the use value of sex in public: a visual thesis
Courtney Trouble completed one of two planned art-related masters degrees when they graduated with the Class of 2017 California College of the Arts Masters of Fine Arts cohort on Saturday May 13th, 2017.
This Spring, Trouble was offered a significant merit-based scholarship to return to CCA for a second master’s degree. They will be entering the Masters for Visual and Critical Studies (an academic track) program in the Fall. The scholarship will not cover all costs and Trouble has accrued significant financial aid loans, so a donation page and Amazon wishlist have been set up for anyone interested in helping this queer porn icon take it to the next level.
Trouble’s fine art skills blossomed under mentorship across disciplines at CCA but particularly in alternative photography practices, printmaking, painting, and installation. Trouble wrote a thesis entitled Queer Chaos which entwines research into chaos theory, biological diversity, ancient art, and religion and served as teacher’s assistant for Ignacio Valero’s Queer Attractors course. They were selected for the Gender In Translation Symposium and Exhibition, highlighted by a lecture by Judith Butler. Trouble’s thesis exhibition, Queer Porn Archive, displayed 64 one of a kind magazines featuring chaotic and lyrical collections of Courtney Trouble’s iconic pornographic and queer cultural photography work, and a digital hard drive containing the entire Courtney Trouble archive, surmounting to over 220,000 images and videos and meant to be preserved in hiding at an unknown location.
Trouble works at the college and has planned events centered around wellness, including a sex work panel featuring Carol Queen and Chelsea Poe and a sex toy workshop with adult boutique Feelmore 510.
“One of the biggest questions for me is how out I should be at school about being a sex worker. It never may be obvious wether I will be taken seriously in an Art World space or not, so I really focused on making stuff that followed my intellectual questions and trusting my gut when I had to answer questions. CCA fully embraced my history and helped me turn my adult industry skills into teaching skills. I couldn’t be more amazed and inspired by the grace with which this institution embraced conversations around pornography and sex work. They also didn’t pigeonhole me. I ended up improving in so many techniques just by daring to rip things apart. Now I can talk about anything I need to, including my experiences in sexuality, in a lot of new languages. I particularly like abstract minimalism that looks at transforming digital pixels into physical elements like dust and threads.”
CourtneyTrouble.Com has become a personal website and portfolio for Trouble’s art, research, and writing.
Trouble, the award-winning fat femme bombshell behind QueerPorn.TV, NoFauxxx.Com, and the TROUBLEfilms DVD catalog, retired from directing commercial pornography in the fall of 2015 in order to prepare for the experience of graduate school, but TROUBLEfilms has continued to be her full-time job. “2 years ago, Chelsea Poe started directing for TROUBLEfilms and has found massive success with her concepts. It’s an incredible relationship – it is awesome to have a company while I’m in school, and it is awesome that I’ve been able to collaborate with someone so excellent at what they do. Chelsea’s kept the company (and me) afloat for the past 18 months. TROUBLEfilms is in excellent shape, and what’s coming out next will be even better. She’s on a roll.” Poe owns a portion of the company and handles all new productions exclusively. Trouble has moved behind the scenes, editing, consulting, and maintaining the web sites and technical support.
Tucked behind the Queen of the Desert (aka Vagina Rock), in a sexy garage/recording studio situation, I stood next to my friends April Flores and Cinnamon Maxxine covered in home-made lube, red latex, and lime netting, a little bit stoned and more than a little confounded that I had somehow found myself on the set of a Peaches music video.
Peaches requested me for this video, with a specific role in mind. I got to be a desert coven high priestess, taking Peaches in from the desert and reviving her by pulling a blue feather boa out of her pussy and throwing her to my witches. She warps through thier bodies and into a desert ritual orgy, where demon spirit Danni Daniels dances all over her, rubs her crotch on her face, and seduces her to join the orgy before taking off with the dyke who brought her to my party.
Spin, NME, Nylon, Pitchfork, Vice, Daily Dot, and Autostraddle all covered the video’s release on the launch day, while YouTube was still fighting with Peaches over whether she could have the uncensored version live on their site. She’s had to create a censored (pixelated, hilariously) version, as well as provide YouTube and Facebook with a specific censored image to use as the video’s icon.
The comments on YouTube vary in taste, but as of today the most popular/top comments were “fuck off,” “this isn’t minecraft,” “This is why Islam wants us dead,” and “The biggest plot twist when she started slapping her dick in her face…..never thought i’d say that on youtube.”
Not only did I ever think I would see something like this on YouTube, I’m not sure I would have ever seen it period if it weren’t for Peaches, who has been exactly this way since I was introduced to her in New York 12 years ago performing with Nomy Lamm and Lesbians on Ecstasy. She’s an old school Gender Fucker who has fought for the visibility of sexuality and feminism in art/music/performance for over a decade. I did my first burlesque act to “Fuck the Pain Away.” In Portland, with cardboard cut-outs.
I am totally in awe of her, but also after spending 3 days in the desert with her on this video set, I’ve got to say I’ve also never met somebody doing something so similar to my art and doing it on such a large scale. We both are famous for bridging the gaps between feminist, pornography, and art. I applaud her for courageously putting all our queer, fat, trans, disabled, sexy bodies on a mainstream platform alongside Kim Gordon, Margaret Cho, and Feist. The crew for Rub was star-studded too – A.L. Steiner has made one of my favorite films Community Action Center, and Lex Vaughn (the dykey kidnapper) is the host of the Feminist Porn Awards, and in the band Lesbians on Ecstasy!
On Dec. 18th, Dazed Magazine published a feature on Rub, titled Why we need to stop talking shit about our vaginas that addresses the responses to the Rub video and it’s complicated reactions, or as they say: “On the back of Peaches’ new video, we explore the vagina’s complicated relationship with the art world.”
While most viewers find the explicit video salacious and hilarious, it’s a serious song from a serious album places Peaches at the forefront of a movement larger than #freethenipple. Our bodies, our trans/cis/intersex/genderqueer/fat/black/modified/disabled bodies, can and will be in the spotlight. If globalization exists and YouTube is a thing, our bodies will be there. I feel like the ritual midnight orgy with Danni Daniels and the lot of us writing in the sand represents our majestic histories in sexual storytelling. Our bodies will always be here, the witches, the serpents, the monsters, the queer babes. This isn’t a side road circus freak show on MTV, we are creatures that exist inside your desert dreams, but also in real life, on YouTube, in music videos, in real life.
In October 2014, I met up with Micahtron and Lexi Laphor at an abandoned amusement park in Berlin, Germany. this video was shot on location in and around the park on a handheld Canon 70D. Song written and performed by Micahtron, starring Lexi Laphor as Micahtron’s date.
We wanted to make an uplifting and positive video with a lot of color and texture, and we wanted to make a lesbian hip hop video. Micahtron has a lot of incredible songs, but this one fit the idea of a carnival date so well.
Update! This video was originally uploaded to YouTube, where a user left a comment about the performers and flagged it for nudity. We have appealed the ban, but for now it lives on Vimeo. I didn’t think I would have to deal with censorship when I made non-pornogrpahic short films but I guess I need to watch out no matter what I make. #EYEROLLBYETROLL
Press Release for Apricot 4 Apricot
Courtney Trouble has released “APRICOT FOR APRICOT”, a short film about fat femme desire, on the heels of their successful IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for art school.
Communicating the rejection of dating ads often stating “no femmes, no fatties”, “APRICOT FOR APRICOT” demonstrates the beauty of connection when like calls to like without using dialogue.
“I had a great time doing this project with Courtney and Cinnamon,” said performer Nomy Lamm. “We had to use peaches instead of apricots because apricots were out of season, but that was perfect because they were big and juicy just like us! It was fun and hot and gross to smush peaches back and forth between our mouths and all over each other’s faces. We laughed a lot!”
“APRICOT FOR APRICOT” was one of 25 shorts from different queer directors and filmmaking teams, each telling a story based on a different color/fetish of the infamous hanky code. The collection, called “Hanky Code: The Movie”, is an epic anthology feature film event that had its world premiere June 17th.
“I both liked and really hated making out with fruit in my mouth,” said Cinnamon Maxxine about the shoot. “It was disgusting and rad. Mostly disgusting.”
See the film below!
It’s a shiny, sexy, heavy metal porno music video bringing G.L.O.S.S. and Chelsea Poe together for the first, and hopefully not last time. This was a fun experimental piece for me, inspired by some of the post porn films I’ve seen at Muestra Marrana and experimental shorts at places like MIX NYC. Thanks to G.L.O.S.S. and Chelsea Poe for letting me remix their fine, fine queer art.
miguel – simple things
drake with jhene aiko – from time
desire: – i can’t hold you tonight
delta dart – fuck it
heavens to betsy – me and her
tiger trap – my broken heart
the gossip – yesterday’s news
sleater kinney – good things
beyonce – sweet dreams
alicia keys – unthinkable
le youth – me and you
I found riot grrrl the summer after a shitty freshman year at high school. I was really smart but none of my teachers took me seriously. All my friends were stoner dropouts on the corner and because they were my friends, and i was out as bisexual, and looked like a punk, i was treated like a waste of desk space in every class except drama, which was taught by a feminist hippie with purple hair.
Near the end of the year I was molested and had my music collection robbed by my step brother who was visiting during spring break. It broke me to the core, and I kept it a secret. I had to break up with my boyfriend Robbie, because I really wasn’t doing well after that event.
I told every friend a different story about why we broke up. I didn’t even tell my best friends Lori and Moe the truth, that I had been molested by a family member and that i was broken, though in hindsight I was almost certain they would have understood. I think I didn’t understand what had happened myself. I was ashamed and fearful of the truth. I lost all of my friends because I couldn’t keep my lies straight. My world crumbled.
On the last day of school, all my old friends wrote hate mail notes, folded them up in our usual way, and dumped them over my head as I left campus. That summer my family also moved away, though I had already always lived with and remained with my dad, a single parent and a feminist Wiccan.
Loosing my music collection had a dramatic effect on me, one of course that’s not to be compared with sexual assault, but as someone who has always been completely connected to music, it was one more loss that resulted in a severe disconnect from the world. I was unconnected to everything.
That summer, I was alone in summer school, alone in my neighborhood, alone in my world. The only place that didn’t know my recent drama was the queer youth group, so I spent most of my time there. There was this girl in my summer school who would drive me to the community center after class. She had zines and mix tapes and fishnets and tube tops for skirts and she looked just like me. I don’t remember her name and I didn’t know her long, but she gave me my first Bratmobile tape. Cool Schmool. that song was so important for me, as someone who had just lost every ounce of my coolness.
So those are my roots. I got expelled from my fancy high school half way through tenth grade for distributing my zine Krave Me – the zine had fake Teen Magazine quizzes like “Are You a Slut” that were sex-positive parodies and anti slut-shaming. I got over the loss of my childhood friends and focused on making friends at all-ages shows, queer youth group, and my unitarian universalist youth camp parties. I spent my weekends in Olympia going to Need, Sleater Kinney, and Bratmobile shows. It was at these shows that I met my lifelong BFF Jenna Riot and started taking photos of people like Kaia Wilson and Wynne Greenwood. I enrolled in a program that allowed me to get my high school diploma and my associaties degree at the same time, and I centered all my education on journalism, photography, music, and women’s studies.
When I turned 18 I moved to Olympia and started Fat Girl Break Down, a riot grrrl fat positivity zine and web community. My first feature was an interview with Nomy Lamm, who took me on tour with her and Sini Anderson, right when I was starting my first porn site, NoFauxxx.Com.
Porn is where my riot grrrl has come to a point of action. I’ve been in bands (mostly with a friend I made in Olympia, Nadia Buyse of DUBAI) and staged protests (remember Bands Against Bush?) and organized festivals (Homo A GoGo!) and written countless zines (including one I wrote and never published while recovering from self-harm), but making porn has been my only fulfilling outlet for riot grrrl activism for the past 11 years. I’ve kept it alive and I’ve also added to it I think by promoting intersectionality, making sure that the voices of trans women and fat people and trans men and queer male riot grrrls and riot grrrls of color get heard alongside those of the more traditional stereotype of the riot grrrl as a straight white cis girl.
I myself am genderqueer, so my feminism is adjacent but not entirely adhered to women’s voices. Because I look like a woman, a queer fat one at that, I still am effected by misogyny, particularly in the adult industry, and I think that’s why I am still so attached to the idea of riot grrrl not only as a tool of resistance but also as a form of support and a self-esteem builder.
Porn is a perfect artistic and political tool of resistance for us grown up (18+ at least!) riot grrrls – creating space for me and my sisters is a form of active resistance that is creating change and upping the awareness of feminism on many levels. I have to stand and be strong and lock arms with those near me in order to not be trampled. We are still living it.
I’m thankful for the current movement to re-ignite riot grrrl as some one who has been keeping it alive in my heart since that fateful day I was molested. As violence against girls is really our number one enemy, being a riot grrrl is inherently attached to being a survivor, and it’s given me the best survival tools in the box. I am thankful to Nomy Lamm and Alison Wolfe and Beth Ditto and Sini Anderson and Jenna Riot and Nadia Buyse and Homo A GoGo and my drama teacher and that girl with the fishnets, for giving me these tools.
This year I made a film called Trans Grrrls: Revolution Porn Style Now that borrows the language of early riot grrrl to set up the stage for a film that brings trans women to the forefront of feminist pornography.
A really wonderful friend of mine is gone, and I don’t know how to process this without writing and sharing my love for Carlos and his family. His death has effected me deeply and the world will never be the same.
Carlos Batts is the reason why I know one of my best friends, April Flores. He made the movie that introduced me to her, he was there when I met her, and he’s been right there next to her no matter what we were doing. It’s hard to think of April without Carlos. I have no idea how a person can go on without their soulmate. I hope I never find out and I haven’t been able to stop holding my own person since I heard the news. You think once you have found the love of your life you know that you’ll love them for the rest of your life, but you never know how long that’s going to be. You may think you’ve got your whole lifetime to do all the things you wanted to do or say what you wanted to say, but that lifetime is never guaranteed to be long. So love now. Do those things now. Together Forever is right now, not tomorrow not next week not next year. This very moment. Love as hard as you can.
You guys, Carlos was fucking Awesome. Carlos had so many visions, even beyond the magic he created and released into the world. His films were political manifestos of love, lust, and hope. His art was colorful and bold and honest. His photography books were whimsical and dark and sexy. His fight for the renaissance of erotica was pure. He wanted so badly to bring beauty into our lives, he was powerful and assertive in creating change with his beautiful art. He was worthy of far, far more than he was given.
He took to my film sets like water. He understood the queer porn scene better than some of us in it. He is the only “LA Pornographer” that’s ever worked with me and our collaborations were fierce and full of fire. He helped me make beautiful, incredibly rich images and films. He brought my modeling and performances to a whole new level. I trusted him with my set in a way I’ve never been able to relinquish to a cis man. He was a feminist, a queer porn mafia soldier. And such a great fucking friend.
My heart hurts for April and her family. My love goes out to Carlos’ brothers whom I haven’t the pleasure of meeting. My love goes out to Dave and Steve and Carlos’ closer friends.
My heart hurts that there wont be any new C. Batts Fly films, I’m selfishly sad I’ll never make magic with him again.
I know that this blog entry is in no way closure for me or for anyone else. This isn’t healing any wounds, just bringing up more by reminding me what amazing moments I took for granted and things we’ll never get to do, like have an ARTCORE parade down the central paths of the AVN conference floor or shoot another masked matador sex tape or talk about feminist porn in an ivy league university or sip on milkshakes in the middle of the night, or or or.
We weren’t done with you Carlos, the world wasn’t ready for you to leave.
I’ll miss you buddy.
*This blog post is a BLOG JINX! entry, posted simutaneously with my good friend Jiz Lee on an identical subject. We have tackled this subject before, but thought we could use a re-visit as it’s close to election day. You can read Jiz Lee’s post on Measure B and Safer Sex here.
This month, the citizens of LA County will be making a decision that could affect the way porn is made within county limits. Measure B proposes that porn companies shooting within LA County limits must post a public health permit, require adult performers to wear condoms during sex acts, and require a blood borne pathogen training course.
How do I feel about it? Well, above all, it goes to say that this law would not effect me whatsoever as a porn director, as I don’t direct in LA County. If I were to start performing in LA, I would probably be relieved by a condom-only set, because then I wouldn’t have to try to request one and risk not getting cast. But, that’s very unlikely to happen as my choices for work in LA as a plus-size, tattooed, queer, outspoken, and nontraditional person are, shall we say, very slim.
So, my opinion is based on my beliefs in the freedom of choice, and my background in sex education and peer-to-peer STI prevention. Instead of protecting adult performer’s personal choices, this law goes overboard by mandating condom use, rather than protecting the right to use condoms. It wastes government money that would be better spent on schools, healthcare, and creating new jobs. It denies performers the right to choose, regardless of what health reasons or other protections they may have in place.
I believe that STI screening every 30 days, a self-regulated practice currently working in the adult industry (aside from that Syphilis outbreak) should be mandatory, and that if a performer requests ANY kind of safer sex barrier on set, their choice should be protected and respected – no exceptions.
But, for the few porn stars that seem to be loudly against this measure, there seem to be hundreds of performers staying quiet about it as well. Is that because their ability to get work is at risk if they admit they are hoping that condoms become mandatory? Is it because, when they show up on set with safer sex barriers, they are laughed at and made to perform without them, or not get work at all?
While researching this measure, I noticed that the people investing money in the No On B campaign are not people I align my own politics with, such as the huge overseas company Manwin that owns half of the mainstream porn companies, nor Hustler or Vivid Entertainment, who while fighting freedom of speech, still perpetuate a hetero-normative, sizeist, racist, and misogynist profit-chasing working atmosphere, which is actually more silencing than free-ing. Not to mention, it sounds like this committee paid Mr. Marcus (the center of the recent Syphilis outbreak in LA) a large sum of money as a “consultation fee” after he started giving interviews about how he wasn’t well educated on STIs like Syphilis – which is what the Measure B is hoping to do with it’s required blood borne pathogen training and public health postings – two things I would vote for IF the measure was posed SANS mandatory condoms.
Why should I be for or against this measure? Well, I do believe in my first amendment rights, and I fight strongly for everybody else’s rights to freedom as well. So, while I do think that there should not be a MANDATORY condom law – I DO think that the CHOICE of a performer to use condoms and other safer sex barriers on set should be PROTECTED by the law.
So, I say No on Measure B (and if you are in LA County limits, please do vote no on this measure) but, if there were a measure to protect the performer’s right to choose a condom-only scene or not, plus the mandatory public health permits and STI training courses – I would immediately vote Yes. I don’t really care if my opinion kicks me out of the club.
In middle school, I attended a sexual education course outside of my school. This course included not only instruction on anatomy, conception, and relationships – but also alternative sexualities, and above all, safer sex.
In high school, I was part of the AIDS Peer Education Exchange, where I became a certified resource for high schoolers to come and find me on campus to get condoms and information about STIs and safer sex – since our country has misinformed generation after generation about sex. I took my job as a safer sex advocate seriously – and I still do.
Through my porn work I have always placed the importance of erotisizing and normalizing the general use of safer sex barriers (including but not limited to, condoms, latex gloves, and dental dams) – which is something that most porn companies just will. not. do.
In fact, most hetero-normative porn companies ridicule safer sex. Most recently, and what finally inspired me to write this post, is a series of images from Girlfriends Films (a male-owned girl/girl porn company) that depict two sexy lesbian porn stars engaging in oral sex, but using gloves and plastic to protect themselves. The caption to this is, of course, “This is what porn would look like if Measure B passes,” and to which the FREE SPEECH COALITION reposted with ”THIS IS JUST NOT HOT.”
Not only does the measure NOT say anything about the use of safer sex barriers other than condoms, but the comments made about these photos actually kind of turns me off to wanting to be on anybody’s side at all in this matter. I stand STRONGLY for the use of safer sex barriers in real life to prevent the spread of STIs, including in lesbian interactions.
I believe that even if porn companies want to say “Porn is not Sex Ed, and barriers don’t work for us” – MOCKING safer sex is damaging to the young men and women who watch your porn. If you respond with, “Safer Sex Is Not Hot, It’s Not Cool At All, and we don’t want to use it” – you are projecting that message far, far, far beyond your rights as a performer – whether you think your porn is educating someone or not. Saying that your porn stars are not role models of how to have sex, and what’s sexy is like saying that fashion models aren’t role models for how to dress, or what’s fashionable – or that a professional television chef doesn’t make food they want you to try to cook.
Unless you put a disclaimer that says “Do not try this at home, these are professional adult performers who are tested monthly and have chosen to not wear condoms for this scene” – your argument that porn isn’t sex ed is a weak one.
If Measure B fails to pass, I hope that mainstream porn companies will look towards the future with goals of self-regulation (like the gay porn industry has been doing already for decades, with no complaints from the performers, or the audience) and also, promoting the healthy use of safer sex barriers – if not in the actual scenes, in public service announcements and educational resources for their audience. Also, educate your performers on their choices to use, or not use, condoms.
SAFER SEX IS REALLY REALLY HOT, AND CAN PREVENT YOU FROM GETTING, OR GIVING, SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS. While it may not be right for the government to make it mandatory for porn, it SHOULD be self regulated by the porn industry, the choice to use it protected, and education free, available, and easy to obtain within the industry.
These are my opinions and I stand by them. I hope that more people will join me by saying, YES TO SAFER SEX, NO TO MEASURE B. YES TO THE PROTECTED RIGHT TO CHOOSE SAFER SEX, NO TO GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS.
And with that, here is my visual response to Girlfriends Films and the FSC:
collaboration between courtney trouble x carlos batts x april flores x the need
an excerpt from my film nostalgia, released through good releasing in june 2009
“mona tinsley” courtesy of the need
Queerly Beloved started 4 years ago when throwing a party in my backyard with a few performances, some great DJs, and some Jell-O shots seemed like way more fun then going to any of the mainstream “Pride” parties in San Francisco.
Something about the normal “GLBT” community has always made me feel alienated – or worse, bored. Bud Light Beer Gardens and Work Out Protein Powder and Lesbian Cruise Ships don’t really fit my sexual orientation, my place in the world, or my relationship to being an out and proud queer person. I don’t like being pandered to as a statistic, nor do I see corporate sponsorships as empowering – if anything I find them exploitive and oppressive.
I have always loved Pride Week in San Francisco though, don’t get me wrong. The long sunburnt days at Delores Park, being a supportive friend or lover at the Trans March, playing out my inner dykeyness at the Dyke March – but as someone who has never used the terms “trans” or “dyke” – there still wasn’t anything that celebrated my queerness – genderqueer, nongendered, punky subversive, pansexual, kinkyfreaky, cock-loving, pussy-eating queer goodness.
So in pure Courtney form, I decided to Do It Myself. And that’s why Queerly Beloved exists – as a haven for the hedonistic, label-scratching, subversive queers who can’t be defined by the over-produced, mass produced Pride(tm) events. All genders are welcome – and I’m sure that even people who do fit in to the GLBT will have fun at the party, if not a total mind-blowing fun-drenched blast!
And fuck, has it been fun. In years past, the performances, DJs, and crowd have been incredible. I’ve had people come up to me and say “THIS IS MY FAVORITE PARTY OF THE YEAR” – and this year, our host El Rio has finally proclaimed it “El Rio’s Official Pride Party,” which can only mean great things for this event in the years to come.
THIS YEAR is going to be SO FUCKING GOOD. I have asked my lifelong “BFF” (sounds silly saying that at my age!) Jenna Riot to help me host the party and be our headlining celebrity DJ for the event. She’s AMAZING! Also, Feminist Porn Award HeartThrob winner James Darling will be gracing the stage to do a sexy solo boylesque stripper set (or maybe he will surprise us with something totally different!) and the Queen of Indie Burlesque, the young up and coming star Dorian Faust will also be dancing for us.
The big news? I will be making my way back up on stage for the first time in San Francisco, and the first time in 7 years. I wont get into the details of my act, but be prepared for a messy, slippery, sexy triumphant return to live performance. I am SO ready, my friends!
Pride is all about the sun shining down on us, and every year, my back-patio daytime dance party seems to be bigger, better, and brighter… I look forward to it all year long!
Check out the event page for a full list of performers, DJs, and other goodies (like the photobooth, free food, and door prizes) for the party, or go head over to Facebook to RSVP – or straight to Brown Paper Tickets to buy your tickets! ($7 online, $10 at the door!) and there WILL BE SUPER TOPSECRET GUESTS this year, so stay tuned…