Feelmore, Do More
Award winning adult film director, author, and activist Nenna Joiner is the Owner of Feelmore Adult in Downtown Oakland. Nenna has won two Feminist Porn Awards for the films Hella Brown: real sex in the city and Tight Places: a drop of color, which have screened in countless cities across the globe. Nenna’s first book, Never Let the Odds Stop You, was published in 2015. 9 years of owning Feelmore has challenged Nenna - just your normal socioeconomic troublemaker - to become a community advocate and small business champion. In 2016, Nenna ran a successful campaign to become a Democratic National Convention (DNC) Delegate and is currently a member of the DNC LGBT Caucus. With much community work, Nenna has gained mayoral appointments to the City of Oakland boards Measure Y and Landmarks Preservation as well as to the Loan Administration Commission of Berkeley. Nenna was named in Curve Magazine’s 2017 Top 100 Power Issue and, in 2017, was awarded with the Small Business Owner Leader Award from East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club. In January 2018, Feelmore was honored by Xbiz as ‘Best Retail Boutique’ in the country. feelmore510.com
"There weren't as many people of color behind the camera as there were in the front of the camera. The stigma is totally different, like a stripper, the stigma is totally different from the person who's on the pole versus the one who owns the keys to the building. I wanted to change the dynamics of ownership for myself because I was like, hey, this is an industry I really want to be in because it's so small, but then you can go and do so many different things without people having to say are you qualified? That's what I like about the adult business. There is no qualification - only your guts and your confidence."
Nenna: There weren't as many people of color behind the camera as there were in the front of the camera. The stigma is totally different, like a stripper, the stigma is totally different from the person who's on the pole versus the one who owns the keys to the building. I wanted to change the dynamics of ownership for myself because I was like, hey, this is an industry I really want to be in because it's so small, but then you can go and do so many different things without people having to say are you qualified? That's what I like about the adult business. There is no qualification - only your guts and your confidence.
Lianne: I'm Lianne, and welcome to Strippers & Sages. Nenna Joiner is an adult filmmaker, author and the owner of Feelmore adult gallery in Oakland, California. Prior to opening Feelmore, Nenna directed and produced porn that has screened in countless cities across The Globe. Nenna has won two Feminist Porn Awards for the films "Hella Brown" "Real Sex in the City" and "Tight Places: A Drop of Color". Nenna's first book "Never Let the Odds Stop You'' was published in 2015. In 2017, Nina was awarded the Small Business Owner and Leader Award from the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, and in January 2018, Feelmore was honored by Xbiz as the best retail boutique. Nine years of owning Feelmore adult gallery in downtown Oakland, protest central has challenged Nenna to become a community advocate and small business champion. In 2016, Nenna ran a successful campaign to become a Democratic National Convention delegate and is currently a member of the DNC LGBT Caucus. Nina has gained two mayoral appointments to City of Oakland boards. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nina at Feelmore gallery, and it was a powerful and illuminating conversation. Nenna, it's a real pleasure to have you here. I'm really excited to talk to you about so many things. Thanks for making the time.
Nenna: Thank you. Thank you for having us.
Lianne: Mm hmm. So I first want to ask you a little bit about your upbringing and how it informed, if at all, your trajectory to get into this kind of work.
Nenna: I would say my upbringing [that] informed my work that I'm doing right now, is that my grandmother actually owned retail businesses, retail grocery stores--
Lianne: Where is the grocery store?
Nenna: The grocery store was in Las Vegas. So I'm originally from Las Vegas, Nevada. So, I got that desert culture. You’re from Santa Fe, right?
Lianne: I'm living there now. I'm a New Yorker.
Nenna: So yeah, the desert culture. Yes, absolutely. She had two grocery stores. As I was kid growing up, basically it was, for me, just to be a part of the community and just see the growth, see the growth and people see, you know, see what the value was. But you know, I want us to take that model and take it a step farther - for where we are now, for who I am, and also how the world has informed my decisions.
Lianne: How was sex talked about in your house when you were growing up?
Nenna: We didn't talk about sex. Yeah. So I wouldn't say that I come from a feminist household, but we just come from just women doing things because they have to be done. So, you know, I think many Black households are those that just get up, go to work and have to deal with, you know, some of the “isms” that come along with being brown, and in certain communities. And so you're not subscribing to being a feminist in that respect, and teaching all of those things that many households that are educated, you know, primarily educated, two parent households, that they're doing. You're making sure that there's a roof, there's water, there's food in.. you know, and you're going to school, so that's about it.
Lianne: And even in those households sex is very rarely talked about with any kind of honesty or, or candor, I think,
Nenna: Well, I wouldn't say honesty because we didn't have it. So you know, I wouldn't say candor because we didn't talk about it. There was no time, you know, the other things being Black and being queer... the one thing that informs my life the most is being Black. And so I think, in my household, it was about what informed us the most. And because it was a hierarchical, you know, household - grandparents or parents - it was informed from their viewpoint, from their legacy that they got from their parents, my grandparents, and it was about what was most relevant for us. And being most relevant was being Black. It had nothing to do with... I'm not saying sex is not a part of, you know, is not something that you should teach someone. What the core message on survival for us was around being Black.
Lianne: Sure. Yeah. I'm just saying that even in those households where it's two parent, or whatever, sex is still very rarely talked about with--
Nenna: Yeah, it's not to say just because this and that, yeah, yeah, you're right. You're right in that, you know, you get lucky. Sometimes you get lucky, you get to a community that's progressive, and a community that's okay with making mistakes. And I'm not saying that it's a mistake to talk about sex, I'm saying it's a risk. And it could be a mistake.
Lianne: Totally. Yeah. It's just such an interest of this podcast, as well, you know, like how sex is talked about in all different kinds of people's homes and how it shapes their relationship to it as an adult.
Lianne: So on that note, if it wasn't something that was spoken about in the home, where did your ideas about sexuality sort of start to develop to the point where you are now opening and running this sex shop?
Nenna: I would say my interest came about just moving here to the Bay Area. I mean, as a kid, honestly, I think I was born around cable time, that cable became more accessible and households... so like my grandparents down the street had a big side of satellite dish, so getting those channels, you're getting porn channels. So I was loving it. I was loving it. So even if you couldn't see, like my grandfather, you know, come on at a certain time. If you've watched it at night and you didn't have access to it, this little line would go through and then go up and down. You're like, Oh my God, let me see if I can go down and see more. You know, like, it's a peep show. But I think that informed my life and also, because in Vegas, there wasn't this... Just being a part of the Las Vegas Strip, you know, the homes away from the strip were the homes, there was community, there were schools, there were churches. But when you go on the strip, it was just like this... you don't know what to get. You don't know what to expect. You can't put it in the box. You can't regulate it. It's already regulated. But you would get women who are sex workers, 800 numbers, you would see all of these billboards. I was accessing that as a kid and calling these numbers. And so the first ass whooping I got was from my grandfather because I ran up a phone bill for $800. So you know then, $800, there's a lot of money for a phone bill for a kid. Like I'm calling these 800 numbers like crazy, like crazy, man. I couldn't, I couldn't I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop til that ass whooping.
Lianne: But what happened when you called?
Nenna: I would call you know, you, you listen to you listen to the women and the voices were beautiful. You know what I mean? Like it was great to see and hear more. So it wasn't that I could see because of cable, but it was because I could hear, more so hear, and it made this noise in my ear. And I'm like, wow, nobody's here, let me call again. But, it wasn't just that it was sex. It was just informing my queerness, you know what I mean? It was turning me on to what was inside of me already. It just gave me access to something that I never saw in my community. Had I saw kids who were queer or people who are lesbian and gay in my community much more, maybe I would talk to them much more. And so this was not just a perversion for kids to do this. This was about reaching out to the only space that was available for me to find out who I was.
Lianne: Hmm. Fascinating. Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of my conversations around pornography especially either with men getting over addiction, or women who feel that all porn is exploitative to them, you know, sort of cast porn in a negative light and how it's impacted them. And of course, there's a lot of complications around that, which I'd love us to get into. But it's interesting to hear a sort of positive self-identity development that came about from your exposure.
Nenna: Yeah, porn is not always bad. It's about how you take ownership, even as an adult, for the decisions you made as a child. And I think for me, it was I did that but I didn't have access to that. What I did have access to were women coming in and out of prison in because we had gang culture around us so you would see women, even though we didn't have a career. I say queer because that's today's terms, but then we didn't have lesbians or gay people in our neighborhood. If it was a gay man, he was a punk. Or he was a faggot, you know, to me, and not even an offense to them, because that was just the nomenclautre for that time. But a woman coming out of prison was a dyke. And so it was like, do I want to be a dyke? But that's all I have. So let me be that. So even as a child saying, maybe I should go to prison?
Nenna: Yeah, maybe I should do that. So I can be closer to the people that are like me. You know, so I had to, as an adult, I had to come to terms with that. What I was saying to myself as a child was not that I wanted to go to prison. It was that I wanted to be closer to what was familiar with me and learn from all of those different voices and experiences. And here it is coming to the Bay Area. One of the first books I read was from Angela Davis, who, you know, everybody knew about Black Panthers, but not to that level in Las Vegas. But coming here, you're gonna find a Black Panther or Black Panther attitude. And the book I read was when Angela Davis was in the LA County prison in the LA county jail system. And she was talking about relationships for women, and you would think of the county jail as a prison, but it was basically because it was county jail overcrowding and population, that this was the long stint for a lot of people. And they were talking about the relationships that they had as women to protect and also to provide, you know, space for them and love when the men were absent. But when you left and walked through those doors, everything, your world, returned the same for many, or maybe not coming out of the jail system. Yeah, some of them may go in there for protection reasons or just for, this is what I'm trying to assimilate for right now, versus you know, being on the outside and having more of a choice that what they really want to do.
Lianne: Right. Wow, that's a really fascinating connection.
Nenna: (to a customer) You good over there? Welcome, so I won't ask you your name, but please do just look around and let me know if you have any questions. Yeah, keep and keep recording this work. You good over there, sir? All right. All right. All right.
Lianne: So who were your earliest positive, or not that even people, the women, the dykes coming out of prison weren't the positive, but other role models for you that showed possibilities for the identity that you--
Nenna: Ellen. Hmm. Ellen, I mean, television. Here it is, you know, more television was coming into the home. Parents weren't working as hard. You know, you can say okay, Mom go to work nine to five, or she stayed home from this time at this time, you have access to your parents a little bit more, maybe not as much but you still had access to them a little bit more. And so one of the things, and my mom was entrepreneur as well, but one of the things that we watched all the time was Oprah. And so it was Oprah and Ellen. Ellen, when she was on the Johnny Carson show. Vegas is really big on like Rat Pack kind of culture, right? Love Sammy Davis, love those guys, Johnny Carson, watched them all the time. I watched Dean Martin telethon all the time, just because they were cool people. But Johnny Carson had Ellen on and when she talked to God, you know, that was a really moving part in my life, when I was a young kid because I love Johnny Carson. That, and also Oprah. Watching a parent come on there and talk about their child being gay. And then it was like I turned to my mom was like, Hey, you know, what would you do if your kid was gay? And she just started going back to what she was doing? She never answered me. And so I knew my mom. So I never asked her again. It was like asking, can you go to a sleep over? She says nothing, you never asked again. But it turned out she had two gay kids. And later on it was- I asked her about you know why she never said at the moment, she says because you're in school, you should be focused on school. And I did not want you to get bullied by accepting yourself too much. I did not not want you to be yourself. But I did not feed into the sexual stuff because I felt as a parent, it was not appropriate at that time.
Lianne: Two gay kids as in you have a sibling?
Nenna: Yeah, you know, not at that time, but later on my sister came out much later.
Lianne: Okay. Uh huh. Just saying and so how did you get into filmmaking?
Nenna: I got into filmmaking... One, I watched a lot of porn. But my uncle in California here where we live, he was actually doing film and television. He went to San Francisco State which is a big film and television school, came back and did that for himself. And when I first got here, I worked on the first project first week with him, because I had to earn my boarding with him, was a it was a profile encourage with the KQED. They were doing, you know, local people. And so I got to see what the Bay Area is about. And, you know, learning about film is, you know, you're always playing the production system, the first time you go into film and television, then you go from, you know, you learn that, you do it enough, you do well enough, you go to the next one, you go to the next one, you make more connections. And you know, it came a point in time, I started to learn film editing, and also sound work. And so I was able to take those skills and put them together with my idea of what I wanted to do.
Lianne: And when did you start to want to do pornography in particular on your own?
Nenna: I wouldn't say that I wanted to do pornography, just because... I watched pornography a lot. And so I was like, hey, there's a gap. Once I understood gap analysis... so it wasn’t until adulthood but it was you know, just one day I was like, this is what I want to do and I took a shot and sold my first project to a local sex toy company and they bought it for several thousands of dollars, and you know, I love it.
Lianne: You're talking about gap analysis. So you started seeing porn and then you started... What is the gap that you saw? Was it at what levels of production?
Nenna: Right? So the gap analysis that I saw in porn was that there weren't many people of color behind the camera as there were in the front of the camera. And so I wanted to help that narrative. And as I started going to the conventions, the AVN conventions, which are in Las Vegas, my family's there, I've seen the billboards as I was a child, and so it's like, great, this is in my backyard. This is what I grew up on. What I started to see at those conventions, before I started shooting porn was that there were many brown people in front of the camera, owning their company, but really owning their body, but still having to do the work and then give their content to someone else who was not a person of color to expedite getting their image out there or being a part of their porn program, if you will. And so that's what I saw, I saw there were a lot of brown people in front of the camera but not behind the camera really doing the lucrative work, the work that would keep many of their families together. I'm not saying porn doesn't tear down families. But you know, you still have a lot of stigmas still associated with porn, as well as your position in porn. If you're behind the camera, the stigma is totally different than the stigma in front of the camera. Like a stripper. The stigma is totally different from the person who's on the pole versus the one who owns the keys to the building. And so I wanted to change the dynamics of ownership for myself because I was like, hey, this is an industry I really want to be in because... it's so small, but then you can go and do so many different things without people having to say: are you qualified? Right? That's what I like about the adult business. There is no qualification. Only your guts and your confidence.
Lianne: Wow. And so what... Talk me through your ownership over your product and the distribution channels that you are putting it out into the world.
Nenna: So my first film, as I said, I created the content. But I was already done with the content before I sold the content because I didn't know the market. I had to, I wouldn't say I had to sell it. I was hoping to sell it, but I was going to do whatever I was going to do regardless. And so when the company said, yeah, we'll buy it from you. I still had my image, my my, my knowledge, my work, my name was still a part of it. There was no, you know--
Nenna: Yeah, there was no erasure whatsoever, and I got paid well for it. And it helped me to get to places around the world that I would have never been. So that one film created the distribution channel for me to actually... the next film, which you just saw, sold to actually create the same product as I did the first time. But this time, I can now just go to those sources where my first film was sold. First, you know where those films were put into the film festivals and stuff. You'll get the same reception, regardless of who else owned it because it was good work. Like I do good work.
Lianne: Yeah, you won two feminist film - Feminist Porn Awards?
Nenna: Yeah, Feminist Porn Awards. But besides winning the award, it's good content. It's really good content. So I'm really happy about that. So that that's, that's what happened. You know, I wanted to own my body. And I don't mean just body of work, but I wanted to own my choices. And I wanted to make sure that, you know, as a Black person that I'm not just selling my stuff off for someone else to have control of it. I wanted to own it just like I'm owning my own store.
Lianne: Yeah. Fantastic. And what are the names of those films? And where can people see them now?
Nenna: You got "Tight Places: a Drop of Color" and you also have "Hella Brown" and "Real Sex in the City". Both of those are found on Pink and White production, which is also Crash Back Company.
Lianne: Okay. Hmm. Wonderful.
Nenna: Yeah. And they do good profit sharing. So, long as people watch, I get a check every month.
Lianne: Wonderful. All right. We'll definitely feature that link and link to your store and anything.
Nenna: Thank you.
Lianne: So I'd love to hear about your process as a filmmaker, and particularly as a porn maker.
Lianne: How you work with your actors, how you find your actors, how you create comfort on set, what are some other pitfalls of production, that have given pornography, its reputation as being like a sort of dangerous, corrupt industry and how are you I'm sure, rewriting the modes of production, or culture--
Nenna: Those are a lot of questions, give me one question.
Lianne: Yeah. All right. So walk me through first, just like how you find your performance, how you work with your actors, and like the vibe you create on set.
Nenna: Okay, so how I found the actors, I asked around to people who actually created porn if they had people who they couldn't use at the time that they can introduce me to. And Craigslist. Craigslist was really big. And then once you have people in your circle know you're shooting porn. They tell everybody, like, oh my god, they're shooting porn. You're like, really? I found Brooklyn, who's the main person in both of the titles-- I went out to a bar the night before I was shooting and this person was, you know waitressing or whatever. I was like, hey, have you ever thought about doing porn? That one classic, you know, that you find that diamond in the rough and you ask them
Nenna: And they said no. And I was like, Hey, I'm having this porn shoot. I'm having a intro shoot tomorrow, which is just a screen test. People are talking, see what their chemistry is. And they're like, I'll be there. They showed up. We shot several scenes after that. We shot more scenes after that, and it's a wrap.
Lianne: Wow. So you had a screen test. Meaning you brought a handful of performers to see how they sort of gel together?
Nenna: What we did was we just listened to their stories. So I don't say screen tests like Hollywood, maybe a reading if you will, if you want to kind of equate it to a Hollywood. It's all clothes on. But we just wanted to get their personalities and learn how to accommodate them in what we were doing, because it wasn't “do they fit for us” it was like also “do we fit for them”? And as we found people we talked about you know, what is safe sex, you know getting tested, what that's like, and what kind of sex they were going to have. But never scripting anything. We just.. we went on. It was myself and another camera person we basically went on our stylization of shooting, and created content around them.
Lianne: Because, they’re feature films--
Lianne: They're each like are usually one to 68 minutes, and one is 80, that's a long... and all of that is not pre scripted...
Lianne: ...but sort of created.
Nenna: Yes. In the moment. In the moment, we kind of, you know, I kind of scripted out to a degree, but we also, like one person was a chef in one of the films, and so what we did was we actually created a recipe where they were, you know, they were creating a recipe, cooking, and we were taking the fire and the sizzle, and putting all that sound together where a person could actually look at that and create their own recipe and what we were doing, but it's hard to find people who are cooking for you.
Lianne: How do you ease a first time actor into the intimacy of the work?
Nenna: First time participant, no actors!
Lianne: Oh, okay.
Nenna: No one is lying, in acting, the word is lying, they're not lying. Uh huh. We just talk you know, and just make sure that people are drug and drink free so that they can be heard. And we just give them space. You know, so it was chill, really chill, very clean, we make sure the space is clean, sage it a little bit. Just making sure that it's a comfortable location. And if they're too leery, we don't talk about hey, you know, you're going to do this. The one question I do ask is: are you okay with this information being seen everywhere, because we're going to be good about marketing and getting it out there. So don't believe that just because you're going to do this, it's going to sit somewhere is going to get out there. So we want to make sure that you're comfortable. And also I never changed my name. Sometimes you have directors that change their names. That's my legal name. Yeah, I wanted to make sure that they knew that who was behind the camera was also in front with them as well and having just as much to lose as them.
Lianne: Totally. And then pairing people, because it was someone, participants who hadn't met before and are meeting on set for the first time. That that's something that you just gauged in the pre screening and the chemistry process-
Lianne: What kind of agency does a participant have in choosing their Co?
Nenna: I would say they don’t have agency in that, but they do have agency in saying, “no, this doesn't feel right”. So we give them time to sit together, talk, and they get to have their own private space. We never get into it. That's, that's the interesting thing about the type of porn that I do is we shoot, we just shoot what you give us and we shoot around whatchu don't give us as well.
Lianne: And how would you describe or talk about some of your film. Like what is unique to a Nenna Joiner film?
Nenna: Well, we do a two camera shoot where we do split screens, and we also put social content in the back - like I said, the recipe information. We also talked to someone who is transitioning, what it looked like when they first had... their first screen test, the first film was, they had a chest, I'll say that breast or chest. And then as we were shooting, they had just, their scars were healing on time, but still, they had some stretching. So we had to edit that out where, you know, we rewrote that into where they were having problems with their chests. And we just, you know, let the thing go. So, we're shooting for that person, not for us--
Lianne: Right. So then talk to me a little more about creating you started in tech before you were started this job and then you transitioned, you were selling sex toys out of a--
Nenna: I was doing the sex toys out of the trunk of my car, just you know, during the time that I was working in tech. Right.
Lianne: And so at what moment were you like, I'm ready to have this store, and how does-
Nenna: Well I’ve always said that I always wanted to have the store so you don't just get it one day. I didn't have it where it was... my reality of tech ended. And then I said, I want to start a store. My idea had started some time ago. And the tech gave me the opportunity to go to different places to see if this was exactly what I wanted to do. It was what I wanted to do. And I had to find other ways to be a part of the adult business before having a store, because having a store was much more difficult. So I just go out, come back, go out come back. And then I started shooting porn while in tech and got fired because someone saw me shooting, or I had content on my computer, whatever. Long story short, well, they fired me one day, and I was like, alright, well, I gotta go, cause I got to go edit. And I stayed three days in a room no sleep, no food and completed the project. Took it down to Los Angeles for, at that time, Diana DeVoe, [an] African American porn performer and producer, for her to look over it. And I was like, I've never done this before. This is my first full length anything right? How do you- how do you get the right cuts for porn? It's very difficult. She was like, it looks good. She was like, “you could have did that, you could have did that”. I was like, “yeah, but I don't really like that”. She was like, “make your mistakes work for you, then you'd have to do nothing over. Now you make it your style”. So that's what I did.
Lianne: Brilliant. Yeah, that's like a piece of artistry advice.
Nenna: Absolutely. Absolutely. You don't change the art. That art makes you you. So if anyone's stole my style, I'm like, that's me. I got that style from cops. As a kid. We were watching cops all the time. You know, bad boy. Bad Boy. What you're gonna do right? Cops had splitscreen. So any action or cop show had two screens. So I couldn't see what the cop was doing or the robber was doing. It was like, you had to see them side by side. And so that's what we did.
Lianne: What were some of the unexpected hurdles that you had to overcome to open the shop?
Nenna: Just money, and also just planning and just making sure the neighborhood was there for us? Yeah.
Lianne: Yeah. What was that conversation?
Nenna: That conversation was just normal planning commission. You know, it's just they seeing you through the ropes. That's all they do.
Lianne: So your slogan is, Feelmore: it's more than sex.
Nenna: It's more than just sex.
Lianne: It's more than just sex. So tell us about that as an ethos behind your store.
Nenna: Right, the mantra we have there is basically: it's not just about sex toys, it's about community as well. It's about, for me, I don't think I've just been this interest free to sell sex toys, but it's also to create an experience for myself, and to find out more about who I am. And also support those who are sexual and also non sexual. You know, asexual. I think a lot of sex shops are just... people think just sex. But we wanted to bring in products that were good for people who are asexual as well. Like we have comic books, we have certain types of books, we have other things that they could buy.
Lianne: Mm hmm. That are still sex themed? or what makes it--
Nenna: Not necessarily, but they go.
Nenna: It's a culture shop. Our shop is not just a sex shop, but it's a culture shop, where you can find anything in addition to sex toys and other things.
Lianne: And a community space you've been opening, so can you speak a little about, you know, other ways that you're building community with this storefront?
Nenna: Just building community by being out in the community, doing homeless feedings or unhoused or community feedings, if you will, for whomever is out there. Just being a part of the community and not running from it.
Lianne: Mm hmm. The store is sort of predicated on inclusivity, so what are the ways in which you've had to be proactive, or just that you carry through that ethos?
Nenna: Inclusivity is not pushing away anybody. You don't have to work that hard if you treat people with kindness.
Lianne: How do you train your staff? What are the kinds of skills that one needs to have to work here to make the customers feel comfortable that they can ask questions or--
Nenna: You don't have to have any skill set. Well, we want you to have some kind of understanding on privacy, you know, privacy and making sure people's information stays theirs. But one of the two core things that we talk about are like dead-naming, and dealing with who could people that may present as trans, you could say, that's anybody, if you want to tell me your name is Sarah, and I introduce myself, and your ID when you purchase is something different, it doesn't matter if you're trans or not, if you want to be that that day, if that's how you identify or if whatever, you know, if you tell me you're purple, I'm gonna say you're purple, you know, to me, but we want to make sure that people respect that, our team respects that, and that they're not dead naming or say in a different name than someone introduced themselves. So that's really important. But the other thing is we also train for Shopping While Brown, making sure that because we have a small space that we're very conscious of how brown people may feel when they go into retail spaces around theft, and things like that. And making sure that the third thing is kindness, making sure that everybody gets the same greeting no matter what they look like, because if you say hi to one vocally, and someone else hears it and you don't say hi to them, or give them the same attention, it's like, well, what about me? And now you didn't treat me with the same respect that you gave someone else. You're thinking, Oh, they're paying more money and I'm not. No. everybody, it doesn't matter- $10 $5 gets the same treatment as somebody with three or $400.
Lianne: Totally. Well, sex is such a vulnerable space that even just having that sort of unequal treatment in a sex shop could trigger a whole lot of underlying anxieties that people have.
Nenna: Right, right, right
Lianne: Yeah, um, where do you source your products or what sort of care goes into the the kinds of products that you choose to feature here.
Nenna: I choose it, I choose everything and making sure that we don't have too many people on boxes, that's for me is most important.
Lianne: Say that again?
Nenna: That we don't have people on boxes. I'm not white. Why do I want all my products to show white people, you know, we want to make sure that our customer base is neutral to some of the issues in the adult business. And I think the adult business for myself is getting better and we don't bring in things and we don't deal with companies that don't have the flexibility to give us the diversity that we need even if it doesn't give us the diversity that we also need the neutrality so that people are supported.
Lianne: Totally. You also create sex toys yourself or--
Nenna: Well yeah, we source in rebrand for sex toys. Yes. Okay.
Lianne: Yeah, I read about just the idea of an affirmation. Can you talk about that product?
Nenna: Yeah, yeah. So it's just a store wand. It's our store wand really powerful, rechargeable, but it's a sex toy, but for me is so much more-- it's our dive into manufacturing and production, you know, to take the look at the box I did the box design myself, and also got it printed at the sex toy, got that together, you know just doing all of that it's just amazing to see a product now. That product lives with us. And we're able to sell it when it's time. Yeah, huh.
Lianne: Well, the the idea of an affirmation though I think links this idea of pleasure and pleasure activism Adrienne Marie Brown's book is where I first heard it read about your store.
Nenna: Oh yeah, right on.
Lianne: And so yeah, I'd love for you to talk a little bit about pleasure and sexuality sort of as a relates to other movements in terms of you know, stepping into a space of power or wholeness or however else you think about it.
Nenna: Yeah, I think it pleasure for me it's-- economic activism, you know, you can create regardless of what it presents, the layers are, so more involved than that, you know. Sex is something else for so many people. For me, it could be trust, it could be confidence, it could be empowerment, activism. But for me in this space, it's about economic activism and making sure that we create a space that everyone can access and also showing that ownership, Black ownership, in this industry is possible. And also that we don't have to be Black owners in this industry or brown owners in this industry and not create a space that is going to be conducive for our communities. You know, you can you can say, Oh, well, sex sells and, you know, you as a brown person wants the support from your community, but you can't because you don't have the right products for that community. And so I think you can't-- I think this this industry is massive enough for people to find what they need to support those communities. like you got a Trader Joe's, you got a Whole Foods but it's still food, so you have to really do the work and find companies out there that are about creating space within their product, even a singular product. But in bringing that product into a bigger mix, which is where we get the gallery terms, you know what I mean? When you collect things and you put them together, you create a gallery feel.
Lianne: Mmm, beautiful. You spoke about the church, and did you grow up with the church?
Nenna: I did. I did. Baptist. Catholic school baptist.
Lianne: Uh huh. And I think I read or heard that you are opening the space sometimes to a Bible study here?
Nenna: Yeah. My friend was doing a Bible study. So they've done it a couple times, like live feeds and stuff like that. But yeah, they moved up to, up north. So yeah.
Lianne: Yeah. So Strippers & Sages is the name of this podcast, right? So looking at this connection between, the unexpected connection perhaps between, the church and sexuality, or the church and the sex store as a church, and I'd love for you to sort of riff on those ideas and how those two parts of your life maybe intermingle for you.
Nenna: Oh, I think people who are queers are afraid of queers. People in the sex industry may or may not be afraid of, it's like, it's like people in front of the lens are afraid of going to... many, I can't say all, but many, some many most, some are maybe afraid to go to church, you know, because of the ridicule or because of, you know, reconciling whatever, whatever the case, it's a spectrum of things. So I'm not speaking to one, but for me, it's about reconciling what I'm doing is okay, because we've been taught that sex is not okay, even though it's okay. And selling sex is not okay, even though it's okay because you can pay taxes on it. And how do you how do you reconcile with God that you're able to sell sex toys, when churches says that you're not even accepted because you're queer or you're insects. So you have to create your own church for yourself and find the power that you want to bring into the world through that space. You know, I don't know, the mantra I have is, you know, God says Amen regardless of what you ask. And so be careful what you ask for. And bring it bring it to a space that it doesn't have to be. For me, it's not overly churchy. But how I deal with people is everybody who walks in here could be God.
Nenna: Yeah. So if I can just deal with that, you know what I mean? Like, can I walk with my back to everybody and walk across the street to stand at the bus stop at 12 o'clock at night, walk down the street at 12 o'clock at night, and this is how I commute home honestly, if I can do that, I feel good. And I'm not looking over my shoulder like did I not treat that person with respect and kindness. Doesn't matter about Christianity doesn't matter about the churches. It matters about your teachings and how you are following a better way of life for yourself. And it has nothing to do with your job. You know?
Lianne: What's your next film? Or where are you wanting to take your business work that you're doing? What are the horizons that you're in now?
Nenna: Right now I'm not doing anything film, just because I'm focusing on the business, which is a little bit more lucrative because content is changing. But if anybody wants to give me a contract issue, some stuff, I definitely will take your money, and also your admit, but secondly, and most importantly, we're opening a space in Berkeley and downtown Berkeley and on Shattuck Avenue.
Lianne: Okay. And you're looking to expand into the SFO airport at one point.
Nenna: Well, we were looking at expanding, we'll still expand to an airport one day. So, you never give up.
Lianne: What is it about an airport?
Nenna: Just people, we're looking at millions of people exposure in one space. These people can't leave.
Lianne: Right? Yeah. It's a good way to fill a layover for sure.
Nenna: Yeah, for sure.
Lianne: Yeah, brilliant. Well, thank you. Is there anything that I haven't asked that you'd like to share with listeners, either about your work or your ideology,
Nenna: No, just keep saging. And stay stripping.
Lianne: Haha, all right. Well, thank you so much for your time and for having us here. All right, thank you.
Lianne: If this episode turns you on, please subscribe, rate, and review us It makes a huge difference. Then head to strippersandsages.com. To learn more about our guests, sign up for our mailing list, access special resources and become a Patreon supporter, which would be very sexy of you. Special thanks to Ben Newfrat for scoring and mixing these episodes and to Lilia Tam and John Wolfstone for their production support. Stay sexy, folks.