Nina Hartley

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Nina Hartley
Hartley at the AVN Awards, 2013
Marie Louise Hartman[1][2][3]

(1959-03-11) March 11, 1959 (age 65)[4]
Other names
  • Nina Hartman
  • Nina Hartwell
EducationBerkeley High School
San Francisco State University (BSN)
(m. 1986; div. 2003)
Ira Levine
(m. 2003)
RelativesMarge Frantz (aunt)
Joseph Gelders (grandfather)
Emma Gelders Sterne (great aunt)

Marie Louise Hartman (born March 11, 1959), known professionally as Nina Hartley,[1][2][3] is an American pornographic film actress and sex educator.[5][6] By 2017 she had appeared in more than one thousand adult films.[7] She has been described by Las Vegas Weekly as an "outspoken feminist" and "advocate for sexual freedom",[8] and by CNBC as "a legend in the adult world".[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Hartley was born on March 11, 1959,[4] in Berkeley, California,[5] to a Lutheran father, Louis Hartman, and a Jewish mother, Blanche Hartman (née Gelders),[10][time needed] Her grandfather was a University of Alabama physics professor who was a Communist Party USA (CPUSA) party member in the 1930s.[11] Hartley's parents were members of the CPUSA[10][time needed] who converted to Buddhism when she was young.[12] Her father was blacklisted in 1957 for his communist beliefs.[13]

Hartley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area,[14][15] and as a teenager self-identified as a feminist, influenced by the slogan "my body, my rules".[5][16][8] After graduating from Berkeley High School in 1977, she attended San Francisco State University's undergraduate nursing school and graduated magna cum laude in 1985,[14][17] receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.[1] She was a registered nurse[18][12] until her license expired in 1986.[19]

Adult film career[edit]

Hartley sought a career in pornography as a way to make a living by having sex,[5] later telling Las Vegas Weekly, "Porn gave me easy access to women without having to date them or have a relationship."[8] She writes that part of her reason for choosing sex work was to be able to indulge her exhibitionistic and voyeuristic streak.[20] She has said she chose her life's work when she saw the 1976 erotic film The Autobiography of a Flea alone at a theater in San Francisco.[21][10][time needed] In 1982, during her sophomore year of nursing school, she started working as a stripper at the Sutter Cinema and then the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre.[22][15] She told an interviewer that she chose the name "Nina" because it was easy for Japanese tourists to say during the time she was a dancer in San Francisco, and "Hartley" because it was close to her own last name, and she "wanted a name that sounded like that of a real person."[15]

Her pornographic film debut was in Educating Nina (1984),[5][23] where she was cast and directed by fellow performer Juliet Anderson.[22][24][25] For many years, she toured the United States and Canada as a stripper and made personal appearances at sex shops.[26][27] In 2013 she described her father's reaction upon learning about her occupation:

He asked, 'Why sex? Why not the violin?' I know now that I'm sexual the way that Mozart was musical [...] a life of public sexuality has, from my very first time on stage, been as natural to me as breathing."[16]

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Hartley starred in several of the Debbie Does Dallas film series spin-offs such as Debbie Duz Dishes (1986) and Debbie Does Wall Street (1991).[26] In 1992, she directed her first movie, Nina Hartley's Book of Love.[28] She also produced and starred in a series of sex education videos for Adam & Eve.[29] In 1994, she began her line of instructional videos marketed under the Nina Hartley's Guide brand.[27] Hartley played the part of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 satirical pornographic film Who's Nailin' Paylin?,[13] with Lisa Ann in the role of Sarah Palin.[30] As of 2015, Hartley was still actively performing,[22] and by 2017 she had appeared in more than one thousand pornographic films.[7] She has been described by news outlets as "one of the best-known actresses in the industry"[24] and "a legend in the adult world".[9]

Mainstream media appearances[edit]

Hartley acted in the 1996 Canadian film Bubbles Galore[31] and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.[9] In the 1997 film Boogie Nights, she played William H. Macy's character's serially unfaithful wife who is murdered.[14][27] She later remarked, "The only movie I ever died in for having sex was a mainstream movie."[14]

Hartley has appeared in several documentary films: she was interviewed in The Naked Feminist (2003)[32][33] was featured in After Porn Ends (2012), and appears in Sticky: A (Self) Love Story (2016),[34] in which she discusses masturbation with regards to education, the forced resignation of Joycelyn Elders, and her opinions on the blackballing of comedian Paul Reubens after his arrest for masturbating in a public theater.[citation needed]


Las Vegas Weekly has described Hartley as an "outspoken feminist, sex educator and advocate for sexual freedom" and "a guiding force for a generation of feminist porn stars".[5][8] Describing herself as a "classical liberal feminist",[35][36] Hartley began engaging in feminist activism in the 1980s.[37] Regarding her understanding of feminism, she has said:

Based on my experience as a woman and a sexual being, and my understanding that I had the right to decide for myself what to do with my life – that’s what I understood to be feminist, to give everybody choices – I didn’t choose to be a mother but I chose this [porn] because it suits me.[38]

Hartley has also been involved in socialist activism[39] and has long been affiliated with the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC), a labor union founded in 2014 for pornographic film actors.[13] Politically, Hartley describes herself as a democratic socialist, saying, "There are some things the federal government is essential for and some things best left to local government."[13]

Hartley was elected to the board of the Free Speech Coalition in 1995,[40] and is a long-time board member of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation (founded in 2003).[41] She has made frequent appearances at academic conferences, workshops, and in the media to promote sex positivity.[42] She has given lectures at Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and the University of California.[3][41]


In 2006, Hartley co-authored Nina Hartley's Guide to Total Sex with her husband Ira Levine. The book includes sections on sex toys, swinging, threesomes, dominance and submission, and erotic spanking.[14] Library Journal called the book a "well-written guide" that is "strong on both safe sex and a permissive approach", saying Hartley "handles the material frankly, accurately, and with sensitivity".[14]

Personal life[edit]

Hartley is a self-described bisexual, swinger, and exhibitionist.[8][43] For two decades until the early 2000s, she was involved in a three-way relationship with her first husband—a former Students for a Democratic Society leader—and a woman.[44] She married her male partner in 1986, a marriage she says was regrettable; their divorce was finalized in 2003.[22] The same year, Hartley married Ira Levine, a director of porn films under the name Ernest Greene.[45] They are openly polyamorous.[46]


  • Hartley, Nina (1993). "Reflections of a Feminist Porn Star". Porn in the USA. Gauntlet: Exploring the Limits of Free Expression. Vol. 5. Springfield, Penn.: Gauntlet Inc. pp. 62–68. ISBN 978-0-9629-6594-4.
  • —————— (1994). "Confessions of a Feminist Porno Star". In Jaggar, Alison M. (ed.). Living With Contradictions: Controversies In Feminist Social Ethics. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. pp. 176–178. ISBN 978-0-8133-1775-5.
  • —————— (1997). "In the Flesh: A Porn Star's Journey". In Nagle, Jill (ed.). Whores and Other Feminists. New York: Routledge. pp. 57–65. ISBN 978-0-4159-1822-0.
  • With Levine, I. S. (2006). Nina Hartley's Guide to Total Sex. New York: Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-58333-263-4.
  • With Morpheous (2012). How to Be Kinkier: More Adventures in Adult Playtime. San Francisco, Calif.: Green Candy Press. ISBN 978-1-9311-6094-0.
  • Hartley, Nina (2013). "Porn: An Effective Vehicle for Sexual Role Modeling and Education". In Taormino, Tristan; et al. (eds.). The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. New York: The Feminist Press. pp. 228–236. ISBN 978-1-5586-1818-3.
  • —————— (2015). "Culture Clash". In Lee, Jiz (ed.). Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy. Berkeley, Calif.: ThreeL Media. pp. 255–256. ISBN 978-0-9905571-6-6.


AVN Awards[edit]

Hartley has received eight Adult Video News Awards,[2] including:

Category Video/Film
1986 Best Couples Sex Scene - Film Ten Little Maidens
1987 Best Actress - Video Debbie Duz Dishes[47]
1989 Best Supporting Actress - Film Portrait of an Affair[48]
1989 Best Couples Sex Scene - Film Amanda By Night II[47]
1989 Best Couples Sex Scene - Video Sensual Escape[48]
1991 Best Supporting Actress - Video The Last X-Rated Movie[49]
2000 Best Group Sex Scene - Video Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women[50]
2005 Best Specialty Tape - BDSM Nina Hartley's Private Sessions 13[51]
2005 Best Specialty Tape Spanking for Nina Hartley's Guide to Spanking[51]
2009 Best Non-Sex Performance Not Bewitched XXX[52]
AVN Hall of Fame[53]

XRCO Awards[edit]

Hartley has won a number of XRCO Awards:

XRCO Awards
Year Category Video/Film
1986 Best Couple Sex Scene Ball Busters[54]
1987 Best Couple Sex Scene Peeping Tom[54]
1987 Torrid Triad Scene Every Woman Has a Fantasy 2[54]
1989 Female Performer of the Year[54]
1990 Best Supporting Actress My Bare Lady[54]
1990 Best Girl-Girl Scene Sorority Pink[54]
1996 Hall of Fame[55]
2000 Best Group Scene Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women[56]

Other awards[edit]

Misc. Awards
Year Organization Category
1988 Free Speech Coalition Lifetime Achievement Award[57]
1990 FOXE Female Fan Favorite[58]
1991 FOXE Female Fan Favorite[58]
1992 FOXE Female Fan Favorite[58]
1994 Legends of Erotica Hall of Fame[59]
1996 Hot d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award[60]
2005 AEBN VOD Award Lifetime Achievement Award[61]
2006 Ninfa Public Lifetime Career Award[62]
2014 Exxxotica Fan Choice Awards Fanny Lifetime Achievement Award[63]
2019 XBIZ Award Best Non-Sex Acting Performance (Future Darkly: Artifamily)[64]
2020 XBIZ Award Best Non-Sex Acting Performance (Girls of Wrestling)[65]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]