Nina Hartley's Guide to Pregnant Sex
I flew to Minneapolis last month to celebrate the fifth anniversary of feminist-women-owned sex shop the Smitten Kitten (smittenkittenonline.com). Co-founder and owner Jennifer, with her partner Davis, just had a baby, who was then two and half weeks old. Usually they're up to their eyeballs in dildo harnesses and butt plugs, but this trip, these two sex activists were all about cloth diapers and breast-feeding. Their baby was one of the most chilled-out infants I've ever met—he even slept as we partied at a local lesbian bar! The proud parents were so funny: They asked Penny Flame and Adrianna Nicole—stars of my porn reality series Chemistry and special guests at the store's big anniversary party—to pose for some pictures with their son for the baby book! I mean, I'm sure there's a page for "My First Photo With Porn Stars," right? Several people I know have recently gotten pregnant, and as they pore through resources on every aspect of being knocked up, there's one topic that's still challenging to find clear, sex-positive information about: sex.
It makes me think of one of the first essays I read on the subject, in a book by Susie Bright (susiebright.com)—she talks frankly and specifically about some of the sexual changes she experienced while she was pregnant in the '80s. For one thing, she found she couldn't masturbate the same way: "I was stunned and a little panicky. My engorged clitoris was different under my fingers; too sensitive to touch my usual way, and what other way was there?" She theorizes that one of the reasons some couples stop having sex during a pregnancy is that they're unprepared for some of the radical changes: "What happens is that your normal sexual patterns don't work anymore. Unless you and your lover make the transition to new ways of getting excited and reaching orgasm, you are going to be very depressed about sex and start avoiding it altogether." But who prepares you to cope with such a dramatic shift in your sex life? It's not usually part of the typical birthing class, your mom's advice, or the girl talk at a baby shower.
Finally, two of the most capable names in sex ed have created a resource unlike any other. Nina Hartley (nina.com) and Ernest Greene, her husband and the director of her video series for Adam & Eve, have produced Nina Hartley's Guide to Great Sex During Pregnancy. As porn-industry veterans, this duo knows well how pregnant women are portrayed in the industry: They're fetishized as Bare-Assed and Pregnant and Maternity Nymphos. (Notably, they're also often featured alongside big girls and transwomen in series like Fuck a Freak and Perversions). Pregger porn has become a small but viable niche, but no one has ever represented pregnant women in a sensual and thoughtful way, or treated pregnant sex as anything other than a kinky turn-on. No one has made a video that addresses the many issues of pregnant sex. For the mom-to-be, there are changes to her body, hormone levels, and libido. Some women feel extremely sexy when they're pregnant, while others struggle with their body image. Everything is in flux, from their sexual desires and fantasies to how responsive their bodies are and what positions are comfortable. Their partners can feel neglected, confused about how to interact with their partners sexually, or ambivalent about sex during the pregnancy.
Says Hartley: "Though attitudes have changed a lot toward the sexuality of pregnant women, many people still feel it's 'wrong' to make love during pregnancy, or they want to but fear it will hurt the baby. It's important to have out there a film that shows healthy, pregnant sex that isn't played for its fetish value, or for laughs, but as a serious topic worthy of respect." She and Greene are very proud of their film; Greene calls it "one of the most important titles in Nina's entire instructional series." When I recently saw the couple in Los Angeles, he told me why he thinks it's so special: "The emphasis on emotions as well as anatomy treats pregnancy as a joyful, shared experience to be incorporated into lovemaking, rather than an obstacle to sexual intimacy that must be worked around. That both our stars have knowledge to share from prior pregnancies lends the whole presentation a depth and authenticity that will be helpful and reassuring to couples in similar circumstances for years to come."
It may have porn stars on the cover and plenty of explicit sex inside, but this is a film where you do not want to fast-forward to get to the fucking: The first 25 minutes feature frank, fascinating discussions between Hartley and two pregnant performers that are chock-full of real women's experiences and opinions that cover everything from changes to their bodies (one of the women says that her labia are twice their normal size) to genital waxing (much more painful when you're expecting) to favorite ways to get warmed up for sex (foot and back massages!). The discussions are followed by two sex scenes: In the first, Hartley and Tiffany Minx demonstrate lots of techniques, from perineal massage to strap-on sex positions (making this a great resource for queer women as well). Hartley is always a pro, but her sex-positive attitude lends itself especially well to this scene, making it informative and validating as well as sexy and fun.
The second scene features a real-life couple, and their chemistry and connection are beautiful to watch. Says Greene: "The performer, who now goes by the moniker of No-Name Jane, did a lovely scene with her young husband whose baby she was carrying, in which the passion and affection are truly magical to behold. Our crew, many of whom are family men themselves, were genuinely awed, which is not a common thing among guys who shoot porn for a living. At one point, I looked over at my lighting director, who is a father of four himself, and he had a huge grin on his face and a tear in his eye. Moments like that make even such a complex production worth the effort. I can truly say that there has never been a video like this one, and that there probably won't ever be anything similar on the market in the future." A bold statement? Well, this one lives up to the hype.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.