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Nina Hartley’s rock-solid understanding of the importance of sexual autonomy has fueled her twenty-eight-year career in adult entertainment . As a performer, director, writer, educator, public speaker, and feminist thinker, Hartley has traveled the world delivering her message that sexual freedom is a fundamental human right. She welcomes new social media opportunities for sharing her knowledge and empowering all people, regardless of their orientation. She is the author of Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex. Putting to use her degree in nursing, she and her husband, I.S. Levine, have produced the sex-ed video series collectively known asThe Nina Hartley Guides, from Adam and Eve, which has sold millions of copies and is currently in its thirty-eighth edition. Still active in front of the camera, she and her husband live in Los Angeles. W hen my father discovered what I do for a living he asked, “Why sex? Why not the violin?” I didn’t have an answer for him at that moment. I know now that I’m sexual the way that Mozart was musical. I’m just wired this way and a life of public sexuality has, from my very first time on stage, been as natural to me as breathing. This is true even now, nearly three decades into my career. When I started in adult entertainment as a dancer in 1983, I didn’t think of myself as any kind of pioneer. I was simply doing what my 1970s San Francisco Bay Area feminist training had told me was my right and duty as a liberated woman: to develop my sexuality as I saw fit. “My body, my rules,” was the credo of the time and, for a nonmonogamous, bisexual exhibitionist with her own ideas about sex, adult entertainment was the only game in town. My goal was never to be a trailblazer, but to carry out my true life’s work: to speak about sex, sexuality, and sexual expression from a place of practice and not just theory, so that I might be helpful to others. A byproduct of that pursuit was my ability to make Porn: An Effective Vehicle for Sexual Role Modeling and Education Nina Hartley a living, which gave me the financial security to be able to devote my life to this work. By the time I did my first strip tease, I was fully aware of the accomplishments of the women who had come before me, most notably Betty Dodson (all hail), Xaviera Hollander, and the women of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Their books—Liberating Masturbation , The Happy Hooker, and Our Bodies, Ourselves—laid the groundwork for a world in which a woman with an unconventional sexual identity could be happy, whole, and proud, without apology. In time, I connected with the emerging sex-positive community in San Francisco. I became friends with other erotic explorers, including Annie Sprinkle, Carol Queen, Susie Bright, Patrick Califia, Gayle Rubin, Kat Sunlove, Bobby Lilly, and Joanie Blank, whose writings about sexuality and sexual politics (I longed to be a writer but didn’t have the discipline) waged the same battles I did, only on different terrain. My initial foray into porn came at a particularly opportune time in history, coinciding with a broader public debate over obscenity and a growing awareness of HIV/AIDS, just then being recognized as something other than the “gay plague.” During the early- and mid-1980s (at precisely the time when the home video market took off), differing battle lines around the issue of pornography emerged. One line was drawn within the women’s movement, resulting in a split between the pro- and anticensorship camps, which remains today (the so-called “feminist porn wars”). The other line was drawn by the federal government, then under President Ronald Reagan. Wishing to appease his socially conservative base, he sought to discredit the findings of President Richard Nixon’s 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, which had found no social harm from explicit material, and which Nixon had immediately repudiated. Reagan convened the Meese Commission on Pornography, which produced the Meese Report: over 1,900 pages of antiporn propaganda that flew off the shelves, making the United States government a best-selling pornographer in its own right. The commission was so obviously partisan that two of its members ultimately resigned rather than sign their names to its findings (though they were antiporn when they joined the commission). So why was there suddenly so...


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