Nina Hartley (1959)
It was on this date, March 11, 1959, that American erotic film star Nina Hartley was born Marie Hartman in Berkeley, California, into a secular Jewish family. She was educated in nursing at San Francisco State University's undergraduate nursing school and graduated with highest honors in 1985. Her first foray into the erotic arts was working as a stripper. From there she made her first pornographic film, Educating Nina, in 1984. Since then she has featured in over 400 adult films, becoming one of the most recognizable erotic actresses in the industry. She also sells a line of "Nina Hartley's Guide" sexual instruction videos. Her most significant "mainstream" role would have to be as the sexually generous Little Bill's wife in the 1997 film Boogie Nights. Still active in the industry, Hartley once quipped, "Now I work with women who are younger than my breast implants."
Politically, Hartley considers herself a humanist, a liberal and an outspoken sex-positive feminist. She is outspoken in her defense of the pornographic film and erotic arts industry and believes that the true perversion is the denial of human sexuality. This naturally puts her at odds with sex-negative feminists, who, she says, “really, really just don’t like men.”
Her-sex-positive attitude, coupled with her sex, naturally puts Hartley at odds with all of the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Hartley is, of course, an unabashed atheist. As a child…
Religion wasn’t much discussed and we never went to church or temple. … We were taught social justice at home. … There was never any mention of God as a reason to do right. It was just the right thing to do. I feel strongly to this day that right and religion don’t necessarily go hand in hand.”*
As for her feminist side intersecting with her atheism, Hartley says, “In a nutshell: my body, my rules. Other women don’t get to tell me what’s “right” for me, just as no imam, rabbi, priest or minister gets to tell me what to do with my body. You don’t know better than I do what I need, so don’t presume to. If I need your help, I’ll ask for it, thank you very much.”
In a profile titled “Porn Jews,” written by Luke Ford, Hartley is quoted as saying,
I believe strongly in the heritage of Jews as educators. I feel very proud of the fact that if it weren't for the Jews, half the world would still be illiterate. I would like to know about Jewish religion as history, but as an atheist, I see no reason to practice any religion... because it is organized superstition... the opiate of the masses.
From a Q&A on her personal website, Hartley expands on that quote:
No, I don't believe in God. I was raised with no religion, but a lot of morals. I definitely think that sex is natural and healthy, and that people have the absolute right to pursue their sexual preferences with other consenting adults without government or church intervention. I can do what I do to share my enjoyment of sex with all my viewers out there. If I can help any person or persons have a great sex session, then I've done a good job! I believe that society changes and that we can take what is good from the world's religions and leave behind what isn't so good, and forge a new say. I'm one of the forgers, I like to think!
Nina Hartley currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Of course.
* The Humanist, Sept-Oct 2010, interview by Shaffer.
Originally published March 2011 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.