A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


After years of working a corporate job in downtown Oakland, Nenna Joiner woke up one morning with a dream: They wanted to be in the sex industry. After their job applications were rejected by every adult pleasure shop in the area, Nenna decided to launch their own business. They started by selling sex toys and porn DVDs out of a box at bars (and sometimes even at BART stations), but from these humble beginnings grew a mini-empire. 

More than a decade later, Nenna now owns two Feelmore Adult Galleries, plans to open a sex-positive bar called Feelmore Social later this year, and is running for a seat on Oakland’s City Council. Nenna’s first position in politics was as a member of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, which led them to an interest in the East Bay’s sex history. Years of purchasing adult artifacts from Oakland collectors and now-defunct sex shops deepened their knowledge of former bordellos, theaters, underground sex clubs, and nightlife institutions. 

For obvious reasons, “sex history” isn’t an easy topic to document, but in this episode Nenna discusses everything from how to find brothels on old maps to their personal journey in the sex industry. To hear about why Ronald Reagan is responsible for the lack of strip clubs in Oakland, the rise and fall of burlesque theaters, the unintended consequences of the Red Light Abatement Act, and much more, listen to the full episode now. Available via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you find podcasts.

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Opened in 1916, the Turner and Dahnken Theater became known as “The Tough & Dirty” in later years, after it pivoted to screening adult films. The 2,632-seat theater located at the corner of Franklin and 11th Streets finally shut down in 1976. [Source: Oakland Wiki]
“Female Boarding House” was a euphemism often used for brothels on Sanborn Maps. Massive, leather-bound volumes of these historic documents can be viewed at the Oakland Library’s map room.
“The Queen of Exotic Dancers” Tempest Storm was a frequent performer at the El Rey during the burlesque boom of the 1950s. Nudity in public performances has been banned in Oakland since shortly after Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Quimby-Walsh Act in 1969.
Nenna Joiner: “It wasn’t the sex toys that changed my life. It was the shedding of fear about what people say about me. I literally built Feelmore out of the trunk of my car, and that built my confidence in myself.” To listen to the full interview, click here.

“It’s okay to talk about sex toys”

Nenna Joiner digs deep into pleasures of the past
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