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The Whore Next Dore: R. I. P. Candida Royalle 

Wednesday, Sep 16 2015
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In my family, when someone dies, the only thing left to do is start cooking. I was taught that community grief can only be addressed with generous portions of black-eyed peas and plenty of pie.

On Sept. 7, I scrolled through my social media feed, reading through tearful posts about Candida Royalle, the adult entertainment trailblazer who lost a long battle with ovarian cancer at 64. I soon realized I was starving — craving potato salad, fried green tomatoes, barbecue, and the kind of food my grandma would have made for a late summer funeral.

Adult industry professionals such as Joanna Angel of BurningAngel.com and Cindy Gallup of Make Love Not Porn tweeted their condolences as the news spread across the porn blogosphere, citing how much Royalle paved the way for the female directors of today. Wicked Pictures director jessica drake told Dan Miller from the adult industry blog XBiz News that Royalle "changed the course of adult entertainment."

Like many others, Candida Royalle migrated west from New York City, in search of the San Francisco Dream.

"I was living in San Francisco leading a very free, 'alternative' lifestyle, making art, performing in avant-garde theatre and singing in jazz clubs," she wrote. "I went looking for nude modeling for extra money and was asked to appear in porn movies ... The money was good for a struggling artist, and cultural attitudes toward sex at that time were quite open."

After beginning a successful career as a pornographic actress in 1975, during what is referred to as the Golden Age of Porn, she began directing in 1980. Citing how much of the content she had encountered as a performer depicted sex in a manner she found "unsexy and uncreative," Royalle eventually founded Femme Productions in 1984, with the intent of making erotic content that catered specifically to the desires and fantasies of women. Her award-winning films focused on erotic narrative, character, and, of course, female pleasure.

Male directors continue to dominate the porn industry, although many women now find success behind the camera. But in the world of early-'80s porn, only a handful of women sat in the director's seat, and Royalle was one of them. She can be credited as one of the founding mothers of feminist porn, pioneering the very concept of porn made for women and couples. The Center for Sex and Culture will honor her legacy with a memorial in early November, but the remembrances are already coming in.

"Being a woman in porn has become somewhat accepted," AVN Award-nominated female director Jackie St. James told XBiz, "It doesn't require the same fortitude or brazen attitude that Candida had over 20 years ago."

Although Royalle rejected the word "pornography," for fear it would turn off the female market she catered to, she was an outspoken advocate and defender of erotica as a genre, writing a groundbreaking opinion piece in The New York Times in 2012 that argued, "A word about sex or porn addiction: I don't believe in it. Unlike a chemical substance, like opiates, you can't become 'addicted' to sex or porn; you can become a compulsive viewer. In this case, it's not the porn that's the problem; it's the compulsive personality. If it weren't porn being used to act out one's compulsive nature, it might be food or some other behavior ... Watching pornography is not inherently harmful to men or women."

Royalle studied art, dance, design, and music at prestigious universities — including the Parsons School of Design — acquiring the skills that gave her an edge as a director and later as a designer. She would go on to launch Natural Contours, her own line of "personal massagers" (which is to say, vibrators) for women.

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.

Young women who enter the adult industry get a warning. We are cautioned that our careers will be short-lived and perhaps meaningless or (worse still) detrimental to our future. But Candida Royalle's legacy serves as a reminder that even in a capitalist patriarchal society, a woman can carve out a niche for herself, becoming influential and successful in a male-dominated industry well into her 60s, and do so not in spite of, but rather because of her career as a sex worker.

So in the thick of this late summer heat wave, as my community mourns an elder that helped shape so many of my contemporaries, I feel compelled to head into the kitchen, turn up the stove, and cook. So please, tonight, stuff your face like there's too much food at a funeral, and raise a glass to honor the life and legacy of Candida Royalle.

About The Author

Siouxsie Q

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