Sudbury·Audio

Annie Sprinkle brings 'sex-positive' message to Sudbury conference

Annie Sprinkle might just have one of the most interesting resumes you've ever read: former sex worker and porn actor, artist, academic and activist. This week, the self-described "sex-positive feminist" brought her message to Greater Sudbury.

"Whores are my heroes ... they're always fighting different kinds of stigma," says Sprinkle

"We're a pretty smart bunch, actually," says Annie Sprinkle of sex workers. She was the first pornographic actor and former prostitute in the US to achieve a PhD. Now, she's an artist and activist working to help destigmatize sex work. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Annie Sprinkle might just have one of the most interesting resumes you've ever read: former sex worker and porn actor, artist, academic and activist. This week, the self-described "sex-positive feminist" brought her message to Greater Sudbury. 

California-based Sprinkle was invited to give the keynote address at a conference this week called "Building Inclusive Communities with Sex Workers."

It aimed in part to help break down some of the stigma around sex work, and help Sudbury professionals who interact with sex workers — including police, social and health care workers — to gain a more nuanced understanding of the profession and the people involved.  

"People think they know us, or they layer on their own prejudice and judgmentalism over us," said Sprinkle, whose own foray into sex work started 42 years ago.

"I was a young hippie, and I started out in a massage parlour in Tucson, AZ, and was doing massage, and it was the time of free love," she said. 

"I was interested in exploring sex. And then at 18, I ended up making a porn film, and I stayed in prostitution and making porn for 22 years and then bridged into art about sex."

'A lot of us really love our work'

"I developed what I call 'Post-Porn'," she continued. "[It's] more experimental and conceptual and feminist and queer ... and kind of opened a door for people to make stuff more outside the usual."

Sprinkle — born Ellen F. Steinberg — went on to become the first pornographic actor and sex worker in the US to achieve a  PhD. She studied human sexuality, interviewing sex workers about what they wanted to learn in continuing education.

It turns out they didn't want to learn how to sew or work in a factory. They wanted to learn financial management.

"We're a pretty smart bunch, actually ... People are smart in different ways. Whores are my heroes ... they're always fighting different kinds of stigma and their own shame and difficult situations."

Sprinkle acknowledged that her career has been a happy and interesting one based on choice and not desperation. 

"I've been lucky ... for some sex workers, they really need to get out of the business. But, a lot of us really love our work." 

Listen to the complete interview with Annie Sprinkle here

Annie Sprinkle has a PhD in sexuality and gives out awards to sex workers for their contribution to society. We'll meet the former prostitute, porn star and activist who is in the north to tell her story. 9:27

With files from Marina von Stackelberg