Classical music echoed through Leverone Auditorium. Annie Sprinkle lowered her head, gracefully lifted her breasts out of her magenta, fur-trimmed dress, and the “Bosom Ballet” began. Her hands caressed and fondled her large breasts on the last night of Sex Week as more than 100 Northwestern students watched.
After hosting a movie night earlier in the week, Sprinkle on Friday held an intimate talk and retrospective of her life’s work as a legendary porn star, a Ph.D., an artist, a breast-cancer survivor and a “metamorphosexual.” At age 53, this is her 35th year working with sexually oriented material, and she’s spent 20 years in the mainstream porn and prostitution industry. Since her first experience at age 17, her sex tally includes more than 3,000 partners.
“Does everyone here like porn?” Sprinkle said to begin her talk. “If you hate what’s out there, don’t reject it. Porn is harder than it looks — no pun intended — but you can all make it yourselves.”
Sprinkle herself created a porn-made-easy video early in her career, outlining the key components — erotic theme, plot, good lighting — necessary for any adult movie. Teen Mermaid Fanta-sea demonstrated the perfect recipe: Mermaids with assless green tails played under water as the rubbing of cunt, not conch, shells offered explicit visual metaphors.
Although she is now confident enough to show herself nude in nautical sex scenes, Sprinkle said she feared sex as a teenager. The topic was always taboo throughout her childhood; she wanted to be touched and physically loved but her family didn’t offer that.
Annie’s obsession with sex began after losing her virginity; she had 50 lovers within six months, indulging in the hippie culture of promiscuity and free love. Sprinkle worked at an adult-video store and then as a masseuse, a job which quickly developed into prostitution. Her friends decided they might as well get paid for having sex all of the time, and her career went into video. Her persona, Annie Sprinkle, developed as a “fearless, sexy, voluptuous woman that seemed to be everything [she] wasn’t.”
Streets of Sin Francisco, an interracial porn thriller, epitomized the raunchy, “pubic hairy” porn of the ’70s. Students at the talk learned the true definition of extreme close-up as the screen displayed a toothbrush penetrating multiple orifices of Sprinkle’s body.
But she said that porn did not satisfy all aspects of her personality, specifically her intellect. She had seen the physical aspects of sex, but a full understanding of the subject needed an academic view. Sprinkle attended college and went on to earn a Ph.D. in human sexuality. Never compromising her dedication to shock value, Sprinkle posed nude for her graduation picture, with the traditional tassel functioning as a nipple pasty.
After Doctor of Sex was added to Annie’s résumé, her next incarnation was as an artist. “I wanted to stimulate more than the male penis,” Sprinkle joked, “so I got into performance art.” One-woman shows, delving deep into Annie’s past, offered therapy and catharsis. Public Cervix Announcement, which Sprinkle has performed in more than a dozen countries, offered a new interpretation of artists sharing themselves with their audience. Reclined on the stage with legs wide open, Annie invited audience members to explore her. Equipped with mini-flashlights, more than 40,000 people got up-close and personal with Sprinkle’s vagina.
Performance has infused every aspect of Sprinkle’s life. It has facilitated introspection and allowed her to educate and inspire others. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she transformed her chemotherapy sessions into fashion shows. To choose a sperm donor, Sprinkle and her partner held a dance-off. To embrace her older and admittedly larger body, Sprinkle created a Marcel Duchamp-inspired video of herself walking down stairs in the nude.
Sprinkle calls the most recent phase of her evolution “adventurous monogamy.” After years of sex with thousands of men, Sprinkle found the “love of her life” in a woman, she said. “A devoted relationship is so much harder, no pun again, so much deeper and more challenging,” Sprinkle said. “Love is the new sex.”
Besides Sex Week, Sprinkle said she attended the Women of Worth spa event. She showed up in her normal, leopard-patterned, porn-star outfit hoping to expand the category of women the group deemed worthy. She described a positive reception and an open dialogue on feminism.
After clitoris close-ups, myriad genres of porn, and a deeper exploration of sex than most students anticipated, Sprinkle conducted a communal, karaoke rendition of “What the World Needs Now is Love.” The song conveyed a more innocent view of sex that Sprinkle says now characterizes her.