While I never knew Ms. Royalle personally, in many ways, I owe my career to her. I got my start in the adult industry by making films that asked for an approachable, authentic, pornographic performance that would appeal to women and couples — a niche that may have never existed had it not been for Royalle’s influential work.
Art and entrepreneurship were in Candida Royalle’s blood. Born in Brooklyn in the fall of 1950, she grew up performing and training in dance, art, and music. The daughter of a professional jazz drummer, she was active in the women’s moment and attended prestigious schools such as Parsons School of Design. After a few bouts of clerical work, Royalle knew she was destined for more creative, free-wheeling endeavors — so at the age of 22, she moved across the country to San Francisco.
In her new city, Royalle led a bohemian lifestyle. She sang in jazz clubs, made art, and helped put on experimental theater productions with her new drag queen friends (including some of the original members of the Cockettes). To scrape up money for rent, she worked as an artist’s model.
Then, one day, her boyfriend landed a lead role in a big-budget porn movie. Royalle visited the set and was surprised to find it populated with attractive performers and professional crew — not a single sleazeball. The director was none other than Anthony Spinelli, a well-loved director during what was later coined the “Golden Age of Porn.”
It was not what she had expected from a porn set.
As her understanding of porn movies evolved, performing in them seemed more and more enticing. The money was great, especially for a struggling artist. It was the height of the sexual revolution, and cultural attitudes around sex were relaxed. Plus, Royalle was a born performer. We make love behind closed doors, she thought. Why not for others to view and enjoy?
In the span of several years, Royalle performed in about 25 adult feature films including Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls (for which she learned to skateboard) and Hot Rackets (in a sensual massage scene with her close friend Laurien Dominique). She loved being pampered and playing different roles, but overall, she found the experience predictable and uninspiring. Her creativity was not being stoked.
So, after 8 years in San Francisco, she returned to New York City and retired from porn performing. There, she flexed her writing talents by penning columns for men’s magazines such as High Times and Cheri. In 1983 she formed the world’s first porn star support group, Club 90. During one meeting, the enterprising women discussed how best to utilize the names they had built for themselves in the industry.
No longer wishing to perform in front of someone else’s lens, Royalle came up with a new plan. In 1984, she made her biggest and most lasting career move — she founded Femme Productions, Inc., the first adult production company owned solely by a woman. She explained:
Humans have been curious to look at erotic art and explicit sexual art forever since they etched and carved images into caves on walls, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. What I did feel was that these movies were being sold on the backs of women, and there was nothing about women’s sexuality . . .
At the same time I could tell women were becoming more curious and felt permission to explore their sexuality due to the woman’s movement of the late ’60’s, early ’70’s. With the advent of home video they had a safe place to look, but there was nothing out there for them . . . I saw a challenging new market that no one was paying attention to and I felt I would be a perfect person to provide content for it: my whole education had been in the arts, I had been a performer in adult movies and had first-hand experience on the set, and, having been a feminist activist in college, I liked the political challenge of putting a woman’s voice to a genre everyone assumed was for men only.
Before shooting the first movie for her company, Candida Royalle met with a successful porn producer to pick his brain. When she mentioned that there would not be facial money shots in her films, the man was so appalled that he called her investors to warn them they were going to lose money.
But they didn’t lose money — they made money. The world was ready for Royalle’s fresh style of filmmaking. Unlike most movies of the past, Royalle’s depicted genuine female desire. Using her own turn-ons as inspiration, Royalle crafted films featuring believable storylines, dynamic characters, and of course, sizzling sex. Above all, there was nuance.
In her career as an erotic filmmaker Royalle produced and directed 19 films in a range of genres, from drama to mystery and even satire. Stud Hunters hilariously spoofed the porn industry, while Eyes of Desire and Eyes of Desire 2 explored themes of voyeurism and soul-searching. Royalle also mentored other female directors, often giving them the directorial reins — as in the case of Afrodite Superstar and Caribbean Heat.
In 1999, Royalle released a line of sex toys called Natural Contours. A collaboration between Royalle and Dutch industrial designer Jandirk Groet, the toys were tasteful, ergonomic, and innocuous enough to appeal to mainstream sensibilities. The line was ahead of its time, coming out before now-ubiquitous sex toy companies such as LELO, Jimmyjane, and We-Vibe were even founded. The line’s Energie kegel exerciser remains a great option for PC muscle strengthening.
As a revolutionary in the feminist porn movement, Royalle spoke and lectured at universities and prestigious locales such as the Smithsonian Institute and the American Psychiatric Association. In 2004, she published her first book, How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do, and later contributed essays to The Feminist Porn Book and Coming Out Like a Porn Star.
In interviews, Candida Royalle often joked about her unlikely career. When asked what are you wearing? in a 20-questions style interview, she answered, “I’m wearing a lacy black push-up bra and the skimpiest black panties . . . okay, reality check: I’m wearing a turtleneck sweater with a pair of ultra-warm leggings over organic cotton tights.” More a homebody than a seductress, Royalle loved yoga, gardening, decorating her house, and spending time with family, friends, and her cats.
In 2006, Royalle won one of the first Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Feminist Porn Awards. She also received an honorary Doctor of Human Sexuality degree from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. In 2014, production began on a documentary called While You Were Gone: The Untold Story of Candida Royalle, a movie about Royalle’s search for her birth mother.
Royalle was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the summer of 2010. She fought the disease for years until, a few weeks ago, she died at the age of 64. Many would point to her awards and accolades as evidence of a life well-lived, but in a recent interview, Candida Royalle asked instead to be remembered for her independence, perseverance, and compassion for animals.
In the 1970s, dildos were a point of contention in the feminist movement. A 1974 issue of Lesbian Tide warned: “anyone admitting to using a dildo today would probably be verbally castigated for enjoying ‘phallic’ pleasure.” Some activists thought dildos were too reminiscent of the patriarchy. Others felt that since dildos specifically didn’t require men, using them could actually be a subversive act.
The debate was more about what the dildo represented than precisely how it looked, but looks mattered too. Hyper-realistic vein-ridden dildos were the order of the day, and they tended to emit a strong chemical scent. It would still be a long time before the harms of plasticizers such as phthalates would come to light, but it was obvious that rubber was not the highest quality of dildo materials.
In her thought-provoking piece for Bitch on the early history of silicone dildos, Hallie Lieberman explores not just the feminist debate about the dildo, but also how dildo innovation in the ’70s came from an unlikely place: a humble man named Gosnell Duncan. After becoming paralyzed from the waist down in a workplace accident, Duncan began attending disability conferences and pondering how to enrich his (and others’) sex lives. Conference attendees were intrigued when he mentioned dildos as an option, and so began his journey into dildo-making.
Duncan had a hunch that he could improve upon the dildos of the time, because he was in talks with a chemist at General Electric to formulate the perfect formulation of silicone. Silicone was far more body-safe than rubber: it had no smell, no taste, and wouldn’t melt when exposed to heat — so it could be sterilized between partners. After 9 months of discussion, they discovered the ideal silicone and Duncan began making molds and manufacturing dildos in his basement.
Of course, manufacturing is only half the battle. Marketing was another hurdle. Duncan quickly found that placing ads in disability publications wasn’t enough to keep his business afloat. He renamed his company, from Paramount Therapeutic Products to Scorpio Products, and called up Dell Williams, founder of Eve’s Garden in NYC — the first ever feminist sex toy store.
But Eve’s Garden didn’t stock dildos. Only vibrators.
“Why did a dildo have to look like a cock at all, I asked Duncan,” Williams wrote in her memoir. “Did it have to have a well-defined, blushed-pink head, and blue veins in bas-relief?” Williams wasn’t sure that her customers would buy dildos, no matter what they looked like. But she was willing to find out. She sent out a customer survey asking her patrons what they would want in a dildo. Williams’s customers said that it wasn’t about size, it was about substance: They wanted “something not necessarily large, but definitely tapered. Not particularly wide but undulated at its midsection. Something pliable and easy to care for. Something in a pretty color.”
. . . When he poured his first vat of liquid silicone rubber into a penis-shaped mold, Duncan did not think of his dildo-making as a political act. He was seeking to solve a problem that he, and thousands of other disabled men and their lovers, faced. But in the 1970s dildos were imbued with politics, so to enter the dildo business was to make a political statement. Duncan could have refused to design nonrepresentational dildos in fanciful colors like blue and purple. But he chose to hear Williams out.
So Gosnell Duncan invented, for perhaps the first time, a dildo that represented what women actually wanted. It was called the Venus. Cast in chocolate brown or pink silicone, it resembled a finger — and it was made of a material that wasn’t toxic to the body.
Around that same time, in 1977, Good Vibrations opened in San Francisco. Founder Joani Blank only stocked 2-3 dildos and didn’t display them outright; they were hidden in a plain cabinet in the back. Customers were only shown the cabinet if they asked whether the shop carried “anything else.”
The dildos were brought out permanently in the early 1980s, when Susie Bright began working at the store. Bright was outspoken about dildos, writing in the inaugural edition of her lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs, “ladies, the discreet, complete, and definitive information on dildos is this: penetration is as heterosexual as kissing!”
In small, feminist sex shops, the conversation around dildos was changing. They were coming out of the closet. And when Bright went to stock the store’s shelves, she knew just who to call: Gosnell Duncan.
Sportsheets International began quietly, as a small business operating out of founder Tom Stewart’s garage. It was 1993, and Stewart had already spent years teaching himself to sew. He had a vision, one that had been sparked years earlier as he watched David Letterman, decked out in a velcro suit, jump on a trampoline and stick himself to a wall.
What if you could stick your sex partner to a wall?
The result of this inspiration was the company’s flagship product — a soft velcro bed sheet called the Sportsheet. With the accompanying anchor pads and cuffs, users could strap their partners down anywhere on the bed.
The following year, Stewart asked his sister Julie to become his partner in the business. Neither had any formal business experience, and the company wasn’t initially making much money, but the tides quickly turned. There was a definite market for the Sportsheet. Eventually, more of Stewart’s family joined the business, and they now operate out of a 17,000 square foot building in Huntington Beach, California. They’ve developed more than 400 different bondage and positioning products, with half manufactured in the US.
Tom Stewart, you could say, has become an expert on encouraging sexual creativity and helping people achieve sexual positions. He also spent 20 years in the military. So it made sense when, five years ago, he was invited to show off his products at the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Road to Recovery conference, which brings wounded troops and their families together. His straps, slings, and harnesses were a huge hit with attendees — so he kept going back, listening, brainstorming, and inventing.
That’s how he came up with the heavy-duty adaptive sling pictured above, designed for a quadriplegic veteran wanting to have sex in the missionary position. He also invented a strap to facilitate doggy style for folks who can’t bend over easily. Even something as simple as a thigh harness can change a couple’s sex life, as Stewart explains:
One of the products we came up with was what’s called a thigh harness, and it’s like a neoprene knee brace. If you slide that up your thigh with a dildo inside the little hole, all of a sudden you’ve got a dildo mounted on your thigh. I took this thigh harness and other strap-ons to a [retail sex] show in Canada, and there was a guy in a wheelchair who came up and said, “Hey, I want to try this.” We put this thigh harness on him, and we put this dildo on his right leg.
I said to his girlfriend, “Come over here. Squat down on this thing — imagine you’re naked and this dildo’s going inside of you.” So, she was kind of grinding on his thigh — you know, simulating — and she’s going, “Oh my God, this is phenomenal. We can have intercourse like this!” This was really the beginning of products for people who have disabilities.
As Sportsheets enters its third decade in business, they remain true to their motto of “Keeping Couples Connected.” Although the company began with only a single product, today they are known for their work with disabled veterans, their inexpensive bondage products such as paddles, feather ticklers, and handcuffs, their great beginner’s harnesses, and the ingenious Under the Bed Restraint System. Tom Stewart is currently working on a hollow dildo strap-on harness for folks experiencing erectile difficulties.
Is 20-odd years enough to make a lasting impact with art? In the case of Carlos Batts, the answer is absolutely yes.
Since he was 16, he had the name of his company all mapped out: C. Batts FLY. At Franklin High School in Reisterstown, Maryland, he ran with the goth kids, devoured horror movies, sported death metal band T-shirts, and cultivated an early love for photography.
Working a part-time job on the weekends, it took Batts weeks to save enough money to buy his first camera, a Pentax K1000, which he lugged to punk shows to take pictures from the pit. Soon he was shooting album covers.
Batts had always been inspired by the gothic aesthetic, so it was no surprise that his photography went in that direction. By his 20s, he was setting up lights in his house, shooting dark fetish photos of friends of friends. He landed freelancing photography gigs with fetish magazines Taboo and Leg World.
But like any good artist, Batts was rejected by every art gallery in Baltimore. So in 1999, he left for Los Angeles, where “there are more opportunities, and people are more willing to believe your bullshit.”
Little did Batts know, a chance encounter at a gallery opening in Echo Park in 2000 would change the course of his life. That is where he met then-barista April Flores, the woman who would become his wife and muse. But at first, he was just amazed by her flawless skin. He wanted — no, needed — to photograph her.
He had always been turned off by the women who saw posing for him as nothing more than a job — not art. When he shot Flores, there was an immediate spark. No matter how he lit her, or what he dressed her in, every picture was perfect.
Batts’ first book, Wild Skin, came about after he wooed a German publisher with a portfolio of kinky, garishly-lit photos of racially-diverse women of all body types. In fact, when his publisher flew in from Munich to edit the book, he just happened to choose a photo of April Flores for the cover.
The years that followed found him publishing two more books, Crazy Sexy Hollywood, and American Gothic. Along the way, he directed music videos and indie films, shot album covers and porn box covers, exhibited his work internationally, and even landed the cover for a UK edition of Chuck Palahniuk’s Snuff. He drew, painted, designed sets, made collages, and sculpted.
He clung to his art fiercely; he once stated that he would rather shoot school yearbook photos or weddings than create something that he hated. And so, when his muse gained interest in expressing herself with moving images, he followed suit. But he always stuck with his own aesthetic, culled from years of experimentation with light:
My intent was never to do hard-core. I’m not even in the league. I wasn’t technically inclined to light a room like that. I didn’t even know how begin to light a big, shiny, bright white girl. I would set up four hot bulbs and let it go. Get some mood in there. Make her become more of a character, and not just like a thing.
Really slick porno is lit like you’d light a lawn mower. It’s like shooting a Sears catalog. There’s no depths as far as personality. You’re not engaged. She’s just a brightly lit vagina. I could never do that.
In all, he directed just over 10 erotic films, including Behind the Red Door and Dangerous Curves, as well as the porn documentary trifecta of Alter Ego, Voluptuous Life, and Glamazons. Batts’ films are all about style, using sound, mood, atmosphere, lighting, wardrobe, and diverse talent to tell the story. Dangerous Curves won “Most Deliciously Diverse Cast” at the 2010 Feminist Porn Awards, and April Flores World won “Sexiest Star Feature” in 2013.
In 2009, when April Flores’ vulva was molded for a sex toy, Batts came up with the ingenious idea to have famous artists paint plaster molds of her vulva for an art exhibit called the April Flores Toy Show. It was yet another example of how, for many, it became hard to imagine Batts without Flores, or Flores without Batts. His unique point of view and love for his wife shown through every time he collaborated with her.
Calling art “the strongest form of activism,” Batts believed whole-heartedly in the transformative and important nature of what he did. Yet, he was soft-spoken and never pretentious. Tristan Taormino recounted a conversation she had with him about his place in the feminist porn movement.
. . . he wanted to be respectful and was especially wary of taking up space as a guy in this growing revolution . . . We had this amazing discussion where he talked about what he believed, what he valued, and how he could claim the label ‘feminist.’ He didn’t want to say it until he was clear about what it meant to him and what he could bring to the party. He was beginning to shape and articulate how the art he was creating could be specifically feminist, and it was pretty cool to be in on that process.
He thanked me later for helping him talk it through, but what he didn’t realize is that our talk was just as enlightening for me. It made me more aware of my own place in the movement as a white woman who identifies as a feminist. That was Carlos: he pushed me to look at my privilege simply by his openness and willingness to talk about his struggles and beliefs. He gave me gifts like that a lot. He wasn’t always the loudest voice in the room, but when he opened his mouth, it was clear how fierce and brave he was about challenging the status quo.
Batts and Flores were guests on Tristan Taormino’s Sex Out Loud radio show last year, speaking about how they met, why they loved making art, and the April Flores Toy Show.
Batts’ last major artistic contribution to the world was a monumental one: a photography book — his fourth — entitled Fat Girl. Released in July of this year, the book chronicles twelve years with April Flores. Reclaiming the phrase “fat girl,” it offers an exceptional look into the fearless, intimate, playful, and romantic relationship the two shared.
Carlos Batts passed away on October 22nd at the age of 40. Donations can be sent to the Carlos Batts Memorial Fund.
Raised an Orthodox Jew in northern New Jersey, Joanna Angel was a shy wallflower with a rebellious streak. In ninth grade, she pierced her bellybutton and started attending punk shows and political protests. She dyed her hair pink. She got her first tattoo on her 18th birthday — a theater mask with the words “so it goes” underneath.
As a college student at Rutgers University, her aspirations for her future changed with the wind. She was interested in human rights and philanthropy. She interned at a few magazines (including Nerve) and considered becoming a journalist or poet. Sometimes she fantasized about traveling the world.
But in her last year of college, with graduation on the horizon, her roommate proposed a unique business venture for them both: a porn site.
Drawn to the idea of doing something creative, being her own boss, and bucking the system in the process, she casually agreed. They found a friend who knew some HTML, took some topless photos, interviewed friends’ bands, wrote a few erotic stories, and launched BurningAngel.com in April of 2002. Joanna Angel had no idea where it would go:
To me, it was just a funny project that me and my friend were working on. I was in the punk rock scene, I was politically active and I went to protests – I was in this subculture that was trying to get the world’s attention, whether it was by the clothing we wore or things we were saying; we were always trying to tell the world something. Nobody was ever listening until I put a few naked girls on a website and everybody turns around and has something to say about it. I really liked that. Everybody has some sort of feelings toward porn, whether they love it, hate it or they’re uncomfortable . . . But I saw that porn was powerful — and that really enticed me.
Although Angel had never envisioned a career in the porn industry, she couldn’t stop coming up with new ideas for the site. By the time she graduated with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Film Studies, Burning Angel had been chugging along for a year. One year after that, she started shooting — and starring — in videos for the site. She found it much more exhilarating than taking still photos.
Angel went into porn completely unaware of the industry landscape, but that helped her much more than it hurt her. She simply shot what she wanted to shoot with people she found attractive, in scenarios that appealed to her rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic. And so, Burning Angel became a reflection of her community and culture — where ladies with tattoos, piercings, and candy-colored hair were the norm. The site came onto the scene before the word “alt” was ever coined to describe a genre of porn. But once it was, it was applied liberally to Joanna Angel’s work.
As the owner of Burning Angel, Angel is involved in every aspect of the business, from writing scripts to casting, directing, editing, and producing. She chooses new performers based on both appearance and personality, looking for a certain edgy spark. As a huge music lover, she works with bands and labels to put their music in her movies, and sometimes dabbles in songwriting herself. (She even received an AVN award nomination for her original song “Rock and Roll in my Butthole.”)
Burning Angel is loved for its often horror-themed parodies, such as The XXXorcist, Evil Head, and the latest addition, The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody. But the completely original efforts such as Baristas also stand out for their excellent writing, creative plot lines, and of course, hot sex.
Always, Burning Angel scenes and movies are colorful, sexy, and campy. Angel has said of viewers, “if they don’t get aroused, but laugh — at least they laughed.” It’s also really important to her that her female performers have orgasms.
Now in her eleventh year as CEO of Burning Angel, Joanna Angel has directed over 70 movies and won a host of AVN Awards, including “Most Outrageous Sex Scene” for her zombie movie Re-Penetrator (in which she kills her sex partner by pulling his intestines out). BurningAngel.com now boasts over 300 performers and 900 scenes, along with live shows, album reviews, band interviews, and an extensive community in which members and performers alike can interact. Like punk rock, the site is a bit of a subculture of its own.
Joanna Angel’s fame has even spawned a line of sex toys and landed her a few “mainstream” gigs, such as roles in indie horror films — but she has no plans to depart from her porn empire. She is perpetually busy, but when she does get a little downtime, she likes to try new recipes, drink wine, watch Teen Mom, and play Super Mario.
Listen to Joanna Angel’s recent interview on Tristan Taormino’s Sex Out Loud radio show, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and on her website, Burning Angel.
Gifted with a Polaroid instant camera at age 8, Courtney Trouble was destined to be an artist. As a teenager in Washington, they spent their days in their high school’s dark room — and their nights running in grunge and riot grrrl circles.
Trouble attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, where they continued pursuing print and digital photography. They snagged publishing, entertainment journalism, and photography gigs for a while, then started working as a phone sex operator. Phone sex was lucrative and allowed them to be their own boss, but it was exhausting catering to clients’ fantasies all the time. Trouble was itching to explore their own rebellious queer desires.
So in 2002, at just 19 years old, Trouble founded NoFauxxx.com, a little website offering up “subversive smut.” In the beginning, Trouble shot erotic photos of friends, lovers, classmates, and themself with a bulky Nikon CoolPix — 600 pixels max — and no light set, studio props, or a video camera. Just, as Trouble puts it, “that good old Olympia DIY magic.”
NoFauxxx was a fun, creative hobby at first, something to balance out Trouble’s fantasy-based phone sex work with the documentation of real queer sexuality — but over the years, it grew into a community and a movement. The queer porn movement.
In 2007, Trouble began filming their first full-length DVD. With no formal training in film or video editing and very little money, it took them two years to finish. But the result, Roulette, solidified their trajectory toward queer porn notoriety.
Courtney Trouble is now known as a sassy and unapologetic champion of authentic, queer, body-positive, binary-breaking feminist porn. They strive for inclusivity, casting performers who run the gamut of gender, sexual orientation, size, and race. They like to shoot performers in their own homes, using their personalities as inspiration for scenes. Queer porn, Trouble admits, is a genre defined by its lack of structure:
Queer porn is a little bit undefinable, because the “point” of queer porn is to show the vast diversity of queer desire, and performers “queering” sex more as a verb than an adjective. Queer porn is a collaborative, open-communication-centric, intimate art that is as much the performer’s concept as well as the director or producer. Queer porn removes the various niches, stereotypes, and misconceptions that the dominant adult industry places on people based on how they look or how they fuck, and allows the performers and producers to make authentic, meaningful, sex-positive imagery that reflects our true sexual natures.
After that first film, Trouble helped build Reel Queer Productions, a video line for which they directed and edited 11 more movies, both plot-based and gonzo, including Roulette Toronto, Seven Minutes in Heaven 3: Fuck Yeah!, and Billy Castro Does the Mission.
Trouble is a performer as well. They love being in front of the camera, using their body and sexuality (as a genderqueer fat feminist femme switch) to make a political statement. As a performer, Trouble has starred in their own films, as well as The Wild Search, and in scenes on Shine Louise Houston’s website CrashPadSeries.com and Madison Young’s website Madison Bound. Performing, Trouble firmly believes, makes them a better director.
Taking everything they learned from the trial-and-error development of NoFauxxx, Trouble collaborated with queer pornstar Tina Horn in November 2010 to launch QueerPorn.TV, a community-based porn site featuring exclusive content and interviews with performers. Trouble also runs QueerPornTube, the first ever free, user-generated queer tube site, which hosts the work of both amateurs and professionals.
In 2011 Trouble established their own porn production company, TROUBLEfilms, through which they have released several films: Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous, Live Sex Show, Trans Grrls, Fucking Mystic, and Lesbian Curves (which just won a Feminist Porn Award for “Hottest Dyke Film”). TROUBLEfilms also distributes Tobi Hill-Meyer’s Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project and The Genderfellator.
By taking complete control of content distribution, Trouble is able to release scenes featuring fisting, knife play, squirting, and other sex acts that distributors usually don’t allow due to obscenity laws. These often nonsensical laws are what inspired Trouble, along with genderqueer porn icon Jiz Lee, to create International Fisting Day to educate and dispel myths about fisting.
Ten years after its initial launch, NoFauxxx changed its name to Indie Porn Revolution, and subsequently received an AVN nomination for “Best Alternative Website.” It is now the longest-running queer porn website on the internet, with a unique genre- and gender-less navigation structure that encourages the viewer to explore its breadth of erotic imagery without choosing a familiar category marker first.
When asked what keeps them passionate about queer porn, Trouble said:
The effect that my work has had on other queer folks . . . I get letters all the time that queer porn has changed, and sometimes even saved, a life. It saved mine 10 years ago, and the fact that it’s still relevant and even more so now, is why my passion thrives. Sometimes people use my art as a survival tool. Not very many pornographers get to say that their porn is that essential.
Courtney Trouble loves animals (especially her chihuahua, Cookie Party), the njoy Eleven and Hitachi Magic Wand, and cheeseburgers. They are working on a film called Come Find Me, which follows a woman on a bike-powered scavenger hunt to her real-life lover. It will be Trouble’s first full-length movie starring a heterosexual couple.
Check out this fun interview with Trouble from this year’s Feminist Porn Awards:
We love the work of erotic filmmaker Erika Lust. Her movies are sensual, beautifully shot, and expertly directed. But a lot of customers aren’t quite sure which Erika Lust film they should purchase. The truth is, they’re all great, but there are definitely a few differences between them — primarily when it comes to length, scene pairings, and vignette plotlines.
So here’s a more in-depth look at four of Lust’s movies featuring partnered scenes: Five Hot Stories for Her, Life Love Lust, Cabaret Desire, and X Confessions. We’ve taken screenshots of each scene as well, so there is nudity. (If you’re looking for solo masturbation scenes, check out Lust’s wonderful Barcelona Sex Project.)
Five Hot Stories for Her
Five Hot Stories for Her was Erika Lust’s debut film. It’s 1 hour, 52 minutes long and can be played dubbed in English, Spanish, German, and French. The actual language used in the film flucuates between English and Spanish. As you’d expect from the title, the film consists of five unrelated vignettes, each with a different storyline.
In the first scene, “Something About Nadia,” multiple female voiceovers talk about how they were drawn to a tattooed, dark-haired, mysterious woman named Nadia. One particular woman masturbates on a chair while fantasizing about Nadia — then manages to snag a date with her. The women have dinner in an apartment, make out on top of the kitchen island, then move to a luxurious bedroom to have sex.
Scene two is called “JodeteCarlos.com,” which translates to “Fuck you, Carlos.” It’s a revenge-driven vignette that begins with Carlos cheating on his wife. But most of the scene consists of his wife’s response, which is to have a party while Carlos is out of town and go to bed with two new men. There’s a bit of a twist at the end that makes the revenge even more sweet.
The third scene, “Married with Children,” features a couple whose home life seems a bit void of passion. But they don’t want to lose the spark, so they plan a BDSM-laden rendezvous in a hotel room. The husband wears a mask and dominates his wife with paddles, a collar, a leash, and a ball gag. It’s not a rough scene, but it is more kinky than the others on the disc.
Scene four is called “The Good Girl,” and was Erika Lust’s first foray into filmmaking. It’s a great spin on the pizza boy porn trope. It begins with the main character, Alex, listening to her friend ramble on about her recent sexual exploits. Deciding to break out of her usual shell, Alex seduces the pizza delivery guy. They have joyful, adventurous sex in many different positions.
The final scene is a short one entitled “Breakup Sex.” It’s a pretty simple scene in which two gay men, clearly on the verge of breaking up, fight with each other so intensely that it leads to making out, which leads to sex on the couch in what appears to be their shared apartment. This scene is in black and white.
Life Love Lust
Lust’s film Life Love Lust is significantly shorter than Five Hot Stories for Her, with a runtime of 34 minutes. It does, however, include several extras, such as two short fetish films called “Handcuffs” and “Love Me Like You Hate Me.” There are also trailers, a making of for “Handcuffs,” and a short video profile of Erika Lust.
Unlike Five Hot Stories for Her, Life Love Lust doesn’t have much dialogue at all, and when it does, it’s in Spanish without dubbing or subtitles. Like Five Hot Stories for Her, Life Love Lust features distinct and unrelated vignettes. Three, in this case.
The first scene, “Life,” features a couple working in a restaurant together… and what they do after hours as a private birthday celebration between the two of them. Let’s just say it involves hot and heavy sex on a couch. The artistic camera shots through the drink glasses on the bar are especially great in this scene.
Scene two, “Love,” is aptly named — it centers on a love affair between a younger man and older woman. There’s an array of cute and romantic footage of them enjoying themselves together — having drinks, kissing in a tub, having a pillow fight — which segues into them having sex on white sheets in a sunny room. The lighting in this scene is absolutely fantastic!
In the last scene, “Lust,” a woman visits a female erotic masseuse and relaxes into a massage in a darkened room filled with candles. This scene is very very sensual — most of it is spent with the masseuse rubbing her naked body across her client’s oiled skin — and there isn’t much of what most would consider “sex.” But it’s clear that both women are really enjoying themselves.
Cabaret Desire is a bit different from the other films in that it has an overarching plotline. Don’t let that fool you, though — each scene is still told as a story, so they all include different performers and scenarios. At 1 hour and 14 minutes, Cabaret Desire also comes with the short films “Handcuffs” and “Room 33,” as well as a making of segment, and finally, a feature about The Poetry Brothel (a project that inspired and participated in the film).
Cabaret Desire is in English, but includes subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, and Swedish.
This film focuses on a bohemian erotic reading gathering, where attendees can pay for privately-told stories. As such, each scene begins with someone paying for a story, and the storyteller beginning to speak. The voiceover continues into the scene until the sex kicks in.
The first scene, aptly-named “The Two Alexes,” focuses on a blonde woman who meets two people at a bar — both named Alex — and launches a love affair with each of them. She loves that they share the same name but not the same gender. Her sex scenes with each Alex are juxtaposed almost interchangeably (the apartment backdrop doesn’t change), creating an intriguing visual trick.
“My Mother” is the second scene in Cabaret Desire, a story told by a man whose mother was an art thief. The storyteller explains that his mother sometimes spoke of her “best work” but never elaborated. His mother is shown in a black, full-body suit sneaking into a house to have her way with the male inhabitant. She removes his restraints in time, but never reveals her identity. The meaning of her “best work” is explained at the end.
The third scene, “In Wonderland,” is about a woman celebrating her 30th birthday. Her friends have lined up an elaborate birthday gift for her — sex with a handsome guy in a heavenly, whimsical setting. Again, Erika Lust’s penchant for setting the scene pays off — there are even grapes and champagne on a table nearby!
“Wet Sheets,” the final scene in Cabaret Desire, follows a man and a woman separately as they travel to meet up for drinks after a year apart. Intercut with the present day storyline are shots of their whirlwind three-day love affair that took place one year ago, which both remember fondly. It’s a really nostalgic, sweet, and sexy memory.
Released in 2014, X Confessions is Erika Lust’s most recent movie. With a running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, X Confessions contains 10 different scenes, each one based on an anonymous sex confession submitted to Erika’s website. None of the scenes are interconnected, and there’s no overarching storyline. Scenes vary in length, between 3 minutes at the shortest to 15 at the longest. Like Life Love Lust, the scenes in X Confessions are in Spanish, but there is very little dialogue. Extra features are pretty sparse — just a trailer and a bit of information about Erika.
The first scene is called “Let’s Make a Porno,” and follows a real-life couple as Erika helps them make their fantasy into a reality. It shows the couple arriving on set, talking to Erika a bit, then filming the scene. Throughout the scene, the point of view switches from showing the crew as they film to showing the finished product, complete with music. After the couple have sex, they pose for some still photos.
The second scene, “Hold Me So Tight It Hurts,” features some beautiful rope bondage. This is a solo masturbation scene, with a woman alone save for the hands that tie her up at the beginning. The framing of her body is lovely and the music is especially fitting in this scene — it builds and builds anticipation all the way to her climax.
“I Ama Verry Badx Secvretary” is next. In it, a man seduces a woman who is typing at a desk. She tries to keep typing, but quickly cannot resist. Erika Lust’s eye for unique angles really shines here, with a particularly artistic shot through the computer desk as the woman goes down on the man. Then they have sex, with her dress hiked up over her hips the entire time.
Scene number four is called “My First Time Eating Oysters… and Pussy.” It features two women in a black room, kissing and having sex. The scene is interspersed with close-up shots of women eating oysters and pouring champagne. The music is soft and sensual with a hint of anticipation as the women bring each other to orgasm — and one of them squirts.
The fifth scene is entitled “Sit Down, Shut-Up, and Watch.” It begins with a woman blindfolding a man and whispering in his ear, then leading him into a room where he is then made to watch her have sex with another man. At the end, she sits atop a luxurious couch and masturbates in front of both men.
“I Pegged My Boyfriend” is exactly what it sounds like: a pegging scene! A man goes down on a woman while blindfolded, then she penetrates him. The woman wears beautiful BS Atelier products from Spain — both a harness and a dildo. The man, meanwhile, continues wearing his nice business suit — from the waist up, at least.
Scene seven is called “Sadistic Trainer.” At the gym, a relentless trainer is barking at a group of people. The trainees are not happy with this treatment and quickly plot their revenge, tying up the trainer with jump ropes and forcing him to watch as they have an orgy in front of him. This scene features many performers who have been in Erika Lust’s movies before.
And now for a fun interlude! “A Blowjob is Always a Great Last-Minute Gift Idea!” is a quick, 3-minute long blip of a man reading a book in a park… while fellating a candy penis. Why not?
“Obsessed” is the second to last scene in X Confessions. Based on a confession in which a man admits that he is still not over his old love, it features a couple having sex while a projector splashes moving images on the wall. The music is dramatic and nostalgic, with dark and mysterious lighting.
The final scene is called “I Fucking Love IKEA.” A man is outside building something out of an IKEA catalog while a woman lounges on a chair nearby. Quickly, their thoughts drift to sex, and their reading materials morph accordingly, becoming amusingly pornographic. They have sex on top of a table, some boxes, and pillows. The natural lighting is beautiful in this scene — complete with lens flare.
There are some things that all of Erika Lust’s films have in common: they’re all gorgeously shot and edited, with excellent music; they are fairly explicit but not raunchy, and her set design and scenarios are both realistic and aesthetically appealing. Lust’s artistic eye is apparent throughout her films, although the production values are a bit higher in the films following her debut, Five Hot Stories For Her.
Since the films are all comparable in terms of asethetic, we suggest choosing the film with scenarios and performers that appeal to you. Or, if you can’t decide, pick up more than one!
Madison Young always had a mission. Growing up in conservative Loveland, Ohio, she immersed herself in theater, painting, and dance. Drawn to the honesty and playfulness of the arts, she was also similarly interested in sex — a subject that was very hush-hush throughout her upbringing.
Young was always kinky; even when she was first discovering her sexuality, she fantasized about bondage, power play, and exhibitionism. With partners, she was able to explore and grow her love for BDSM, dabbling in flogging, caning, puppy play, fisting, and submission. In doing so, Young broke away from the shame and silence that had previously surrounded the topic of sex, and it was then that she knew what she wanted to do with her life: create spaces for others to see the beauty and pleasure potential of their bodies.
Young’s interest in sex, kink, and art truly converged when she moved to San Francisco in 2000. She wanted to open a non-profit feminist art gallery, so she began performing in BDSM porn to fund it (she estimates that it took about 20 scenes to gather enough money to sign the lease). On porn sets, the intensity of the bondage elements was new to her, yet also exhilarating and life-changing:
I just fell in love with the rope. I fell in love with the taste of the whip. I really enjoy pushing my body to the extreme. I think one of the things that made it such an easy fit for me is that I was very much also into Tantra and I was also very much aware of sexual energy. Tantra is very closely related to BDSM. It really is an energy and power exchange between you and your Dominant. They are giving you this energy and once they are putting this energy into you, you just need to know how to release it, how to breathe through it. You need to learn how to squirm around in your body and let it turn into all these beautiful colors and sensations. Some people see the work that I do and think it is very extreme. They wonder if I am in pain. They wonder how I can be smiling at the same time. I really don’t feel it as pain. I feel it as warmth and colors and different sensations.
Meanwhile, Young’s art gallery, Femina Potens, flourished. Her dream of opening a community space for queer artists had become a reality.
For the first five years of her adult career, Young was almost exclusively a bondage, fetish, and BDSM model. She eventually branched out into queer and mainstream work, and in 2005, she founded Madison Young Productions and began directing her own films. In her work as a director, she focuses on fostering a comfortable and supportive environment for her performers, opening the lines of communication to create an empowering experience. As a performer, she immerses herself fully in her scenes, pushing her body to its limits, and breaking down stereotypes — as a queer feminist who loves rough sex.
Young’s directorial work includes the movies Femmetastic!, Queer Manor, Lucky: A Woman’s POV, Fluid: Women Redefining Sexuality, and many more. Her films have been screened at film festivals throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. Several have won Feminist Porn Awards and been nominated for AVN Awards. In 2009, she was named Indie Porn Pioneer at the Feminist Porn Awards. As a performer, she has starred in countless films, including Champion and Midori’s Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage.
In March of 2011, Young gave birth to her daughter, Emma, which sparked an interest in the intersection of sexuality and motherhood. Naturally, Young began creating art on the subject, such as a quilt of sewn together burp cloths and “porn star panties.” At one exhibit, Young served breast milkshakes to guests. She also began the The Sexy Mamas Social Club in San Francisco, where parents in the sex industry gather to share their experiences.
Now, Femina Potens has been around for over a decade, and in that time has hosted over 500 art events. The organization recently expanded its programming to Los Angeles, New York City, and Austin, and secured a board of directors including Violet Blue and Margaret Cho.
Young currently lives in Berkeley, California and travels the country giving workshops and lectures on sex, feminism, porn, and kink. Her essay “Submissive: A Manifesto” appears in The Ultimate Guide to Kink. Her memoir, Daddy, will be available in the fall.
Madison Young can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on her websites, The Sexpert Next Door and Madison Bound. Check out some of her work in our shop, and don’t miss her upcoming February workshop with us: DIY Porn with Madison Young!
Shine Louise Houston grew up in Southern California, where the beaches were all the rage. As a boogie-boarding tomboy, her earliest career aspirations included veterinarian, archaeologist, and designer — but her first venture as an entrepreneur involved completing other kids’ science homework for $2 a packet.
Houston graduated from San Francisco Arts Institute with a Bachelors in Fine Art Film, and later got a job at Good Vibrations. It was there that she encountered some of her first porn movies. Like other feminist pornographers, Houston saw a void in the porn landscape. She was dismayed by the lack of representation of queer identities — both in front of and behind the camera.
After five years at Good Vibrations, Houston left in order to found Pink & White Productions in 2005. Her first film was The Crash Pad, a movie about a secretive San Francisco apartment where queer folks can go to have spectacular sex. Her subsequent films, Superfreak, The Wild Search, and Champion, have all won numerous accolades. Meanwhile, the success of The Crash Pad sparked the website Crash Pad Series, which updates regularly and provides the content for the Crash Pad Series DVDs.
Here’s a short scene from The Crash Pad:
Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and visual artists from the Craftsman era, Houston’s work is cinematic, sultry, and realistic, with an unmistakable aesthetic feel to it. Her performers have all different types of bodies, sexualities, and gender identities and presentations, and people of color are always represented. Houston has high ethical standards, so her sets are comfortable, safe, and supportive, and she gives very little direction to her performers — preferring the scenes to unfold organically. She hopes queer folks can see themselves in her films:
[My movies create] empowerment by saying yes we are beautiful, we’re an art form, we’re not all gym bunnies, and that’s OK. We’re not all super high femme and all this kind of stuff. It’s like, hey, let’s normalize this. These are queer bodies. And hey, we can be just as hot as the models in Penthouse. It’s empowering when you can see yourself reflected in an image. If it’s powerful and sexy you might think, wow, I really always wanted to identify with that but I can’t because my body doesn’t look like X. But maybe that person is brown, they’re heavy, they’re butch, and thought that was totally hot and know that they can be totally hot. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies and we shouldn’t be ashamed of our sexualities.
In 2010, Houston was honored with The Visionary award at the Feminist Porn Awards, where she was described as being “responsible for the explosion and popularity of queer porn into the mainstream.” Even at the mainstream AVN awards, CrashPadSeries.com has been nominated for “Best Alternative Website” and Champion nominated for “Best Video Feature.” Trying to count the number of other nominations and awards Houston’s work has received will cause you to run out of fingers and toes!
In 2011, Houston released perhaps her most personally challenging project to date: Heavenly Spire, an exploration of masculine sexuality that features cis and trans* male-identified performers. For Houston, creating the site has allowed her to explore her own fascination with masculinity. For viewers, it is a different way of looking at masculinity, and with a quite artistic flair — scenes are shot in Super 8 style, with high contrast and manipulation of light.
Last month, Houston launched PinkLabel.tv, a video-on-demand site that includes the work of progressive, independent adult filmmakers and studios such as Annie Sprinkle, Courtney Trouble, Carlos Batts, Jennifer Lyon Bell, T-Wood Pictures, and Handbasket Productions. Keeping in step with Houston’s ethical business practices, filmmakers on PinkLabel receive fair-trade commission for the digital distribution of their work.
Recently, Houston was interviewed on Tristan Taormino’s Sex Out Loud radio show, where they discussed the Crash Pad empire, what it means to be an ethical pornographer, the inspiration behind Heavenly Spire, and why PinkLabel is an important site for budding porn filmmakers.
Before he was a groundbreaking trans filmmaker, motivational speaker, educator, and advocate, Buck Angel was a little girl in Southern California. He grew up roughhousing with boys and fantasizing about being John Wayne. But when puberty reminded him of his biological sex, he became tormented.
As a young woman, Angel worked as a high-fashion model, but his unhappiness with his body led him to substance abuse, depression, and homelessness. It was only when he got sober and started seeing a therapist that his life began to turn around. It took him some time to find a therapist who understood him, but when he did, he began taking testosterone and later underwent breast removal surgery. He finally felt like himself.
Buck Angel first began working in the porn industry as a fetish filmmaker and website developer for the MTF market. But in doing so, he saw a rare opportunity to fill a niche. He noticed there were no sites dedicated to FTM performers. He realized he could break new ground, and that’s exactly what he did.
And so, Angel’s career in the adult industry has been peppered with firsts. He began calling himself “the man with the pussy,” and with the debut of his website in 2003, he became the first FTM adult film producer and first FTM porn star to run a membership-based website. In 2005, he also became the first FTM performer to be featured in an all-male porn film produced by an exclusively gay porn company (Cirque Noir from Titan).
It was not easy at first; he faced a lot of resistance from judgmental people. But his wife and friends convinced him to persevere, and in doing so, he began to truly believe in himself and his work. He explains:
when I started doing my pornography, I started to empower myself. By putting myself out there in the world, exposing myself completely — physically and in a way mentally — I had to take it as an empowerment thing or I was going to get beaten up. People were writing the most horrendous e-mails you can’t even imagine . . . Pure hate. People couldn’t handle who I was or what I was doing. So, I either had to quit or deal with it and I decided to deal with it. That is when I knew I loved myself. That is empowerment.
Under the umbrella of his company, Buck Angel Entertainment, Angel has directed and produced many porn films, such as V for Vagina, The Buck Stops Here, and Buckback Mountain. His work has garnered him several awards — in fact, he was the first trans man to win Transsexual Performer of the Year at the AVN Awards (in 2007). In 2008, he was presented with the Boundary Breaker of the Year award at the Feminist Porn Awards.
In March of this year, Angel was appointed to the board of directors of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, an activist organization that works to advance sexual rights and freedom. He has also done a good bit of motivational speaking at colleges, film festivals, and other events, breaking down societal constructs and encouraging self-acceptance and empowerment.
Angel’s latest endeavor is a docu-porn series called Sexing the Transman XXX, which earned him a 2012 Feminist Porn Award for Most Tantalizing Trans Film. The second installment of that series has just come out, and he has also launched a trans men live web cam site.
He has an active YouTube account where he has posted tons of PSAs, an “It Gets Better” video, and clips from various TV appearances. He currently lives in Mexico with his wife, Elayne Angel, a world-renowed body piercer, and their several rescue dogs.
Welcome to She Bop’s blog!
She Bop is a women-owned sex toy boutique specializing in body safe products and education. Our mission is to promote healthy and safe sexuality by offering quality products and educational workshops in a fun and comfortable environment. She Bop welcomes people of all genders and sexual orientations.
- April 26, 2017 – Exploring Burlesque: Striptease Salon
- May 4, 2017 – Beyond Monogamy
- May 17, 2017 – Wet & Wild: G-spot and Squirting Orgasms
- June 1, 2017 – Back That Ass Up!: Anal Sex 101
- June 4, 2017 – Curvy Girl Sex: Body Positive Positions to Empower Your Sex Life
- June 11, 2017 – Sex and Survivorship: Navigating Sex After Cancer
- July 2, 2017 – Your Gender is Awesome: A Class for Trans Youth
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