So, I’ll call this an OMG2. Last night I interviewed Ernest Greene and Nina Hartley for KinkyCast.com. It was by phone, thank God, because I don’t think I’d have been able to look at Nina and speak coherently at the same time.
If you’re sex-aware enough to be reading my blog, you probably know who Nina Hartley is. Hell, unless you’re Amish and living in a cave, you probably know who Nina Hartley is. Look in the dictionary under “legendary porn stars,” and you’ll find her big blue eyes staring back at you.
But more than that, she’s a shining example of how women have evolved to take control of their lives and careers in the adult entertainment industry. She is living proof that a woman doesn’t have to be chewed up and spit out by a misogynistic sex industry. Was it merely luck that has kept her out of addiction, rehab and all the other pitfalls that some feminists are so fond of claiming are the inevitable fates of women who dare to make a living as unapologetically sexual beings, or is she just an extraordinary woman?
I don’t know. Maybe she doesn’t, either. But just the fact that she exists spits in the eye of all those negative stereotypes and expectations about women who actually enjoy sex.
But maybe you don’t know that Nina Hartley is now a film director, sex educator, feminist, and author. She’s helped thousands of other people enjoy sex as a vital part of their life, and she does it with fun, with joy, with enthusiasm. With her husband Ernest Greene, she’s co-author of Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex (2006) and Nina Hartley’s Guide series of adult sex education videos, which now boasts forty titles.
People outside the adult entertainment industry may be less familiar with her husband, Ernest Greene. Before I began researching for the interview, I knew that he was the editor of Hustler’s Taboo magazine, and a successful BDSM and fetish filmmaker. I knew from reading his comments in various discussions on FetLife that he was an intelligent, articulate and dominant gentleman. From photographs, I knew he possessed an elegant sense of style. (God, I just love a man who wears a watch chain.)
I did not, however, realize how amazing his career has been, stretching from Denver to London to New York to San Francisco to LA as a syndicated newspaper columnist, talk radio host, reporter and journalist. He was first published in Esquire at the tender age of fifteen, and since then has been published in Rolling Stone, Details, and Harpers. As a screenwriter, he’s worked for Dino De Laurentiis, Interscope and Walt Disney.
Yes, I said Walt Disney. But if you want to hear that story, you'll have to listen to the podcast, which is scheduled to go live in about two weeks. (Don't worry, I'll remind you as soon as it is available!)
His first kink-porn job was as a rigger on a Marilyn Chambers film. Yes, he got paid $100 to tie up Marilyn Chambers. (Nice work if you can get it!) He’s gone on as a performer, writer, director, and producer of adult films and videos with more than 500 titles to his credit. He was a pioneer in making BDSM and fetish films that were, for the first time, neither brutishly ugly nor ridiculously inaccurate.
I am particularly thankful that he helped shatter the myth that “showing penetrative sex with bondage would result in certain prosecution.” I remember all too well being so excited to see my first actual bondage video. There was this beautiful woman trussed up in an enticingly helpless package, being whipped and caned and then….
Nothing. Breathless with frustrated arousal, I turned to my date and whispered, “Isn’t somebody going to fuck her?”
“No,” he said wistfully.
“Why not?” I asked in amazed disbelief.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “They just don’t. I think it’s against the law.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” I pouted. “Someone ties me up, they’d damn well better fuck me.”
As if his career wasn’t interesting enough on its own, Ernest has rubbed elbows with some fascinating people. He was a long-time friend of the (in)famous Hunter S. Thompson. (I think that means they got thrown out of places together.) He was living in Thompson’s basement while Thompson was writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and read the manuscript as it was being written, a page at a time.
And as the editor of Hustler’s Taboo magazine, he’s worked with/for Larry Flynt, who, for better or worse, has become an iconic figure not just in the history of porn, but of history, period.
Then, of course, there are all those sexy porn people he's worked with, directed and, in many cases… um, you know.
The icing on the cake, of course, is that this is the guy who has Nina Hartley not merely as his wife, but as his slave. I imagine men all over the world glare at Ernest and wonder how in the hell he got so lucky.
I don’t think luck had anything to do with it. What girl could say no to a smart, powerful, dominant man with style, the desires of a skillful sadist and the heart of a romantic?
Oh, I forgot to mention: he also writes some damned hot erotica. He’s just published his first novel, Master of O, a modern retelling of the classic Story of O with a twist: the story is told from the dominant’s point of view.
Together, Ernest Greene and Nina Hartley are the ultimate power couple of porn, sort of the Brad and Angelina of adult entertainment, if you will. I was star-struck and nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but they were both amazingly gracious and candid talking to me about their lives, their careers and their relationship.
Unfortunately for me, my co-host and master, Beast, was present when Ernest started explaining how he is somehow missing the “Jealously Gene.” Master was sitting there grinning widely at me, nodding vigorously as if to say, “Yeah, what he said!”
Well, that’s just great. That’s all I needed, someone else to reinforce Beast’s sense of superiority for his instinctual grasp of polyamory as a higher plane of existence. It’s not that I’m a boiling cauldron of jealous rage, mind you. I’ve had thirteen years with Beast and I’ve done a fair job battling the societal programming of a good Baptist girl who grew up expecting a monogamous picket fence. But sometimes his inability to fully empathize with my insecurities makes me want to slap him upside the head.
Not that I would ever do such a thing.
I started reading Master of O a week ago, confident that I could finish it before the interview. However, the book took much longer to read than I expected. I had to keep stopping to masturbate. I usually only have that problem when I’m writing erotica, so I was definitely impressed.
I read Story of O many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, and I have a hard time separating the book from the movie (also seen a long time ago). Both book and movie fascinated and disturbed me in equal measure, I think because I had no understanding of real consensual BDSM to give me context.
I was confused as to why O would submit herself to such torture, and it made me uncomfortable with my own reactions to it all. I have to agree with Ernest, that the two dominants of the story hardly seemed capable of inspiring such a depth of devotion from any woman. Besides, I just can’t take a man named “Renee” seriously. My apologies to the French.
Now, knowing the author’s reasons for writing Story of O in the first place (to please a lover whose sadomasochistic interests she did not share, as well as to prove wrong his chauvinist assertion that no woman could possibly write erotica as well as his hero, the Marquis de Sade), I understand better the sense of chilly detachment that I found in it. There are occasional whiffs of the author’s disapproval of her characters’ actions, and a total lack of understanding for their motivations.
Master of O doesn’t suffer from any of those flaws. It is obvious in every line that Ernest Greene understands both the desires and the satisfactions of consensual BDSM. We get to see the wheels turning in the mind of the master as he plans out a scene and reads his submissive’s reactions. And oh, my, does Master Stephen have some fabulous toys!
I’d like to have all those toys, but I’d settle for his closet. When you read it, you’ll understand. Some women dream of sexual domination, but all women lust for that kind of closet space.
Ernest has had a lifelong fascination for Story of O, but has expressed his dismay at the ending.
He’s not the only one to feel that way. The ending of Story of O fucking sucked. It was as disappointing and frustrating as that first bondage video I ever saw, but Master of O has made it up to me.
Reactions to Master of O’s ending will probably be split. Ten years ago, at the beginning of my journey and at the height of my joyous emersion in slavery, I would probably have thrown something across the room, or at least pouted.
Today, with thirteen years of experience in the reality of BDSM, I think the ending of Master of O is perfect in its irony. Ernest Greene has given O the substance and understanding that her original creator did not. You cannot read this book and wonder what O wants and why.
Master of O is a well-written, stylish, sensual and utterly beautiful piece of erotic fiction that should be required as a companion to the original.
Or you could just forget the original and read Master of O. For my money, it’s a much better use of your time.
You can get a copy in digital or paperback at masterofo.com. I suggest the digital, because it's easier to hold a Kindle with one hand. You'll need the other for… well, you know.