Tag Archives: Candida Royalle

The Porn Curtain: Angie Rowntree, Part Two

by Rich Moreland, October 2016

Angie Rowntree and her husband Colin are leaders in the internet porn business.

Colin is the founder of Wasteland.com, a bondage oriented website and recently Angie increased her presence through Mindbrowse.com, a product of Sssh.com.

Mindbrowse is marketed as “a place where the adult entertainment industry’s ideas go to grow up.”

cbw-67dwcaaignq

All photos are courtesy of Angie and Colin Rowntree.

*          *          *

In the second part of my interview with Angie Rowntree, I brought up Mindbrowse.

twitter-icon_400x400Podcasts

Do the woman-friendly podcasts contribute to the crossing over phenomenon?

“Encouraging crossover isn’t a goal of Mindbrowse events per se, but we do want to let the consumer see behind the ‘porn curtain’ and understand neither porn nor the porn industry is a monolith,” Angie says.

In following that approach, the podcasts reflect a variety of purposes or functions, she indicates.

“I hope to answer some of their (the viewers) questions while tackling real issues within the adult entertainment industry like performer consent and the ever-expanding leadership role played by women in the industry.”

Having written about the adult business for a few years now, I understand what Angie is doing. Women are finally moving to the forefront though not as fast as some would like. Tragically, the recent loss of Candida Royalle silenced a pioneering voice for female empowerment in porn.

The founder of Sssh.com gives us a little perspective on the strides women have made on both sides of the camera.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize just how much the industry has changed since the old days and how many women are writing, directing, and producing adult films these days, not just performing in them.”

So true. Jacky St. James, Mason, Courtney Trouble, Nicole Noelle, and jessica drake come immediately to mind as innovative women who are moving forward with their own brand.

Gone

Candida Royalle’s FEMME Productions started it all, setting a standard for production company ownership and shooting sex that laid the groundwork for the generation of women that followed her.

That thought leads me to bring up Gone, Angie’s award winning contribution to porn’s female-friendly Hall of Fame. The production stars Madeline Blue in an emotional performance and is the kind of film Candida Royalle would admire.

Cinema exhibitions such as the Swedish International Film Festival, Cinekink, the Los Angeles Film Festival, Wendy’s Shorts, and the Holly International Film Festival honored Gone in 2016 with an “Official Selection” for mainstream audiences.

ccguw4iwoaa1nsn

Other accolades specific to the porn crowd were given out in 2016 by AVN and XBIZ.

Angie was also recently recognized as a ground breaker.

“I was the first person from the adult industry to speak at a Sundance workshop,” she says. The subject was “Creative Tensions: Sex.”

Obviously, Gone as a narrative has moved past traditional porn expectations into a more literary worthy realm. Has it created a compromise or midway genre between hardcore and mainstream?

Angie is unsure about that but she does know the film “represents an approach to merging a story with explicit sex [and] that’s a road much less traveled in porn.”

She mentions there are “a number of erotic films with strong plots and character, but the vast bulk of adult entertainment these days is ‘gonzo’ porn–meaning no story, no characters, essentially nothing but wall-to-wall sex.” That’s not her cup of porn tea.

“I like story, I like context, and I like the sex between characters to mean something within the story, rather than the story be nothing but a handful of disconnected sex scenes.”

Could that be the formula that punches porn’s ticket onto the mainstream stage?

Perhaps, but there is more.

sssh-300x180Acting

Naturally, when we’re talking narrative with plot and dialogue acting has to step up. Is there a greater demand on porn performers to beef up their acting skills?

That depends according to the eras of porn you’re talking about, Angie asserts.

“Is there more demand for them to be able to act than in the late 1990s and early aughts when gonzo really started to take a dominant position in the market? Possibly. But if you compare it to the early days of porn, even if you think the acting in those movies was atrocious, you have to admit there was more acting on average than there is most modern porn.”

The director mentions films like those she shoots and the currently popular “porn parodies of mainstream superhero movies” do value acting. As for Gone, Madeline Blue and her co-star, Gee Richards, certainly pass the theatrical test.

On the other hand, acting is not an ingredient in gonzo where sexual frolics and “how someone looks while performing them” sells the product, Angie says.

Simply put, adult film is an opportunity for those who want to turn up their creativity a notch and for others who just want to play.

Colin and Madeline at the AVN Awards Show in 2016

Colin Rowntree and Madeline Blue at the AVN Awards Show in 2016

Tighter Scrutiny

Finally, I inquire about crossing over as an influence how adult films are made.

“I can’t speak for other directors, but it’s a consideration for anybody who intends to distribute their work on platforms like cable or satellite which are subject to a lot more scrutiny and tighter standards than content produced strictly for internet and DVD distribution.”

It can stimulate rethinking on how to shoot a scene, though it doesn’t affect dialogue, she believes.

“I’m definitely mindful of needing to shoot in a way that the sex scenes will hold up and still be arousing and hot, even after being edited for penetration or otherwise altered for broadcast.”

We’re looking forward to more from Angie Rowntree. Another production like Gone that stimulates story and emotion is needed in today’s porn environment.

*           *          *

Colin Rowntree at work. You can follow him on twitter here.

cggv0hmueaiwrbf

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Wave Porn: A Review of BrightDesire.com Part Two

by Rich Moreland, December 2015

This is Part Two of my review of MsNaughty’s BrightDesire.com. With the exception of those used in the final segment “Ending with Some Humor,” all photos are courtesy of the website.

*          *          *

A Sample of the Movies

Today’s feminist porn is rooted in the pioneering work of the late Candida Royalle and her FEMME Productions. In this new century, feminist porn is so fluid that in the eyes of some it’s losing its original intention. Candida herself got caught up in the discussion on more than one occasion. As she once said to me, just because a woman makes the film does not mean it’s feminist.

Were she here to check out MsNaughty, Candida would be pleased. The Australian’s work is solid feminist stuff. She allows her performers to express themselves as they wish in scenes that are mildly scripted at best. Condoms and pop shots are choices they make and if the penetration is in the shadows, so be it. What is refreshingly absent is the repetitive acrobatic sex found in Porn Valley.

So here’s my take on some of her work. These films are the merest of possibilities available on a site that is a bonanza of good movie making.

Three’s Not a Crowd

Intertwined

Intertwined

“The Birthday Wish” is a delightful film issued in three parts. MsNaughty limits the length of her films to fifteen minutes, more or less. So if things run longer, there’s a part two and sometimes a part three. In the Director’s comments, the viewer learns that the movie was shot in Berlin and the two women, Livia and Nicole, are in their own fluid-bonded relationship so a respectful Mickey Mod uses a condom.

Lots of Affection

Lots of Affection

“Birthday Wish” is a vignette centering on Livia’s celebratory day; Mickey sings, clothes come off, and the trio begins kissing and caressing. Sexuality’s fun and natural flow steps forward as an expression of three intertwined people rather than three sets of mouths and genitalia. In Director’s Comments, MsNaughty mentions some cinematographic concerns in the shoot, specifically capturing bodies in motion. Genital close-ups are limited so don’t expect gonzo shots here.

Sharing

Sharing

If your take on porn is Evil Angel, Hustler, and Realty Kings, this film won’t do much for you.

Parts Two and Three carry on the playful tone of Part One and offer the penetration shots. There’s lots of oral with everyone involved and facial close-ups that tell the story of the sex. A careful analysis reveals slight gestures among the performers to ensure everyone is okay with the action. The chemistry is supercharged and real orgasms happen.

A Collared Lover

I decided to take a look at the consensual BDSM presented in “Kim and Jay: 24/7.” They are a real-life couple (she’s collared) and in the scene Kim is the aggressor despite her submissive status in their relationship. Jay’s role is to pleasure her with impact play before we get to Part Two where the sex occurs. Incidentally, Kim does shoot porn professionally, though that is not evident here.

Finding the Mood.

Finding the Mood.

They have a Daddy relationship, not uncommon in BDSM circles, as Jay appears somewhat older than Kim. As mentioned in Part One of this review, their post-shoot discussion found in the website’s interview section reveals they met online. They talk about the importance of pleasing each other to maintain equality in a relationship that challenges power imbalances.

Impact Play

Impact Play

MsNaughty’s cinematography is impressive and Kim is strikingly beautiful. The room is bright white with the bed covering a contrasting black. Several instruments from paddles to floggers are hanging the wall. There is a standing full-length mirror in a far corner that reflects the action on the bed. MsNaughty, who comments on the difficulty of maintaining consistent lighting in a small space, manages to catch some of the mirror, presenting the sex from two angles.

Kim is Ready

Kim is Ready

Kim is handcuffed to the bed until the sex begins. It’s mainly misch with a limit on Kim orally satisfying Jay. Her orgasm is real and there is no external pop.

This is how an actual BDSM couple looks, feels, and expresses mutual affection.

Playing in the Dungeon

My second choice among the BDSM films was shot in a sex club dungeon in Toronto. The performers are San Francisco’s Siouxsie Q and Mickey Mod, who has made a name for himself at Kink.com. “Yes, Sir” is divided into two parts with the second containing the penetrations, as is MsNaughty’s preference. There’s a St. Andrews cross to which Siouxsie is attached and some spanking and kissing.

Mickey Intices

Mickey Entices

A comment about Mickey Mod. Any man who wants to become a true lover by orally satisfying his lady ought to pay close attention to Mickey. His chemistry percolates with his co-stars to build the sexual heat with care.

The scene is dominated by heavy shadowing, perfect for creating a dungeon feel. The shoot is a decided contrast to the airiness of Kim and Jay. Also, for fans of more commercialized porn, the performers are veterans of adult film and they come across accordingly. The shoot ends with cuddling, typical of MsNaughty’s sex-positive philosophy.

The Cross

The Cross

In the Director’s Comments, MsNaughty evaluates making “Yes, Sir” and remarks that the episode’s flavor is a Fifty Shades of Grey spin-off. Though Siouxsie Q is portraying a newbie, she comes across as what she is, a professional sex worker. Interestingly, a bit of post-shoot drama challenges the definition of authentic sex in feminist porn.

The Sex

The Sex

Sex is Hotter than Tea?

“Sex or Tea?” is a seduction scene in which Rebecca gives her lover a choice of her or a beverage. He smartly takes her and a modified strip tease precedes the sex. The photography is sharp with a vibrancy that illuminates the bodies. It’s worth noting that Rebecca is a perfect example of the once standard porn girl: thin, cute, and fully shaved with perky boobs that complement her flawless body.

Stripping Down

Stripping Down

“Tea or Sex?” has an obvious commercialized feel with certain conventionalities emphasized. For example, there is an over-the-shoulder POV shot of Rebecca performing oral and she tends to verbalize her pleasures with incessant moaning. A handful of penetration close-ups distinguish this film from the other offerings on the site. By the way, Rebecca is careful to point her toes in fine porn fashion at all the right moments.

Stepping Up

Stepping Up

Throw in position changes–there’s cowgirl, reverse cowgirl (very uncomfortable for many performers) and standing doggie–with an external pop, and the picture is complete. If you want some standard porn with the natural flow characteristic of the other shoots, this is for you. It is particularly feminist in one important point, Rebecca seeks out the sex for her pleasure.

The Note

The Note.

The Note.

The winner of the 2015 Feminist Porn Awards for Best BDSM scene, “Instructed” also received recognition at the 2014 Berlin Porn Festival and Cinekink in NYC in 2015. Shot in Toronto in April 2014 during the Feminist Porn Week, it’s a solo scene that features Pandora Blake, a well-known erotic performer from the UK who also appears in other works by MsNaughty.

Getting Ready to Follow Instructions

Getting Ready to Follow Instructions

The premise is simple. Pandora’s real-life lover leaves her a note with instructions to ready herself for his visit. This was actually arranged beforehand to guarantee authenticity. When she arrives for the filming, Pandora has no idea what she is to do.

Following his instructions that include a butt plug and self-spanking with a hairbrush, she first strips down and self-caresses in front of a mirror.

The Mirror

The Mirror

Pandora playfully follows every detail to the fullest. The viewer joins with her as each step builds to her eventual self-induced orgasm.

Applying the Hairbrush

Applying the Hairbrush

MsNaughty notes that the scene is “one of the sexiest films” she’s ever made. I agree. Of all the movies I watched, this one is the most erotic. It’s arousal level for viewers of both sexes is sky-high.

Assignment Completed. Waiting.

Assignment Completed. Waiting.

Ending with Some Humor

Among the “Extras” offered on the website is a short film called “Perversion for (Feminist Fun And) Profit.” It is a spoof on the 1965 pseudo documentary by the same name. MsNaughty’s satirical approach caught my attention because I reference the original film in my book on feminist pornography. Today, the half-hour movie is in the public domain if you want a good chuckle.

Here's George!

Here’s George!

The narrator is George Putman, an LA-based TV news reporter and radio talk show host. His conservative credentials made him the perfect hire for the Citizens of Decent Literature, a group founded in Cincinnati by anti-porn zealot and Catholic, Charles Keating. Because previous organizations like the religiously driven Legion of Decency were saddled with a book burning reputation, the CDL changed tactics, preferring the obscenity shtick to censorship in their excoriation of porn. “Perversion for Profit” was shown to community groups nationwide and warns parents about the pitfalls of sex that will quickly turn their children into homosexuals, sadists, and general perverts.

For the anti-porn feminists whose heyday was to come in the 1970s and 80s, the film became grist for their anti-smut campaign about porn’s violence against women and children. MsNaughty intersperses snippets from her shoots into Putnam’s speech. The result is satire at its most hilarious.

The Message 1965 Style

The Message 1965 Style

*          *          *

BrightDesire.com contains many more films that focus sex at its best: solo (male and female), toys, fetish, gay and genderqueer. When I began my review, it was quickly apparent that the website is the porn candy shop of good film making. I encourage you to take a look.

By the way, MsNaughty has a full-length feature out called The Fantasy Project. I haven’t seen it, but if I do, I’ll post a review here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

*          *          *

51x4W4UtmyL

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

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fantasy and Ethics: Part 2 of Mindbrowse with Candida and Jacky

by Rich Moreland, July 2015

This is the second segment of Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals’ discussion with Candida Royalle and Jacky St. James. I neglected in the first installment to let everyone know that Mindbrowse is produced by Sssh.com, an erotica for women website that keeps the modern sex-positive female up-to-date on issues that move her world.

The owner of Sssh and Mindbrowse producer is the well-known voice for women’s sexual growth and exploration, Angie Rowntree. Launching Sssh in 1999 as one of the first “for women” sites on the web, Angie’s fame has moved forward in leaps and bounds. In 2014, she entered the AVN Hall of Fame Founders Division, a mark of elite recognition in the adult business. At this year’s XBIZ awards in LA, Sssh was honored as the “Alternative Adult Site of the Year.”  Sssh.com continues to grow and has been featured on MSNBC and Nightline and in publications such as Playboy, Psychology Today, and Time Magazine. It can be visited here.

header-www.sssh.com

 

*          *          *

“I hoped that I would inspire other women to get out there and have the courage to . . . create their own vision,” Candida Royalle says.

Jacky St. James offers her view. “I really want to create content that reaches people . . . challenges them to think about their sexuality and their own sexual fantasy.”

The topic is porn and its nuanced expression of fantasy and art and the female influence in shaping both. Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals’ mindbrowse interview featuring Candida Royalle and Jacky engages the discussion from a feminist perspective.

Fantasy

Though a porn generation apart, Candida and Jacky represent a style of movie making that reflects the growing liberalism in our personal lives. We are freer today to talk about our sexual imagination. This is particularly true for women who realize that there is “fine line,” as Jacky says, between art and porn. Women can swirl them together to create their favorite fantasy.

An example for Candida is the rape fantasy. It’s “one of the most popular fantasies for women,” she says. Because society circumscribes female sexual behavior, women need “permission,” a way of “letting go enough” to be “pleasured and have an orgasm.” Sometimes that involves “being forced.” But remember its just fantasy, Candida insists, “you’re in control.” That’s important because no woman wants “to go out and get raped.”

Jacky on the set of "fauxcest" film, Our Father, with Steven St. Croix and Carter Cruise. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky on the set of “fauxcest” film, Our Father, with Steven St. Croix and Carter Cruise.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky brings up another fantasy that is on the popularity radar: incest. “But, it’s not like they really want to have sex with a family member,” she declares. Jacky is now filming “fauxcest” porn that tells stories about step-relations. However, a bit of the luster is lost because legalities insist that “step” is emphasized in the film (none of the performers are related) and everything is consensual.

Despite their feminist critics, both filmmakers agree that women find empowerment when they fantasize about giving up control. BDSM movies, another hot topic for porn these days, is a perfect example. It’s the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon.

Dr. Tibbals asks about the future. Where will porn be ten years from now?

Candida hopes it will be less stigmatized as more women get involved in the industry. Jacky’s focuses on financial survival. Creating content people are willing buy is the key to stemming the rising tide of tube sites.

“Higher quality” porn will keep the companies going, she thinks, “the scripted kind of content that people do pay for.” For her employer, New Sensations, DVD sales are still strong, an indicator of success.

Truth and Ethics

Before the interview wraps up, Jacky asks Candida about her greatest hurdle in her early days as a filmmaker. Not surprisingly, the pioneering director mentions the industry’s male-dominated attitudes. Money talks in adult, Candida says, and her movies sold well enough that she gained respect quickly.

There was, however, “this sort of gang of outlaws in California back then,” she mentions. A time of transition, the industry was leaving the East Coast to settle out west and Candida was based in New York.

“They wanted to keep it [the industry] a renegade world. They didn’t want women entering it and they were very critical of my work.”

Candida took them on and held her own. Overall, she concludes, “I’ve been treated well by the industry.”

The question of ethics in filming comes up and Candida explains that her “rule of thumb” concerns female performers. “As long as the woman appears to be enjoying herself and seems to be really into it, I can enjoy what I’m watching.”

A Candida Royalle Classic Photo courtesy of Adam and Eve

A Candida Royalle Classic
Photo courtesy of Adam and Eve

Candida believes it is important to be as ethical as possible. Porn companies have to stand behind the content they produce and how they treat their talent. When  anything “ethically questionable” arises, freedom of expression is tested and everyone might suffer if the Feds intervene.

To stress her point, the owner of FEMME Productions comments that too many young people in adult today don’t remember the 1990s when the government “assaulted” the industry. It could happen again.

Jacky St. James gets that picture.

“I live and die by ethics,” the multiple award winner declares. She has three important tenets in filming: make sure talent is aware of what is expected before they are booked, let them know who they are working with before they arrive on set, and always communicate limits.

As for content, some of hers is considered “unethical” by the occasional critic, but Jacky reminds everyone that she’s “creating a fantasy.” Of course, with BDSM and “fauxcest” the risk is promoting certain activities that make some people uncomfortable.

In the end, it’s up to the individual, whether performer or viewer, to decide if porn is for them. It’s called responsibility.

Candida departs with the hope that the industry will be legitimized as “another form of entertainment.” If that happens, the renegade reputation that has surrounded porn for decades will be pushed aside and the number of talented and ethical people who want to work in the business will increase.

Finally, both women encourage fans to support porn and pay for what they enjoy.

*         *          *

Many thanks to the good people at Sssh.com for their permission to use portions of this important discussion.

Angie Rowntree Photo courtesy of AVN

Angie Rowntree
Photo courtesy of AVN

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Controlled by Dinosaurs: Part 1 of Mindbrowse with Candida and Jacky

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.

Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals Photo courtesy of Adult Video News

Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals
Photo courtesy of Adult Video News

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.

Candida with her book! Photo courtesy of rottentomatos.com

Candida with her book!
Photo courtesy of rottentomatoes.com

“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].”

Jacky shows the best of her work. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Jacky shows the best of her work.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Feminist Porn Visits Goucher College

by Rich Moreland, November 2014

 

Renewing acquaintances is a reminder that as we move forward, our wisdom and perspectives hopefully travel with us. In the commercial world of adult film where careers are short and movies are churned out with unrelenting rapidity, change is slow, but it does happen. On Tuesday November 11 at Goucher College in Baltimore, I had the opportunity to check in with a feminist filmmaker I first met almost six years ago, Tristan Taormino. Sponsored by the college’s Feminist Collective, Tristan’s speaking engagement filled an on-campus lecture hall.

Tristan Taormino Photo source unknown

Tristan Taormino
Photo courtesy of tristantaormino.com

I wanted an update on feminist porn and Tristan did not disappoint.

After chatting about how she broke into the business through shopping a proposal to make an educational film on anal sex for women, Tristan’s main purpose was to familiarize her young audience with feminist pornography. Indeed, I started researching my book on the subject years ago and realize that today’s college students may be unaware of the genre’s existence.

Tristan considers herself to be a third wave feminist because, as feminist performers and directors in the business today affirm, the second wave was heavily anti-porn. In the post-1980s when the third wave gave every woman sexual options denied her a generation ago, attitudes began to change. Today young women perceive adult film to be a choice and building a career porn is more normal than ever before.

The “Cinema Verite” of Porn

Explaining that performers get into porn for a variety of reasons, among the most obvious a love of sex, money, and a portal to another career, Tristan added one that may have surprised the audience, the combination of pain and pleasure performers get from certain types of shoots. Having written that feminism and BDSM porn often walk hand-in-hand down the adult film Yellow Brick Road, I could not agree more. It is, however, further affirmation that today’s adult film woman is in control of her image on-screen and if being sexually submissive or dominant is her preference, she feels emboldened to go that route without shame.

To emphasize that today’s porn girl can get down and dirty on her own terms, Tristan reminded the audience that she resumed her directing career in 2005 with the notion that she could remake gonzo, the “cinema verite” of porn, into a female-friendlier genre. The owner of Smart Ass Productions stated that in its earliest form, gonzo was “mean sex with a jackass feel,” really nothing more than a “circus.”

Tristan as Sex Educator Photo courtesy of Tristantaormino.com

Tristan as Sex Educator
Photo courtesy of tristantaormino.com

There are minimal production values in gonzo and the performers often look directly at the camera, bringing the viewer into the scene. One of the most popular gonzo takes is the girl on her knees in an oral scene, eyes staring up into the camera. In the overly predictable formula, lots of choking and gagging with the pop shot leading to the inevitable facial is the standard fare.

How to make that more female acceptable and honor the choices of women who like to perform in gonzo shoots became part of Tristan’s mission. And, she has been more than successful, leading a vanguard of women filmmakers who have scored adult film awards in what Tristan describes as “the best-selling genre in porn.”

Tristan honored Candida Royalle as the first feminist pornographer who “proved that women do like porn.” No argument from anyone on that. But expectations were limited. In the 1980s, Candida’s FEMME Productions held on to the belief that women wanted to see sex embedded with a storyline, what porn calls a “feature.” Today, feminist views have expanded.

A fan of “reality porn” where the plot line is vacated (check out her “Chemistry” series), Tristan believes that adult film is closer to the audience now because of the behind-the-scenes interviews, frequently added to DVDs under the title “extras.” Porn performers have “fascinating stories to tell,” she said, and “anything is on the table” in her BTS segments.

Cast of the "Chemistry" series Photo courtesy of puckerup.com

Cast of the “Chemistry” series
Photo courtesy of puckerup.com

From an on-screen perspective, porn is a woman’s world and Tristan reinforced that notion with the typical porn mantra that “women are the stars, men are disposable.” In fact, men are traditionally regarded as mere “props.” To expand their larger reality for the viewer, the feminist director also interviews them. Feminist porn works to change how men are perceived and today the “disposable” image is fading.

Reiterating that porn performers love to have sex, Tristan’s filmmaking devotes some attention to maledom rough sex. However, she points out that female performers choose what they want to do, often influenced by their personal fantasies. In this context, combining pain and sex is honored, but only if it is consensual for everyone.

Consent and Respect

In wrapping up her presentation, Tristan updated the feminist porn definition. It has expanded in the last few years. Here are some of the newest considerations.

Tristan's signature film Photo courtesy of Puckerup.com

Tristan’s signature film
Photo courtesy of Puckerup.com

Consent, respect, and a safe working environment, long-standing feminist traits, are more important today than ever before. This standard has reached beyond the feminist model into porn studios that may not necessarily think of themselves as feminist in that regard. Though feminist filmmakers take the next step by actively seeking the “participation and collaboration of the performers,” Tristan said, most Porn Valley cinematographers have not come on board with that.

Today feminist porn also emphasizes consent when delving into the power exchange that shows up in BDSM and rough sex filming. Though such images may be misconstrued as humiliating and demeaning to female performers, Tristan admits that she cannot control the way her filming is interpreted. The viewer needs to remember that every woman in feminist porn is calling her own shots, especially in the dominant/submissive scenes she may prefer.

Addressing social imbalances is more evident in feminist porn than ever before. Racism is one example. Tristan “rejects the way it [casting and shooting non-whites] is done in the porn industry,” she says, emphasizing that she welcomes “performers of color” on her set and puts them on-screen where they “have the power to represent themselves.”

By the way, a college speaking engagement inevitably bring ups one question from students: “How do I get into the business?” Referencing the runaway popularity of Duke University’s Belle Knox who is just nineteen, Tristan stressed that she does not hire performers under twenty-one because teenagers do not have a mature understanding of their own sexuality to perform sex acts in front of a camera. Belle is the exception. Tristan suggested that any potentially interested young person wait a few years and investigate the industry before plunging in.

In conclusion, Tristan Taormino stated that “the lines between mainstream [porn] and feminist porn are more blurred and movable” than any time in the history of the industry. Indeed, feminist porn is now “a movement, genre, and an industry,” she said, not to mention a career.

To contact Tristan, go to her website here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Re-Visioned Pornography: A Woman’s “Right to Be Horny”

by Rich Moreland, September, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her introduction to Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, Pamela Paul writes that pornography is “seamlessly integrated into popular culture,” creating an “all-pornography, all-the-time mentally” that is literally “everywhere.” Sweeping generalizations rarely take into account personal tastes, cultural and political variances, or in this case, alternative views on sexuality. There is little doubt that sex is commodified; in fact, it is ubiquitous in advertising and popular culture. But continued presence does not translate into unrelenting offensiveness. In fact, sexuality can be enlightening, educational, and a tool for women’s equality, especially when reconfigured to celebrate a female “gaze.” Feminist pornography is doing just that and Anne G. Sabo’s newest study is a welcome addition to the debate

In After Pornified: How Women are Transforming Pornography and Why It Really Matters, Sabo amplifies feminist scholar Linda Williams’ concept of re-vision and explores a reconfigured porn for women. Sabo’s book is a montage of female filmmakers with samplings of their work embedded in summary reviews. Following the trail of American film visionary Candida Royalle, these new century women are not merely playing on the edges of a man’s world. They have a message for society’s “neo-Victorianism,” a cultural condition the late feminist Ellen Willis insists circumscribes female sexual expression. A reworked feminist pornography is symbolic liberation for all women.

Re-vision does not mean revision, Sabo explains. It is not a cleaning up process, but a radical rewrite. For clarification, she quotes German-born director Petra Joy who asserts that “erotic and pornographic images” are not exclusive to men. “Why should women not create and enjoy films that express their sexual desires . . . ?” Why not, indeed? Joy wants women to target men as “objects of desire” who focus their sexual expression on pleasuring their female lovers. Joy believes feminist adult film captures authentic sex in a way that creates a different entity, “transformed porn,” an alternative to the established male product that carries a female objectifying label.

A Swede now living in Spain, Erika Lust is part of this new breed of filmmaker. “I see porn as a tool for excitement, education, and pleasure,” she says, and a very powerful one at that. I agree and share Sabo’s delight for Lust’s short film, “The Good Girl” which takes one of the oldest stag film formulas, the delivery boy, and turns it around. When the pizza is delivered and the sex ensues (not without some doubt at first) the female protagonist captures the standard male “gaze” and alters the outcome. By seizing the action to get what she wants, our heroine moves from object to subject, possessing her own “gaze.” The story can stand by itself, but Lust has more in mind. She artistically infuses her film work with an urban MTV flavor that is a tasteful delight of energy and sex, in this case swirling around a pizza box!

The opening chapter on Candida Royalle is a must read for any novice to feminist pornography/erotica. If nothing else, Sabo’s review of Royalle’s professional standards from safer sex to “content and style” is an educational primer. Royalle is unique. As a filmmaker she weathered the political storms of feminism’s second wave “sex wars” when anti-porn feminists excoriated adult film. Her political efforts fighting censorship in Feminists for Free Expression and her classic film on oppression, Revelations, preserve for the New Yorker a seat among the liberal icons of our age.

Modern sex-positive feminists package adult film into a fast-paced, music dominated product. The short vignette is their cinematic bread and butter. Of particular interest is the “cell phone art porn” of another Swede, Mia Engberg. Her question, posed in the Dirty Diaries collection, is central to feminist pornography: how do women “liberate” their “sexual fantasies” to escape the commercialization of porn that Paul sees around us everyday? Offering takes on that question, Sabo deconstructs film narratives, casting a light on the message of all the filmmakers she presents. This process is particularly informative in the Dirty Diaries series. Incidentally, I commend Sabo’s emphasis on the Dirty Diaries manifesto, an enumeration of the elements composing the mission of feminist porn. Here are a few that stand out. “[B]eauty ideals” are of no consequence in feminist porn, it is a sexual collage of any body and every body. The genre confronts “narrow gender categories,” encouraging “gender plurality.” And, best of all, the practice of safer sex is foremost because feminist porn supports a woman’s “right to be horny.”

Sabo raises a contentious question that is still a work in progress among feminists. The chapter on Puzzy Power films hints at this conundrum. The Puzzy Power credo prohibits scenes “where women are subjected to violence or coercion,” though “rape or assault” passes muster if the woman is “living out her fantasy” with someone she can trust to accommodate her desires. Sabo references second wave feminist Robin Morgan whose fantasies of sexual stimulation via domination presented difficulties for her though she apparently got off on her mental images. Likewise, Sabo mentions third wave journalist Martine Aurdal who frequently “caught herself in a role-play right before orgasm” that centered on “power relations.” This was vexing for Aurdal because it represented “gender roles” locked in a Paleolithic mentality. But one suspects she liked it. The question then becomes: Can women enjoy role-play if it means they are submissive and dominated? Take a look at Erika Lust’s two short films, “Handcuffs” and “Love Me Like You Hate Me” to get a spin on this question. Later when reviewing the work of feminist directors Anna Span and Tristan Taormino, Sabo brings up a another issue that is also divisive among feminists: gonzo porn, a method of filming often condemned for degrading women. Sabo lets us know that both Span and Taormino shoot in a gonzo style: the camera and director participate in the action. Character portrayal is abandoned and performers play themselves for the pleasure of the sex alone.

Can women like rough BDSM oriented sex if it suits their fantasy and they are equal participants in it? Can they actively support close-ups of piston shots, oral sex, and external ejaculations that might be deposited on the eyes rather than the belly? Tricky issues for a female cinematographer because gonzo has a male reputation dating to the early work of Evil Angel’s John Stagliano’s Buttman series. Sabo’s suggests that gonzo female-style is more about legitimating the voyeur in all of us; and those who are watched are there by “mutual agreement.” Fair enough. I’ve always believed women can have sex for its pure raw fun. Now that feminist porn is inching closer to the longstanding male gaze, gonzo represents a long awaited evolution for women. Like Sabo, I believe that it works if it is framed from a female POV, represents the director’s artistic vision, and is a legitimate turn on for both performer and viewer.

My interviews with feminist director Bobbi Starr (who as a performer is noted for her BDSM, rough edged gangbangs, and anal shoots) reveal that gonzo is her filming taste. Starr is open about how she does things her way and being male-identified, should that criticism be raised, is not a concern. Queer feminist performers Dylan Ryan and Madison Young (who sits in director’s chair on occasion) also relish the submissive role and are no strangers to anal scenes and facials. So, what does this tell us today about feminist re-visioned porn? Are women directors succumbing to an ensconced filming that appeals to a male fan base? Or have women, mainly through their indie companies, seized ownership of the very thing that anti-porn feminists insist is their source of oppression? Sabo introduces this question and for that alone, After Pornified is worth a read.

The organization of the chapters merits comment. Sabo reviews various movies to give the reader a feel for her thesis. I am a social scientist/historian, not a film studies scholar, so I appreciate her in-depth look at the narrative and stylistic format of film. Sabo sets off her movie analysis in gray print to distinguish it from the rest of the text. I found this to be an effective tool that enabled me to get a complete picture of her message. It is a boon for any reader who, like yours truly, is largely unfamiliar with the intricacies of film study techniques.

Sex-positive feminist porn filmmakers are making a difference in how a “pornified” society looks at modern adult film. Anti-porn acolytes in the manner of Pamela Paul will continue to fire salvos at pornography as intrusive on society and debasing to women. Give them their due and move on. Take porn, re-vision it, and in the process pay close attention to Anne G. Sabo’s newest book.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized