Why I will miss Candida Royalle, the queen of feminist porn

Candida Royalle, ex-porn star, legendary feminist porn director and animal rights activist dies aged 64 after long battle with ovarian cancer in New York.

The 7th of September 2015 was a very sad day for many women, feminists and erotic artists around the world. As the news spread that Candida Royalle died at her New York home, her Facebook page has been transformed into a colourful kaleidoscope of an amazing life. Every few minutes someone new leaves a tribute for this truly exceptional woman that paved the way for porn from a female perspective and opened doors to the many feminist pornographers – myself included – that followed in her footsteps. All the pictures posted show a radiant woman with a smile that said “I love live, will live it to the full, let’s go and have an adventure!”

Candida was born Candice Vadala on the 15th October 1950 in New York. The daughter of a jazz musician, she too was drawn towards a creative lifestyle. She studied Music, Art and Dance and was a flamboyant and beautiful young woman. Experimenting with her sexuality and being drawn to filmmaking, she decided in the seventies to become a porn performer. In the ‘Golden Age’ of porn she starred in over 25 adult films, including titles such as “Kinky Tricks” and “Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls”.

As time went on, she grew tired of portraying female sexuality through the eyes of the men that directed her and craved taking the reins of production. In 1984, at a time where the first feminist porNO movement was at its peak and when “feminist porn” was the ultimate oxymoron, she founded her own adult film company, Femme Productions. The old boys club that ran the porn industry at the time was bemused and did not expect what was to come: Candida produced and directed 17 award-winning films, including her debut “Femme”, the “Eyes of Desire” series and “Stud Hunters”.

“Stud Hunters” is my favourite film by her. It features a cameo appearance of Candida herself as an anti bad porn protestor, a funny casting session the female porn director does to find a new male lead, and a very hot group sex scene where the director enjoys sensual sex with all of the chosen “studs” at once. She is the queen bee that the men adore and pleasure – the perfect antidode to the mainstream gang bang scenes where women are just a canvas for cum. Candida was way ahead of her time and proved to be right – women were voyeurs too and the time was ripe and ready to produce porn from a female perspective.

What made her porn different from mainstream porn, created by men and for men? Candida put the women’s pleasure and orgasms first, rather than ending every scene with the male ejaculation – the so called “money shot”. She featured a great variety of sensual and sexual play rather than shooting what she used to call “predictable and soulless porn painted by numbers”. Her films showed hot men who were skilled lovers, featured credible storylines that were full of humour and spoke to a large audience who were tired of soulless wham-bam-thank you-mam porn. She was a very skilled business woman but was never motivated by financial gain. She created her films because she had a burning desire to put female sexuality on the map, inspire other women to live out their fantasies, and bring pleasure to people’s bedrooms.

As an activist for feminism and female sexual liberation, she branched out in 1999 when she developed the “Natural Contours” line of body massagers. Candida brought innovation to the sex toy market that was then saturated with giant hard plastic cocks by developing ergonomically shaped toys that hit just the right spots to make a woman orgasm. In 2004 Candida wrote “How To Tell A Naked Man What To Do”, encouraging women to ask for what they want long before Nicki Minaj said women should demand orgasms.

2004 was also the year I started shooting my version of porn from a female perspective. In Europe back then, feminist porn was still unheard of. My style is different from Candida’s films as I do not feature dialogue, but we shared the vision of porn as art and using porn as a vehicle of sexual empowerment for women. It was through the legendary “ecosex” artist Annie Sprinkle that I met Candida Royalle in 2008. Candida kindly viewed my first full length feature “Female Fantasies” and was full of praise. I was humbled by the amount of time she gave me and genuine support when she suggested publishing my films under her coveted “Femme” line in America. Our professional co-operation continued over the years. I published some of Candida’s classic films on my “Her Porn” anthology series and was chuffed when she agreed to be a jury member for the Petra Joy Awards I had set up for up- and coming filmmakers. To discover and mentor new talent was very close to her heart.

We shared many magic moments such as in 2009 when we were both honoured with the first Poryes award in Berlin and then two years ago when we met at the Dusk Porna Award in Amsterdam. I was baffled to win it and asked Candia onto the stage to join me. After I handed her a bunch of flowers to thank her for all she had done for the sisterhood, I walked off stage, only to be called back by her with the words “I am very happy to step aside and just honour you and all these wonderful filmmakers who are picking it up and doing it now.” I was speechless and we hugged to thundering applause – a moment I will never forget. She was, as someone said on Facebook, the Grace Kelly of porn – a sophisticated and beautiful woman of incredible integrity, big enough to allow others to shine.

Candida was not just a colleague but a close friend. Over the years she gave me many gifts: wonderful words of wisdom, beautiful cards and a colorful bunny ragdoll that has been my talisman on all my shoots ever since. In September 2013 I was very happy to entertain her in my home for several days where we shared beach walks, cream teas, the odd spliff and spoke at length about nature and environmental issues, issues close to both of our hearts which served to strengthen our bond even further. Her last post on twitter was “Icelandic whalers are about to start harpooning endangered fin whales again but we can stop them! Act now”.

We both loved to feed the wildlife in our gardens and that was always a big concern to her – who would feed her birds when she was gone? She did not want to go and fought over five years a very hard fight against ovarian cancer. Only two weeks before she died she was full of optimism and we emailed about her bringing my new film to America and she loved pictures of my local beach and the starlings in my garden I had sent her.

How to pay tribute to the feminist icon, animal rights activist and inspirational woman that was Candida Royalle?

Maybe it could be an apt tribute to start feeding your local wild birds. Alternatively, simply enjoy one of her many exciting films or toys and have an amazing orgasm in her name. I think she would have liked that.

More info on Candida Royalle:
http://candidaroyalle.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candida_Royalle

If you want to see Candida talk about her vision of feminist porn, you can watch this interview with her that Petra shot in 2008 in Amsterdam:

This article originally appeared in shorter form in the Daily Telegraph, 8th Sept. 2015.

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