University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow recently hosted my lecture, “Fantasy versus Reality: Viewing Adult Media with a Critical Eye.”

Nina Hartley


Attendance was optional. As a long-time public speaker on the topics of sex, sexuality and sexual expression, I saw the chancellor’s invitation as an example of UW-L’s “commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

I appreciated the opportunity to talk about developing a healthful sexual life while minimizing risk for negative outcomes.

Regarding my Nov. 3 visit, I empathize with Chancellor Gow’s response to personally repay my appearance fee and to subsequently invite a speaker that will offer a counter narrative to the one I presented, for the sake of “balance.”

As an advocate for sexual liberation, I’ve long been cast as either a threat or a menace and I posit Chancellor Gow was pressured into his decisions by those uncomfortable with my message and how my expertise was acquired.

The rearranging of funds to compensate for my time and distribution of knowledge is discriminatory, allowing UW-L to selectively pursue certain advocates while delegitimizing others.

Moreover, the prurient attention paid to me in my role of “porn star,” while downplaying my nursing degree, invalidates my knowledge, using sex-negative rhetoric. This othering is not new to me, as women are conditioned to be the object when it comes to sexual matters, not the subject.

I am a registered nurse who happens to be a “porn star.” I am trained to effectively address human pain, both physical and psychic. I combine my vocation, the alleviation of suffering, with my activism, speaking for those who have no voice, and my avocation, being in the presence of consenting adults for the purposes of sexual exchange, be it of a commercial, educational or personal nature.

In Western culture sexuality is sick, and sick people need a nurse’s care — someone who is present and compassionate in the face of extreme suffering without themselves being overwhelmed.

I have been in the trenches of the gender wars for 35 years now and have seen first-hand how our rigidity regarding sexual matters harms everyone.

Sexual suffering, be it from trauma, shame, enforced ignorance or isolation, is real. It is felt, expressed and healed through the care and tending of the physical body. Consensual pleasure is an effective antidote for suffering.

The center of a Venn diagram, with one set being “nursing,” and the other set being “porn,” is the body, the “workspace” of my entire career. Our bodies house our experiences and memories. From infancy onward how we treat them impacts our adult choices, for better or for worse.

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Many of my co-workers and fans are victims of the sex-negative conditioning that passes for “sex-ed” in this country. So-called “traditional family values,” with an emphasis on “don’t tell,” and “what will the neighbors think?” often hide horrific and heart-breaking tales of abuse.

I find it telling that my speaking the truth about my lived experience garners opprobrium from both the religious right and the so-called feminist left. They merely use different rhetoric to promote the same agenda: suppression of individual sexual expression and intellectual discourse, based on fear and bigotry.

Totalitarians and authoritarians alike fear sexual freedom because desire is anarchic and chaotic.

It crosses lines that are largely arbitrary and almost wholly culturally determined. Sexual freedom is a fundamental human right in that it requires bodily autonomy, free from coercion from the state, church, family or other institutions.

UW-L’s intolerance of me as a knower of sex, one worthy of knowing what I know, is an exertion of control and reveals the university offers partial and distorted understandings of adult media.

This harms students by stunting their critical engagement on an important topic for which a college education is supposed to prepare them.

Stopping the reversal of payment for my lecture would position UW-L as “an inclusive campus that attracts and retains diverse students, faculty and staff and promotes a dynamic learning environment vital for academic excellence and global citizenship,” as stated in the university’s diversity and inclusion policy.

My career in adult movies informs scholars’ theories involving sex, sexuality and sexual expression. UW-L’s willingness to accept Chancellor Gow’s money violates its stated policies on diversity.

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Nina Hartley started her career in adult entertainment in 1982. She is a registered nurse and a longtime board member for the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for sexual freedom as a human right, and has appeared on news shows to discuss her experience in the adult film industry. She regularly speaks around the country, and the world, discussing the importance of sexual literacy, pleasure, compassion and health. She resides in Los Angeles.


(11) comments


Help! Could someone please define
A p o r n s t a r?

informed and educated

Sadly, Marie Louise Hartman AKA Nina Hartley is not informed about what is really happening on campus. Faculty, staff, and students are not upset that she came to campus or that she spoke (and by the way, was a terrible speaker). The UWL community is upset by the blatant disregard Chancellor Gow has for UWL and the policies for bringing a speaker to campus. Chancellor Gow hid this intentionally and even asked many to keep it quiet, and the fact that he hid it indicates he is not trustworthy and does not represent the values and standards of the university. She is not addressing this issue but rather turning this into the topic of her lecture. She truly has no place to speak about what is happening on campus. The issue is not about her profession or her talk itself. The issue is that Chancellor Gow has hidden things and is not being honest.

And, if we are addressing facts, Marie Louise Hartman AKA Nina Hartley WAS a registered nurse for 2 years and, according to her, it expired in 1986. She is not a sex educator, outside of her sexual conquests. I have a bank account but I am not a banker. I have a computer but I am not a computer expert. Just because she has had sex, does not make her a sex educator.


" is upset by the blatant disregard Chancellor Gow has for UWL and the policies for bringing a speaker to campus." Ok informed and educated, what specifically were the policies that were no followed by Gow? Could you inform us exactly what are the policies to bring a speaker to campus?


Really, vicious gossip and inuendo. No proof, just accusations. I have heard many bad things on campus about "informed and educated" and none of it fir to repeat here.


As a UWL Alum, I don't care that she came to speak. I care that this is the type of thing they spend $5,000 of the students money on. What a ridiculous waste when tuition is making university unaffordable for many.

So Hartley has a nursing degree, that's great. Nurses work hard to make $5,000 a month, not $5,000 for an hour long speech. Harley is not presenting herself as a nurse in making these speaking engagements. She's using "fame" as a adult film-actress to profit off gullible academics like the administration at UWL.

Sorry gal, you don't get to present yourself as a "Adult Movie Star" and make a spectacle of yourself when it's profitable to do so, but then demand the dignity that comes with the noble profession of nursing.


Wow! Berks!! What century were you born in? 5k is nothing in today's world. And a professional is a professional no matter WHICH profession. And a nurse is a nurse and deserving of respect. Man. Get with it. Does your "gal" make you a sammich? lol!


Troll Grade D+


Thanks for this sex-positive message! UWL's actions just show that not much has changed since this country was founded by Puritans.


Nina Hartley, thank you for the excellent rebut to the naysayers whoever they may be. Life experiences regarding sexual norms have been a burden to women for far too long. Everything has been about the male - his pleasure, none of the responsibility. I am so sick of hearing "I have needs." "Boys will be boys." Some of the ignorant things I have been taught in the religion based primary schools is outrageous and of course again the burden always being on the female - the one that gets punished. Where in the 'bible' are men stoned for adultery? We surely need more Nina Hartley's speaking on our campuses - not muzzled the way certain minority of La Crosse students - or was it their 'parents' have done. Shortsightedness gets you no where. Bravo Nina Hartley. And UW-L owes Mr. Gow the money he personally paid back - shame on whoever was involved in this debacle.


If Trump, our president who has had sex with adult film actresses, gave a speech at U.W. - L to students about proper sexual behavior (grab them by the pu$$y) would all the prudes complain?


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