How A Porn Star Became My Muse

April 29, 2019 § 2 Comments


JainhillBy Nancy Jainchill

“You’re not too old,” Nina Hartley, one of the most successful adult entertainment performers and a pioneer of feminist porn, whose career spans more than thirty years, told me over lunch. Really? She was reassuring me that I could make up for my only foray as a porn star in the early 70s, which found me squirming unhappily beneath the sheets for rent money. She smiled. I would do better this time.

Yes. I would. But on the page, not on the stage.

Getting together with Nina Hartley, took place almost three years after I’d embarked on my book project—to learn about females and sex. Not a how-to-do hands-on approach, I’m not talking about that kind of sex. No, I was into porn star sex, the kind of sex I was adamantly against in the 1980s as a fierce second wave feminist.

Just as being a porn star had never been my intention then or now, writing about pornography and feminism had never been my intention when I began a memoir about my personal struggle to negotiate the sexual politics of the early 1970s. Just 20 years old, having barely crawled out of my white cotton Carter panties, I’d found myself trying to catch the beat with The Temptations crooning to me, The Way You Do the Things You Do naked on the stage of a San Francisco North Beach strip joint. And then there was my porno experience.

What was sexual freedom about? What was real sexual parity? As a feminist what should I be doing to create equality between the sexes?  I wanted to write about that, and how I was learning that those questions still have no answers, but I needed a hook.

When I learned about Candida Royalle, the ‘Grace Kelly of porn,’ who became known as the mother of feminist erotica/pornography, bells went off in my head.  ‘Here’s your book.’  I’d had a few experiences of my own, I thought, which could be interwoven with the Candida story—not totally letting go of my memoir. I was just a few years older than she was and we’d both lived in San Francisco. That must have meant something. Maybe Candida was that hook.

Of course, in the publication world, as in most, intentions get thwarted and what was going to be my breakout book on Candida Royalle wasn’t going to happen because someone else with a bigger name had the same idea. Now what?

Although Candida remained my muse, even my inspiration, I broadened my universe and reinvented my project to explore the relationship between pornography, feminism and sexual equity from the beginning of the sexual revolution to today. I came to know women who were sexual pioneers alongside Candida Royalle, and feminist leaders in the industry going forward to the present. Venturing to the Toronto (Canada) International Porn Festival in 2018 and the 2019 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, to research my project I was learning about myself, as much as I was learning about the adult entertainment industry. While at AVN I met Serena who was a pornographic film celebrity in the 1970s, and was being inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame. Those years, she said, were special and the women felt special. They were a community of artists—“It was like the Hudson River School of Porn.” Reading about and talking with Serena, with Annie Sprinkle and others who were stars during the Golden Age of Pornography, and with current leaders—Jiz Lee, Courtney Trouble, Shine Louise Houston, and Erika Lust, to name a few—I was taken by how comfortable most are with their bodies, how at ease they are with their nakedness, a self-acceptance that I found enviable. They were and are making a living, while enjoying sex for what it is without making it represent something deeper. And, of course, there’s Stormy Daniels, who’s brought porno into the living room.

Because I write creative nonfiction, writing about the “other” becomes a conduit that brings me back to myself, compelling me to explore and learn, not always what I thought I was going to explore and learn. Take this sex stuff. For years my past made me uncomfortable. Back then, even though I gave it a political twist, on a quest for sexual liberation equal to any man’s—gender choices were more limited then—it didn’t feel right. I’ve written about that challenge, because my writing has always had to express my personal politics, although this wasn’t always about sex. Now I’m taking it further, engaging other voices in a conversation with my own.

Unself-conscious pleasure and experience was what I was after so many years ago, but I couldn’t get past the chatter in my head. Mary Gaitskill wrote, “I don’t regret most of the experiences I’ve had, even the half-hearted ones. They are part of who I am.” That works for me these days, as I’ve learned about a world I’d shunned. Today, sex-positivity is an orthodoxy, particularly for millennials, rather than the feminist heresy it once was. And, pornography is a hot bed for feminism, for gender equity, for sexual freedom and sexual rights, offering a paradigm for sexual parity—aka orgasmic equity. Sex is political, now maybe more than ever, and that story drives my writing.

Although my project has expanded, Candida, my original focus, is still a subject and an important part of the story. And that pioneer feminist porn queen is still my muse.
___

Nancy Jainchill is a writer and psychologist living and working in upstate New York. These days she is taking on issues of sexual justice—writing about the relationship between feminism and pornography, and the opportunities for modeling gender parity in the adult entertainment industry. Visit Nancy at www.nancyjainchill.com.

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§ 2 Responses to How A Porn Star Became My Muse

  • pipitinc says:

    Very educative and thought provoking post. I suppose it will be year 2060 that America will finally have the courage to review how much porn has contributed to the country’ art heritage. And may be by then, quite a lot of porn audience will understand that PORN IS ART and know how to relate with it.

  • gmabrown says:

    Such a current topic, no longer edgy, well, a little, as I am of the same era as you, the writer, I find it a provocative topic given today’s young adults’ openness and fluidity around their own and conversation about and on behalf sexuality today. I love your premise. Look forward to your exploration, to your book. Thank you.

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