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       Honey Lee Cottrell and Candida Royalle, who both died last month, were women who created pioneering portrayals of female sexual empowerment. Any woman who has not had to apologize for liking porn owes it to these two women. Many feminists of the 80’s viewed sexuality primarily as a place of victimization for women. "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice” was the mantra of the day. Women were struggling to disrupt the dynamic of being objects for men’s pleasure. The most prominent ways of doing this at the time was through passing obscenity laws and shaming people for their desires.


Fortunately Candida Royalle and Honey Lee Cottrell usurped the power of looking and took it for themselves. Candida was the first popular woman pornographer- she flipped the script by going from star to auteur when she picked up a camera and started Femme Productions. With high production values and authentic portrayals of female pleasure, Femme paved the way for the next generation of feminist erotic filmmakers.


Honey Lee Cottrell was a photographer who spent much of her professional life documenting the lesbian community. Perhaps her greatest contribution was via On Our Backs magazine. Launched with flair and daring, On Our Backs defied the idea that porn was bad, and that lesbian sex was always soft and egalitarian. In the very first issue Honey Lee was the centerfold- her transgressive idea was to do a “Bulldagger of the Month” series, by which OOB could wittily thumb their noses at both mainstream porn and sex negative feminism.


I remember seeing that first issue and the shocking centerfold of Honey Lee in her butch briefs and flannel shirt, imperfect and strong, gazing back at the camera with a fierce tenderness.


On Our Backs was a catalyst for the queer sex revolution. If it weren’t for On Our Backs, I don’t think there would be a Babeland. 


We truly stand on the shoulders of both these women, may we stay inspired, and grateful, and remember our history.


Read More about these poineers:

       Honey Lee Cottrell                               Candida Royalle