Nica Noelle, an articulate stripper-turned-film maker, is the queen of romance porn, a new genre that include characters of all ages who inevitably have real sex, but with softer, wider shots of lovemaking and not so much of pornography's pumping.
Some bloggers have compared her latest film, "His Mother's Lover," to PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre." Not all of Noelle's films are period pieces, but they all have realistic story lines and emotion.
For decades, the female market has eluded pornographers, whose all-male lenses zoomed in on body parts and had little context or dialogue. But today, with cultural and technological shifts that make pornography more acceptable and accessible, Noelle has a fan base that includes women -- lots of them.
"I am a huge fan of Nica Noelle," said Kat Wolfendon, 45 and a stay-at-home mother of a special needs child in Coventry, R.I. "My husband doesn't like porn, but he has come to enjoy Nica's work as well."
"Gonzo porn or mainstream porn is all over-directed, choreographed, looped to make it stretch, and very silly story lines or none at all," she said. "I was hooked from the first instant. What makes her different is she definitely thinks about what she is filming in advance, she takes the time to write a script that is believable, sexy, kinky and even romantic at times."
Wolfendon said these films allow sex to "flow in a natural way" and Noelle captures the "essence of real sex."
And Brittaney, a 24-year-old live-in care giver for an agency in Pennsylvania, said Noelle turns "typical porn into pure art."
"Nica's work is like watching two people share an intimate, passionate and soul touching moment," said Brittaney, who did not want to reveal her last name. "Watching mainstream [porn] for me is like watching two drunken people hook up at a party and have sex."
Nielsen/Net ratings from 2010 revealed that one-third of the visitors to adult entertainment websites were female, which amounted to approximately 13 million American women a month, according to Yahoo.com.
A study released last September by France's IFOP polling institute found that four-fifths of French women have watched porn, about half of them without partners. Compare that to 1992 when a few as 23 percent of French women said they had viewed X-rated films.
The reasons, say researchers, include the Internet, video-on-demand services and the disappearance of the "shame factor," according to the French news service AFP.
Women surveyed also said what they liked most was the natural-looking characters and realism. Many say they use porn to spice up their marriages.
"What I am doing is passion, romance and emotion," Noelle said. "People look like real people of all ages and not just Barbie dolls. They want to see something soft and romantic."
Online communities and fan forums give those seeking porn "a sense of community and normalcy and a society that can accept them," she said.
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Today's porn is "more accessible emotionally and more appealing to women," according to Robert Weiss, founding director of The Sexual Recovery Institute, an outpatient sexual addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. But, as a result, more women struggle with addiction.
"When something is intentionally pleasurable and stimulating and you have more access, more people have problems with it," Weiss said. "If there is more cocaine in the medicine cabinet, a lot more people will have overdoses."
"There's a lot more material for women to disappear into," he said.
E-reader novels like "Fifty Shades of Grey" make it more comfortable for women to view and read porn, he said.
"No more walking into a store and asking for a title and putting it in a paper bag," he said. "It makes a huge difference in the personal sense of privacy."
Weiss said that in most cases, women who become addicted to porn have other psychological issues. Many have been sexually abused as children.
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"Addiction is always a reflection of someone's emotional stability," Weiss said. "People who are mentally healthy and engaged in life find porn to be two-dimensional -- a passing experience when you are single or going through a difficult time and need a distraction."
Those who are "troubled" have more difficulty, according to Weiss.
"A vulnerable person can lose herself in other potentially stimulating experiences like food and gambling," he said. "It's a whole confluence of things."
For years male porn makers have had a "lock on men's sexuality," he said. But female pornographers like Noelle have been able to capture what appeals to women.
"Men and women view sex differently," he said. "Men tend to be more visual and more attracted to body parts. Women tend to look at the whole. When a woman sees a sexy man, she wonders what it's like to be with him. She looks at him relationally.
"Most men are not really interested in introduction and ending," Weiss said.
But Noelle said her romantic films appeal to both men and women, no matter what their sexual orientation. Many of her story lines deal with the "taboos" about which both men and women may fantasize, but not act upon.
"A Mother's Love" is about an adult son who brings his best friend home who falls in bed with the mother. "A Father's Love" follows the same theme, but with a daughter's friend.
Noelle said she understands there are social and religious objections to pornography. And many women still see it as a "red flag" that a partner is not happy with their sex life.
"All these buttons get pushed," she said. "It's a deep-seated fear and that's interesting to me. The sex drive is second only to the drive to stay alive."
She scoffs at those who view all pornography as addictive: "People can be addicted to anything that triggers reward centers in the brain," Noelle said. "Eating chocolate cake can be addictive."
Noelle, who grew up in the seedy New York City of the 1980s, was always intrigued with the marquees and posters for adult films in then-seedy Times Square.
"It seemed like a secret world and I was drawn to it in some way," she said. "At the same time, people were not supposed to talk about. That intrigued me from the beginning, and the stigmatizing of the people intrigued me."
As a journalist writing about science and nature for a local newspaper, Noelle said she "fell into the porn industry by accident" when she was asked to write an article for Spread, a magazine for people in the sex industry. She helped make a fetish video, wrote about it, then began to get offers.
Noelle, who is bisexual, started out in the lesbian film industry and eventually landed the job as creative director of Girlfriend Films.