Sexual Psychopaths and the Cult of The Strange

[Read the original version of this story, complete with x-rated pictures and video, at Fleshbot.com]

“To me, a glory hole is where it’s at,” Nina Hartley tells me as she lounges on the set of Dana Vespoli’s, My Evil Stepson 2. “Sport sex. That’s what interests me.”

Of course she also thinks any man who would stick his dick through a hole without knowing what’s on the other side is insane.

“Not all women are whores by nature, but I am,” Hartley continues. “Actually I’m whore adjacent. I do porn because I don’t have the courage to be a streetwalker.”

Hartley is aroused by the idea of the stranger, the unknown. There’s nothing sexy about certainty.

“I’m interested in sharing sexual space with most anyone once,” she says, touching my forearm.

Is Nina Hartley propositioning me? Does she think I’m strange enough to hold her interest?

Hartley is a kind of stepmother of modern porn—the matronly voice of reason often called on by mainstream media to provide levelheaded opinions on the sex trade. Of course she doesn’t let her sensibility keep her from indulging in what the straight world may consider, irrational fantasies, like glory holes.

While Hartley’s sexual appetite is too omnivorous to be satiated by a single man, or gender, her cohabitation preferences are more normative.

“I love a man who can love a whore,” Hartley professes.

She knew her husband, Ernest Greene, was the man for her when she put this question to him: “If I slept with twenty guys in one day, would you want to be first or last?”

“Last of course, so I could take my time,” he said. “What you do with yourself when I’m not there is your business. The only time I need to control your body is when we’re having sex.”

While Hartley usually gets bored with sex partners after a few encounters, she found that the more she had sex with Greene, the better it got.

“The more people I fuck,” Hartley says, refining the sentiment, “the more I love my partner, which is something only swingers can understand.”

The instant Hartley sits in the makeup chair, she transforms. She dawns her reading glasses to fawn over cellphone pictures of the makeup artist’s children.

“The factory forgot to wind my biological clock,” Hartley says. “I love being an aunt but I never wanted to have children.”

Hartley knew she was different from other girls at a young age.

“I liked playing with baby dolls,” she says, “but I also had Barbie orgies. I never understood in movies why the female lead had to choose between two lovers. At eight-years-old I wondered why she couldn’t have both. They clearly all liked each other. And this is before I even knew what sex was.”

As a young woman, Hartley didn’t comprehend what compelled her sex-crazed girlfriends to sneak out at night looking for trouble. Now, post-menopause, many of these same girlfriends are uninterested in sex while Nina’s curiosity endures. The difference may be that for most women, sex drive is largely dependent on biology; when their biologic motives for sex decline, so does their libidos. However, Hartley’s sexuality seems much more bound to her imagination.

“I don’t come vaginally,” Hartley says. “A Hitachi vibrator and something in my ass will always get me off. I’m Hitachi dependent and I don’t care who knows it. For me, my sex drive has always been mental. Sitting alone in a room, does my vulva ever say ‘Feed me?’ – No.”

Hartley came of age in a time that was not as sexually progressive as her own desires. She claims that when she was a young woman, gold star lesbians wouldn’t touch bisexuals. A huge reason she got into porn was to have casual sex with women. She says she only dolls herself up to look like a feminine blonde so porn fans will pay to watch her fuck other women.

Dana Vespoli echoes this sentiment, joining our conversation to assert that a big reason she continues to perform is for unfettered access to women. She adopts a deep, creepy voice to describe the various female performers she wants to ravish.

Hartley and Vespoli swap stories of their failed attempts to pick up women outside the industry. They’ve both misinterpreted indicators of interest from women, such as left field references to playing softball in high school. Considering how sexually empowered these women are, it’s ironic how much trouble they have seducing other women. Their talk reminds me of men who are utterly baffled as to why most women aren’t as interested in casual sex with strangers as they are.

“I desire women like a dude,” Hartley says, “but I respect them like a lesbian. I desire men like a straight chick, but I worship the cock like a gay man.”

Are these women anomalies, gender hybrids, possessing female anatomies and masculine patterns of arousal? Have they become sexual paramours for so many male fans because they think like men in terms of sex? Or, are these women simply examples of how female sexuality would develop if liberated from social mores? It doesn’t seem to be just a coincidence that both women came of age in the sexually progressive, San Francisco Bay area, and both entered the adult industry doing girl-girl sex shows at the feminine friendly, Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre.

*   *   *

“You look like you’re dressed for your bat mitzvah,” Vespoli tells James Deen when he arrives on set in a suit. “You look perfect.”

“I was on acid during my bat mitzvah,” Deen says, grinning sinisterly.

For as unassuming as Deen looks, it’s clear he’s always been inclined to experiment with social norms, even with things as steeped in ritual and taboo as coming-of-age ceremonies, or sex.

Hartley is equally thrilled by Deen’s presence. He will fill her quota for strange sex for the day. Even though Hartley has over 1,200 scenes under her belt, and Deen has 4,000, today is the first time their genitals will meet.

“After 31 years in the business,” Hartley says. “I still have cherries to pop.”

At one time Hartley considered retiring from shooting boy/girl scenes. She was tired of working with younger guys who didn’t even pretend to be aroused by MILFs. She didn’t feel appreciated.

This seems odd considering Vespoli’s assertion that the “Nina Hartley” brand sells like gold at Evil Angel, which is why Vespoli wants Hartley on the cover of, My Evil Stepson 2.

Before their scene, Hartley and Deen pose for still photos. Vespoli explains their characters’ motives. Hartley gets her stepson, Deen, fired from his father’s company for embezzling. Deen in turn blackmails Hartley into sleeping with him by threatening to release a video of her fucking Uncle Harry.

“You don’t want to like this but you do Nina. You are turned on but still creeped out,” Vespoli says as the two pose. “James, just try to look creepy.”

“So just my normal face then?”

Deen claims he’s been working on his smile so he looks less like a homicidal maniac in photos.

“You can’t not be creepy,” Vespoli says, smiling, hinting at why she cast him for the role.

With the photos finished, the performers work out the logistics of the impending sex scene over an office desk. This somehow leads to a conversation between Deen and Vespoli as to which serial killers were the most compelling. They seem fascinated by how many of these killers led profoundly ordinary public lives. Pornographers embody similar extremes. In most social spheres these three would go unnoticed. However, in the fantasy realm of porn, they are international sex figures praised by devotees and despised by conservatives. Perhaps this is what makes pornographers so frightening to some. These cinematic sex workers stare at us from behind our televisions and computer screens like a reflection, a reminder of the sexual psychopaths that lurk in us all, just beneath our professional, button-down business attire.

*   *   *

Many porn sets operate like an assembly line with performers serving as interchangeable parts. Directors rely on proven formulas of what sells, going so far as to position performers and dictate the amplitude of their orgasms.

Vespoli has an idea of how the shoot will go, but no expectations. For her, casting is more important than scripting. She hopes the performers’ preferences and perversions will mix in an appealing amalgamation. Actors are given parameters, props, and then left to improvise.

Vespoli explains that the scene is not necessarily one of dominance and submission. It’s a power struggle. Hartley should be repulsed by her arousal.

“I’ll follow your lead,” Hartley tells Deen, “because you know what lead to give.”

It’s not easy finding young men who are comfortable being rough. More specifically, it’s not easy finding nice guys who know when to be rough, how to transform into a sexual psychopath with the unbuckling of a belt.

“I don’t cut.” Vespoli reminds the performers. “Do what you want to do. I just want to capture it. Feel free to be as weird as you want.”

The coefficient of weirdness is limitless when you combine the sexual imaginations of Vespoli, Deen, and Hartley.

“Once Dana and I had a threesome with a pillow,” Deen says, reminiscing about their strange encounters. “What was her name Dana?”

“Janice,” Vespoli says, smiling. “You made me lick Janice’s pussy.”

Unrestrained exploration underlies Vespoli’s work, as well as her own sexual interests. Her Real Sex Diaries started from an actual sex video with Deen that Vespoli recorded on her phone for her own consumption. She never thought to sell the footage until her ex husband, Manuel Ferrara, suggested she do her own version of Raw. Her real sex tapes feature awkward conversations that give way to voracious exchanges.

Vespoli turns on her video camera, freeing Hartley and Deen to follow their whims. Both are well practiced at improving dirty talk while in character. They feed off each other’s suggestions. They say yes to each proposition, even when their characters say no.

“How does it feel to be caught, Mom?” Deen says, gripping Hartley.

“Please don’t call me that.”

“I saw you lick my uncle’s asshole,” Deen says.

Vespoli shoulders a laugh.

They are like kids at play, or at least perverse teens pretending to be business professionals. The situation is made stranger by the realization that actual business professionals will watch these scenes and fantasizes about being porn stars. Both producers and consumers pretend to be the other, the stranger.

Deen asks how his cock stacks up against the other men in his family.

“It’s bigger than your uncle’s,” Hartley says, inspecting the family legacy with her lips, “but smaller than your father’s.”

Vespoli smothers another laugh. Deen’s chuckling dissolves into moaning as Hartley swallows his cock.

Deen’s character seems to get off on disgracing his father. Hartley’s character hints that her husband may actually like being cuckolded by his son. In the heat of the moment it’s impossible to know what elements of the scene will work, and in what way. I for instances, am distracted by something behind the camera’s view.

Vespoli films the scene like she’s part of it, working the camera like a sex toy. She fingers the zoom and cranks the lens, slides in and out, and shifts the action with her own movements. The unconventional director wears a formless black sweater, no makeup, no shoes, and flared jeans from the 90s with holes worn in the knees. The only exposed flesh between her neck and toes is the beginning of her ass crack peeking above the rim of her loose jeans. This view begs the question: is she wearing underwear? Her style gives the impression that for her, clothing is a secondary thought, a casual costume to help her pass unnoticed among the straight world.

After Deen climaxes, the performers linger naked in a post coital haze, bodies relaxed with exhaustion as they talk out an ending.

“You are a good mom,” Deen says.

“I try,” Hartley says, smirking.

Vespoli pulls the camera away to laugh. It’s unclear why these lines work. They hit at the right moment, communicating the complicated power struggle, how both characters are battling for the last word.

Of course the last word actually belongs to Vespoli who subtly controlled the scene. I imagine her alone, reviewing the footage on her computer, wondering what makes the scene work and why, editing, possibly with her pants off. Or perhaps I am just projecting. I won’t understand what exactly I witnessed here today until I am alone, reviewing notes on my computer, wondering what makes the scene work and why, editing, possibly with my pants off. It’s difficult to witness such ordinary seeming people transform into possessed sexual creatures without wondering about yourself, wondering if you too are a bit of a sexual psychopath.

Buy My Evil Stepson 2 at evilangelvideo.com and check out Dana Vespoli’s body of work at twistedvisual.com.