Nica Noelle: Do I Make ‘Feminist Porn’? I’ve Never Referred to Myself as a Feminist

Nica Noelle writes on www.huffingtonpost.com – The term “feminist porn” has been getting a lot of traction in the mainstream press lately, and I can’t help but notice that my name often appears as a shining example of “women directors who make porn aimed at a female audience.” Uh… I do?

Don’t get me wrong: I do shoot porn for women. I also shoot it for men. What I mean is that I make adult films for human beings, and women obviously fall into that category.

But I’ve never referred to myself as a “feminist,” or to my films as being “made for women.” And not to sound ungrateful, but I’m not sure that I want a gender-specific political term attached to my work, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.

But first I’ll begin with an awkward confession: I’m not entirely sure what “feminist porn” describes. Is it “empowering” images of women “choosing” to have sex? Is it created with the discerning tastes of the “female porn fan” in mind? Are my (all-male) gay films “feminist porn” too? How about my transgender films? Is any porn I make “feminist porn” because a woman (me) is behind the camera, literally calling the shots?

According to director Tristan Taormino, feminist porn describes an adult film production where a specific code of ethics is observed. Talent can expect to be treated with “respect” and to never be asked to perform sex acts that make them uncomfortable. Feminist porn sets are rumored to be clean and sanitary, with fresh linens, vacuumed floors and healthy snacks provided for cast and crew. “Real sex” is encouraged, meaning that performers are allowed to explore each other’s bodies naturally (rather than according to a pre-set quota of three minutes for one position, three minutes for the next, etc.).

This actually describes my sets pretty well. But when did professional ethics and artistic honesty become gender-specific?

I was born after the women’s’ liberation movement was well underway, and women had long demanded the right to work outside the home, compete in male-dominated fields and (on a darker note) refer to men as the oppressor, if not the enemy. As I grew into womanhood, what annoyed me about the feminist movement was that it could often seem as judgmental of a woman’s individual choice as our “male oppressors” had been.

For instance, stay-at-home moms were often viewed as throwbacks, their desire to focus on motherhood and “wifely duties” mocked and discredited. Female sex workers were pitied, scorned and regarded as victims who had betrayed the movement by allowing themselves to be “objects of male desire.” The pressure to reject traditional female gender roles, both cultural and sexual, was intense.

So, despite the feminist movement’s important achievements, to use today’s PC lingo, I never “identified” as a feminist. Frankly, I thought they could use a sense of humor and a few rounds of hot, hair-pulling sex. (You can send me hate mail at noelle.nica@gmail.com.)

That aside, I’m aware that porn is a traditionally male-dominated field, and that women can bring a different perspective to adult films. But it’s also true that female directors and a “female vision” have existed in porn for decades.

Candida Royalle was among the first to create softer, storyline-driven “porn for women” in the early 1980s, while more recent directors Belladonna and Mason proved that gonzo-style porn featuring choking, slapping and female degradation are not always the result of a “misogynistic male fantasy.”

This leads to my radical assertion that “feminist porn” has a dirty little secret: The “wind beneath our wings,” the reason that we’ve ascended and our movies now often dominate sales charts, is largely the support of — brace yourselves — men. Yes, those same male porn fans we’ve long vilified and condemned for their interest in porn, those men whom we’ve recklessly referred to as “perverts” and “scumbags,” have secretly, often with a great deal of shame, spent their hard-earned money supporting adult film and keeping all of us “feminist porn directors” working.

When I began directing adult films seven years ago, it was male viewers who offered praise and encouragement and posted thoughtful, detailed reviews of my movies.

For every woman who bought my films or posted a gushing critique, there were 50 or more men who already had. It seems that male viewers had been waiting for porn that featured realistic, passionate and — gasp! — emotion-filled sex. Believe it or not, those oft-maligned, “creepy” guys had been quietly waiting for sex scenes that looked natural and comfortable and featured women of all ages and body types. Yes, you heard me: Men were the first to support porn featuring middle-aged, “average” women having sex — often with much younger guys!

But straight men weren’t the only ones full of surprises. When I recently threw my directorial hat into the gay porn genre with my studio Rock Candy Films, most “experts” in gay cinema told me to brace my feminist porn self for failure. “Gay men don’t want emotion and story in their porn, and there’s not enough hardcore sex in this movie,” I was warned.

Judging by most top-selling gay titles, it seemed a fair assumption — but it was wrong. My debut gay film, His Mother’s Lover, a period piece set in the 1930s, was released in late 2012, and within days it rose to the top of gay VOD charts, where it sat for three months. The DVDs also quickly sold out, prompting sales distributors to call its success “a phenomenon.”

So despite conventional wisdom about gender and sex, it seems clear that men and women — gay, straight, lesbian and queer — want much of the same things in a porn film: realism, passion and a sense that everyone involved was in good health and was treated fairly. In that case the ascent of “feminist porn” may not be a testament to a specific gender or its politics but to a shared — dare we say human — appreciation for authentic expressions of our still-mysterious sexuality.

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