Tag Archives: Colin Rowntree

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.”

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All photos are courtesy of Angie and Colin Rowntree.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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A Novel is Safer

by Rich Moreland, September 2015

This is the second installment of my talk with Angie Rowntree, the founder of Sssh.com, an erotic website for women.

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Angie Rowntree and her husband Colin began a BDSM website when the bondage fetish was in its online infancy. Wasteland.com is “the web’s largest collection . . . of High-Definition Original Bondage and Fetish videos,” and counts among its many offerings feature films and beautiful women. The company is an industry leader.

I asked Angie about one of hottest topics in the fetish business today, E.L. James’ novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Her point of view lines up with many of the book’s critics and those in the BDSM community who think the story of Anastasia and Christian’s relationship falls short of what it purports to be.

“Fifty Shades is not a particularly realistic or authentic depiction of BDSM,” Angie says. However, she is quick to agree that “there’s no doubt its popularity has shoved open the door to a much larger market and a lot more interest [in the fetish].”

From her perspective, it’s been a boon to their adult business.

wasteland-ad“Both Sssh and Wasteland have seen an increase in traffic we can directly attribute to the [novel’s] popularity, especially in the number of searches for BDSM and related terms.”

The Irony of Print

As I’ve written before, Fifty is print erotica which has long been more accepted than filmed smut, particularly when it comes to federal prosecution of pornography. In the 1980s and 1990s chasing the adult film industry was all about obscenity; the written word was given a pass.

Times have changed and Angie reminds us that print is a real advantage for the industry today. It’s a portal for fetishes that, if left to the designs of film studios, would have difficulty expanding their female audience.

“I think it’s significant that the Fifty Shades craze was in response to a novel, just because that’s perceived as a ‘safer’ and more traditional means for women to explore erotica.”

Of course, as reading increases, film is the beneficiary.

“Even though there’s a lot of data to the contrary, a lot of people still don’t believe women watch internet porn,” Angie remarks. “But, I haven’t heard anybody express one iota of doubt that it’s really women buying all those copies of Fifty Shades.”

Angie makes a point I’ve heard from adult industry feminists. Women are receptive to filmed erotica.

sssh-300x180“Nobody questions whether women read erotica,” she says. “The truth is we watch plenty of it, too, a truth I think people are finally becoming more open to now.” A visit to Toronto’s Feminist Porn Awards will back up Angie’s perspective. She agrees that the increasing female customer base in the adult is “in partly due to the Fifty Shades craze.”

When I bring up Kink.com as an influence in the popularity of BDSM porn, Angie discounts any impact Peter Acworth’s company had on Wasteland or Sssh. “Both sites had already been around . . . long before the book came out and before Kink [was] launched.”

“We were very much settled in our aesthetic, style, and production methods by the time they became popular.” In fact, she adds, “our influences and inspirations come from other places and times.”

An Old Question

Finally, we have the old tired accusation disguised as a question from the anti-porn crowd of feminism’s second wave. Is porn, especially the BDSM genre, violence toward women?

Angie responds.

“What if the dominant person in the depiction is the woman and the sub is a man? How well does their little axiom hold up then? I take it violence against men is OK? Or is it just that we trust men to make decisions we don’t trust women to make?”

Angie talks about extreme martial arts males fighting in a cage as “entertainment” directed at “the masses.” However, she says, if one of them is a woman and scene is a “spanking video instead of a fist fight . . . all of a sudden it’s ‘exploitation.’”

It’s really “selective paternalistic bullshit,” Angie insists. Not to miss an opportunistic moment, she concludes with a bit of sarcasm, “After all, I’m a woman, so obviously someone needs to step in and protect me from myself when I have ideas about what to do with my body of which they disapprove, right?”

Good point.

Bringing up society’s penchant for “circumscribing female sexuality,” a further spin on the exploitation question, Angie believes that attitudes change when “courageous, independent, determined, and self-possessed women” make their artistic statements in adult film.

As a result, she states, “Young women these days are a lot less apt to allow society to succeed [in defining their sexuality for them].”

Is this happening? To some extent, Angie believes. However, “there’s still too much ‘slut shaming’ and harsh judgment directed at women who are open about expressing themselves sexually, but this doesn’t mean we haven’t made progress over the years.”

Colin and Angie Rowntree Photo courtesy of Angie Rowntree

Colin and Angie Rowntree
Photo courtesy of Angie Rowntree

As for American culture, we’re on the right track, she insists. In parts of the rest of the world, questions remain.

Check out Wasteland and Sssh and take the tour. You might find interesting things to see.

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The Heartbeat of Sssh.com

by Rich Moreland, August 2015

Covering Mindbrowse.com’s show with feminist filmmakers Candida Royalle and Jacky St. James led me to Angie Rowntree, one of the major players in porn from a woman’s view. Angie is the creator of Sssh.com, a female-oriented erotic website. Founded in 1999, Sssh offers its own sensuous films, fiction, and educational articles in a virtual world of sexual pleasures that reflect the fantasies and desires of its members.

Think user-responsive and member-friendly; that is Sssh.com.

Angie directs Sssh’s original movies and produces Mindbrowse which offers insights into “some of the most incendiary and controversial topics surrounding the Adult Industry.” Along with her husband, Colin, she also started Wasteland.com in 1994, a BDSM site of great renown.

I was fortunate to chat recently with Angie Rowntree.

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A Product of Time and Place

My first inquiry is about feminism in adult film. What is it exactly?

Angie points out what I’ve heard from other women in the industry. The word is a moving target “because the definition seems to be a little different depending on whom you ask.” Moreover, it’s a definition that has changed over time; flexible is probably the best descriptor.

Ellington-PROMOHaving established that, here is her take on it. “My definition boils down to the notion of equality.” She refines her statement by insisting “To me, feminism is the just the obvious and true notion women are equal to men and should be valued, treated and considered accordingly”.

Of course, even that is fluid considering that feminism in the 1920s was embryonic compared with today. For Angie, it’s logical then that the idea or concept of feminism evolves. “I can’t see how it wouldn’t,” she says, because the human condition is “a product of time and place to some degree, as are our thoughts and attitudes.”

“People change . . . both individually and collectively,” she says. I could not agree more. As the decades pass, American culture is never static and consequently to expect feminism to remain so is nonsensical, especially considering how views on sexuality have changed.

Angie puts it this way. “Why would we expect a feminist born in 1990 to have the same perspective as one born in 1940?”

We shouldn’t, but will somebody please send that message to old Second Wave feminists of the 1970s and 1980s who still insist today that pornography degrades and humiliates women who must be psychologically damaged otherwise they wouldn’t take off their clothes for the camera.

The discussion shifts to female-centered pornography.

One Kind of Perspective

Critics of woman-oriented porn often claim that there is no difference in how a woman shoots a scene from a man. It’s the tired argument of the “male gaze” as if to say the only way to look at adult film is through the masturbating eyes of a man. What they really mean, I think, is that women are not supposed to like watching raw sex.

“Clearly, such critics think there’s a ‘proper way’ to make porn if you’re a woman,” Angie begins. It is as if there are rules that constrain what female pornographers can do and “how the do it.”

Interlude-PROMOAngie doesn’t want to tell women “what to do” or what they should like. The danger is “putting them in convenient little boxes, or defining what makes a female director a ‘feminist,’ she says.

Her remark brings back the memory of the first time I heard that said. It was an interview with well-known pornography feminist, Madison Young.

Angie is on board with Madison when she says, “Why shouldn’t a woman be free to make both porn which she would define as ‘feminist’ and porn which she wouldn’t define that way?”

The Sssh.com founder then hints at the old saw that has forever circumscribed female sexuality.

“Does she [a woman] owe some kind of creative debt to the world such that she’s only allowed to make one kind of movie from one kind of perspective? Would anybody try to put a male pornographer in the same kind of box? I doubt it.”

Finally, I want to know about making porn the Angie Rowntree way.

Real Intimacy

Her scripts, Angie says, mirror “my point of view as a woman.” They also go a step further and “speak to the desires and fantasies of our fans and customers.” In fact, much of what is in a Sssh production “comes directly from feedback and comments contributed by our users.”

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The result is a film that is never solely Angie Rowntree’s “personal vision.”

Fair enough and I understand the need to appeal to the customer base. But, putting aside feedback, what would be included in a completely freewheeling Angie Rowntree movie?

Actually, not much different from what is happening now.

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“It would emphasize mutual pleasure between performers, depict real intimacy and connection.” And, there is more. Angie explains. “So much of the time in porn, there’s no smiling, no having fun . . . except on the ‘blooper’ reels. To me, I like to know the performers are enjoying themselves, which is about more than orgasms and climaxing.”

It’s the journey to get there that makes a Sssh.com movie an experience. What’s more, Angie Rowntree speaks for a adult film genre that is growing in popularity and power every day. In the end, it’s all about feminist pornography, the very heartbeat of Sssh.com.

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Next we’ll take a look at women and Fifty Shades of Grey. Do women really like the BDSM thing or is it just a blindfold made from a man’s tie that feels silky sweet?

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