ANNIE SPRINKLE—POST-PORN modernist, tantric sex worker, "the Yoko Ono of porn"—is quick to defend her background: "If people think, 'You've seen one porno movie, you've seen them all,' they're wrong," she says, sounding as chipper as a travel agent. "There are many, many different types of pornography, and this show goes from one extreme to the next. It's great for people who don't know anything about porn and want to get a good overview of what it's about. Of course, you don't have to like porn to enjoy this show—it's also about personal change and society. And if you want to have a good laugh . . . laughgasms guaranteed! And you get delicious free popcorn, freshly made on location. So you don't need your raincoat."
Annie Sprinkle's Herstory of Porn
Velvet Elvis Arts Lounge Theater
Sprinkle is an unapologetic booster for pornography, strenuously arguing the proposition that the antidote to degrading images of women is not censorship but the creation of more images—images that celebrate female sexuality. You may have seen the posters for her current show, Annie Sprinkle's Herstory of Porn, Reel to Real; they prominently feature her abundant breasts. "It's not just anyone's herstory of porn, it's mine," she says, and it's hard to imagine anyone else's porn career being half as remarkable. The one-woman play begins with Sprinkle's start in standard porn flicks, progressing into kinkier fare with the notorious Mitchell brothers, creators of the classics Behind the Green Door and The Devil in Miss Jones. After that, Sprinkle began directing her own movies. A spiritual awakening followed—in which she took up tantric sexual practices and new-age sexual healing rather than simply turning her back on all things smutty. Then she was discovered by the world of High Art: "My video Sluts and Goddesses is probably one of the few porn movies that's played at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York." After this "art phase," Sprinkle became a lesbian and made women's self-help porn, touring with her lover in a show called "Hardcore from the Heart."
Finally, to top off her current show, she teaches and inspires the audience to make their own porn movies. "Anyone interested in film really enjoys the show because it's a lot about filmmaking. And of course anyone interested in sexuality, which is just about everybody. I get a diverse audience, which is part of the fun; people from the kinky crowd, spiritual people, porn fans, and highbrow art fans, because I was in all these worlds. But the people who seem to enjoy it most are women in their early twenties. Older people still have some judgments. Young women study sex in their women's studies courses and they just seem to get it."
DESPITE HER WHOLESOME demeanor—no one else can make a five-minute orgasm seem so cheerful—Sprinkle has her detractors. A proposed tour of Australia was forbidden by the country's censor board. "And when I was in Seattle before [at the Center On Contemporary Art]," she recalls, "the landlord threatened not to renew their lease if I performed. They bravely let me go on anyway." At the time, the most notorious part of Sprinkle's performance was her invitation to audience members to come up to the stage and look at her cervix through a speculum. (Ironically, COCA was then located downtown on First Avenue, a few doors away from where the Lusty Lady is today.)
This time around, there's been little outcry. "People want me to host parties and meetings," Sprinkle giggles. "We've matured incredibly since 1973, when people weren't quite sure if women had orgasms. There's still a lot of immaturity and dissatisfaction, but sex is coming into the spotlight that it deserves. It's like food—there are food columns in every newspaper, there are sports columns, there should be sex columns too. I'd like to see more theater, more art, more movies about the subject. Any angle is valid. You can learn about life in many ways; same with sex. You can learn about it being celibate, for that matter."
Though decidedly feminist, Sprinkle doesn't fritter time away with theory. She'd rather see women acting out their sexual desires on film than explaining the whys or wherefores of lust in academic journals. "I've made a special film called Teenage Mermaid Fanta-sea, in which I play an older mermaid who initiates a young teenage mermaid into the treasures of her sexuality. Forty-four years old and still making porn! I made it to perform with, so all the dialogue happens live and there's a bubble machine and everything." She pauses; then, ever practical, suggests we might need our raincoats after all.