When Candida Royalle was starring in adult flicks in the
1970s and 1980s, pornography was about women’s bodies–what they
were doing and what was being done to them. In 1984 Royalle created
Femme Productions and stepped behind the camera to make films about
women’s pleasure, pioneering a new genre of ‘couples erotica’ that
promoted positive sexual role modeling and communication. In June,
Royalle received a lifetime achievement award at the first Feminist
Porn Awards in Toronto. The author of How to Tell a Naked Man
What to Do: Sex Advice from a Woman Who Knows (Fireside, 2004),
Royalle told Utne how pornography can be a healthy force
in people’s lives.
What advice do you have for people who are struggling
with how to talk to their partners about pornography?
I always tell men that the most important thing is to make your
woman feel that she is the one you desire. If the woman has any
concerns that you don’t find her absolutely ravishing, she’s
certainly not going to feel confident looking at other women on
screen. Explain to her: I don’t want to look at these women because
I’d rather be with them, I just think it would be kind of fun-maybe
we’ll get some good ideas.
In some ways it’s even more difficult for a woman to bring up
because of the stigma that we’re not supposed to like pornography.
Explain to the guy that it’s not that you want to be with those men
or that you’re comparing him to those men, but that it would just
be a fun experience.
What about the person who just isn’t comfortable
If you’re absolutely not comfortable, you should never feel like
you have to do it. Your partner should be willing to understand
that there are just places you are not comfortable going.
If you’re uncomfortable but willing, give it a chance and try to
go in with an open mind. Insist that you be part of the decision
making and really do your research. I always advise people to
select by the director-covers are deceiving. Go into a store that’s
more woman-friendly, even if it’s the man who’s uncomfortable. Talk
to the salespeople; they can suggest something. Or go to one of the
websites that give very good, intelligent reviews, like
Babeland.com. If it ends up making you
uncomfortable, then that’s it-at least you gave it your best
If your partner has been a victim of sexual assault, crime, or
incest, don’t ever try to push them into something like that. Also,
men who have sexual performance issues should never be forced into
watching adult movies, because the men are made to look like
absolute sex gods, and it can be counterproductive.
What about that fear of being compared to porn stars’
perfect bodies and performances? Should people just get over
It’s certainly preferable to deal with issues of self-esteem and
body image. It’s such a detriment to so many things in our lives:
enjoying our life, feeling good about ourselves, and especially
having a fulfilling sex life with the person we care for.
I used to have a hard time having intercourse sitting on top of
the man because I felt like, Gee, did my breasts look perky enough?
You’re sitting there worrying about how you look when you should be
feeling. So as much as I hate the word should, yes, we
should do everything we can to deal with our body image. We have to
remember that we are much harder on ourselves than the men who love
How can people tell when porn is helping them and when
it’s doing harm?
As long as it’s something that you just like to watch
occasionally and it’s just part of your goody bag of fun things to
do, it’s okay.
There are healthy uses of the movies. You can get ideas from
them. You can help yourself become more comfortable with sex. You
can help yourself get over your own hang-ups, open up to your own
inner fantasies-as long as you’re looking at stuff that pleases you
and doesn’t make you uncomfortable. Never feel pushed. There are so
many other things we can do to have fun.