Photo courtesy of Efrain Gonzalez
Photo: Efrain Gonzalez

Post Porn Modernist (1993)

Annie Sprinkle’s Post Porn Modernist (1993) chronicles her career as a sex worker, pro-sex activist, and visual artist. Sprinkle narrates a story about her transformation from Ellen Steinberg to Annie Sprinkle, an act that prompted her sexual revolution. In this process of becoming, she criticizes patriarchal ideals of female sexuality and second-wave feminist anti-porn agendas. Furthermore, Sprinkle subverts the male gaze by performing erotic poses on stage that bring her sexual pleasure. She provides a playful critique of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) while alluding to her participation in Carnival Knowledge’s The Second Coming (1984)—an exhibition that explored the politics of feminist pornography through books, photos, sculptures, videos, and performances. This exhibition sparked national controversies about the pornographic content depicted in the artworks and led federal organizations such as the NEA to defund Franklin Furnace for presenting such provocative works. Sprinkle then discusses the labor politics of the sex work industry and her close relationships with clients, some of whom are disabled, lesbian, transgender, or gay men with HIV/AIDS. During the AIDS pandemic, she focused on developing new practices such as the breath orgasm—a technique created with Barbara Carrellas—which allowed people infected with HIV/AIDS to experience pleasure without having sexual intercourse. This shift in Sprinkle’s work prompted her transformation from Annie to Anya, a persona who embodies the sacred energy of ancient sex worker goddesses. Sprinkle’s Post Porn Modernist was intended to be part of Franklin Furnace’s History of the Future (1999) netcast on Pseudo Programs, Inc.’s the Performance Channel. However, the corporation went bankrupt during the height of the culture wars, leaving the performance footage dormant until it was preserved by the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library.

ANNIE SPRINKLE is a prostitute/porn star turned artist/sexologist. She explores sexuality through her unique brand of feminist sex films, writings, artworks, performances, and teachings. Sprinkle has long championed sex worker rights and health care, and was pivotal in the sex-positive feminist movement of the 1980s. She received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and was the first porn star to earn a PhD from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. For many years, Sprinkle has collaborated with her longtime partner Elizabeth Stephens, who is an artist and a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Sprinkle and Stephens are active leaders of the Ecosex Movement. They are committed to making environmental activism more sexy, fun, and diverse through art practices.