The Accidental Voyeur: Hurricane Nina

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In all my years of reporting on the adult film industry, the best soundbites came from a single source. And, as anyone who has ever discussed the business with her will concur, nobody quite manages to sum it all up like she does.

I am, of course, talking about the great force of nature that is Nina Hartley.

When I first met her, it was in the summer 2001 on the set of a movie (whose title I can’t even remember now), and she had already been in the industry for a whole 17 years. That kind of longevity takes some beating, given how most porn stars burn out and fade away after merely two or three years, yet the thing about Nina is how she manages to retain a certain freshness that goes gracefully against the grain, as attested by the following gems.

“I tell people I make pornography because I’m too chickenshit to be a whore,” she told me. “I like the idea of being sexual with someone I’ve never met before and might not meet again. I like the idea of consensual sex without being in luuurve or having to be emotional. I’ve always wanted to be the whore you took your adolescent son to. I love being the initiator. I love being the person’s first time. For me, I am a happy sex professional helping you to do whatever, not for my ego but to make sure you have the safest fun time with whatever activity you decide to do.”

And, if you’re looking for her backstory, this one neatly fits: “I am absolutely living proof that the 70’s actually happened. The 70’s were not wrong and they were a good thing. I’m a 70’s girl, I was told about my body – that it was wonderful, normal, beautiful. That the sexual response cycle was fabulous and hot and wild, and also you had all the body-based therapeutic modes – Reichian Therapy, T’ai Chi, all those things that are designed to decrease alienation by getting us back in touch with our physical selves, where all sensations happen. People laugh about the 70’s but it’s absolutely incredible what came out of the culture – open relationships, alternative relationships, that’s how it all started.”

My most memorable conversation with Nina involved a discussion of a cumshot sequence in Michael Raven’s White Rabbit, his psychedelic 1998 remake of Alice in Wonderland (featuring Sunset Thomas as Alice, bad marmalade trip and all). During a group sex scene, Ian Daniels unloads his spunk on her face and Nina spontaneously flexes thumb and third finger, as if about to give the “OK” sign but immediately uses them instead to get rid of a gob of sperm that had so unceremoniously landed on her nose.

Yes, she grinned and flicked it off her nose, like an insect off a table, and has there ever been a funnier moment in porn?  (And this coming from the woman who would later play Hillary Clinton in that Sarah Palin porn parody from 2008, Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?) “I was obviously ‘in the moment’ and did that because it’s so silly!” Nina exclaimed, when I reminded her of that one. “There’s nothing more silly than having cum dripping down your chin. And I’ve had it in my eye a couple of times. Cum is very alkaline so it really hurts. Your eye swells up, it gets all red, and you can’t be shot from that profile so it ruins your day!”

But you won’t find her arguing against the place of the facial as a commonplace porn convention.  “I don’t mind that at all and I understand where it comes from, when a guy cums in my face,” she agreed. “But sometimes, I think, why have it on your face? I’d rather have it cum on my tits so I can watch it, if you’d rather cum on a body part and not in an orifice, you know.”

That’s not a bad philosophical musing, and I’ve often referenced her to people who ask me about porn. One quotable quote, in particular, usually comes to mind. “I think a lot of people should understand that porno movies are live-action sex cartoons,” she told me. “Just because a person likes a certain kind of pornography doesn’t mean he actually lives it out.

“Remember that porn is, by nature, very transgressive – it takes society’s norms, like monogamy and heterosexuality, and subverts them. Interracial sex! Toy sex! Anal sex! Group sex! Because our culture is very stultifying. Unless you live in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York, most people who are differently sexed are still uncomfortable in their communities because there is exclusion, isolation and physical danger if you come out of the closet as someone whose sex is considered too ‘out there.’ So you watch movies, to see things you would never actually do in person.”

Even in this age of Internet excess, that nugget of wisdom still rings true. It’s Nina Hartley’s world, after all, and we just happen to live in it.

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Drew McKenzie was previously the "Cinema Blue" columnist for Penthouse Variations and also wrote for AVN Online, Fox (from Montcalm Publishing, New York) and Guld Rapport (from Stockholm, Sweden). He is also the author of seven books -- three on porn stars, all done under his real name.