Back in the 70s when the adult feature film Deep Throat first came out, it seemed porn was poised to be the new art form — or at least to revolutionize cinema as we knew it. We felt very cosmopolitan and European as we sat with our partners in darkened theaters as six foot tall images of human genitalia filled the screen. Linda Lovelace became a household name, and her success opened the door for a whole generation of porn stars. Names such as Seka, Sharon Mitchell, Nina Hartley and Kandi Barbour became synonymous with erotic entertainment and sexual, exotic beauty. The porn industry itself became known as “The ‘Other’ Hollywood.”
But then, something happened — or rather, it didn’t happen. Porn never quite made good on its promise to make sexual sophisticates of us all. The “new art form” devolved into what most referred to as “smut”, and nobody sat proudly in theaters anymore to watch the latest x-rated film. In fact, porn went completely back in the closet — or almost completely. Most people still watched it, but you certainly didn’t admit you did. And if someone you knew caught you going into an x-rated theater, it could change the way they felt about you — and not likely for the better.
I was just a child back in the Golden Age of Porn, but I went to Times Square often and would notice the sparkly women on the posters outside of strip clubs and X-rated theaters. “They’re not movie stars — they’re adult actresses” my father would say with a hint of disdain, as he pulled me from the objects of my interest.
Fast forward 25 years later, and I’m holding a director’s “clapper board” while Nina Hartley stands in front of me pacing back and forth and rehearsing her lines. I have written the script she’s trying to memorize, and I’m struck for a moment by the surreal nature of this scene. How did I get here – me, a science journalist and Russian literature freak?
Nina Hartley is a special legend in the world of adult entertainment. A mainstream movie actress, activist, writer and intellectual, it’s safe to say she doesn’t really have any peers. I am honored that she’s taken on the role I wrote especially for her. She will be the star of Girlfriends Films new Girls in White 2007, a three-part DVD set to be released in January 2007.
Nina took the role because she likes the Girlfriends Films philosophy; sex positive, female positive, and attempting to tell an interesting story. In the course of our friendship, Nina and I have spent hours discussing the nature of lust, the lure of pornography, the mechanics of orgasm, and the question of monogamy. As an expert in the world of BDSM, Nina knows something about the sexual potency of power dynamics. She will put that knowledge to work now, in a scene involving three slaves who service her, and each other, over morning tea.
I have written into the script that one girl should give the other a collar to wear, and Nina instructs me on the proper way this task should be done. In BDSM, there is a proper way to do almost everything.
“She should get on her knees, with her back to the girl who gives her the collar,” Nina explains. I watch this executed and it’s indeed sexy; it looks a bit like a spiritual ritual. Scientists say the parts of the brain that respond to religion and to sex are closely related, and I can see why.
The scene comes off beautifully. Nina is the consummate performer — mother, lover, teacher, goddess. The girls who play her slaves in the scene are humbled to be in her presence. Trinity Post keeps flubbing her lines, and whispers to me “It’s just that Nina Hartley is sitting here and it makes me so freaking nervous!”
Nina imbues the words I’ve written for her with nuances and inflections of tone that I couldn’t have imagined. She makes it sound good — better than it sounded in my head or written on the page. I’m flying with Superman.
And for a moment, I dare to think that maybe… just maybe… the promise of porn as an art form still has some legs. It’s a new generation, after all. And we’re pretty sexually sophisticated, if I do say so myself.
Girls in White 2007 is written and directed by Sydni Ellis and is slated for a January 2007 release. Check www.girlfriendsfilms.com for updates on coming attractions and estimated release dates.
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