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Nina Hartley Speaks At NOW Meeting

AVN Hall of Famer: Porn 'can be empowering for some women, and utterly disastrous for many'

Nina Hartley Speaks At NOW Meeting

The following is a transcription of a talk that adult actress Nina Hartley gave at the annual meeting of the California branch of the National Organization of Women (CA-NOW) on April 19, 2008, at the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood:


NINA HARTLEY: "Listening to [a previous speaker on a panel of Muslim women], I'm sorry she left. I was so struck - obviously, I am an atheist and I am not Muslim, but she and I actually have very similar experiences talking with a certain kind of American, and that person is someone who thinks, because of what I do or how she dresses, that they know something about us, know something about our reality, our history, our character, our belief system and our attitudes. And so even though I am not religious in any way, I was struck by the common human experience that she has, being out with her head scarf.

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"I of course have the privilege of blending. If I don't choose to dress like a street hooker, people don't know. My age helps me, because now I've got that soccer mom look going on, and they go, 'You still - you still do the naked ...?' And some people are like, 'That's so cool,' and other people are like, 'My eyes! My eyes! No!'


"And a lot of people ask me: is porn empowering to women? Explicit sexual images, whether viewing them or making them, can be empowering for some women, and utterly disastrous for many women; utterly disastrous. And unfortunately the bar to entry into adult entertainment is very low. You have to be 18 years old plus one day, and have a pulse. And that is - it's sad for me, because a lot of people end up in this line of work who might better be served doing something else in their life, and part of that of course is the indestructibility of the 18-year-old mind: 'I'm going to live forever; I'm indestructible; everything's fine; nothing I do now is going to impact my life later; I'll never be 30; 30's old.'


"And having been 18 and that kind of stupid, I appreciate that, so I try to mentor the women; I do try to make a lot of them go home and come back in a few years, and most of them don't listen, so the difficulty for us as feminists is, how do we - and Yasmin talked about - how do we reach out to people with whom we may disagree? And whose trip we just don't get? And I know that some people look at women who cover and have a very visceral, angry, gut-wrenching attitude about that, and when people know what I do, I also get that. I get a lot of 'Huh? What? Really?' And a lot of hatred, a lot of bitter vitriol sent my way. They say horrible things about me on Websites, and I just have to remind myself that I'm a '70s feminist: My body, my rules. And if you don't like what I do with my body, I'm sorry. I'm not asking you to do that with your body; I'm asking you to live your values.


"And so people have come up to me often and said, 'Nina, I think what you do is really great but I could never be like you.' And everybody can be like me, because what 'like me' means is someone who has discovered his or her essential truth about his or her sexuality and decides to live in accordance with that. Chastity, celibacy, monogamy, modesty, motherhood, I don't care. I want everyone, every person to be as comfortable in his or her skin and with his or her sexuality as I am with mine, and to live accordingly, and this is really, really important.


"So I don't do what I do because I just need male attention or because I'm trying to tell the [unintelligible] what it wants to hear. I mean, people come up to Yasmin, 'Did you really choose that?' And women come up to me and go, 'You didn't really choose that. You were coerced. Come on, tell me: You were coerced; you were forced to do this, right?' 'No, I'm queer. I'm queer. Okay? I look straight but I'm queer, I'm bisexual, I'm polyamorous, I'm exhibitionistic, I'm a swinger, I'm not like other people.'


"So for me, adult entertainment has been really wonderful. But my sister, she'd rather have you put a gun to her head than put one toe into my world. She's devoutly religious, heterosexual, monogamous, married 20 years, mother of two; we're getting closer, but she does not get what I do. No one in my family gets what I do because no one in my family is like me. But because of the '70s and 'My body, my rules,' and I get to take responsibility for my orgasm - Anybody here old enough to remember that phrase? What does that mean, to take responsibility for your orgasm? What does it really mean? It's like putting the Hitachi on low to high ... It means taking adult responsibility for our emotions, the messy emotions that come from indulging in sexual activity and no longer thinking that, 'My partner has to make me feel okay.' <sighs> I wasted so many years thinking, 'It's your job to make me feel okay before we can have sex,' and that's what taking responsibility for your orgasm is about. It's discovering, 'What are my values, what are my boundaries, what are my limits, what are my desires, what do I want to get out of my sexual life, and how can I hold men to the same standard that's just decent humanity?


"And one of the things that working in the sex entertainment field has done for me, way back in the beginning when I was just stripping, was really understanding men's humanity and men's pain over sex, and the early feminist movement was not so distracted by dirty pictures as they got to be in the '80s, and in the beginning, it was about - for me, feminism is more equal opportunity for everybody. Child care, equal opportunity; equal pay for equal work, you know? It's flex time - the usual things: Equal opportunity for everybody. And it's gotten bogged down into dirty pictures in a way that Betty Friedan did warn years ago was very dangerous, that the war on pornography was a dangerous distraction from the issues that really impact women: Economic justice and access to health care and reproductive services which is where my feminism is rooted in, and until I have complete control over the means of reproduction, I am not equal to men - period, end of sentence, period, full stop. <applause>


"So that means, for me, with my odd sexuality, I was able to get into one line of work overall that seemed really good for me, and the problems I've had in porn have come not from porn itself but from whatever baggage I brought with me, and I would hope very much that - as a sex worker, I do feel very marginalized in the feminist movement and I'm thrilled to be here, because for 20 years, I have not been a member of NOW because they pretty much, during the porn wars of the mid-'80s, were very clear they did not want sex workers who were prostitutes. We were traitors, we were beyond-beyond - we were catering to men; we were brainwashed; we were - had low self-esteem - whatever stereotypes you want to have of sex workers, we were not feminists; we did not deserve to be in the movement and we did not deserve the respect and protection of other women. And -"


Audience:
"Were you in Los Angeles?"


NINA:
"I was in San Francisco, which is even worse. But Carol Queen and Annie Sprinkle, they were all - we all had difficulty at the time, because just as the yahoos of the religious right make people think about Christians - what Christians do, there's a very small vocal group of very stridently totalitarian-thinking feminist - group-think feminists who have hijacked the movement and made everything about dirty pictures and sex workers, and so it does not help me as a woman to - when I say I need this kind of assistance from you, for you to say, 'Well, you don't get to exist.'


"And obviously I'm a very privileged sex worker; I'm middle-class; I do have class privilege; I do have an education; I'm here because I want to be, but most jobs are economically coerced if you think about it. I mean, how many of us would do what we do if we weren't paid? Honestly! I might still have sex in private - yay! - but I'm one out of a group of a hundred people. So that's a definition of a job: Something that you would not do unless you were being paid. You can like your job or not like your job, and I certainly do like my job, but I believe that sexual labor is a perfectly legitimate form of labor, and that what we need - if you want to protect women who are in the sex business, we obviously need to work to decriminalize sex work, even if it skeeves you out.


"I understand that what I do is skeevy to people, and I don't want you to do what I do. I get that. You can keep your clothes on and only have sex with one person; that's fine. But you cannot decide that some women are worthy of your support and worthy of your respect and some women are not by virtue of their job classification. And I didn't know I had class bias until I started stripping. I was from Berkeley, for Christ's sake; I grew up in Berkeley, California, and all the more reason that when I started facing prejudice from women who looked like me, it blew my mind. I was never - until I became an out sex worker, I was never discriminated against for any reason, at any time, by anybody, until I self-identified as a sex worker, and then all of a sudden, I can get called names; I can be dismissed; I can have my integrity impugned, and it's really been quite shocking to me. It's shocking.


"But as a nurse, I do know there are three billion vulvas in the world and there are three billion penises in the world. It may be mysterious to you, but it is not in itself mysterious, and so the idea that I have somehow exposed myself because I am naked on camera and let you see my vulva - and, 'Why don't you come take a look? I'll show you the parts and label them for you so you can know what the fuck you're doing the next time you're down there.' <laughter> That's not what you're saying.


"The other thing about vulvas is that while the owner may be different, they pretty much work in very similar ways, and penises pretty much work in basically similar ways, but there are individual variations, but the parts are all alike. You have two elbows, two ears, one mouth, one vulva, one asshole, and so because I'm showing you my vulva, you haven't seen anything more of me than if I show you my elbow. It's a body part. It's a body part! I have a foot; I have two hands; I have a vulva - ooh! You know, it's not <panting> that I've somehow shown you a very special part of myself. I've shown every functioning part of myself, but it's not me, and the deepest me. Go figure! I share [that] at home with my husband when we're alone. Strange! Odd! 'You mean you have private boundaries?' 'Yes, I do.'


"So the behavior I act on camera is stuff I like to do, obviously because I am an unusually sexual person. I'm bisexual and exhibitionistic, so porn is a great way to meet women. <laughter> Anyone out there who likes to make love with women knows how difficult it can be to finally get around to, 'You know, well, do you wanna - you know, like - you know - well, maybe you...' - I love porn because it's so direct. 'What's on for today? Hi, I'm Nina; you're Susie. Okay; what are your absolute noes? Excellent! What are your absolute yeses? Okay!' I love how cut and dried it is <laughter> because when you take away all the emotional angst that the culture puts on the sex act and reduce it for work purposes into a series of behaviors, onto which you can then place your own emotional and value system, it is really nice.


"Sex with love is the best. I'm very romantically married; I changed my last name, okay? I was married previously for 20 years; never changed my name. I changed my name, so clearly, I like this guy. And the sex with mutual love and affection is wonderful, and I recommend it for everybody, but if you can only get sex with mutual respect and friendship, that's not bad, and a very good way to hang in there until you can find that person that you'd like to mate with. And when we realize that our issues about sex have been put into us by our culture and our personal experiences, it can be easier to tease them out, and what porn has taught me, aside from how to be really good with my hands, is that our desires are what they are. You can want whatever you want, but action - desires are not action. Feelings are not action. Thoughts are not action. And I give everyone complete freedom of mental activity. I believe in freedom of speech and I believe freedom of thought. You can think whatever you want, but whatever gets that little tingle going, think it, think it, think it; wallow in it; go there; does not mean you have to do it or make it real.


"I think a lot of people fear that if I admit I want - that this thing turns me on, I'm going to have to go do it. No, it's not true. And I think most people in this group understand the difference between thought and action, and between an image on a page or an image in a book or an image on a screen and an actual human person. And if we don't understand the difference between thought and action, if we don't understand the difference between an image and a real human, then we have a way bigger problem than whether pornography exists in the culture. And any culture that serves to suppress eroticism as our culture does, it's going to bring forth a sex culture, because we don't have it integrated into our lives in healthy ways; we don't have it integrated into our culture; we still have this abstinence-only sex education that is a complete fiasco. We have people advocating that birth control is harmful to women because it allows men access to our bodies without having responsibility. <laughter> Ow, ow! My pain; my pain; my pain; my pain - and these are women who count themselves as feminists, they would think that I am of course a traitor to all women because I spread my legs for men's entertainment. I spread my legs for my own amusement!


"So I know what I do is very upsetting to a lot of people, maybe even people in this room, and I respect your discomfort with it, but as adult women, I really do urge everyone in this room to take responsibility for your own feelings. Things that really upset me, my feelings are my business, my problems, my responsibilities, and it is very childish for me to sit here and go, 'I'm uncomfortable; what are you going to do about it?' I'm uncomfortable; you stop that!' How old are we? Four? Grownups understand that lots of things in the world don't make us happy, and they're in the world and we cannot make it a child-safe day nursery. That's why it's called 'adult entertainment.' That's why it's for grownups, because you're supposed to have grownup attitudes and grownup abilities to separate thoughts from actions, feelings from actions, images from people, and if it's dangerous to focus on dirty pictures when so much is left undone in the world that do affect women such as family planning -


"I was 14 years old when Roe v. Wade was decided, and I hadn't even kissed a boy, and I knew at that time how important that was; how important it was to have the option. I'm not cut out for motherhood, I don't have kids, and I knew, if I was ever going to get pregnant, I was going to have to have an abortion because I was never going to give it up after it had grown in me, and I didn't want to fuck up a kid, so that only left one thing. And I've never been put in that position, but I do know what I would have done, because I'm 49, I'm very glad not to have kids. If you don't have kids yet, you don't have to have kids to be happy, and if you want to have kids, I hope you find a great partner, and -


"I was going to be a midwife; I went to nursing school to be a midwife, because for me, feminism is all about women's control over their own bodies, and I know what makes a baby as opposed to the baby itself, but the feminism of the late '60s and early '70s was very, very basic. Consciousness raising groups; anybody here heard of those? Where women when they're together look at their own vulvas? And we'd never done that before. We talked about our actual physical experiences with men and love; we learned how to do first trimester abortions with a vacuum - vacuum extraction abortions at home because it was really important because those things were not available to us. In 1970, they were still sedating women and strapping them down and taking babies out with forceps.


"It took a huge revolution to put women in charge of the birthing process, and as far as a midwife, my goal was to help women with this process, so as a sex worker and advocate, my job is still in the same way, of helping to empower women to feel more comfortable in their skins, whatever their desires with their bodies might be.


"I could go on and on and on, but we don't have very much time. Does anybody want to ask questions or make statements or whatever?"


Audience: "When you said we need how to separate images from people, I started thinking about the culture that created the people that created the images at Abu Ghraib, and I felt like they had the ability to separate the humanity from the objectification of the people and not - there's a sort of video game culture that sort of prods them into separating images from people, and isn't that something we don't necessarily want to cheer for?"


NINA:
"Well, seeing that Abu Ghraib certainly was -"


Audience: "What was the question?"


NINA: "It was about how in Abu Ghraib, they're able to separate people from images, and thereby dehumanize and abuse the prisoners at the prison."


Audience: "Or even video game culture, like if they're images, they don't relate to the people that they're killing in Grand Theft Auto -"


NINA:
"I'm still very - as horrible as these things are, I'm still reluctant to blame a video game for my being unable to say, 'Hello, my name's Nina. Hi, Mandy; so pleased to meet you.' So there is what I like to - I don't know whose fault it is that a young person or an adult person or a soldier breaks down and says, 'You're dehumanized.' In war, that is what happens: That's how they train people to kill, is by making them into an Other. We know that. You don't kill people who you recognize their common humanity; you only kill the Other, and every war does that for all time. That is the nature, unfortunately, of war. And the very uncomfortable fact is, that for all the other reasons wars are fought on paper, there is also - and this is where some of the anti-man thinking stems from - the uncomfortable fact is, for a lot of people, it's fun.


"A friend of mine is 85 now. He was in the Second World War. He said, 'Actually, war is a lot of fun until you get hurt or killed or something,' in terms of the excitement, the suspension of regular rules; the fact that things look different; the fact that there's all this stuff going on, and we're so civilized, it's uncomfortable to understand how close our animal/primal things are to the surface, and so when we are confronted with the horrible side of human behavior, as in the pictures of Abu Ghraib - my husband predicted that that would happen two years before it happened. He did because he understands these things very well, and I'm sorry he can't be here - he knew that that was going to happen; sooner or later, some things like that would come up from somewhere, and sure enough, they did.


"Again, what I did in separating my romantic needs from my sexual activity, for me, that was very helpful, because in our culture, you're not supposed to have sex unless you're in love, but I had my own emotional issues and, 'Love? Love? What mean this love? What mean this joy?' It was very abstract for me, but thank God for the '70s; talking about body-based therapies, and learning how to be in my body, first in a non-sexual way through massage - learning how to be calm and present while someone touched me - took about five years, from 13 to 18, and by then, I was only slightly stiff. But it took me years to learn how to relax into my own skin and I recommend everybody learn how to do that, alone, by yourself - we're not talking about adding partners; we're talking about your relation to your own body, your relation to your own belief system about sex, your relationship to, 'What parts of my family's training do I want to keep and what parts don't work for me?'


"It took me until I was 30 to recognize that having different ideas than my mother didn't make me a bad daughter; I had some really serious codependency issues. I'm relating to my being queer. So learning to be calm in your skin, so then you have a calm place to start from and then start saying, 'Are you going to save me? Will you fix me? You make me feel better.' Then you can look and go, 'Hi! Golly, I'd like to get to know you.' So we look to different people for different things, and that is something each person has to do for him- or herself, and so at a certain level - you know, a hundred years ago, there maybe was less pornography; pornography was only for the rich, but they had public hangings, and they had bear-baiting in the streets; kids were dying, you know, before they were five, from diseases and living in tenements. It's always been a very brutal and cold world for a lot of people, and the veneer we have now is the veneer of civilization; we have clean running water and streets that are paved and have lights that work, but we're not that far removed as humans from a much more recent and brutal past.


"So when you think about - we've done more in 40 years in terms of changing the argument, and changing our attitudes, than the last thousand years in terms of the certain - again, when I do my debate, women who really hate me and hate what I do don't even want a dialog, don't want a shouting match; they want me dead. And to look in the eyes of someone who you have been raised to think of as an ally and realize they want you dead, now I know how witches got burned: Hatred; pure 'hate your guts' hatred. And to look someone in the eye who feels that is astounding, so that's how Abu Ghraib happens.


"I've been dehumanized more by females than by males, honest to God. So I talk to these women and they talk about how horrible it is for women here in the West, in America, and I always ask them, 'In what other country, at what other time in history, would you rather be female? Just asking. What mythical place was better for women than the West, in North America, ever?' That we know of; not, you know, the matriarch of the Hapidon (ph.) on Crete - it may have been a matriarchy; we think; we don't really know, but in terms of historical epochs, for all the fucked-up-ness that we have going on here, it's still a better place to be female.


"Remember, when I was a young child, women still could not get credit in their own name. It's really recent; the advances that we've made legally are really, really recent.
No credit in our own names; no child custody after divorce; no equal pay for equal work, etc., etc., etc. So we have come a long way in only 50 years. But what's really dangerous that's afoot is the really scary and ongoing connection between the social conservative wing and a certain kind of fanatical feminist, and the first time it went down the wrong path was with Elizabeth Cady Stanton getting together with Carrie Nation, and so progressive feminism became associated very closely with the suppression of vice, and the first thing that women did when they got the vote was to usher in prohibition. They were doing the virtue vote. Women were virtuous creatures and we are sweet-natured and we have only good things in mind for people, and we all know what prohibition ushered into this country, besides crime that's still going on.


"So the last two, and I believe - the last two constitutional amendments before ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] was attempted to be passed was the creation of prohibition and the repeal of prohibition, and then after that, ERA."


[Actually, prohibition is the XVIIIth Amendment, and its repeal, the XXth. There were five more amendments after that before ERA was attempted. - Ed.]


"And there's a thesis paper out there somewhere from some historian - possibly a historian sitting in this room - between - is the defeat of the ERA payback for prohibition? Because a lot of people in public said, 'This is great. We believe it. It's gonna pass.' It didn't pass. It was astounding. And I wonder how many people went into the voting booth and said, pardon the expression, 'Fuck you bitches'? We'll never know. There's a paper out there somewhere; I know it."


Audience:
"I'd like to know your opinion on the pending protective legislation from the AFI, from an insider's position?"


NINA: "AFI?"


Audience: "Adult film industry; the mandatory testing -"


NINA:
"Actually, AIM Healthcare Foundation - Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation is in its eighth year now; phenomenally successful, client-centered, client-led health clinic, and we get tested once a month for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and Chlamydia; 'You show me your test, I'll show you my test.' And it is not mandatory, but no one has to work with anyone who does not produce a current test from this group, and by the way, it's on Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks; open to the public, 24-hour HIV testing and two-day testing for other STDs. Confidential; walk in; no appointment necessary. It's a really, really great thing. If you meet somebody hot, 'Let's go to the clinic!' And if you can't wait two days to have sex, then you're not mature enough to be having sex. It's a really great resource about half an hour from here in the Valley. And since we've had some 1200 tests a month times eight years, and we're had four cases of HIV, so actually that's .0176 percent of the testing population and the gay bathhouses here in L.A., the rate is - is it 10 percent or .1? It's quite a bit higher, and that's considered acceptable by the Public Health Department. So they're supposed to be trying to shut us down, but they're not looking at what's actually working in terms of us taking responsibility for our health. Personal responsibility is really where it's at, and trying to get a bunch of rebellious young people to take responsibility for their health can be really challenging sometimes; very challenging."


Audience: "If you look at the adult industry, my main problem with it is not with how sexy it is or anything like that; my main problem is how stereotypical it is. It's always a certain dynamic between men and women, and is there something going on to change this?"


NINA:
"The key is money. If they make something that sells, it'll sell. Twenty-five years ago, a woman, Candida Royalle - Femme Productions, headed by Candida Royalle, are wonderful. She was an actress, retired in 1980, and she was sick and tired of stereotypes and the dynamic that she was seeing in adult films, so with her own money, she started Femme Productions, and started making erotica for women and couples, from a woman's point of view. You would have thought she said, 'I've seen elephants fly.' She was ridiculed, laughed at, derided, brushed off like a fly - oh, my God, really! Within five years, they were all slavishly copying her. Now every big company has some kind of couples line, so there are some people out there, absolutely, specifically trying a different point of view: Tristan Taormino at Vivid; Candida Royalle; Tony Comstock out of New York does a lot of - all his movies are real live couples and each movie is one couple for an hour having an authentically intimate time. So it definitely is out there. If you go to Good Vibrations - goodvibes.com - and look at their list of recommended videos, it absolutely - Violet Blue the writer has several books out on videos where there's more care given to plot, character development and representation of women. So it is there.


"But again, in a culture that is both highly puritanical - which of course these people are naturally interested in sexuality, and the incredible ignorance, enforced ignorance in the culture about sexuality, then the culture gets the porn it deserves. Our culture is messed up when it comes to sexuality, so of course the people that come into the business are products of our culture with its own messed up things, plus their own personal experiences; they're going to make things that reflect them and what they think, and so it's no surprise that some of the material is at best boring, and at worst really distasteful, and at really worst, totally offensive - oh, my God!


"It's very hard, when you see something that's very offensive, to not want to censor it, and the hardest thing as a feminist that I had to do - the hardest thing, hardest thing, with my, you know, white middle-class thing, is to recognize that just because I don't agree with their choices, it's your choices to make; you have to be free to make your own mistakes. Just because she didn't like where she ended up doesn't mean she didn't choose to be there. So for me, adult entertainment has been fantastic, a wonderful - a way to myself. For other people, it has been their bottom, and they realized, 'I've got to get out of here and I've got to get sober.' And so for them, that was a work that put them off in a different realm, and it's so hard to allow other women their choices, their mistakes, things that we don't agree with, and I am constantly having to bite my little middle-class tongue and realize, 'She may have wanted that baby. I may think it's not a good idea for her to have a baby at 20; if she wants a baby' - I have lots of holes in my tongue, and it's a constant lesson in grace and it's letting other women have their choices the way that I would like other women to let me have my choices.


"And I know what I do is very upsetting to a lot of people, and I cannot put together what the person standing here and the movie that they could go rent might be a reflection of the way they are. But it's also - you know, you can be smart and you can be sexual. I happen to be sexual in a public way that most people aren't, and that is great, as long as you let yourself be sexual where you feel it's safe and perfect for you to be so.

 

"Again, I have a friend who's monogamous, and I'm a non-monogamous person; I don't understand it. I mean, it's not because I've never had a monogamous thought in my life, but you know, 'Not him; them! No Ken and Barbie wedding; Barbie orgy! What fun! Let's make it!' But my friend is very modest in public, but in the relationship, she - everything is okay. She really shares everything with her partner; there's no places that she won't go in erotic play with him, and that is, I think, a great place to be. She's not inappropriate; she does not wear revealing clothes in the street; she does not flirt with other men, but when they're alone, balls to the wall, baby! And for her pleasure; not just for him, to please him; she does it because she likes sex a whole lot, and so when she loves somebody, she likes to be really open with him, and I find this wonderful and great. And we have an agreement: I can flirt, and that's all I get, and she's okay with it because she knows I won't try anything more. Once I realized, 'Oh, you're not into girls at all' - and she's not - 'Oh; okay.' So we have an understanding."


Audience: "I was just wondering, what's your opinion about censorship of portrayals of, like, abuse in adult films?"


NINA: "If it's consensual between the performers, I don't have a problem with even very harsh-looking movies. I don't watch them; I don't like them, and again, because of the abstinence-only problem, it is really shameful that people look to entertainment for educative purposes. That's why I do have my educational series out, 35 episodes, which are both explicit and educational, specifically designed to help you figure out something.


"So what do I think about that? I don't like it, and I wish those guys would not make those movies, and I just make sure I don't work with - they don't even talk to me; they won't hire me; they won't even call me, because what's really important to understand about adult entertainment work, except for a very few instances where women are contract performers, we're independent contractors. 'Hi, Nina; are you available for this next Thursday?' 'No, I'm not.' 'Okay.' 'Hi, Nina; do you want to go have sex Friday?' 'Yeah, I'm fine.' So I offer my services; I have a set fee; they want what I have to sell or they don't; they'll pay my price or they won't; they don't want to pay it or buy it, okay - next person. And that's how the business works.


"Now, what I do try to do is let women know they can say no. Every woman in the business can say no even if she does not yet realize it personally, that she has a right to say no. And when you're 19, it's hard to realize, 'I can say no,' because at 19, they're still very interested in approval and attention; you know, okay, I get it, but everybody has the right to say no, whether or not she knows it. But my opinion? Ecch; don't buy them."


Audience: "I guess I don't - have a problem with pornography, so to speak. I mean, in a roomful of people - and I totally think women should have the right to work as protected sex workers. That isn't my issue. My issue is the way that images of women, when - you know, people's boyfriends go home and masturbate on their computers, which I'm sure some of them do - in fact, I know they do - is the way that those images affect the way that men view women. And I don't think that anybody can really say that portrayals of women having their faces ejaculated on without their consent, or pretending whether they're actually enjoying it or not, you know, pretending like they don't like what's happening to them in this porno or whatever - the way that women are portrayed in these kinds of films, I mean, whether we like to admit it or not, I mean, they inadvertently affect the way that women are treated in terms of pay, in the workplace, in every way, I feel like. So how can you speak to that?"


NINA: "Actually, in countries where pornography is protected speech, as it is here, women actually have a higher level of social equality and social mobility than in countries where it suppressed. So you want to go live where there's no pornography? Try Arabia,  Iran; you can go to all kinds of places where women have vastly different legal rights than they have here. Back in the day before widespread pornography, women were thought that their place was in the home, and to be mothers, and to have no sex life of their own, so the culture has always created the ideal male or female, and what's lost in all of this, actually, is the portrayal of men in movies and how does that affect the male view of their - and their feelings of adequacy or inadequacy?


"Remember, in our culture, women are amputated from their vulvas and men are amputated from their hearts, and so we're not allowed to be lusty and he's not allowed to have feelings, insecurities, fear, need - I'm not talking about the guy who wants a mommy to clean up after him; I'm talking about men who really - feminist men who are trying to learn how to be intimate and how to do the intimacy thing. So if a person is masturbating as opposed to making love with his partner, that porn may be a symptom but it's not the problem. There clearly is a discussion -


"I mean, I lived in a bad marriage for 20 years. The last seven years, we maybe made love twice a year - bad; B-A-D bad. Don't do it. Codependency problem. I was 20 years married in a bad situation where he did look at a lot of porn as an escape from dealing with me, and I didn't have the understanding to say, 'Listen, why don't you stop looking at porn and deal with me?' I didn't have the understanding to say, 'This is not working. This is a symptom but it's not the problem. This is not working between us. And so as people, we have to end it.' And it's easier said than done.


"I didn't leave the marriage until I was 40. I stayed 20 years in a bad marriage because I didn't know that I got to leave because I was unhappy, and so again, when we're confronted with our own emotions, it's always in my experience a lesson in how can I take better care of myself? So I'm confronted with a partner who's behaving in a way that is upsetting to me: I may want to say it's porn's fault, but clearly it's actually the fault of this dynamic, and what am I going to do about the dynamic? How am I going to take care of myself and be self-activated in the face of unhappiness?


"It is, I think, important in the beginning of a relationship if you - you know, you talk about money and religion, and if it's going to be long-term, what about kids? And then what about the use of explicit material? Do you like it a lot? Do you like - my first boyfriend didn't like porn at all, and I was, at 20, 'I want to go to the movies! I want to go to a movie! Let's go to a movie! Let's go to a movie!' And back then, if we wanted to see a movie, we had to go to a movie theater, and I'm like, 'Oh, ah,' and he's asleep. So I found out very early from my first boyfriend, all guys do not like porn. It bored him to tears, and he fell asleep within 10 minutes, and I was like, 'Wow!' So media has always portrayed men and women in certain ways to get them to buy things; to sell them things. Okay; so if it bothers one person in the relationship, you need to say something and negotiate it with him within the relationship, or end the relationship."


Audience: "I was wondering what your thoughts are about condom use in straight porn?"


NINA: "Okay, condom use in porn: Boring. Go to aim-med.org. That is the Website for the adult industry health clinic. We have testing once a month and no condoms. Nobody wants condoms in straight porn. It is, for lots of good reasons - if you're at home alone, when there's love action going on and the intercourse is going to last 12 minutes, okay, condoms are fine. In a movie, the scene goes on 90 minutes. He's up; he's down. The drag on the tissues with or without lube creates micro-tears, which makes me as a female more vulnerable to disease, so I don't want to use condoms in movies. They hurt, and they make an otherwise fun-enough 60 to 90 minutes turn into a not-fun 90 minutes to two-and-a-half hours because of the added bullshit of condoms.


"So know that we are tested, and that's why the external ejaculation. The times when we did have HIV transmission and there were four [infectees], it was due to people saying yes to things that on the Website we recommend they say no to, which were internal ejaculation scenes. Just say no to that. Just say no. This is where the breast pop is actually a lovely little disease-reducer. I prefer to have the semen below my chin because I can watch, and if it goes above your chin, you have to close your eyes, because if it gets in your eyes, you're toast. But that's just me being weird. I dig it; I'm freaky that way."






Related Content:

Nina Hartley
Mark Kernes

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