15 Questions with Annie M. Sprinkle and Elizabeth M. Stephens

Sex-Ecologist Annie M. Sprinkle and her partner Professor Elizabeth M. Stephens discuss ways to show the planet some good loving and get a whole lot in return.
By Michelle B. Timmerman

You’re an ardent environmentalist. You go trayless on Tuesdays, consider “Green is the new Crimson” your own personal mantra, and...make love to the Earth? No? Maybe you should.

In their show “Dirty Sex-ecology or How to Make Love with the Earth,” Annie M. Sprinkle, former prostitute and porn actress with a Ph.D. from The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and her partner Elizabeth M. Stephens, a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, explain ways to show the planet some good loving and get a whole lot in return.


FM: Exactly how does one make love with the earth?

EMS: We have 25 ways in the program of the show from last night. Any of those ways are fabulous beginning ways to make love to the earth. Give her a massage with your feet.

AMS: Lick her, smell her, protect her.

EMS: Just really try to protect her. That’s one way to make love with the earth, is to really try to be a better steward.


FM: Can you define “sex-ecology” or “eco-sexual”?

EMS: An eco-sexual is someone who takes the earth as their lover. This is now someone who’s going to take care of the earth.

AMS: Sex-ecology is exploring, a place where sexology and ecology overlap.

EMS: Generally, if you take care of something erotically, you’ll take care of it in other ways.


FM: You say that we should treat the earth as a lover, not a mother. What does this mean?

AMS: It’s just a little paradigm shift. More mutuality. We expect the earth to just take care of us, to just always breastfeed us.

EMS: We just have to give something back. When you are in a relationship—and you’re really in a good relationship—there’s complete mutuality between lovers. It’s not one person takes all and the other person gets depleted, you know?


FM: Your show in Boston is billed as the U.S. premiere. Do you find that people are more receptive to your shows and your message in other parts of the world?

EMS: We did a half-hour version of the show in Bern, Switzerland, and they loved it. They love their mountains in Switzerland so they were able to really relate to the work we’re doing around mountaintop removal...but I think people in Boston really—we’ve gotten some very, very nice feedback and some very intelligent feedback.


FM: What was your first sexual experience?

AMS: I would say my first sexual experience was really with water. My parents, we had a house with a swimming pool. And I think I really felt so good in the water all the time. And of course we grew up in L.A., by the beach. And so I’m really realizing that before I became sexual at 17 with a person—with a man—I was really making love with the water.

EMS: I did ride horses a lot as a young kid. I probably started riding around six. And that’s definitely when you become one with a horse—it’s just all about power and sexuality. I mean the horse is between your legs; there’s just no way to avoid that, you know?

AMS: Riding it, not fucking it.

EMS: (Laughs) I was not having sex with horses.

AMS: The horse is between your legs! You have your legs wrapped around this hot, sweaty, heavily breathing animal.

EMS: (Laughs) Yeah, whatever. Probably my first sexual experience was really riding horses. Galloping the horses, as a little kid. And it was hot.


FM: You’ve discussed the healing powers of sex. Do you believe that doing good for the earth and being “green” can generate the same pleasure?

AMS: Oh, absolutely! I feel like since I made vows to love and cherish the earth, my heart is so open, and my love has grown so big, and it’s so deeply satisfying.

EMS: In Appalachia now, where there’s mountaintop removal, people have horrible diseases. But when people were living more in harmony with the Earth that just was not true. Even if they smoked cigarettes, they lived into their 70s and 80s. The relationship with the earth was really healing both to the earth and to the people who lived on it.


FM: When did Ellen Steinberg become Annie Sprinkle the porn actress, and when did Annie Sprinkle become Anya?

AMS: Oh yes, they all still exist. These are all different personas I’ve adopted in my life. I was born Ellen Steinberg, and I created the person I wanted to be, who was Annie Sprinkle, kind of sex goddess. And then Anya...let’s say I was a liberated slut, and then I became Anya who was a sex goddess. And it just kind of evolved over time and I integrated different personalities over the years.


FM: How did you two meet?

EMS: We met for the first time because I curated Annie’s tit prints at an exhibition at Rutgers University, where I was a graduate student getting my MFA. So I curated her tit prints into this show called “Outrageous Desire”...and then after, she was so gracious as to lend us her tit prints. In fact, she gave me those tit prints.


FM: Diablo Cody went from stripper to screenwriter, and you went from prostitute to Ph.D. Are there certain, unique lessons to be learned from working in that business?

AMS: Oh, absolutely! I learned all kinds of skills in the sex industry. I learned publicity, I learned filmmaking, I learned editing. Writing, let’s see...I learned how to say “no,” how to say “yes.” I learned a little bit about performing. I learned a lot about sex. I learned how to have safe sex on camera. Self-promotion. Make-up tips, hair tips. I mean...intimacy, well, intimacy? I don’t know about that. Well, yeah, in prostitution I learned about sexual healing. I think I learned a lot about love. About love and generosity of spirit. It goes on and on.


FM: 42 percent of Harvard students had zero sexual partners during the past academic year, and Harvard is ranked 62nd of 141 colleges and universities in terms of availability of sexual health resources on campus. What would you say to the Harvard student body?

EMS: First of all, what I would say is that each individual person can be their own best lover. So that just because you haven’t had another person as a sexual partner, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a sexual partner. Second of all, I think that it’s a crime that 100 percent of colleges and universities don’t have a very structured sexual education program, and as Harvard is a leading university in the world, it’s just really unfortunate that they lag behind in that area.

AMS: I don’t see anything wrong with not having physically a lover, a human sex partner. Anyone can be lovers with the earth and lovers with themselves. And everything in due time. When it’s time to study and work, it’s time to study and work. And all the women should have a good vibrator. A good, strong vibrator.


FM: You put on cuddle performances, sexual séances, extreme kiss performances, erotic art shows, and more. How did you become so comfortable with public displays of sexuality?

AMS: Sexuality is everywhere. The flowers. Birds and bees and flowers—they’re all doing it. It’s like birth and death.

EMS: What we’re actually trying to display is really love. We’re looking at love, even more than sexuality.


FM: What do you think is the sexiest thing in the world? The least sexy?

EMS: I think the sexiest thing in the world is Annie. And I think the least sexiest thing in the world is hatred.

AMS: I had a good answer on the tip of my tongue. Well, of course I think Beth is super, super sexy. I’m just trying to think if...Beth and the earth. Yeah, I’ll say Beth. Beth and the earth.


FM: Your performance echoes the free love, tree-hugging days of the late ’60s, early ’70s. What would a second sexual revolution look like?

EMS: I think social or sexual revolutions are really another way of approaching social justice issues. I think a lot of the revolution around gayness and queerness, and the sexual revolution in the sixties—they were both about rights...and next might be the great question. Maybe nonhuman things like the Earth! (laughs) That could be the next sexual revolution. And sex-ecology!

AMS: Well, to me, what we’re doing is not so much about sexuality. It’s about ecology.


FM: You’re both involved in academia; Annie, you have Ph.D. and Elizabeth, you’re a professor at UCSC. Do you ever find it difficult to reconcile liberal sexuality with a stereotypically staid profession?

EMS: I don’t find the profession of academia staid. I find it very exciting and challenging. It’s collaborative...I think it’s one of the last great places where people can really speak their minds. Especially after getting tenure—and I do have tenure, and I did run up to some troubles getting tenure because of issues of sexuality. It wasn’t about my research. I think that—well, I love academia.

AMS: I think academia is really sexy, really hot, and smart people are sexy, you know, not in the obvious way. Culture might think porn stars are sexy; I think academics are sexy because I’m in love with one.


FM: You’ve been in the business of sex for decades. Do you ever get bored of it?

AMS: Well, I consistently recreate myself, and I try to stay in the truth of the moment. I mean, bottom line, I tell it like it is, where I’m at in the moment. Originally a lot of my work was about playing the role, playing the role of what was sexy. But then when I reached over to art I really started telling the truth. And my truth is always changing. I change, and as I’ve changed my work changes. So there’s never a dull moment.

EMS: I’ve never actually been bored once in my life. I don’t know if I even understand that concept. I have on vacations, but...

AMS: Yeah, I’ve never been bored ever. Not for a minute.

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