A parade of men in various states of undress fills the stage. Some are already doing the full monty; others need coaxing. “The sooner you take your shirt off, the sooner we like you!” a slender redhead yells into the mic before leading everyone in a chant of “show us your dick or get the fuck out!” One guy gets naked and stays that way, flaccid member slapping against his balls as he gyrates with his pants around his ankles. The audience, composed mainly of women, cheers him to victory. In the Candy Rain Magazine cover dude contest, the winning quality is attitude.
I’m shocked and impressed by what I see; though I’ve observed many a wild night at gay clubs, I’ve never seen such a display of non-financially-driven heterosexuality. It’s just not part of the cultural landscape.Three young ladies by the names of Callie Watts, “Mama D” and “Yung Ho,” however, hope to change that. “We were at a bar and we were joking around about how Playgirl sucks,” Ho explains. “It had just folded.We were like, ‘We should become pornographers because we could do this shit so much better.’ It was a running joke until one day, someone had a camera and was like, ‘Oh, we should probably actually do this.’” They first made their idea a reality when a male friend—“some dude I was banging at the time,” notes Watts—volunteered to be their first model, photographed his dick for them, and was even so kind as to Photoshop it into a logo.Watts was bowled over. “I was like, ‘It’s that easy to get dicks? For real?’” In a nod to the kitschy “early ’90s pin-up” vibe of Tigerbeat, they dubbed the project Ligerbeat, but re-named it Candy Rain after receiving a “cease and desist” notice from the still-active teenybopper mag.
Regardless of name, the girls’ mission was clear: to entertain both the minds and nether regions of women without veering off course like other magazines have in the past. “It’s not their fault they sucked, ’cause they were owned by these two beefcake dudes,”Watts says of Playgirl, for which she has styled and written.
“They wouldn’t let the editor do what she wanted to do with it. It was supposed to be for women, but then it got into the gay niche and it started selling, and they didn’t want to change the format.” Candy Rain, she says, will remain primarily for ladies because “right now there’s nothing for straight women.” (Candy Rain’s closest relative, Sweet Action, an indie-porn-for-girls pioneer, folded a few years ago).
What female porn consumers want, according to Watts, is a realistic reflection of sexuality encompassing both carnal lust and the inherent humor of floppy external genitalia. “No one ever gives porn a chance to be both [funny and hot],” she laments. “You can make fun of the dick and still wanna stick it in your mouth.” In this vein, the magazine’s stories seek to treat sex with candor. “The content is stuff people can relate to,” asserts Watts. “Like [sexual mishap column] Tales From the Clit. Sometimes that stuff doesn’t work out and there’s blood and there’s piss and there’s puke. Maybe someone loses a tooth.” Another feature, the “midcoitus interview,” takes readers along for the ride as the lady-journalist gets to know the subject in uncommonly intimate ways. And if there’s a boy-girl shoot, it’s always going to be “people who’d want to fuck in regular life” and aren’t faking their chemistry for the camera.
The solo models are also chosen with a variety of “real” sexual appetites in mind.While part of Candy Rain’s mission is to put to rest the fallacy that women don’t like to look at hot naked men, the casting criteria goes beyond the narrow ideal of beauty seen in most pornography, gay or straight. “I think it was a little bit on purpose that we didn’t choose guys who were prosaically beauti ful,”
says Yung Ho. “We got a broad slice of the straight male [population].We’re all about showing people of all races, too. A lot of the time, unless it’s a fetish porn, you don’t get to see people of color.”
Such diversity preempts charges that the culturally savvy, slang-laden magazine only speaks to a young, hip audience.The slang, Mama D explains, is meant purely to reflect how a juicy conversation with its creators would go down face-to-face. As for the generation gap, they have faith in the universal appeal of the dick to unite women young and old. “Sixty-year-olds still look at porn,” says Watts, grinning. “I just sent an issue to somebody’s grandmother. And we’re going to do an ‘Ask a Domme’ column written by our friend’s mom!” All this is fun enough for us girls, but what of the men who pose? Wouldn’t some old guard feminists say that by objectifying men, Candy Rain apes the worst aspects of the patriarchy? Watts, who also works at Bust magazine, almost spits out her beer at the thought.
“They’re the object of the picture, but they’re not objectified,” she says forcefully. “If it’s someone who’s doing porn and he don’t want to, he’s getting objectified. If it’s someone who just wants to be an exhibitionist and show himself, I don’t consider that kind of porn objectification at all.” And unlike with many sex workers, she notes, money is not a factor; all models pose purely “pro boner.”
“I´ve been taking my clothes off all my life,” boasts Jon Winfield Nicholson, the first issue’s centerfold and a visual artist and veteran of various punk bands who now plays in experimental group Excepter. “My friends all probably see me naked two or three times a month… it’s not a big deal to me at all.” Although the majority of his public nudity to date has been inspired less by lust than “teenage confrontation,” he was happy to try posing for erotica, noting, “If I can facilitate someone’s fantasy, I would love to help. That’s why I´m an artist.” He was also drawn to the “ ’70s blaxploitation vibe” of the photo shoot, as well as the sheer thrill of exhibitionism: “The older I get, the more I just wanna show it.”
This enthusiasm helps explain how the magazine will survive. “We have a very DIY nature… we do things cheap,” says Yung Ho. “It’s very hard to cancel something that isn’t costing money.”The first issue, they tell me, was completely funded by a party with a $5 cover (which they waived for fellows willing to drop trou), as well as four small ads. At a thin but colorful 31 pages, it wasn’t the most expensive object to produce, but they hope to make it “bigger, fatter and more juicy” in the future—the second issue is due in early spring—and perhaps expand into the realm of video.
Needless to say, Candy Rain is primarily a labor of lust for everyone involved. “How do you fail if you’re just doing it ’cause you love it?” asks Watts. “As long as we’re dicking around, we’re still winning.”