Twenty-five years into her career as a public advocate for sexual self-awareness, sanity and literacy, Nina Hartley is just hitting her stride. An exhibitionist with a cause, she created a persona that was wholly new at its inception in1983 but is now part of the broader cultural lexicon: “feminist porn star.” Ms. Hartley, first as a dancer in San Francisco and then as a performer in adult videos, put her body on the line in support of her ideas about sexuality, feminism, personal liberation and social responsibility. A red-diaper baby whose parents turned to Zen Buddhism in 1969 (when she was ten) she was brought up in the politicized atmosphere of Berkeley in the 60’s and 70’s.
A dedicated student of human sexuality for over thirty-five years, Nina Hartley began her career as an adult entertainer while an undergraduate in nursing at San Francisco State University, dancing weekly at the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater. By the time she graduated (magna cum laude) in 1985, she had become determined to speak out on the subject of sex work from experience, not theory. Banding together with like-minded women during the “porn wars” of the mid-1980’s, she was a founding member of the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force, whose impact on mainstream feminist thinking gave rise to a younger generation of sex-positive writers and activists.
But it is undeniably as an entertainer that Nina Hartley has enjoyed her greatest success. Through the 600-plus video and film titles she has made, her two decades of dance tours and her thousands of personal appearances, she has become the most enduringly popular star in the history of the medium. Having been awarded virtually every honor her industry can bestow, Ms. Hartley takes her greatest satisfaction from a diverse fan base that cuts across demographics of age, race and gender. The vital message of sexual optimism embodied in her performing life has touched many other lives, as the constant flow of testimonial letters and the long lines at her autograph signings continue to demonstrate. Long before achieving a measure of mainstream notoriety with her casting in the hit movie “” Nina Hartley had become an inimitable headliner.
Still in high demand as an on-screen talent in X-rated features, Ms. Hartley also co-produces her own line of instructional videos, Nina Hartley’s Guides, the market-leader in adult sex-education-video programming, currently in its thirty-eighth installment. She lectures on campuses across the country and has contributed extensively to anthologies regarding sex and feminism. Her publishing credits include “Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry,” “Whores and Other Feminists,” and “Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients.” She currently writes advice columns for the magazine Hustler’s Taboo. Her portrait, with an accompanying essay, is featured in photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders recent anthology XXX: Porn Star Portraits, from Bullfinch/Time-Warner, 2004, introduction by Gore Vidal.
Ms. Hartley is the author of Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex, a comprehensive book based on her video Guide series, for Avery, a division of Penguin Group.
Further information about Nina Hartley can be found at www.nina.com.
Nina currently lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband and collaborator, I.S. Levine.