Industry Spotlight: Courtney Trouble

Courtney Trouble

Gifted with a Polaroid instant camera at age 8, Courtney Trouble was destined to be an artist. As a teenager in Washington, she spent her days in her high school’s dark room — and her nights running in grunge and riot grrrl circles.

Trouble attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, where she continued pursuing print and digital photography. She snagged publishing, entertainment journalism, and photography gigs for a while, then started working as a phone sex operator. Phone sex was lucrative and allowed her to be her own boss, but it was exhausting catering to her clients’ fantasies all the time. Trouble was itching to explore her own rebellious queer desires.

So in 2002, at just 19 years old, Trouble founded, a little website offering up “subversive smut.” In the beginning, Trouble shot erotic photos of her friends, lovers, classmates, and herself with a bulky Nikon CoolPix — 600 pixels max — and no light set, studio props, or a video camera. Just, as she puts it, “that good old Olympia DIY magic.”

NoFauxxx was a fun, creative hobby at first, something to balance out Trouble’s fantasy-based phone sex work with the documentation of real queer sexuality — but over the years, it grew into a community and a movement. The queer porn movement.

In 2007, Trouble began filming her first full-length DVD. With no formal training in film or video editing and very little money, it took her two years to finish. But the result, Roulettesolidified her trajectory toward queer porn notoriety.

Courtney Trouble is now known as a sassy and unapologetic champion of authentic, queer, body-positive, binary-breaking feminist porn. She strives for inclusivity, casting performers who run the gamut of gender, sexual orientation, size, and race. She likes to shoot performers in their own homes, using their personalities as inspiration for scenes. Queer porn, she admits, is a genre defined by its lack of structure:

Queer porn is a little bit undefinable, because the “point” of queer porn is to show the vast diversity of queer desire, and performers “queering” sex more as a verb than an adjective. Queer porn is a collaborative, open-communication-centric, intimate art that is as much the performer’s concept as well as the director or producer. Queer porn removes the various niches, stereotypes, and misconceptions that the dominant adult industry places on people based on how they look or how they fuck, and allows the performers and producers to make authentic, meaningful, sex-positive imagery that reflects our true sexual natures.

After her first film, Trouble helped build Reel Queer Productions, a video line for which she directed and edited 11 more movies, both plot-based and gonzo, including Roulette TorontoSeven Minutes in HeavenNostalgiaBilly Castro Does the Mission, and Bordello.

Trouble is a performer as well. She loves being in front of the camera, using her body and sexuality (as a genderqueer fat feminist femme switch) to make a political statement. As a performer, she has starred in her own films, as well as The Wild SearchCrash Pad Series Volume One, and in scenes on Shine Louise Houston’s website and Madison Young’s website Madison Bound. Performing, she firmly believes, makes her a better director.

Taking everything she learned from the trial-and-error development of NoFauxxx, Trouble collaborated with queer pornstar Tina Horn in November 2010 to launch QueerPorn.TV, a community-based porn site featuring exclusive content and interviews with performers. She also runs QueerPornTube, the first ever free, user-generated queer tube site, which hosts the work of both amateurs and professionals.

In 2011 she established her own porn production company, TROUBLEfilms, through which she has released several films: Fuckstyles of the Queer and FamousLive Sex Show, and Lesbian Curves (which just won a Feminist Porn Award for “Hottest Dyke Film”)TROUBLEfilms also distributes Tobi Hill-Meyer’s Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project and The Genderfellator.

By taking complete control of her content distribution, Trouble is able to release scenes featuring fisting, knife play, squirting, and other sex acts that distributors usually don’t allow due to obscenity laws. These often nonsensical laws are what inspired Trouble, along with genderqueer porn icon Jiz Lee, to create International Fisting Day to educate and dispel myths about fisting.

Ten years after its initial launch, NoFauxxx changed its name to Indie Porn Revolution, and subsequently received an AVN nomination for “Best Alternative Website.” It is now the longest-running queer porn website on the internet, with a unique genre- and gender-less navigation structure that encourages the viewer to explore its breadth of erotic imagery without choosing a familiar category marker first.

When asked what keeps her passionate about queer porn, Trouble said:

The effect that my work has had on other queer folks . . . I get letters all the time that queer porn has changed, and sometimes even saved, a life. It saved mine 10 years ago, and the fact that it’s still relevant and even more so now, is why my passion thrives. Sometimes people use my art as a survival tool. Not very many pornographers get to say that their porn is that essential.

Courtney Trouble loves animals (especially her chihuahua, Cookie Party), the njoy Eleven and Hitachi Magic Wand, and cheeseburgers. She is working on a film called Come Find Me, which follows a woman on a bike-powered scavenger hunt to her real-life lover. It will be Trouble’s first full-length movie starring a heterosexual couple.

Check out this fun interview with Trouble from this year’s Feminist Porn Awards:

Courtney Trouble can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, and on her blog.

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