chapter  17
10 Pages

Community sex work: a conversation with Nenna Feelmore Joiner


In the heart of downtown Oakland, California, sits The Feelmore Adult Gallery, the 2013 Adult Video News Winner for Best Adult Boutique. It is owned by a talented, ambitious and energetic African American woman named Nenna Joiner. A stunning showcase for the adult novelty products she sells, the boutique is set up like a gallery and gathering space, the black walls covered in erotic artwork and vintage porn collectables, all the products open and available to touch and examine, workshops offer lessons on sexual health. The Las Vegas native wanted to create a space that participated in the revitalisation of Oakland that, like many American cities, has fallen into years of ruin and neglect and suffers from broad racial and class disparities among its inhabitants. Coming from a family and a culture in which self-reliance,

ownership and community outreach matters, Nenna Joiner has carved a unique path in the world of adult entertainment. As a queer woman of colour she had a special link to many of the local people who enter her store, including sex workers, homeless LGBT youth and working-class African Americans. She decided to do outreach to these communities by fostering an open environment where anyone could drop in for information, and by offering classes tailored to the community’s needs. Like her work as a queer feminist porn filmmaker – she produced two well-regarded films, Tight Places: A Drop of Color, and Hella Brown – Joiner works to support the sexual education and expression of her community. I spoke to Joiner about this ‘community sex work’ and about how I see her as an erotic activist (Miller-Young 2013, 2014). We discussed how the concept of sex work applies to sex educators and academics as well as to those who use sex to make a living or to survive.