As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it only makes sense for the Feminist Sexpert to pay divine tribute to the Foremother of Feminist Pornography, Ms. Candida Royalle. And it is my greatest pleasure to report that, thanks to my friends at Pink and White Productions, many Candida Classics are being rereleased this month!
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, this gifted director, actress and singer helmed a slew of plot-heavy, wildly romantic feature films geared toward women and couples. Like hardcore soap operas or romance novels brought to the big screen, these films were a breath of fresh air for women weary of cheap, exploitative porn that catered chiefly if not totally to male desires. And, through her company Femme Productions, she mentored and released the films of gifted feminist directors such as Abiola Abrams (under the pseudonym Venus Hottentot) and British director (and a good pal of The Feminist Sexpert) Petra Joy. In addition, Royalle’s Star Director Series featured titles helmed by industry legends such as Annie Sprinkle, Veronica Hart, Veronica Vera and Gloria Leonard.
I personally can attest, both to the overall excellence of Candida’s films and to her awesome support of other women in the business–seeing as to how, when I worked for Playgirl/PlaygirlTV and started The Playgirl Posse, she openly supported me and encouraged my efforts. And I was beyond thrilled to hear that the films of Royalle–also inventor of a line of sex toys called Natural Contours, public speaker, author, member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and a founding board member of Feminists for Free Expression (FFE)–were being rereleased through Pink and White Productions through its Classic Collection, via indie adult movie streaming platform PinkLabel.TV.
Recently I spoke with Pink and White marketing director/incredibly awesome industry luminary Jiz Lee about the rerelease of the work of Candida Royalle, who passed away in 2015 after a battle with cancer. Now available at PinkLabel.TV, these films make fitting and fabulous additions to the studio’s “feminist porn gaze” collection.
Pink & White Productions creates adult entertainment that exposes the complexities of queer sexual desire… since 2005! Founded and directed by Shine Louise Houston. Discover more at PinkWhite.biz.
1. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, now seems the perfect time to rerelease the landmark works of pioneering feminist porn director Candida Royalle! What inspired Pink and White’s decision to make these beautiful films available to your viewership?
Pink and White Productions owe our success to the women and early filmmakers like Candida who broke the barriers in the industry. Without whom, we ourselves might have never come to be! Afterall, it was through working at sex toy retailer Good Vibrations in the late 90’s — the height of the newly formed ‘couples porn’ market — that Shine Louise Houston found herself on out the store floor with customers recommending Candida’s movies to inquiring couples which eventually inspired her to start own production studio so that she could create new films reflecting queer desire. Many filmmakers can trace their careers to those who followed in Candida’s wake.
There are many instances, particularly of pre-internet era films, where movies are lost to the ages because they didn’t have someone who could assume this guardian role. It’s a historical loss that movies which have had such a profound impact have disappeared. We consider ourselves fortunate to be offered the opportunity to add her early films to our collection, where we hope they’ll find new and appreciating audiences. Feminist porn, artist, and icon — and to our delight, Shine’s San Francisco neighbor — Annie Sprinkle introduced us to Veronica Hart, who now handles the licensing of Candida’s movies. Veronica is a dream to correspond with and we’re so grateful for her assistance and support. Both Annie and Veronica were with Candida, Gloria Leonard, and Veronica Vera to form Club 90, the first support group for porn performers.
2. Please briefly describe the first round of Femme titles available at your site (my personal fave is Sensual Escape:). Also, it’s exciting that you are releasing a documentary of her life!
Candida’s writing and directorial debut behind the camera was through Femme Productions, a company she launched to provide a platform for female directors. There are 8 films in total from the studio. Femme was her first release, a vignette of short films. Later films Christine’s Secret, Urban Heat, and Sensual Escape received lots of critical acclaim and industry awards. Three Daughters was selected by AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors & Therapists) for presentation at their Annual National Conference. Importantly, her Star Director Series (Sensual Escape, A Taste of Ambrosia, and Rites of Passion) gave other performers a chance to get behind the camera, including Annie Sprinkle, Nina Hartley, Veronica Hart, and Gloria Leonard. And in Revelations, she canvassed political topics like censorship, with a storyline exploring what life might be like in a world without love, passion and romance. All of her films begin with a PSA call to action from the Adult Video Association’s 1980’s campaign protecting free speech. (Sidenote: The Free Speech Coalition continues to fight as our industry trade association, some things are slow to change!)
After receiving her cancer diagnosis, Candida and documentary filmmaker Sheona McDonald spent the final years of her life capturing a beautiful and candid portrait that showcases her championship of female sexual agency (including many mainstream tv shows she appeared on; I myself didn’t know about many of them so what a gift to have those archived!) as well as her own personal quest to find more information about her mother, who left her family when she was young. It’s a touching documentary.
3. I know that Pink and White prides itself on releasing ethically produced artistic porn, often with feminist themes. How do the Femme titles personify this edict?
Our aim for distribution on PinkLabel.TV is to present a place where audiences can watch the kinds of films we’ve discovered at adult film festivals around the world. Our interests include cinematography, creative storytelling, and also representations of sexuality that are not often celebrated or respected in mainstream society. This often includes films by and depicting of queer and trans performers, performers of color, and disabled and older performers. We also recognize the importance of archiving our history, particularly for people whom history often ignores or misrepresents. We have worked alongside queer film historian Jenni Olson to preserve classic adult films and continue to expand our collection. Candida’s role in the industry as a feminist icon in supporting women, and her commitment to storytelling and craft make her films an important contribution to the genre. I want to also note, that to our modern eyes, or my own anyway, these films may not be very inclusive — for example they showcase only white, thin, cisgender women in predominantly heterosexual scenes. As such, they reflect the industry and Candida’s industry connections at the time. It’s notable that in later years she pursued a new cinema line, Femme Chocolat, collaborating with Abiola Abrams to showcase Black women. I believe that if Candida was alive today, she would have continued to expand her productions with more inclusive stories, writers and directors. Fortunately, many of those inspired by her work continue to lead the change.
4. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Candida, and found her to be an absolute delight. Did you know her, and what do you like about her work?
I had the honor of meeting her briefly at the 2013 CineKink film festival. She also penned an essay for my anthology, Coming Out Like a Porn Star. We extended the submission deadline so that she could complete her essay, as she was going through chemotherapy at the time. I think she would have been so proud to see her story in print. Unfortunately she passed away shortly before the book was published.
5. What lessons do you feel that today’s adult filmmakers can learn from Candida Royalle?
This is a great question. I see two major lessons. First, Candida’s commitment to storytelling shows in the quality of the films, which see a return to the higher budget production values of the 70’s with developed characters, lighting, editing, and original music. These films and the fantasies they portray stand the test of time and are cherished by audiences decades later. Secondly, she used her platform to provide opportunities to other women. Too often, especially as marginalized creators, we feel a scarcity in our resources. This can have a negative impact on our work, preventing us from access to budget or audiences. However, there are opportunities to invite collaboration and lift each other up, benefiting all parties. In many ways I appreciate these same qualities in our own director, Shine Louise Houston: a strong love of storytelling and the desire to use her platform, PinkLabel.TV, to support other filmmakers so we all can thrive and appreciate the art we’re creating.
On behalf of feminist erotica fans everywhere, I want to thank Pink and White for making these very special films available. Happy Women’s History Month!
Thank YOU for sharing her work and supporting what we do! <3