Candida Royalle died earlier this week of ovarian cancer at the age of 64. The daughter of a jazz musician, she studied music, art, and dance as a young woman but her unconvential upbringing led her to sexual experimentation and porn films.
Candida Royalle started her career as a porn actress in the 70s. She made over 25 films in her time as an actress but she grew tired of porn being exclusively made for the male gaze. Rather than sit around and gripe about it she joined the burgeoning women’s porn movement and became its greatest advocate, founding Femme Productions. Femme became a strong venue for female erotic filmakers. While some may look at current porn sites and wonder where the movement went, if you dig a little deeper than the front page you’ll see it’s still there. Categories like “Romantic”, “For Women” or “Couples” have films and clips done in ways that cater more to the female gaze. Softer lighting, more foreplay, a woman’s pleasure being the main event.
Put simply – Candida prioritised women’s pleasure and orgasms. And she didn’t end every scene with the male ejaculation – the so called “money shot”. She featured a 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, ran 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.
Taken even further though, Royalle made it okay for women to enjoy porn. One in three visitors to porn sites are women and they are not all there for the soft, romantic stuff. Royalle led the way for women to claim their own pleasure. To genuinely love sex and to speak up for what they wanted from it. Not to just lie back and think of England. She took that to a different venue when she revolutionized sex toys by helping introduce egonomocally designed vibrators. Those pretty little toys the lay in your hand, and don’t have anything phallic about them at all. Designed to heighten women’s pleasure they threw out the idea that penetration is necessary for a fulfilling sexual experience.
She was also a strong advocate for sex workers, an area that is always dangerous territory for a feminist, as the divisions are clearly drawn on both sides of the argument. As a supporter of sex workers myself the understanding that a.) this type of work will never go away and b.) that it can be empowering to women if we protect and support those who work in it, is an important battle in our day an age.
If you watch porn or use one of these vibrators or if you just demand what you need for your pleasure, then take a moment today to send a thank you to the ether for her. She led an area of feminism few others would even address and for that she earned my undying appreciation.