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A Star Is Porn

Annie Sprinkle: Performance artist par X-cellence?

Sprinkle insists that she's never been exploited. "I always find it fascinating that inevitably, in every single interview I've ever done, they want to know about what horrible things happened to you when you're in the sex business. No one ever has said, "Well, tell us about some of your most wonderful sexual experiences" or "How did you grow from these experiences?" or "How many orgasms did you have?" You know what I mean?"

Where she falls in the subject-object spectrum isn't an issue to her. "I'm not a victim-type person. I have seen some women in the sex business who've had a hard time, but I was pretty balanced. I wasn't a drug addict. I, yeah, made some stupid mistakes, but I totally take any and all responsibility if I had any lousy experiences. But I think you can get lousy experiences in any job.... For the most part, I had a pretty good time and I was very interested in what I was doing. Sure, I would have liked to have been paid better and had better working conditions, you know, worked less hours or gotten royalties or had control over the final product, but I was never raped, I was never forced, I was never physically hurt, I never got any diseases. So actually, I think I came out of it a winner."

When reminded of the obvious -- that Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, as well as more mainstream feminists, might disagree -- Sprinkle is unfazed. "Well, I'm a feminist, and I think there are different kinds of feminists. There are the sex-positive ones, and there are the ones who are very sex-negative."

The word degradation, she insists, has not applied to her. "I think there are a lot of feminists who are busy, very busy, dealing with some of the problems our society has about sex, and that's a really great thing, you know, like [they're dealing with] rape and, in fact, exploitation of women and forced prostitution. But some of those feminists think that we have to stop sex in some way to stop the problems. That's like throwing the baby out with the bath water. See, to me, it's also a very feminist issue to talk about women's pleasure. There's nothing better than a woman who's totally sexually satisfied. She feels good, she's happy, she's strong, she's powerful. A woman who's truly orgasmic doesn't take shit from anybody."

To feminist detractors she asserts that they don't know what she does. "For one thing, they haven't seen it. They think they know. They have preconceived notions. They have total prejudice toward women who are very sexual, just like saying black people or Jewish people are all one way. It's like saying women who've had sex with 2,000 men have to be a certain way.... They just don't know. And so I have a lot of compassion and sympathy. And I have patience.... I met a woman who was with the Women Against Pornography. She was in it for a long time, going around the country talking about how she was trying to save women in the sex industry. And I met her at a funeral and she came over and we talked. It was clear she was absolutely miserable. She was totally unhappy. Her life was a mess and I was clearly strong and empowered and happy and content. But it was just like this cosmic joke. It was like she was out there trying to save me when she was the one who needed to be saved."

This makes me wonder if Sprinkle's motto, "Let there be pleasure on earth, and let it begin with me," is more serious than it sounds. "My responsibility to making a happier, more satisfyingly pleasure-filled world is to be as happy and pleasure-filled as I can. Rather than dwelling on the problems, I mean, we have to solve the problems, but we also need some role models. What does it look like to have hour-long orgasms? What's it look like to be sexually satisfied? What does it look like to love your work? People are all the same: They want this world to be a happier place to live. One way of doing that is to become happy, have more pleasure, take more time and consciously make an effort to feel you deserve pleasure."

Is there one question this entertaining-cum-educating woman of the world has never been asked, one that she always wanted to answer? "I guess I'd like to hear someone say, 'Would you say you have experienced intense amounts of ecstasy and been to incredible heights of orgasmic bliss?'"

Well? The answer isn't surprising. "Yes, I have, and I'm extremely grateful." What is surprising is that the hour-long telephone interview I thought was over wasn't. Annie Sprinkle called back 15 minutes later to add: "And I'd like other people to have that beautiful adventure as well." Actually, she had two things to add: She also reminded me that it would be great to tell everyone that cameras are welcome at the show.

Annie Sprinkle will perform Post-Post Porn Modernist Friday and Saturday, January 14 and 15 at 8 p.m., kicking off DiverseWorks's "All the Rage: Solo Women's Voices Series," which will run through February. Sprinkle will execute a for-women-only performance Sunday, January 16, at 8 p.m. All shows are at DiverseWorks, 1117 E. Freeway, two blocks north of UH-Downtown at N. Main and Naylor. Call 223-8346 for more information.

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