like Radley Metzger, Gerard Damiano, and Joe Sarno, true artists who considered movie-making to be a craft. A sense of panache and acting ability was requisite.

As the “porno chic” days wound down, the five were transitioning away from being on camera. There were reasons: the HIV menace was one, while marriage and family became another. In short, they were getting on with their lives.  They organized a mutual support group to ease through the changes and named it after the address of Annie’s Manhattan apartment where their initial get together took place. Over the years, their collective friendship has endured.

By sheer happenstance I broke into their group. I attended one of Annie’s university speaking engagements and later sent an inquiry to Feminists for Free Expression which resulted in a surprise email from Candida. That began three years of correspondence with the group that formed the linchpin of my research.

Stealing Moments Before the Show

I got a big hug from Gloria Leonard before the gala began. She is classy (an overused word, I know) and a butt-kicker through her devotion to the political principles she holds dear. She also is the group’s grand dame. Gloria entered the adult business in her late thirties, much like the Club’s dear friend and another of porn’s venerable ladies, Georgina Spelvin. Working in adult paid better than nine to five, Gloria later told the audience, a bonus because she had a daughter to support.

A Hug From Gloria
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Gloria has her views and the personality to back them. She and I have a mutual acquaintance in the adult biz, Bill Margold, who has his own set of notions about the history of adult film. Bill has told me much about Gloria. He adores her and I can see why. She has a political conscience in an industry that often lacks ethical behavior, and she cares about performer health and welfare. Her position on safer sex in the infamous 1998 HIV scare is a testimony to her concern for the industry. As President of the Free Speech Coalition, the political wing of the business, Gloria got funding for the start-up of Adult Industry Medical (AIM) so that talent could be more secure health wise on the job.

Reminding the audience that defending free speech is important to everyone, Gloria believes in the principle that “no one should tell you what to watch or hear.” Her words raised a bright round of applause.

I also stole a moment to impose on Candida Royalle to say “hello” face-to-face. Phone conversations and emails are not foreign to us and her support for my work is appreciated more than she will know. Like Gloria, Candida brought an air of the extraordinary to the room. Both women were elegantly and conservatively dressed as if they planned to attend a charity bizarre . . . at the country club, of course . . . sponsored by the ladies auxiliary. But the country club set could never imagine the elegance that comes from Candida. She is an industry luminary of the first order and has no parallel. She runs her own production company, FEMME, out of New York and specializes in woman-friendly erotica and couples porn. To suggest that Candida is a ground breaker in adult film erotica is a mammoth understatement. She not only turned the soil, she constructed the edifice that is feminist pornography, though I know she shudders with my use of that word; erotica is her preference. In the initial Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto years ago, Candida was the first honored. That’s what it means to be a living legend.

Chatting with Candida before showtime!
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Candida told the audience that during her acting days she felt “ambivalence about being in adult movies” and was “conflicted” about what the impact might be in her life. Seeking therapy, she learned the value of self-analysis and decided that there was nothing wrong with performing in adult film. A woman’s voice was what the adult product lacked. Candida vowed to correct that perception and make pictures for women. It was fortuitous timing. The arrival of home video provided a safe place for women to view porn, she said, and a market was birthed.

Annie Sprinkle was her usual loving self when I renewed acquaintances with her. Annie’s career as a sex worker and lover of men, women, and transpersons is too vast and complex to even attempt to summarize here. I was honored to interview Annie in her home (we sat in the kitchen and enjoyed some iced tea) on a visit to San Francisco a couple of years ago.

No Tragic Endings Here

Annie was the lead-off hitter in the panel line-up. When everyone was finally seated, she mentioned that many people have the widely accepted belief that porn stars have “tragic endings.” “They don’t know us!” she said with her typical high spirits. During her brief remarks, people continued to trickle in; the shortage of chairs turned the event into SRO. I don’t know how many the museum planned for but attendance must have exceeded expectations. And, not every face in the crowd was an old friend or admirer. There were a number of young people who perhaps were looking to understand the past through a vision of the present.

Annie after the show.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

In the opening moments of the discussion, Annie put the almost thirty years of Club 90 in perspective when she declared her time in porn has been an “amazing journey” and her goal is to keep it rolling. “I want to get to fifty years in sex!” she said with the innocence and playfulness of a flower child whose years have been spent pleasing and being pleased.

Annie carries the mien of San Francisco’s hippie past. Her leopard print floor length gown reminded me that Annie’s performance art, and that of her club sister Veronica Vera, is studied in academia.

Veronica Vera had expedited my research by sending valuable documents my way. She, like Gloria, was intensely political in her younger days. When we briefly spoke, I imagined what it must have been like for her to testify before the 1984 Senate Committee investigating adult film. The Reagan administration was going after porn as harm to women and the industry was under siege. Veronica recalled the now famous bondage photo she showed Senator Arlen Specter on that October day. The picture is a historical precursor of modern day BDSM performance art that has captured the imagination of a sexually marginalized community.

Veronica got into the adult business through famed photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe. She told the audience she had worked on Wall Street then “decided to take an honest job” and went into adult entertainment.

Her wedding was the catalyst for this reunion, the group’s first in seventeen years.

As the event was breaking up, I finally got a chance to embrace Veronica Hart. Her 1983 baby shower brought the ladies together for the first time. I visited with Veronica in Las Vegas a few months ago and know her on a more personal level than the others. She is the youngster of the group and is considered one of the great beauties ever to grace adult film.

Veronica showing her big HeART!
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Except for a retired Gloria Leonard who now lives in Hawai`i, the women remain active in the adult world. Veronica Hart works in her hometown at Vegas’ Erotic Heritage Museum. She still directs in L.A. and keeps close tabs on the adult business. Candida Royalle continues with FEMME and has branched out into an adult product line, distributing through Adam and Eve, a Phil Harvey enterprise in North Carolina.

Annie Sprinkle and her partner, Beth Stephens, are expanding their venture into ecosex,  “a subject matter or identity,” Annie explains, that moves beyond a performance art. “We are . . . excosexual aritsts,” she says, exploring “a new area of research” that delves into “places where sexology and ecology intersect in art, theory, practice, and activism.”

If that sounds intellectual, it is. Beth, who moderated the event, is finishing her Ph.D. which will make two in the family as Annie already has hers.  Incidentally,  she is the first porn star gain such status. Sharon Mitchell, an old friend of Club 90 and long time director of AIM, is the second.

The fifth member, Veronica Vera, runs her own school for cross dressers, “Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to be Girls” located in New York. The studio where many of her events take place is on 54th Street. Veronica’s program is for males and transpeople who want to challenge gender barriers and get in touch with their feminine side. Working with transpersons is a value shared with Annie. (I recommend Shannon Bell’s Reading, Writing, and Rewriting the Prostitute Body [1994] for an account of Club 90’s Franklin Furnace stage show in 1984 and Annie and Veronica’s performance art.)

With the evening winding down and attendees milling about, I allowed my imagination to have some fun. Among the audience were acquaintances of Club 90 who had been involved in adult film industry. Observing some of them reunite with the five in conversation, I mentally turned the clock back 30 years, erasing the nasty joke that time plays on all of us: age, something the young firmly believe will never happen to them. I fancied everyone in just such a room, setting up for a porn shoot: director, P.A.s, grips, and cameramen, hustling around with perhaps a make-up artist adding some final touches to faces destined to be hardened in a tough business.

In those early days of the modern adult film era, the business was east coast oriented. New York was home for Club 90. This Manhattan evening wrapped itself around them and their friendships with memories treasured. In the midst of skyscrapers and traffic punctuated with the ubiquitous New York cabbies, the affair had a small town feel and I was honored to have been invited.

When Josh and I headed back to the train station, the rain pelted ever hectic New Yorkers scurrying under umbrellas to get from here to there. The scene itself was a stage, a piece of living history, illuminated by lights embedded in mist and shrouded in the past.


If you visit the Museum of Sex on the corner of 27th and 5th Avenue, consider in a quick snack across the street at Naturally Tasty. Ask for Magdalena. She’s service with a smile.

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Flying into Sodom

by Rich Moreland, October 21, 2011

An icon is powerful. I’m not talking about those little symbols decorating our LCD’s. They’re the navigation instruments that propel us into the cyberspace universe that dictates our lives. The icon I’m referring to is that personage who is the object of adoration, that distinct individual who gives meaning to a cause, an issue, or the history of whatever we’re into at the moment.

There are sports icons, music icons, political icons, icons of every ilk. This includes feminists, but I’m not referring to academicians.  Their job is to lecture at universities and impart their particular world vision to students who absorb their insights, if ever so tacitly. My feminist icons are a wee bit different; they are a part of a feminism that I adore, unabashed pro-sex, pro-woman, pro-fetish, and pro-porn.

I remember meeting my first one, Annie Sprinkle, at an American University conference a few years ago. One of my more liberal students tagged along; we sat through some mildly interesting seminars with the understanding that the final event, Annie’s talk, was the game for us that day.

We got to the auditorium early and I introduced myself to Annie while my Kodak enthusiastic student clicked away. During her talk, Annie was open with her thoughts; spoke of her sexual adventures, her disagreement with the anti-porn radical feminists of the old feminist sex wars, and her current passion for ecosexology. Her watchword was acceptance and love of others and herself, the most important lesson.

Afterward I spoke with Annie again. I had finished a brief bio of her for my research and conveyed it to her via email. I did not expect that she would have read it, but in truth she had and wanted to know why I had not included her victory over breast cancer. It was the first of a handful of kindnesses Annie has sent my way. On that early spring Saturday at a venerable university, she was truly the Annie Sprinkle I anticipated: overflowing with a gentle aura of wisdom that blossomed in the flower child she once was and shapes her philosophy today.

Later in an email to her Cub 90 mates, that feminist support group formed decades ago among a handful adult film actresses, she paid me the ultimate compliment, “He’s one of the good guys,” Annie wrote. I treasure those words.


A couple of years later I met another feminist icon, Susie Bright. I sought her out at a similar conference just to say “hello.” We had exchanged email communications but this was my first opportunity to actually meet her. Surviving in me is the little boy my mother so assiduously taught to be polite. Into my teenage years when raging hormones directed my attention to female bodies and thoughts of fornication, that politeness reinforced a natural shyness that has made me exceedingly deferential to women. Susie Bright, Annie Sprinkle? Believe me, it took courage.

If you know nothing of Susie’s genius let me recommend two books, both a bit dated but worth your time and what little money you’ll spend. The Sexual State of the Union (1997) is cultural wisdom spiced with political wit. Full Exposure (1999) should be read by anyone who is personally unforgiving of his or her sexual desires. In other words, our personal failure to achieve the erotic happiness that resides in the pantheon of rights we label as human is a tragedy. And that, if I don’t miss my guess, probably includes most of us. What did T.S. Eliot say in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?” We have,

“And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”

Yet in the end, he insists, we are often left with a disillusioned life “measured out” with those ever famous literary “coffee spoons.”

A modicum of Susie Bright brilliance is enough to drive me forward in my writing and for this I am grateful. Words are movers of nations on a grand scale and attitudes on a personal one and hers far surpass mine, so I can only issue praise for an intellect and an icon I greatly admire.

In my deference to Susie’s insights, I must pay homage to a thought from Full Exposure. Susie references the tyranny of growing up in a society that remains culturally defined by Victorian sensibilities. She reminds us that from childhood we learn to “’keep our hands to ourselves;’” that “our naked bodies are flawed, that our desires and curiosities are dangerous.” The unmitigated truth of this admonition sucker punches our self-esteem like the country preacher who, to quote Jonathan Edwards, insists that we are sinners who must “fly out of Sodom” before the judgment comes.

Susie Bright is here to persuade us that we are responsible for however we wish to define our sexual self-image and are beholden to that judgment. Her message is bravery. If we can negotiate the tornadic activity of our desires, our sexuality will be swept and delivered into an erotic “Land of Oz” where we can skip along a golden path of alluring smells and touches. And if we are lucky, the Annie Sprinkles of our fantasies will welcome our intimate proclivities, whatever they are, with open arms.

Please read a little bit of Susie. It’s worth your time. I’d like to recommend her latest book, praising without having read a word of it. I have faith in Susie Bright; I know it will be terrific. This time she is trying her hand at a little history in The Erotic Screen, Vol. 1: The Golden Hardcore and the Shimmering Dyke-Core.  It’s Kindle, no paperback version. I’m old school. I like the feel and pleasure of a real honest-to-God book. But I’ve discovered I can put it on my computer.

We’ll see. If I can make it work, I’ll come back with a review.

So, there you have it. Two iconic feminists who, if you pay attention, will nurture your sexuality with words and thoughts that will help you understand exactly how to make it all come together. And if successful, you can fly into Sodom if you dare.

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