PORN AWARDS In a conference room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, diminutive porno starlets with improbable racks highlighted by latex or spandex-heavy outfits shifted, stilletto-to-stilletto, as lines of eager fans filed past to express their admiration for favorite scenes — and possibly cop a feel for their buddy's camera. Flatscreen TVs showed avatars having at each other in various positions, advertisements for recently-released X-rated roleplay video games. One booth advertised both granny and midget couplings, another adult parodies of True Grit, Training Day, and Mallrats.
This was the weekend of the AVN Awards, the Oscars of the porn industry that take over Vegas once a year to honor the most compelling orgasms, wittiest titles, and best double penetration scene of the last 12 months.
In the midst of the melee, queer porn star Sophia St. James from Portland, Ore. waited in line to meet one of her idols. "I'm so excited!," St. James told me when I chance across her on my AVN fan expo wanderings.
Most of the adult film aficionados present that Saturday afternoon in January had probably heard of the object of St. James' affections, Belladonna, well-known in the industry for her gonzo-style sex and smoldering-pixie looks. Perhaps fewer of them would have been familiar with St. James, though the Amazon-esque beauty has an eponymous strap-on model and has done scenes for one of the nominees for the Best Alternative Website award, to be presented that night at the awards ceremony.
Later that day, we sit outside a Hard Rock coffeeshop with a handful of St. James' co-stars from the AVN-nominated, San Francisco-produced QueerPorn.TV. I ask her how her fangirl experience went.
"I couldn't believe it!" St. James exclaimed. "I got to the front of the line and was bending over to put down my bags when I hear this voice go 'Sophia St. James.' And I look around and Belladonna is saying my name!" The two exchanged gropes, business cards, and the promise to keep in touch. St. James was beaming.
This is why queer porn went to the AVN Awards. Sure, QueerPorn.TV was nominated for an award, and it was a good excuse for its actors to have a ball and a biscuit in Vegas. But also, queer porn wanted its props. And it turns out, it might be having a bigger impact on the industry than you'd expect for a bunch of Bay Area alterna-kids.
"QueerPorn.TV got nominated for Best Alternative Website. Regardless of whether we won or not, we needed to celebrate," Courtney Trouble said. She was explaining why she booked a luxury Vegas suite for the weekend of the AVNs where 12 queer porn stars definitely slept, and possibly had an orgy. ("I've heard some rumors of that," she wrote me in an email that confirmed the hot tub was flop distance from a king-sized bed with a view of the Strip.)
Trouble is responsible for more than her fair share of the queer porn that is available today. Her San Francisco production company Trouble Films includes QueerPorn.TV and NoFauxx.com (which she started decades ago in Olympia, Washington). In addition, she and co-director Tina Horn make DVDs — most recently, Fuckstyles, a compilation of vignettes featuring trans men, lesbian sex, and pegging scenes that will be released this year on Valentine's Day.
Bereft of even the ever-diminishing profit margins of mainstream DVD porn (which are difficult to quantify — for a bare-all industry, the porn biz is remarkably adamant about hiding its sales figures) queer porn is largely a labor of love for its creators. During the weekend of the AVNs, its stars tell me the genre serves two purposes.