NINA HARTLEY — “It’s exciting to…get out of the ‘nipple ghetto.’”

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Photo courtesy of Nina Hartley.

WHACK! magazine’s Miss Lagsalot somehow managed to nab an interview with the one, the only, the living legend, the lustiest and loveliest of ladies, the smart, the sexy, the strong-minded and out-spoken… NINA MOTHAFUCKIN’ HARTLEY! Holy crap, we cannot believe it! But before we get to soiling ourselves, drooling over her awesomeness… here’s the interview:

WHACK! According to Wikipedia, which I realize is often wrong, you just celebrated your 50th birthday! If that’s true, happy, horny, half-a-century birthday wishes from WHACK!

NINA HARTLEY Actually, I just had my 51st birthday and it was great. Thanks for the good wishes!

W! Anytime! At 51, you are still one of the most active and sought-after adult performers in the world. Frankly, we at WHACK! are in awe of your continued dedication to your career. Can you tell us about your current projects?

NH I continue to make videos, though thanks to Internet piracy work is down across the board for all players. My biggest project now is my new online community, and its companion Internet streaming TV show, The show debuts on March 28th, 7pm PST, on SexWise is about sex but it is not explicit. For that, will remain the place to see me in action. I’ve been an educator and entertainer for twenty-six years now and it’s exciting to take it to the next level and get out of the “nipple ghetto,” where I’ve been since 1984. And I’m always happy to promote my book, “Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex,” from Avery, 2006.

W! You have always called yourself a sex-positive feminist, which makes you an outspoken advocate of women’s rights, particularly in the porn industry. But I’d venture to say that since your entry into the biz, things have changed a lot. How would you say the role of women has changed over your time in the industry?

NH They have more leverage and power, in that they can learn how to run their own websites and keep more of the money for themselves. Porn pays no royalties and few women get any money beyond the one payday. They’re better equipped to stick to their boundaries. There are more agents today than before, so the women do have support behind them if they need it. A few have also moved into producing and directing, which is a power position, though few company owners even now like dealing with women as business peers.

W! Do you find these changes positive or negative for women in general?

NH Positive, certainly. More power is always a good thing when we’re talking about performance. The things that are not so good about porn today affect men and women equally: Internet piracy. It’s depressing work across the board for all performers.

W! You’ve also seen a lot of changes in the way porn is consumed—from the old theaters to VHS to DVD and now even to mobile devices. Do you think the public’s view of pornographic material has changed along with its viewing habits?

NH Absolutely. Porn is now ubiquitous, when it used to be rare and special. It was so amazing to see any nudity at all that it was all that mattered in a product. People can take it or leave it, and many now leave it. With the huge expansion of material has come a huge expansion of really lame, boring and plain bad porn. Consumers are no longer beguiled by the mere sight of naked genitalia in action, so they’re less likely to buy bad porn. Porn used to be a for-sure money maker. No so any longer. It actually has to be good. Women watch more than ever, which has created a market slice aimed directly at them and their sensibilities (Femme Productions, Sweetheart Productions, Sweet Sinners). This can only be a good thing, since women are half the population and have a lot of control over discretionary spending, especially sex entertainment.

W! Can we talk about your ménage a trois situation, and your subsequent monogamous marriage? Do you think monogamy is a more viable arrangement for most people, or should more of us try to open up to other arrangements?

NH My current marriage is not monogamous. We’re “emotionally monogamous,” meaning that we do our personal, intimate work only with each other, but we each have outside partners whom we see alone, as well as having threesomes with other women and, very occasionally, foursomes with another couple. Monogamy is best for most people, as most people don’t really want, or can handle, the tremendous emotional work needed to be healthfully sexual with more than one person at a time. But there can still be emotional openness within monogamy even without anyone stepping outside of the physical boundaries of monogamous living. When feelings aren’t accepted or validated they take on ever-more urgent tone and people can be left feeling “trapped,” “bored,” “misunderstood,” and the like. When we can accept, and even support, our partner’s looking at other people (if they’re not rude or stupid about it), or being looked at by others, we can take a lot of the negative charge off of the situation and back down from feeling threatened. And, if we’re lucky, we can take that positive charge home and have fun with it.

Being truly able to have healthy sexual relationships with more than one person at a time (no cheating, no lying or withholding, etc.) is a sexual orientation. My sister is monogamous. I’m polyamorous. My husband leans more toward “open.” When we take the time to figure out what WE want in our sexual lives vs. what we’ve been taught to want, we can figure out more clearly if we’re truly monogamous (as the culture says we must all be), or something different. If someone isn’t cut out for open relationships, even if such things seem sexy and exciting, then he or she should stay away from them. It’s okay if something is sexy in our minds but not possible in our real lives. The whole goal is to find, and support, our authentic selves, since only or authentic selves can be happy.

W! You have said in the past that pornography could be used to educate adults. What do you make of this study from the Kinsey Institute that says there’s no clear consensus on what constitutes “having sex”? Apparently only 95% of people surveyed think penis-in-vagina intercourse is sex, only 81% consider oral sex actual sex, and only 71% think anal sex is sex! How are people so uncertain about what it means?

NH I cannot do better at answering this question than to point people to this blog post by the amazing Greta Christina: On her list, “If you have to read only three things,” is the blog post, “Are we having sex now, or what?” Invaluable and well said.

W! What do you make of all the hubbub over the idea of mandatory condom use in the industry? Would you support it?

NH I do not support mandatory condom use in adult video. We have an amazing testing protocol ( and in the ten years since we’ve instituted universal testing, we’ve enjoyed great success in controlling the spread of STIs. In our experience, universal testing and no condoms has proved more effective in disease prevention than what they do in gay porn: universal condoms and no testing. It’s about personal choice and most performers prefer to work bareback. The push for condom use is strictly driven by PC bullshit, tainted by old-fashioned Puritanism, by people with a political agenda who are skeeved out by porn.

Porn sex is NOT the sex most people have at home and the rate of condom failure in porn is not insignificant. It makes it harder on all involved and can result in friction burn for the female partner, opening her up, literally, to disease. Condoms do not protect against herpes, genital warts, MRSA or chlamydia. HIV is killed on contact with oxygen, making the much-maligned external pop shot a literal life saver for all these years. Porn is not designed to be sex education, except when it is. It’s entertainment and it’s not our job to teach safer sex techniques. It’s people’s personal responsibility to educate themselves, assess the risks at hand and act accordingly. People’s safety is their job, not ours.

W! What do you think would happen in the industry if something like that were to pass?

NH It would be unenforceable. Who on earth in Sacramento is going to mandate “condom police” when we have factory and agricultural workers die each year from work-related injuries? In my twenty-six years in porn, NOT ONE DEATH has been attributed to porn-related conditions. In Hollywood alone, six stunt workers are, on average, killed at work each year, and they have some of the most stringent rules around. The risk of any one activity can never be reduced to zero and after a certain point it becomes cost ineffective to attempt it. Living includes taking risks. People in adult entertainment have assessed those risks and do what they can to mitigate them, just like people who become police officers, nurses, military personnel, etc.

W! And, lastly, Nina Hartley, can you give us any whiffs of upcoming Nina projects or appearances? We SO want to meet you!

NH I’ll be in Miami in May at Exxxotica Miami, May 14-16. In the meantime, stay tuned to or, @ninaland on Twitter, or my official Nina Hartley Fan Page on Facebook for updates on my appearances.

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