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The full Feminist Porn Awards experience

Andy B interviews Nenna Joiner and Buck Angel at the FPAs

My little black dress was on, my boots polished, my lipstick freshly applied, and my hands were shaking like it was a first date. I was all nerves and excitement when I headed to the Feminist Porn Awards VIP gala back in April. After all, this was a pre-show meet-and-greet with some of the hottest pornstars and directors in the scene.

The annual Toronto event is held at the Berkeley Church and is hosted by Carlyle Jansen’s Good for Her sex store. The FPAs provide a direct challenge to mainstream porn: the finalists are judged based on women’s involvement in the production, the portrayal of authentic female pleasure, and whether the work combats stereotypes and expands sexual representation of women and marginalized people.

The 2012 lineup consisted of 41 entries from eight countries, in categories ranging from Sexiest Short Film and Steamiest Straight Movie to the Smutty Schoolteacher Award. I seized the opportunity to do a little learning of my own by chatting with smart and sexy porn makers Nenna Joiner and Buck Angel.

Nenna Joiner

Nenna Joiner

Porn producer and director Nenna Joiner, of Feelmore Entertainment, hails from Oakland. She was at the FPAs representing her film Hella Brown: Real Sex in the City. Hella Brown is Joiner’s second adult film and features an all-queer people-of-colour cast. This, she explained, was no small feat. It took her a year to cast the film, partly due to a lack of representation in the adult sex industry and partly because of Joiner’s high standards.

Her approach is to inform performers about the realities of adult film: the pros, cons and public permanence of it. With an emphasis on authenticity, Joiner also takes into consideration attraction when casting. “There has to be a certain aesthetic and natural chemistry between performers: I meet with them, find out their likes and dislikes, and then I try to get the max fulfillment for each individual.”

These standards extend to Joiner’s camera work and editing: “I do my best to go slow and show the intimacy and energy that you can’t often see.” Her ability to capture this chemistry – from a deep-throat kiss to wet eagerness – won Hella Brown the 2012 award for Hottest Dyke Film.

Joiner has had plenty of time to build her repertoire. “When I was eight or nine years old, I’d sit at home and watch porn all day, flipping through the Hugh Hefner and Spice channels. It was the ’80s, and I’d spend $800 calling 1-900 numbers. And then
. . . my grandfather got the bill.”

These days, Joiner’s family is at peace with her career choice. “I called my mom and she said, ‘Honey, I don’t know about this porn shit and whatever you’re doing, but just do it. You’re doing well.’ And then when I told her I was opening my own adult store, my mom just said, ‘Well, I think you should sell those edible undies – but diabetic ones.’”

These glimpses of humour infuse Joiner’s films, as well as many of the other clips screened at the FPAs. Candid, authentic, behind-the-scene insights occur in even the most polished or raunchy of pieces. It’s a reminder that the flashy display is connected to real lives and to performers and directors with complex histories and interests.

Buck Angel

Buck Angel Photo by: Dian Miguel

A perfect example of this humanity was revealed by trans visibility pioneer Buck Angel. While Angel has starred in many films, Sexing the Transman XXX is the first film he has directed and shot. In it, his experience and enjoyment are apparent. His camera lens becomes the appreciative eye, and he chose not to edit out his heavy breathing, saying, “It’s gonzo-style, with a handheld camera. I’m a pervert, so of course the shooting turns me on!”

The film features up-close and intimate interviews with trans men and solo masturbation sessions rounded off by a raw and raunchy scene with Angel and his handsome co-star, Fallen.

Angel knows his audience well, describing it as eclectic, but he says his work is traditionally appealing to gay men. He works with what’s been proven popular, yet admits, “Screening porn publicly is uncomfortable. It’s my first film and I feel very sensitive. It’s difficult. I can’t even watch it – I mean, it’s your artwork up there!”

Coming from a muscled man whose sexuality is available for public consumption, Buck’s sensitivity intrigues me. I ask and he explains, “Being sensitive works for me. It’s part of who I am. People say to me, ‘You made me feel good, letting that emotion come out.’ Especially because their first impression of me is of a tough guy.”

Angel sees himself focusing even more on his work as a motivational speaker and advocate over the next few years. After all, he says with a laugh, “It’s not like I want to be starring in porn when I’m 80.”

Through his own journey of self-acceptance, Angel is well positioned to extend a powerful message. He has many public speaking engagements under his belt, but it’s his 2011 It Gets Better video that reveals his intense personal investment: “Certain parts of my life are still with me. When I decided to make the video, I just put my camera on and started talking. At first I thought I’d ruin my image if I was bawling and didn’t want to put it out there. But then I thought, It’s not for me; it’s for the kids.”

Angel’s progressive vision and perverted sex-positivity were amply awarded when Sexing the Transman XXX won the award for Most Tantalizing Trans Film.

Speaking with Angel and Joiner at the FPA gala gave me a behind-the scenes feeling that still lingers. And it was the perfect way to start the night.

When the ceremonies began, I watched the action from the balcony. People gravitated to their seats in a colourful whirl of heels, leather, top hats and glitter. There was an intoxicating sense of carnival in the room. Directors, stars and admirers sat together under one steepled roof that could barely contain the excitement of the evening.

The gala began with a manifesto, shouted out over the whirr of voices and people settling in to enjoy the show of sex and empowerment. “Queers, perverts and porn aficionados, welcome!” exclaimed the MC, Elvira Kurt. “Being in here makes up for the tedium of being out there. You cannot squelch this joy!”

FPA Elvira Kurt

Photo by: Dian Miguel

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Andy B’s extracurricular activities have been greatly inspired by the selections highlighted at the FPAs. To get your sweaty little hands on a complete list of 2012 winners, visit Good for Her’s site.

*Header image by: Dian Miguel

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