This is the transcript of an interview she did for a site called SexHerald.com; where she discusses both her career as a sex activist/entertainer, and her current projects.
Unfortunately, the original article reveals Nina’s real name; which I have deleted out of respect for her privacy. Update: They have now rectified that problem.
These days, porn stars are paving the road for future starlets by starting their own production companies and spearheading their startups, placing themselves at the top as presidents and CEOs. Then, they step in front of the mic and declare themselves geniuses as they no longer merely market on their looks and double D’s—they have become businesswomen. It rings like a certain scene in Jerry Maguire: ‘Show me the money,’ anyone?
Nina Hartley has done no such thing. This articulate (an indication the light is working upstairs) blonde bombshell is still in the game for the love of—not money—but the game itself (sex). Hartley, a once socially awkward child of the free love era, has evolved into a sexual powerhouse in the adult entertainment industry, who continues to evolve people’s perceptions of sex by endorsing her brand of sexuality and erotic values. Together with her husband/director, Ernest Greene, the two are paving a different road for consumers—whether through her educational series, a soon-to-be released book or just plain love for all things sex. It’s safe to say, she’s a different breed of blonde, and marches to an entirely different drum, and we love her for it.
SexHerald: For starters, why did you decide to be part of the adult entertainment industry?
Nina Hartley: Several reasons. First, that was where the naked women were. That was a primary reason. [laughs] I am a person who has nontraditional sexual boundaries and interests, and professional sex entertainment was just a great number of things: It was naked people, it was performing, it was sex without having to go on dates and having to worry about people’s lives. I wasn’t really interested in dating a bunch of people, but I was interested in having a lot of sex. And, I chose adult entertainment because I didn’t know how to meet people; so, it wasn’t like I went to bars and picked up guys and took them home or anything like that. I didn’t know how to do that. So, adult entertainment was good for me because it’s all cut and dry. I’m going to go work, I’m going to be having sex with you, and then we’re going to go home. I absolutely loved it. And after 22 years, I still like the basic premise of making movies.
And, the second major reason was that I have—as a nurse, a feminist and a child of the radical—I also had my own agenda about sex education, sexual culture and sexual pleasure. So, adult movies were just a great way to showcase and role model my attitudes about sex in a light, fluffy, non-threatening way; seduce them over to my way of thinking. [laughs]
SH: These nonconformist views of sexuality that you harbor: Where do they come from?
Hartley: The way I am now has something to do with both the where and when and way I grew up, and my own hardwired sexual nature. There are a lot of things that are integral to a person’s “true” sexual nature. There are a lot of things besides being gay or straight or bisexual that are hardwired into people; and, the more I’ve done this, the more I believe that there’s a whole host of traits and tendencies that are just parts of who we are, like our eye color or hair color, and the cultural differences that support them.
I grew up in Berkeley, Calif., graduated high school in 1977. My parents were “seekers,” or Zen Buddhists now for 36 years. So, I grew up during the new wave thinking about sex and the new wave thinking about relationships and my parents were feminists. I got a lot of information in the 60s and 70s about the new wave thinking about sex and culture and politics and general relations, and what it means to be happy and female sexual empowerment and all these things, and recognized early on that I was a bisexual person and I was exhibitionistic and I was voyeuristic. If there was a word then, I would have recognized myself as being a polyamorous person as well. That didn’t come into play as a concept until recently. I knew that I didn’t desire monogamy, I didn’t expect monogamy, I didn’t dream about monogamy, because I’m bisexual. I wanted both.
So that automatically put me outside any so-called normative behavior. And if I hadn’t been exhibitionistic, then I would have just been a swinger. And since I was pretty enough at the time to make it, I became a professional exhibitionist. [laughs] But certainly, it was the time and place, meaning I got a jumpstart on a lot of people because my earliest sexual education was about openness and alternative ways of thinking; so I didn’t have to unlearn, ‘You better get married and have kids, missy.’ I didn’t have to overcome any of that kind of thinking. I didn’t have as big a hole to dig myself out of, culturally speaking, in order to enjoy myself in adult entertainment. So, I’m very grateful. I never thought sex was sinful, or that I was going to go to hell, or anything like that. I always knew that it was a question of making sure that I find other people like me and do it with them.
SH: You’re a feminist and a strong supporter of women’s sexual health. After high school, where you took many drama classes, you went to college and graduated magna cum laude with a nursing degree. Are you doing anything with that degree?
Hartley: Actually, yes. I never worked as a nurse. I got my nursing degree in 1985; I started doing movies in ’84. And what I do with my nursing degree is to be a person within the business to talk to women in the business, as opposed to a person from the outside shaking her finger at them going, ‘You should know better, this is bad for you.’ So, I’m here in the adult entertainment because of my own sexual needs and my own sexual journey, but I’m also here as a help to others; I am a professional. I have a book being published in October from Avery Press called Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex, which is another sex education book but there really can’t be too many of them because sex in our culture is so whacky. So, I role model positive sexual behavior on camera; I speak to universities and young people about sexuality; and, I just try to educate people in health in general, sexual health in particular. I went to nursing school to become a nurse midwife, and if I had not been able to be a professional exhibitionist I would have been a private one and continued on to midwifery school.
I’ve been lucky that at the time people considered me good-looking enough that they would pay to see me naked as opposed to, ‘You know what? That’s a nice idea, but no.’ I’m fortunate that my personal quirk and my physiognomy converged.
SH: Well, you’re 47 and you still look great. What’s your secret?
Hartley: Picking good parents. It’s genetics. My butt, my small waist; my high round butt from my mother; my big blue eyes are from my dad; my blonde hair is from my hairdresser. [laughs] But, I’m not a health fanatic; I’m not a purist. I do generally eat healthy, I exercise, I don’t have kids, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I try to have a lot of satisfying erotic encounters in my life. Generally, what makes a person attractive beyond any physical appearance is in his/her fire/energy/whatever—their essence. That attractiveness comes when you’re working on to resolve your personal issues. I also see a therapist regularly to keep working on my stuff so that it doesn’t run my life, and I could run my life. So, when a person is happy, he or she is more attractive. They give off more energy, you like to be around them, you like hanging out with them. I often do a lot of work on my own personal stuff so that I can be more receptive for others, because I am here to be of service to others. I found my way through my own sexual jungle, and I’m here to say anybody can find his or her own way to his or her own best place.
What I’ve learned in my “weirdness” can be absolutely used by people who are more normative in their behavior and normal in their desires than I happen to be. So, I may have learned my secrets through unusual methods but they are applicable to anybody. And hopefully that is my biggest gift to people—it’s just helping them make a connection between where they are right now and where they’d like to be in terms of their sexuality, and giving them useful, doable help as best as I can.
SH: You mentioned you don’t have any children. Why is that?
Hartley: I’m a 70s woman. I’m the youngest of four. I have eight nieces and nephews. Frankly, I kept waiting to want to be a mother. I understand, just from my own experience, just how much attention children need, deserve and must have, and what happens when that attention is not properly or appropriately given, and the baggage it causes. I just knew that I did not have what it took to be that selfless, to give to a child what he or she deserved. Children are not pets; babies are not props; they’re not animals, they’re not toys, they’re people. I think too many people are becoming parents because that’s what you do; my mother wants to be a grandmother; because my partner really wants to be a parent; and, I don’t know what I want. People just have kids for all the wrong reasons; relatively speaking, few people have kids for the right reasons, which is to raise another human being.
My sister is doing a great job; she really wanted to be a mother. I did not really want to be a mother; it’s such a huge undertaking. You really have to want it. No one tells you this: For the first five years, if not 20 years, children are work. Twenty-fours a day, seven days a week, they need you. They deserve you; they’re here to help and we’re responsible for them. I just never thought that I needed to be a mother to have a happy life or a fulfilled life, and artistic-wise, some mothers can do it all. They can be artists, and they can be wives, and they can be moms, and it’s just great. ‘You go, girl. Right on, I don’t get it, but go.’ Other people don’t do so well at that. I have a kind of life that I want to be the center of, and I didn’t want to have to put it aside for a child.
It made it even better for me not to be a parent because—how I use to say it—during my “breeding years” I was in a bad relationship, I did not want this person to be a parent. When I first started dating him, I thought he was cute and I thought he might be a good genetic donor. Then I got into a relationship with him and realized that I just did not feel secure enough with him to want to raise a family. So, that’s the second part of this. First, I did not have the burning desire within my body to be a mother, and then there was the fact during my 20s and 30s, I was in a bad marriage. I say now, ‘Thank god, I didn’t have a child because I’d still have to talk to him.’
SH: What about the biological clock scientists say women have that urges them to procreate? Did you ever feel that pull to have children at one point in your life?
Hartley: No. I was in passing interested for a few years at what it’d feel like to be pregnant, go through labor and delivery and breastfeeding as a physiological, biological event in my life. I did find the idea interesting.
I’ve had sex without birth control twice in my life. I’ve been very serious about monitoring my fertility. As it turns out, I ended up infertile, which is a perfect blessing anyway. I was like, ‘Excellent.’ Finally, someone who’s infertile who didn’t want it. I’m really lucky that way. My joke is: ‘At the factory, they left a battery out of my biological clock.’
SH: How did you find out you were infertile?
Hartley: I developed fibroid tumors in my uterus when I was 32, and I had two surgeries by the time I was 37 and I just knew then that I was infertile. I’ve never been pregnant, I’ve never even missed a period. I’ve been infertile for 12 years, and that’s fine with me.
SH: Going back to your sexual journey, you were in a triad relationship for 20 years with your ex-husband and his girlfriend.
Hartley: She’s his long-term girlfriend and was mine long-term girlfriend. They’re still together. They’ve been together since ’72. The three of us were together from 1981 to 2000.
SH: Were you happy in that relationship?
Hartley: I thought I was for a few years but in the bigger scheme of things, the relationship should have been over in two years. But none of us had the strength of character to break it off at that time, and so it limped and dragged on for 20 years.
I had moments when I thought I was happy; we had some pleasant times together, but in the end the relationship was doomed from the very beginning. I wasn’t strong enough of a person, I had bad boundaries, I didn’t know how to maintain myself in a relationship. It was the second serious relationship I ever had, so I was very young, very vulnerable. And, they had their own issues. So, three people with issues and you got a problem. Was I happy? No. But I was very happy in porn, and they were supportive of that.
SH: Now, you’re happily married to Ernest Greene.
Hartley: Yes, it’s amazing. [laughs] He edits the magazine for Larry Flynt, he is the co-author of my book, he is a writer/producer/director and all-around really cool person.
SH: What do you think is the secret to a happy marriage?
Hartley: Secret to a happy marriage is based on an overarching, mutual positive regard. Before we got married, he was a big fan of my work and I was a big fan of his work. I love his work, I love his attitude, I love his take on life. And, I guess he thinks the same of me.
Nina’s book is scheduled for release at the end of this year or the beginning of ’07.