Fun_People Archive
22 Feb
Annie Sprinkle has been a sex worker all her adult life

Date: Tue, 22 Feb 94 13:18:37 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: Annie Sprinkle has been a sex worker all her adult life

Forwarded-by: bostic@vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Wendell Craig Baker <>
(Appeared in the Austin Chronicle for Feb. 18, 1994)

By Lindsey Lane 

	"Hey, did you know Annie Sprinkle is coming to town?" Aubrey 
asks.  Sprinkle is a porn film star/prostitute turned artist whose 
performance includes inserting a speculum in her vagina and inviting 
audiences to view her cervix.  Despite how shocking that sounds, I'm 
pretty sure shock is not her intention.  But I want to see for myself.
	"When is she coming?" I ask.  "I'm not sure," he says.  "Didn't it 
say on the poster?" I ask.  "Yeah," he says, hesitating, "But, well, I 
was pretending to look at something else when I was standing in 
front of the poster so I didn't read it all."  Annie is stirring things up 
and the performance is still a month out.
	I've written about the sex industry.  The last time I did, I 
interviewed and watched topless dancers at the Red and Yellow Rose.  
In my article, I suggested that the way for dancers not to get trapped 
in the sex industry is to be proud off what they do.  Pride is the 
contradiction to guilt and shame and the negative feelings which 
convince one to stay in demanding situations.
	I had witnessed a downward-spiraling exchange of low self-
esteem on both sides of the g-string.  While the women undulated 
and winked and coaxed dollar after sweaty dollar into that thin strap 
around their hips so they could pay the rent, buy food, go to school 
or get high, the men knew that their value as human beings was not 
a part of this equation.  The women were paid if they made men feel 
like high-dollar studs in a Kentucky stable.  The men were tolerated 
as long as they had money in their wallet.  Talk about a loud sucking 
	Annie Sprinkle has been a sex worker all her adult life.  She is 
proud of her career and has had fun.  I wonder if her self-respect 
kept her from being demeaned in the sex industry.  Did that pride 
eventually lead her out of prostitution to performance art?  Or is she 
still making a buck off her body bringing the porn industry to 
another venue?


	Aubrey goes with me.  The sold-out house consists mainly of 
men.  We speculate that many are porn film fans familiar with 
Sprinkle from "Teenage Deviate," "Kneel Before Me" and "Slippery 
When Wet."  When Annie explains the use of a dildo suctioned onto 
a refrigerator, many seem to know the scene from "Wet Christmas" 
where she fucks her refrigerator.
	Annie invites anyone with a camera to come take pussy spread 
shots.  Thirty men pile on stage.  She doesn't seem at all phased by 
these peepers at her feet.  I can see how her willingness to indulge 
people's fantasies earned her $4,000 a week in this industry.
	Next is a section called "100 Blowjobs."  Annie says that 
working in the sex industry wasn't all that great.  Of her 3,500 
customers, she had probably 100 bad experiences.  To a soundtrack 
of people cussing at her and spitting out cruelties, Annie licks and 
sucks nine dildos until she chokes and pretends to gag on the cum.  
The cameras stop clicking.  The eyes stop leering.  The air goes out of 
the room.  The sucking sound stops.
	Annie doesn't blame anyone.  All she says is, "Hey, these were 
my bad experiences.   They hurt."  She even takes responsibility for 
her part in it.  She isn't on the offense.  And the audience isn't on the 
defense.  The old equation of attacker/victim doesn't play, Annie has 
simply taken us inside the sex industry to feel what she felt.
	By the end of the show, I am enthralled.  I think most 
everyone is.  I check with Aubrey.  "Did it seem like this wasn't a sex 
show?"  He nods.  "She was completely guileless.  She's completely 
naked up there, but she's more fully clothed than anyone here."
	It seems many had come expecting to pick up a fantasy-to-go 
but it wasn't for sale.  No one could take a piece of her because she 
was intact.  I wonder if some of the audience feels more intact about 
their sexuality.


	Standing room only.  The audience is 80% women and from the 
instant Annie walks onstage, they are with her, whooping and 
hollering and reveling in her expression of womanliness.  I wonder 
how many had attended her "Sluts and Goddesses Workshop" and 
discovered their G-spot orgasm.
	I listen more closely to her text.  The line that grabs my 
attention follows slides of women who've had porn star make-overs.  
Each has undergone a startling change from housewife, lawyer, 
secretary to Baby Doe, Moon Maid, Peaches Delight.  A blank slide 
says:  "This could be you," with Annie adding, "There's a lot of you in 
every Porn Star."
	I know.  I wonder if that part of us in every porn star is the 
part we hate or feel ashamed or disapprove of; if Annie, by fully 
claiming that part of herself, lessened her degradation in the sex 
industry.  I don't think any of us has to fuck 3,500 men to reclaim 
that but how many of us feel a little ashamed off how wildly and 
delightfully sexy we are.  And is that what the sex industry preys 

	The crowd is mixed.  A few more men than women.  Lots of 
straight couples.  I sense that this crowd is here largely because 
they'd heard the show was daring and shocking and titillating.  After 
two days of word-of-mouth hype, Annie has become "The-Thing-to-
See."  (Emphasis on "Thing.")
	Maybe I'm tired.  Maybe the language describing "wonderful" 
"beautiful" "fantastic" lovers is beginning to bore me.  Maybe Annie's 
performance is bad.  Her pacing seems off, her nervousness 
increasing each time no one laughs at her stock laugh lines.  For the 
first time, Annie looks like a freak in a freak show, complete with 
naked pictures of her pierced, tattooed and scarred tricks.  When 
Annie is doing tits-on-head photos during intermission, I hear 
someone say, "Why do I feel like I'm in a mall with Santa?"
	Daniele, my companion for the evening, asks, "Do you see the 
way everyone whistles when the other women take off their shirts 
for the photograph?"  It's true.  Annie doesn't instigate catcalls but 
the other semi-naked women do.  I think about Annie's 100 bad 
times and how she believes she co-created them.  Annie says she 
doesn't have any more bad experiences because she doesn't need 
them.  I wonder how these bare-breasted women are co-creating 
being objectified.
	In the show's last part, Annie becomes Anya, the sacred 
prostitute, and performs a prayer/ritual which includes 
masturbating onstage.  The last two nights, this seemed beautiful and 
sincere.  Tonight, even the rattles we're given to shake and help her 
reach a stage of ecstasy make us look like we're all jerking off to the 
motion of her hips.  


	Ah, the late night crowd.  Ready for anything.  These folks buoy 
Annie.  They laugh at the right places.  They're eager to hear 
everything she has to tell them about her lifestyle.  And that's all 
Annie wants to do:  demystify the world of porn, not by laughing at 
it but by getting you in on it.
	A few years ago, I went to a lingerie/sex toy party, similar to 
old Tupperware parties.  The woman presenting the toys was 
straight-laced.  She looked like a home-ec student or an Aggie 
studying biochemistry.  She had a tone of voice not unlike a 
kindergarten teacher.  As she matter-of-factly explained this 
vibrator and that oil, I shrieked in embarrassed laughter.  Because 
she wasn't squeamish about the topic, I could laugh all I wanted and 
then, amazingly, think more clearly about what she was saying and 
even ask questions.
	Annie does the same thing.  She shows a slide of her in 
bondage with a hooded man whom she credits with teaching her the 
technique of turning pain to pleasure.  Then she says, "This comes in 
very handy during a root canal."  Or, as she inserts the speculum and 
the audience becomes exceedingly quiet, she says, as every 
gynecologist has said to every woman on the examination table, "You 
can breathe now."  Or she tells a story about how she started selling 
used panties and, oops, all of a sudden had this problem of having 
too many orders to fill.
	It's very matter-of-fact.  It's smart.  It's not a show about 
exhibition where Annie confronts all those squeamish places just to 
make you feel more squeamish.  She isn't inhibited and she isn't an 
exhibitionist.  She's aware of those tricky places and makes light of 
them so that people can laugh and possibly, just possibly, listen and 
	Though I'm not noticing the finer points of her performance, 
I'm glad when she has her orgasm, so I can go home and go to sleep.


	Finally.  The last performance.  I am ready for this to be over.  
Though I agree with Daniele that Annie is working hard to dispel the 
fear and shame and guilt around sex, I can't help but notice that on 
some level Annie is performing the same ritualized sex she would in 
burlesque.  Only she's doing it in an art-house venue.  She is still 
making a buck off her body.  And we are still peeping.
	A few days later, I hear that people who hadn't even seen the 
show are making a huge fuss about it on radio talk shows.  All I can 
think is, "Boy, we can't think very well about sex, can we?  We can't 
even hold a conversation about it.  And if we can't talk about it, it 
becomes easier for those opposed to it to rant and rave, "It's bad.  It's 
pornography.  Let's close the door on people and/or throw them in 
jail when we catch them doing it."
	For all my disillusion about Annie's shows, she is still putting 
sexuality and the sex industry in front of us, proudly, in a way that 
we can look at it and possibly talk about it.  It's uncomfortable but 
it's useful."
	I wonder where Annie will go from here.  In her performance, 
Annie introduces Anya and says, "Anya exists today because Annie 
Sprinkle existed yesterday."  The problem is, Anya doesn't exist.  
Anya is still Annie, trying to do sex differently but still doing it with 
a whole lot of people.
	The different ways Annie has learned to be intimate as a result 
of having a lover who was HIV positive and died of AIDS is 
important.  The way she finds the beauty in people who might well 
be considered social/sexual freaks is important.  The way she admits 
she was lucky to have survived the sex industry in such a sexually 
confused society is important.  The way she can talk about sex easily, 
reasonably and with humor is important.
	Anya/Annie does have something to tell us.  But she may have 
to step outside the protection of art to do it, to step up to the 
pornography debate table with the likes of Andrea Dworkin.  Annie's 
message is no less valid because she was a sex worker.  It may be 
more so.  But in stepping into a wider arena, she may have to admit 
that, though she survived, pornography is demeaning to men and 
women.  And right now, that message is just too hard for Annie to 

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []