Nine More Porn Stars Who Are Probably Smarter Than You

12/19/2017 10:37 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2017
Adult film stars Nina Hartley, Sean Zevran, Ignacio G. Rivera, Colby Keller, Dallas Steele, Ela Darling, Cole and Hunter Mave
Adult film stars Nina Hartley, Sean Zevran, Ignacio G. Rivera, Colby Keller, Dallas Steele, Ela Darling, Cole and Hunter Maverick. (Photo credits: Nina Hartley / Jorge Rivas Photography / Ignacio G. Rivera / Manhunt / Titan Media / BAS Photo & Design / The Maverick Men)

The battle over California’s controversial Proposition 60 last year — which would have required condom use on adult film sets statewide -- pitted us actors against an all-too-familiar prejudice: “All porn stars are either damaged, or desperate, or destitute, so we need to protect those who are incapable of protecting themselves.” The measure was ultimately defeated, but the stereotype persists. The truth is that most of the performers I’ve met over the course of my six year porn career are mature, empowered individuals who work in the industry because they enjoy it, not out of financial desperation or psychological impairment. And we are, contrary to common misjudgment, a pretty intelligent bunch.

Last year I highlighted a few of my colleagues and their accomplishments in a piece called “Seven Queer Porn Stars Who Are Probably Smarter Than You.” There are, of course, far more than seven smart porn stars out there — as anyone who’s taken the time to get to know some of us can attest to — so I decided to expand the list to include a wider sample. With that, I proudly present nine more queer porn stars who are (at least) as smart as you are.

Few are better known, or more respected, in the adult film industry than Nina Hartley. She began acting in adult films in 1984, has starred in over a thousand productions, and remains active today. Hartley, a registered nurse who graduated magna cum laude from San Francisco State University, has also published a series of instructional books and videos called Nina Hartley’s Guides that cover a variety of sex-related topics from foreplay to foot worship. She’s a vocal advocate of sex workers’ rights as well. “My biggest complaint these days,” she says, “is how the anti-sex work camp has conflated legal, consensual sex work -- specifically pornography -- with illegal, non-consensual trafficking of women for forced labor (some of it of a sexual nature). There is no connection between the legal material we make and any trafficking of women. Full stop.”

Shreveport, Louisiana native Sean Zevran is a Marine Corps veteran with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy who has been working in the industry since 2011. His thought-provoking blog tackles issues ranging from pornographic racism to the future of Obamacare to sexual empowerment through escorting. “Doing porn actually means something to me,” writes the 2017 XBIZ Gay Performer of the Year. “I am a gay male in a patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic, heteronormative society. It’s likely few things defy that more than an atheist, biracial male of black and white ethnicity expressing his gay sexuality on film for all the world to see.”

Ignacio G. Rivera is a self-described “genderqueer, transgender, two-spirit, fluid, independent polyamorist” who serves as training director for the Global Trans Research and Advocacy Project. Rivera leads workshops on the relationship between gender, sex, and race, and has worked to establish safe sexual play-spaces for transgender and genderqueer people of color. “Women, people with disabilities, queers, trans people, and poor people have all been regulated by the state -- our bodies, sexuality, gender, and health,” writes Rivera, who also appears in adult films using the screen name Papí Coxxx. “Play parties and feminist porn are but a few tools I’ve worked with to reclaim my body, and regain what was and continues to be taken.”

Before turning to porn as a form of liberation and self-expression -- and a way to make money in a struggling economy -- Colby Keller earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of Houston and a Master of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has since parlayed his massive following as a porn star into an ambitious, crowd-funded art/pornography project called Colby Does America, a high-profile fashion campaign for designer Vivienne Westwood, and a starring role in the gender-bending HuffPost original series Capitol Hill. Keller, a self-described communist, provoked strong reactions when he announced his support for Donald Trump as a “destabilizing force” against a “system that’s no longer defensible.” Love him or loathe him, the Ypsilanti, Michigan native has never lost his Midwestern charm, calling himself a “sex nerd” and a “goofy, laid-back foodie who loves good beer.”

Before Dallas Steele burst onto the adult film scene in 2015, he was already comfortable in front of a camera: he worked as a television news anchor for twenty years in major news markets such as Dallas, Texas and Bakersfield, California. He has been nominated for two Emmy awards for journalism, and was one of the first reporters on the scene during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Steele has conducted on-air interviews with every living president (except the current one) since the Carter administration. His favorite presidential interviewee? Bill Clinton. “He’s an amazing speaker, full of energy,” Steele says. “Whether it’s one-on-one or before an entire room, he knows just how to charm you.”

Virtual reality porn is poised to take the adult film industry by storm, and no one is better positioned to lead the revolution than Ela Darling. Darling took just one year to earn a master’s degree in library information science from the University of Illinois, but left the library to found VRtube, the world’s first pornography service devoted entirely to the virtual sphere. “When I was a librarian, I was the hot librarian,” Darling recounts. “But now that I’m a porn star? I’m the smart porn star. It’s funny... people appreciate my intelligence now. I didn’t get as much of that in the library.” When not filming new scenes or developing cutting-edge VR content, Darling serves on the board of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee.

If you’re a fan of gay porn, chances are you've heard of the Maverick Men. Cole and Hunter Maverick began their careers as Xtube's most popular gay couple -- their videos boast over 100,000,000 views -- and have since parlayed that prominence into their own production company and subscription website. Part of the reason for their continued success is that they utilize social media in order to understand and fulfill their fans' desires. This comes naturally to the real-life couple, as Cole has a master's degree in educational psychology and Hunter holds a bachelor's in English literature and composition. "We've always made ourselves accessible to our fans, and they've stuck by us since day one," says Hunter, who along with Cole has authored the book Maverick Men: The True Story Behind the Videos. "We read each and every comment on all of our venues," adds Cole. "We're definitely in touch with what guys want, and we want to give it to them."

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Another adult film professional I interviewed -- a personal friend of mine -- leads seminars and workshops that are designed to help gay men “understand how to make sex as safe as they want it to be.” He’s active in the technological realm as well: in partnership with the British government, he developed an online service to facilitate anonymous contact between gay men and their partners after an STI diagnosis. The industry veteran declined to be named in this article, however, citing concern that his coming out publicly as a porn star could limit his future job opportunities as a health care professional. But if the public comes to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of my colleagues, then more actors like my friend can emerge from the shadows, further disproving the stigma that we confront every day.

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