Who is the first porn star you remember from a young age? For many people the first person they think of when they think of porn is Nina Hartley. Nina Hartley is a legend in her own time; she has been doing porn for more than 20 years, and she is still going strong. I had the great pleasure of meeting her in Las Vegas at the AVNs and I wanted to talk to her about a lot of things.
The condom ordinance has been the topic of much debate, and with its passing I wondered what Nina thought the ramifications might be. This law is being sold as a health issue, but in reality it is a censorship issue. The porn industry had AIM, which was the centralized testing agency for the industry. Testing and a clean bill of health was mandatory before you walked onto a set. Will this new law help keep everyone safer? That's the big question.
"It's 100% a disaster, it's politically motivated; it will put people in danger and has already done so. It's unenforceable and against the first amendment. It's not going to help or protect anybody. It is pure politics of the worst paternalistic anti sex-worker kind. It's too soon to tell what the consequences are going to be," says Nina. Nina hypothesized that permits may start to get pulled for porn sets that do not comply. That would hurt the city since each permit gives the city $700.
Pornography burns brightly for the masses; people love porn and porn stars. It is never going to go anywhere, because people are too into it. Porn is a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason. I wanted Nina to discuss what is important about pornography for people.
"The most important thing about pornography is that it hosts our sexual dreams. Those dreams inform a lot of who and what we are. How we feel about ourselves and how we interact with the world. Most importantly how we create intimacy with ourselves and others. In our dreams we get to be who and what we want, in our dreams everything is perfect. It's smooth and nice and runs along on greased rails. Porn as fantasy is really important because that's where we imagine our sexual selves and bring those selves out to play," says Hartley.
I recall Nina saying she wanted to be a sex worker since she was as teenager. Sex and sex work is something that has always resonated with her. Had the world been different she would have been a prostitute, but she found her niche in porn. When we were discussing this I remember asking a question even I didn't know the answer to. Why is prostitution illegal and porn legal in California?
"If you take it back to the early '80s when LA was trying to get porn out of the city by busting sets. They would threaten the women with charges of prostitution (a misdemeanor), or telling their families, if the women didn't give up the producers or directors, they could charge them with pimping and pandering (felonies). Until 1988 when one producer, Hal Freeman, fought back. The State Supreme Court voted 9 - 0 that hiring people to make an adult movie was not pimping and pandering. That means that California and New Hampshire are the only states in the country that it's legal to shoot porn in. There's been no case law anywhere else,"says Hartley.
Queer porn is on the rise and people like it. They are at the AVNs and they are winning at Cinekink. I asked Nina about the main differences between queer porn and mainstream porn.
"Queer porn allows for vastly greater gender representation. It opens up the land of what consensual behavior might look like. Too many queer youths are still caught in bullying and suicide. At least there is a bigger chance now of having them find some images and communities that help them feel less alone. So I am very grateful to QueerPornTV dot com, Pink and White Productions and Crash Pad productions," says Hartley
Earlier this year at Cinekink, Nina's fisting scene with Jiz Lee in Courtney Trouble's "Live Sex Show" won the 'Bring It' section of Cinekink. This was a big deal because fisting is frowned upon in mainstream porn and I wanted Nina to tell me about that.
"There is no rule against it and it is not illegal to do in one's private life. 'Obscenity' is illegal and obscenity is decided by a jury. Obviously, there are certain things that are, and should remain, illegal to do in porn: animals, necrophilia, scat, 'snuff films' and, of course, minors. Since fisting is considered 'extreme,' to err on the side of safety some producers decide to just not show that. That way they feel less likely to have someone lodge a complaint. What's nice about the rise of queer porn is that lots and lots of queer folks like fisting a whole lot," says Hartley.
Going back to her comment on wanting to be a sex-worker from a young age, I had to know where that came from. I wondered why she chose sex as her form of expression.
"Why sex? Because sex is my thing. It is what I am about both as a queer person, but also as a nurse and a health professional. In our society sexuality is sick and sick people need a nurse's care. I am here not just for my own jollies, of which I've certainly had plenty. I am also here to talk about sex with people who cannot talk about it. A nurse's role includes education, role modeling and advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves. I educate people in safer sex and how to be better at it. I advocate about sexual freedom and sexual autonomy for people who are still in danger of losing hearth, home, children and job, should their sexual lives become known. So I am out here because I don't have any kids to embarrass. My family knows what I do and they made their peace with it for better or for worse. I am proud of it because I have helped a lot of people. I always have done what I do not just for myself, but for people who aren't there yet. And that's why it's important, sex is universal. We need people out there beating the drums, saying, 'Consensual sex is okay,'" says Hartley.
Nina Hartley is much more than a porn actress; she is a nurse, an educator and all-around down-to-earth lady. Had I met her at the grocery store, the last thing I would have thought was that she has been making porn since the '80s. Nina is beautiful, intelligent and just plain silly. I had the honor of sharing a hotel room with her at BIL. Let me tell you, when Nina Hartley puts on a see-through cat suit and asks you to take her boots off, life doesn't get much better than that.
Nina Hartley is a cultural icon, and like her or not she is here to stay. Nina has managed to make a career out of being a porn star. Her fans have followed her from the '80s to the new millennium. They love watching her age and delight in seeing her on screen. Since porn is so fetishized, Nina has a whole new fan base now that she is doing MILF films. Let's face it, not all baby boomers want to watch porn with girls who are their daughter's age. Also, women are responsible for a lot of the porn that is brought into the home and they want to look at a woman they can relate to.
I remember at BIL during Nina's blow-job class, just how packed our Masque sponsored sex-positive boiler room got. It was standing room only because Nina Hartley was teaching the class. Beyond being able to teach people how to give an amazing blow job, she can teach you how to have safer sex, how to experiment safely and how to give into the desires that we all have. I cannot wait to see what this quirky sexual icon does next. Thank you for being so candid Nina, and keep on keeping on!
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