Porn's Grande DameNina Hartley could easily be considered the grande dame of porn
today. She has appeared in 600 or so porn movies, making hers the most
recognizable face -- and perhaps derriere -- in the industry. She
recently published an informative new book, Nina Hartley's Guide to
Total Sex, and has been touring the country promoting it. She took a
few moments out of her hectic touring schedule to have a few words with
Eros Zine about sexual literacy, her many projects and why we get the
porn that we deserve.
ErosZine: Tell us about your new book, Nina Hartley's Guide to Total Sex. What sets it apart from other sex books?
Nina Hartley: My experience and my perspective. My compassion, as well.
I was trained as a nurse and one of the skills we cultivate is that of
caring and human kindness, which are so important to the healing
process. I've just turned my nursing skills on sexuality instead of
Unlike many other sex books, I've actually done all I talk about in the
book. I have a way of looking at sex that I've practiced and refined
over 30 years and I express it in a very accessible way. The book
stresses personal responsibility and the importance of behaving
ethically in all matters sexual while at the same time condoning a wide
range of behaviors others might think of as irresponsible.
Eros Zine: Were there any limitations placed on you by your publisher?
Nina Hartley: No photos and no polemics.
Eros Zine: That's right, there are no photos or illustrations in your book. Why?
Nina Hartley: The publisher didn't want to use the original photos and
we didn't think of any in time for an acceptable substitute. I know
what I'd do if faced with the situation again.
Eros Zine: Your husband, Ira Levine, co-authored the book with you. What were your different contributions?
Nina Hartley: I have the incredible luxury of having a live-in
professional editor as a husband.The ideas are all mine and I had to
put thought to blank pages but I am organizationally challenged. He put
my ideas in order. By the end of the project I was much improved. We
batted ideas around and had a good time collaborating. Working together
definitely improved our relationship.
Eros Zine: Margaret Cho sure seems to enjoy sex books! She loved yours and Ducky Doolittle's. Is she a friend of yours?
Nina Hartley: More of an acquaintance. I think she's the coolest!
Eros Zine: You're the unrivaled Grande Dame of sex, it seems. How have your years in the business resulted in your preeminence?
Nina Hartley: I wouldn't go away, is all. I was here for me and for
those who are receptive to my message. I wasn't really concerned with
any of the other drama.
Eros Zine: How many porn movies have you appeared in? Any favorites?
Nina Hartley: About 600. Debbie Duz Dishes, Young Girls in Tight Jeans, my /O: The Power of Submission
Eros Zine: How has the business changed since you first started? For the better or the worse?
Nina Hartley: It's bigger, broader, easier to find and to get into,
easier to discard. It's better in that there is some peer support, in
the form of our health clinic, AIM, that there wasn't before. It's
worse in that it's harder to get out when you should, or want to.
Eros Zine: Any comments on the whole gonzo genre?
Nina Hartley: I like some of it and loathe most of it. When it's good,
it's fun and immediate and intimate and sometimes empowering. When it's
bad it's hostile, ugly and exploitative.
Eros Zine: Is the political climate hostile to porn? To sex in general?
Nina Hartley: The political climate will always be somewhat hostile to
porn, as our Calvinist roots will always be made uncomfortable by the
pleasures of the body.
Eros Zine: Is there anything we can do (as pornographers) to improve the climate? Or make better porn?
Nina Hartley: No. In a culture as conflicted about sex and sexuality as
ours is, porn will always suck. We don't respect sex, or those who have
it, and certainly not those who flaunt it. We get the porn we deserve
and that's why so much of it is of such poor quality.
Eros Zine: Tell us about your instructional videos. I reviewed your
Guide to G-Spot Sex and both of your guides to threesomes. They're hot
Nina Hartley: I wanted to make sex education fun and accessible. Sex is
both a physical skill set and an emotional one. The two go together but
can be developed separately and combined when a person is ready. I just
wanted to help people in their quest to figure out what it is they
might want in the bedroom.
Eros Zine: Any more in the works?
Nina Hartley: Yes, at least six.
Eros Zine: How is it working with your husband as your director? Do you have similar visions?
Nina Hartley: I love working with him. Our visions overlap
substantially, and most importantly in the arena of sex as performance.
He likes to shoot it and I like to do it. It's really lovely to have
him behind the camera.
Eros Zine: Whose movies do YOU enjoy watching?
Nina Hartley: I don't watch much video porn. I prefer illustration.
Eros Zine: Aside from your instructional series, what else do you have in the works?
Nina Hartley: Lecturing and touring to promote the book in particular and sexual literacy in general.
Eros Zine: Okay, that should do it! Thank you for your time!
Nina Hartley: You're welcome! Check out nina.com. Please feel free to buy my book and post a review on Amazon.com!
[Written Nov. 2006]