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Our Kind of Sex

Oakland has become the epicenter of a movement to create a more realistic portrayal of queer- and female-centric sex.

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Oakland's queer porn community is a tight-knit and familial group — they share skills (like film editing and website design), appear in scenes with one another, and tweet photos of themselves at brunch together. When Trouble, a petite, warm, curvy blonde, invited me to meet some local performers, I was struck by how much they laughed, hugged, and told jokes. On the whole, the performers seemed very down-to-earth — even though they take their work very seriously.

Feminist pornographer Madison Young, who moved to Berkeley a year and a half ago after living all over the Bay Area (but primarily in San Francisco) for more than a decade, said living in the East Bay puts her closer to the people working in her industry. "I feel like the same people who used to live in the Mission and the Haight, the people who I would have been casting, now live in Oakland. There are a lot more awesome warehouse and artist spaces in Oakland to shoot in. That's been a great resource, as far as location is concerned."

The number of women willing to perform in porn in the East Bay made it possible for Silver to start her own website after years of filming for other porn production companies. "There are infinitely more people here interested in modeling," she said. "I moved here hoping it would work and it really has." When she had to look for models in other cities, she would post ads online with little success. "Here, between friends of friends and acquaintances, I've hardly had to do any active model searching," she said. "People come to me pretty constantly. It's not like there's an endless supply, but it works."

Nenna Joiner — the owner of Feelmore510, an adult store and gallery in Uptown Oakland that caters to people of color, and a queer pornographer who has also been recognized by the mainstream industry — said people are coming from all over the country to the East Bay to perform in porn. "I get calls all the time from people who want to shoot," she said. "A lot of people are moving here from places like Portland, Baltimore, Colorado ... from everywhere, really." Siouxsie Q jokingly said she calls her Oakland neighborhood "Ho-Oakland" because so many of her sex-worker friends live nearby, after having moved from San Francisco. As queer and feminist pornography continues to infiltrate the mainstream industry, more people are likely to gravitate toward the East Bay scene, where they know they can find work and support from like-minded peers.

But despite having a growing community and audience, queer and feminist pornographers still face challenges in the East Bay. The Bay Area may have a reputation as a bastion of sex positivity, but it's still lacking venues that are willing to host conferences on sexually explicit topics such as BDSM or porn — events that would further legitimize indie pornographers' presence in the mainstream porn industry — said Kitty Stryker, a queer performer and writer who also manages social media and public relations for TROUBLEfilms. That's partially because queer and feminist porn isn't yet as lucrative as mainstream porn. Furthermore, the East Bay also lacks a community center for queer and feminist pornographers — the kinds of places that have helped San Francisco dyke and queer culture thrive, said Trouble. "We don't have a Lexington Club, we don't have a [LGBT health services provider such as] Lyon-Martin or a [strip club such as the recently shuttered] Lusty Lady. We don't have a Center for Sex and Culture. But I hope to help create some of those spaces in the next few years as the queer center of the Bay Area shifts over to the East Bay."

Earlier this year, Trouble was kicked out of a space after renting it for only three days — apparently because other tenants found out that porn was being filmed there. For the time being, Trouble is filming in an apartment bedroom and is in the process of trying to locate a warehouse or space that would also be open to the public for queer and sex-positive events.

Queer and feminist porn may not yet be fully accepted by the mainstream, but there's no arguing that porn is an enormously influential industry that deserves more study and research. According to the porn website Paint Bottle, 30 percent of all data transferred across the Internet is pornographic in nature. What we view onscreen affects many aspects of our sexuality, such as what we can reasonably expect from our partners, how we understand and learn about our own sexuality, and what we perceive as "normal," healthy, consensual sex. Perhaps no one takes this responsibility as seriously as queer and feminist pornographers. Their work may not yet be considered culturally acceptable, but perhaps one day, it — and the various expressions of their sexuality — will be.

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