Jane Kamensky at the Cambridge Public Library


Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution:
A History from Below


April 1, 2024
6:00 PM ET


Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138


$0.00 (Free RSVP Required) $37.19 (book included)

Harvard Book Store welcomes JANE KAMENSKY—award-winning author of A Revolution in Color and president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation—for a discussion of her new book Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution: A History from Below.


RSVP for free to this event or choose the "Book-Included" ticket to reserve a copy of Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution and pick it up at the event. Jane will sign copies of her new book after the presentation.


About Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution

Whether in front of the camera or behind it, Candice Vadala understood herself as both an artist and an entrepreneur. As Candida Royalle (1950–2015)—underground actress, porn star, producer of adult movies, and staunch feminist—she made a business of pleasure. She helped crystalize the broader hedonistic turn in American life in the second half of the twentieth century: a period when the rules of sex were rewritten; when the white-hot “sex wars” cleaved feminism and realigned American politics; when Big Freud, Big Drugs, and Big Porn all came into looming focus; when the sex industry of the 1970s and ’80s radically upended conventional understandings of law, technology, culture, love, and human desire.

The sexual revolution was Royalle’s war—even when other avowed feminists exited the field or became her opponents—and pornography emerged as the arena in which she would wage it. With the founding of her adult film company, Femme Productions, in 1984, Royalle became an owner of the means of pornographic production, infusing her sets with the ideals of labor feminism. On-screen and off-, she was, by turns, exuberant and thoughtful, self-possessed and gleefully shameless. A trailblazer who lived along the cultural fault lines of her generation, she danced at Woodstock, marched for women’s liberation, survived the AIDS crisis, and became a talk show regular, interviewed by Phil Donahue, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Morton Downey Jr., Jane Pauley, and many others. As a performer, director, producer, and writer, she moved the needle of her industry. But she never transcended the politics of pleasure.

With full access to Royalle’s remarkable archive, historian Jane Kamensky has spent years examining the intersection of Royalle’s life with the clashes that have defined her era—and ours. Deeply informed by these never-before-studied materials, Kamensky explodes the conventions of biography, with its assumptions about who makes history and how. Written with cinematic verve, Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution evokes Royalle’s times in their broadest contours as Kamensky traces the rise of an improbable heroine who broke the mold and was herself broken in turn.

Praise for Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution

"A tour de force, Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution is a penetrating history of America’s least studied revolution.…Originally conceived, impressively researched, and beautifully written, Candida Royalle deepens and complicates our understanding of America’s recent past." —Alice Echols, University of Southern California, and author of Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture

"A riveting, humane, and essential contribution to modern feminist history. Jane Kamensky has written a biography that reads like a novel, an astute intellectual work that recognizes and humanizes the role of sex workers in recent women’s movements. Thanks to this book, I am proud to recognize the place of Candida Royalle in my own lineage." —Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism

"A rich slice of Americana, a deep dive into the era of the pornographic movie industry and its feminist adversaries, told through the unexpectedly moving story of a woman, Candice Vadala, who tried, and failed, to make peace between the two sides. Whatever your views about porn, when you read Jane Kamensky’s beautifully sympathetic and clear-eyed biography, you will find yourself rooting for Candice, a woman struggling heroically to redeem a difficult life." —Louis Menand, author of The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Jane Kamensky
Jane Kamensky

Jane Kamensky

Jane Kamensky’s many books include A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley, winner of the New-York Historical Society’s American History book prize along with three others. For thirty years, she worked as a history professor and higher education leader, most recently as Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard University and director of the Schlesinger Library at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. In 2024, Kamensky became the president of Monticello/the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Photo credit: Nina Subin



Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138

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