Pussy Power: Can a porn star be a feminist? Playboy photographer Suze Randall schools YOU

Thought being a porn star couldn't be a feminist? Think again as Josh Newis-Smith meets the first female porn director, Suze Randall and her daugher, Holly who followed her mother into the controversial industry...

Judging women who work in the porn industry is anti-feminist. Fact. I personally, knowing a handful of glamour models, have entered into many debates with women and men as to whether a page three girl can be a feminist. Many fellow women have said, “no it’s impossible as they are completely at service to men,’ or a argument along those lines.

However every woman I know who works in said industry feels empowered under the lens of the adult entertainment and personally control their own careers. So if a woman wants to take such a path, in light of feminism’s retrograde positioning in 2018, how can any one judge them?

The first female to ever shoot a nude for Playboy, Suze Randall who has spent 50 years in the adult entertainment industry and allowed her daughter to follow suit, thinks that anyone proclaiming the porn industry is anti-feminist is, “talking a load of sh*t!”

Whilst her daughter, Holly now named as one of the most influential female directors in porn by AVN Magazine, sees such a statement as, “inherently sexist in itself. When you say that you’re applying this framework that women are always victims; that they can’t make decisions for themselves and that sexuality can’t be empowering.”

My thoughts are that we have always associated sexuality with exploitation and that is why we don’t remark about men undertaking such careers but apply an innate, culturally built judgment system onto women who do so. After all isn’t the Time’s Up movement all about giving women the power to use their voices and themselves as they damn well like?

I have interviewed a lot of women of varying fortunes and fame but no one has offered a fresher take on the female empowerment than 71 year-old Suze, a porn star who went behind the lens to become one of the first female porn directors. A process that she claims made her, “intrinsically understand what it’s like to be a woman.”

Love these old articles about my mom from the 70s. 💕 #suzerandall

A post shared by Holly Randall (@hollyrandall) on

The larger than life character certainly has a great many tales to tell. As the self proclaimed party starter at the Playboy mansion, Suze garnered attention in the 1970s with her unique take on entertaining, “I got everyone partying by not wearing panties, flashing and dancing.” Suze quickly interjects to say, “the mansion wasn’t actually that wild so I ruled the roost. I even embarrassed Larry Flynn and that was quite a feat!” Don’t worry, it didn’t stop there and if you are the bashful type I would skip to the next paragraph now, “then I’d lead them to the Jacuzzi and they’d say, ‘oh don’t make me come, I’ve got another date!’” That’s enough to make even the most erect bunny ears flop.

Warren Beatty and Jim Brown also fell for her irregular hosting techniques as her husband (sitting in on this interview), Humphry Knipe confirms. The pair have been together since the 1960s and Suze claims having this life long support has enabled her to be a stronger woman, “I had this strong man behind me and that was a double whammy – he was brave enough to let me be in the forefront but he was always there when I was scared.”

#TBT (yes I'm a couple of hours early) w/ my mom #SuzeRandall 😊🇬🇧

A post shared by Holly Randall (@hollyrandall) on

It’s a rather foreign concept for some that a woman can learn much about herself and feel empowered as a female whilst being in front of the adult entertainment industry’s lens or directing the action. But Suze sees her career as one of the greatest examples of the much hashtaged term, girl boss, “I got into it because I could shoot, I could sell and I could be my own boss rather than being turned down and humiliated. When I did it, no nice girls did it too so I was king of the castle.” Many women I know who have taken more conventional career paths would be hard pushed to say that themselves.

At a time where power struggles between the sexes are rife it’s equally shocking to think of porn, an industry traditionally perceived as operating solely for men’s pleasure, as a platform women can use to gain an equal footing with men or even rise above them. “You have great power as a woman – you have a total advantage over those silly boys. It’s great if you’re strong, brave and don’t put up with any bullies. I mean if you’re young and attractive everybody wants you,” Suze exclaims.

One’s body is the most powerful tool of all according to the director who certainly made the most of the decade of discovery, “I came out of a free love sixties thing so I mean I was fucking everybody. I was out doing the guys and embarrassing them, it was great. I also got the jobs over them and they knew it. If you know your power you can really take advantage of those boys.”

“Those boys” as she continuously calls them, were intimidated by a woman so in control and conscious of her body, “I was bullied. When I went to Playboy the assistants refused to help me and tell me to load my own bloody film. Everybody was very envious of me because I was the party girl at the mansion too and they tried to send me home.” But that didn’t stop Hugh Heffner falling for her charms and flying her around the world to shoot his latest fancy.

Nymph Fest #80s #suzerandall #photography #femalegaze

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You would think Suze’s daughter Holly suffered as a child in light of her parent’s career. But the opposite is true, she has been empowered by the teachings of her mother, “I was encouraged by my parents not to be bullied, not to take authority seriously and to just generally break the rules, it is a tradition amongst our family.”

When most children come to their parents to offer their career aspirations it’s unlikely they will want to be a porn director, too. But Holly couldn’t resist being her own boss, owning a shoot space without men in the room and creating a level of intimacy her mother calls, “the sexual Olympics.” In case you haven’t realized yet Suzie didn’t run a highly conventional house, either.

At times Suze would shoot Playgirl in the back garden but, “there was never that epiphany that my mother shot porn,” Holly confides. “My parents didn’t really keep secrets. I knew that my parents had a job that involved producing content that was only for adults and that was the extent of it. We had a very normal family life aside from that.”

Schools love a project, especially, “come in an tell us about your parents career.” Imagine the sticky situation Holly was placed in when faced with the ‘show and tell’ theme as old as time. “I remember being in class, thinking, ‘sh*t,’ and coming home with the assignment and waving it in Dad’s face saying, ‘what am I supposed to do?’ So Dad sat down with me and we carefully crafted an essay… calling Mum a glamour photographer.”

It didn’t take long for Holly’s fellow pupils to find out the truth, “one kid brought in a Penthouse magazine that had my mother’s layout in it. It got confiscated in class so I got called into the office because they thought that I brought it in. My mum got called in and she told the teacher that it was good reading material.” Suze is sass on toast.

Given the time that has passed and the slow awakening to equal rights since the 1970s Holly views the porn industry today as more supportive of women than ever before and that’s largely down to our dear friend, the Internet. “I came along in a moment when technology allowed you to take more personal control over your career. Now – especially for the performers –now they have a direct connection to their fans and they have the ability to really be more of an entrepreneur.”

I honestly have never thought of an adult performer being a solo entrepreneur, it’s a label I usually reserve for candidates vying for attention on The Apprentice. I certainly have never thought of the porn as a democratic organization, either but I am firmly schooled in Randall view of the world now, “girls can create their own website with little clips for sale in stores. You can sell yourself and promote yourself on social media without ever working work for another company – that is empowering in itself.” Is there really any difference between that and a fashion influencer who poses for pictures, posts them on Instagram and generates profits from the likes?

Whilst the mother daughter duo have a shared stance on pornography being liberating for women their opinions on defending oneself in the face of sexual discrimination is however startlingly different. Suze steps in to offer a more hands on approach, “my only recommendation is to any woman that gets taken advantage of is grab them by the balls, they’ll run off screaming. It’s not a problem!”

Holly disagrees, suggesting her mother’s method wouldn’t achieve anything, instead stating that, “there needs to be better education for women coming into the industry. A lot of girls come in it not knowing what they’re getting into, not really thinking it through and not really realizing the lifelong repercussions that getting into the adult industry is going to have. Your friends are going to find out, your grandma is going to find out and it might cause some conflict in your personal life too.”

Her practical recommendations? “I think it would be an idea to raise the age of entry to 21 years old because when you’re 18 years old you don’t have that life perspective. Then again, that’s also a tough thing to say because you can go to war and you can die for your country at 18 so to say that people cant go and shoot porn at 18 seems a little ridiculous.”

Returning to the question you are no doubt asking yourselves right now, are they REALLY feminists deep down? Suze steps in with a final passing shot, “no, I’m a chauvinist! The thing is we’re not complaining feminists; we are feminists who take advantage. Women have so many advantages over men and you should use your sexuality as a weapon!”

Feminism in 2018 is about owning the term for yourself and the bare bones of equality is that everyone should have the right to be who they want to be without judgment or prejudice. If these women are in control of their own careers and if you regard yourself as a feminist then you must see women in the porn industry as feminists, too.

 

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