Browsing posts from the category Industry spotlight


Oct
1

Industry Spotlight: Candida Royalle

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.

Siousxie Q

Candida RoyalleArt 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.

Candida Royalle

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 LELOJimmyjane, 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.

Jul
26

When dildos came out of the closet

sex-aids-for-women

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.

eves-garden

“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.

Jan
18

From velcro to veterans: the history of Sportsheets

Military veteran in a sling designed by Tom Stewart, founder of Sportsheets

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.

Dec
17

Thrills and mundanities on a queer porn set

 Nic Switch and Iona Grace with Shine Louise HoustonWhat goes on behind the scenes of a queer feminist porn shoot? According to Anna Pulley, writing for Alternet, performers ogle cat photos, knit scarves in the colors of the bisexual flag, and shoot the breeze about fisting censorship and breast milk pumping. The kitchen is well-stocked with coffee, fruit, and chips, and Feminist Porn Awards line the walls.

Scenes for queer porn site Crash Pad Series are shot in an unassuming neighborhood in San Francisco by filmmaker and director Shine Louise Houston, production assistant Jiz Lee, videographer Alexa Shae, and photographer Tristan Crane. The room is equipped with a “voyeur cam,” which allows members of the site to watch the scene in real time. The best scenes are compiled for DVD releases.

Anna Pulley visited the set to watch two scenes unfold: Nic Switch and Iona Grace, followed by Ray and Maggie Mayhem. As is always the case with Crash Pad scenes, performers first discussed their vision for the scene with Houston. Performers’ desires and limits are steadfastly respected and followed; the only true rules are no blood, no poop, and… no glitter. (It’s far too difficult to clean up!).

Then, the scene began. Pulley writes,

Since the room was small and crowded, I tried to flatten myself against the wall as much as possible, but even then I could’ve reached out and touched the performers, they were so close. I briefly considered the possibility of being in the line of fire should ejaculation occur, but mostly pushed that thought out of my mind and enjoyed my front-row seat. Luckily, I remained dry through both shoots…at least outwardly.

As a feminist, I’ve found there’s often a negotiation that occurs when watching most porn, especially if it involves any kind of heavy aggression or degradation. Because, let’s face it, our desires are hardly ever politically correct. When a woman in porn is tied up and being called a dirty whore, the last thing you want to be thinking is, “Does liking this make me a bad person?” With “Crash Pad,” there was no such negotiation. The performers genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. Nothing about the sex seemed contrived or for the benefit of an audience. Pleasure was the central tenet, and it worked. It was hot.

When all was said and done, several hours later, Pulley had witnessed a litany of sex acts, from strap-on play to Magic Wand buzzing to squirting — and a whole bunch of intense orgasms. Pulley commented on the large wet spot left on the bed afterward; her fascination was met with “oh, that’s nothing.”

After the scene, Houston interviewed the performers again to debrief. Grace explained why she does porn: it’s way more fun than being a cashier. Switch was more philosophical: she enjoys learning about herself and representing the queer community.

Pulley left the set with an armful of queer porn DVDs and a new outlook on feminist porn. She concluded, “it was certainly refreshing to witness Houston’s work, and to experience the kind of frank, pleasure-focused, authentic sex that rarely exists outside the mainstream.” Amen.

Feb
25

A peek inside Crave’s vibrator factory

Crave Duets in the factoryHave you ever wondered what goes on in a vibrator factory?

A writer from Gizmodo recently visited the factory of Crave, a small luxury sex toy company based in San Francisco. They are perhaps most known for the Duet and Solo, swanky USB-rechargeable clitoral vibes, but they also make high-end accessories such as nipple tasselscuffs, and nipple vibrators.

Crave is one of the only vibrator companies that manufactures and assembles their toys in the US. They make almost all their components on-site. Without the need to acquire prototypes from an overseas facility, they are able to tweak their designs with much more specificity than other companies:

. . . each stage of the process is marked by lots and lots of hands-on trials with a wide range of real life women. Chang follows-up with volunteers with online surveys or one-on-one interviews to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Models get refined, and tested again. And again. And again.

“Factory,” it seems, may be a strong word, since Crave is still a small operation. Their machinery includes a CNC mill, which is used to machine parts and molds, and a hot pink compression molder (or “vibrator waffle maker”) which presses two heated plates around some silicone. A piece of paper taped to the side of the compression molder hilariously reads “FUCKING hot.”

Upstairs, in the workshop, the toys are assembled by hand. Each vibrator is charged, depleted (Gizmodo reports: “when all of the vibes are switched on, it sounds like a massive hive of amorous bees”), and re-charged, then vacuum-tested on a special device to confirm waterproof capabilities. Next comes a hit of antibacterial spray, a cloth wipe-down, and finally, each toy is tucked into its leather travel pouch and packaged up.

Crave also hosts Build-a-Vibe workshops around the country, letting folks get a hands-on look at the assembly process — and build a Duet in the process. A lot of meticulous work goes into the design, manufacture, and assembly of Crave’s toys. It’s really interesting to see all of the tiny steps involved with the creation of these beautiful vibrators.

Nov
11

Erika Lust turns anonymous fantasies into reality

We are longtime fans of erotic film director Erika Lust, and her latest endeavor, XConfessions, is just the cherry on top of why we love her. Originally launched three years ago as a place for users to share their anonymous sex fantasies and stories, XConfessions is getting even steamier. Now, Erika Lust is handpicking her favorite confessions and turning them into hot short films!

XConfessions has over 20,000 registered members and 250 confessions, of which 8 have already been filmed. In “Hold Me So Tight it Hurts,” a woman experiments with rope bondage. In “Let’s Make a Porno,” Lust helped a real-life couple achieve their dream of being filmed. “I Believe in Happy Endings” follows a masseuse who uses her whole body to massage her clients (this scene is also featured in Lust’s Life Love Lust).

Scenes that have yet to be posted include “Sadistic Trainer,” in which a confessor fantasizes about torturing their gym trainer, and “I Pegged My Boyfriend,” which is pretty self-explanatory. Erika Lust brings her usual stylish eye to all of these films, with brilliant casting, set design, music, and camera angles.

Register and confess anonymously today, and you can even watch some short clips for free.

We’ll leave you with a link to the trailer for “I Fucking Love IKEA,” a confession from a woman who really really loves watching her boyfriend build things.

Nov
1

Industry Spotlight: Carlos Batts

Carlos Batts (photo by Coagula Art Journal)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 EgoVoluptuous 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.

Aug
30

Industry Spotlight: Joanna Angel

Joanna Angel, photo by Brad DececcoRaised 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 XXXorcistEvil 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.

  Industry spotlight     
May
13

Hitachi Magic Wand, minus the “Hitachi”

It looks like our old friend the Hitachi Magic Wand is getting a bit of a facelift. Notice anything? Yep, the word “Hitachi” is being dropped from its name.

Don’t panic — it’ll always be the powerhouse we’ve always loved. But, as it turns out, Japanese company Hitachi has grown weary of having its name attached to a device far more well-known for its pleasure-inducing properties than its “intended” purpose of massaging sore muscles (although it does that quite well, too!).

Despite the fact that the Magic Wand has been in production for over 30 years, Hitachi planned to cease production of the product. Thankfully, distributor Vibratex stepped in with a better idea: simply remove the word “Hitachi,” and in turn, prevent all-out pandemonium among the masturbating public.

Laura Anne Stuart, owner of the Tool Shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attended the International Lingerie Show this year and reported back about the changes. Aside from the re-branding, the toy will have stronger construction and updated componentry, making it even more durable than before. Stuart found the new model to be satisfactory indeed:

I held a new Wand in my hand at the show, and it felt just as powerful to me, with the same intensity of vibration. The minor adjustments that Vibratex made cause the toy to be less jerky when turning on and off and will reduce the extremely small number of defective wands to almost zero. The handle has been reinforced to decrease the vibrations that are transmitted to your hand (rather than to the head of the toy), and the switch circuitry has been improved. In my opinion, you can feel these changes when holding the toy, but not when applying the head of the Wand to a body part.

The Hitachi Magic Wand rose to orgasmic fame in the ’70s, when feminist sex educator Betty Dodson featured it in her book, Liberating Masturbation, and talked it up in her workshops. It’s been a cult classic ever since, much loved for its incredibly powerful vibrations and broad, tennis-ball-sized head. It’s so popular that quite a few attachments have been invented for it, and a sex pillow was even designed specifically to hold one.

An old box for the Hitachi Magic Wand

So sometime in the next few months, our Hitachi Magic Wands will be replaced with updated Magic Wands. And while we’ll miss the box featuring delightful photos of’80s ladies innocently massaging their backs, we’re relieved that Vibratex jumped in and ensured the posterity of the toy that many refer to as “the Cadillac of vibrators.”

May
1

Industry Spotlight: Courtney Trouble

Courtney Trouble

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 TorontoSeven 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 FamousLive 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:

Courtney Trouble can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, and on her blog.

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