On Memorial Day weekend I found myself make the winding drive from neon-tinted Hollywood to Sun Valley, an elevated outpost of LA’s infamous pornography mecca. I’m intrigued but apprehensive at what lies ahead- the set of Trans-Love 3, a porn flick straight from the mind of Nica Noelle, a performer turned director who (funded by ABN) runs Transromance (a porn outfit focusing on, you guessed it, trans-actors), Girl Candy (lesbian porn), and Hard Candy (straight porn AKA mainstream pornography).
Porn isn’t my thing. As a lesbian, I find the girl-on-girl dick fodder at best laughable and at worst an insult to my sexuality. Straight guys fetishizing lesbians and reducing gay women to inane, exhibitionist fuck puppets makes my blood boil and interferes with my ability to live life as a normal person on the reg. Even from a non-gay perspective, mainstream pornography doesn’t appeal to any of my senses and it sure as hell couldn’t get me off.
Still, when Nica Noelle’s publicist reached out, I couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough. Porn as a product might not appeal, but porn as a (often derided) profession and subculture seems fascinating. Like most sex work, pornography as an institution of entertainment doesn’t phase me — it’s a gig, and a well-paying one at, that with tons of perks. If someone enjoys the work and can handle the downside, then by all means carry on. You do you. What interests me about pornography is the culture, the people who do these extraordinary things to get strangers off, the ones who take society’s bullshit and throw that puritanical nonsense in the gutter by living a life outside the formula.
The set of Translove 3 is a sprawling beige McMansion situated on a hillside cliff and shows no outer signs of being a set, much less a trans-porn set. I smoke a heavy drag, collect my notes, and bounce inside ready and excited for whatever lays ahead. At work, Nica Noelle doesn’t exude “lady smut-peddler” so much as “mild mannered librarian.” She’s dressed head-to-toe in gauzy white cotton, face free of makeup and signature reddish mane push aside in loose, natural curls. We make our way to a spare bedroom, sprawl informally on the bed, and begin chatting. I’m pleased to find Nica is an excellent conversationalist: witty, self-aware, and prone to sarcastic asides and passionate gesturing.
Originally, Nica’s publicist reached out to me to write about an upcoming Nica Noelle project: a porno version of the life of lesbian supermodel Gia Carangi. However, as the conversation progresses, we find ourselves talking more about Nica Noelle’s complex and often downright hostile relationship with the feminist pornographers.
“I’m not a feminist. I never claimed to be a feminist. I care about how people are treated, but I’m not going to preach to you in my porn.” Nica Noelle states this coldly and clearly, like people do when they’ve been asked to repeat themselves one too many times. After being identified as a feminist pornographer one too many times, Nica even wrote a Huffington Post article clarifying that she makes porn for people, not just women. In the article, Nica Noelle states that “that “feminist porn” has a dirty little secret… 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.” As a feminist, it saddens me to hear such an intelligent and successful woman dismiss feminists as man-haters with no sense of humor or grasp on reality.
As an objective observer, I can see how frustrating it must be for her to see “feminist pornographers” diss male consumers while happily taking their money. Nica explains to me, “So many men are offended by porn that is degrading, where the man is some sort of grunting neanderthal, they find it very offensive … And a lot of those guys watch girl-girl porn because they don’t have to see someone be degraded. The male sexual psychology is very broad, and I think we’re always selling them short. There’s this misconception that all men want to see is barbie dolls and sleaze, and now that women have come in a taken over porn has become this very wonderful, rich with feeling thing and it’s just not true.” I really respect Nica Noelle for standing up for male fans, and find myself examining my own attitude towards men who consume girl-on-girl porn a little more closely. I don’t mind men privately fantasizing about lesbians, but I do mind not being able to kiss a girl in public without men sexually harassing me based on those fantasies. There’s got to be some sort of middle ground, and that middle ground has got to be based on mutual respect, not to mention boundaries.