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Book Review - Hardcore from the Heart
Hardcore from the Heart
by Annie Sprinkle
Continuum Books, 2001
Review by Chris S. Witwer
Sep 30th 2002

Dedicated to "academics, whores, and academic whores everywhere," Annie Sprinkle's Hardcore from the Heart: The Pleasures, Profits and Politics of Sex in Performance, examines Annie Sprinkle’s career in the sex industry, as well as the development of modern attitudes on sexuality.  

Hardcore from the Heart’s intended audience is the twenty year-old college set for whom Sprinkle’s work has become required reading.  But that certainly doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable for the rest of us.  Gabrielle Cody’s Introduction and Rebecca Schneider’s Forward, however, are rather dense reading for non-academics.   And there are plenty of non-academics who adore Sprinkle! 

Annie Sprinkle began her career as a porn star of both stage and film.  She later toured extensively with her infamous “Public Cervix Announcement” during which she invited audience members to view her cervix onstage, with the help of a flashlight and speculum.   Sprinkle is a supporter of free speech, freedom of sexual expression, and above all, safe sex.  She now spends much of her time exploring sacred sexuality, and sharing healing sexual energy in workshops and lectures.

Hardcore from the Heart is organized into three parts.  In Part I, Sprinkle re-creates transcripts from her numerous stage and screen performances.  Some of those transcripts recall, explain, or deconstruct Annie’s role in the porn industry.   Some of them are self-reflective, others are strictly entertaining-- most are thought-provoking, if not educational.  Annie’s writing is accessible and conversational.  She uses explicit, informal language to describe and explore her role in sexual politics over the past few decades.   Annie’s prose is humorous and engaging.  Her message is more serious, but her delivery is pure entertainment.

Part II is a collection of essays and letters written by Sprinkle during her career as a performer and political figure.  This section of Hardcore from the Heart is particularly delightful.  Sprinkle demonstrates how her belief system evolved, and delves into some of her political battles.   In one letter, a humble Sprinkle expresses concern that her previously ‘sex positive’ attitude toward all sexual activities did not distinguish between healthy sexual activity and abusive or dysfunctional practices.  Sprinkle has re-evaluated her relationship with sexuality and public performance, and moved into the sphere of healthier, if not healing, sexual practice.   Part II proves that Annie practices what she preaches.  Throughout her career, Sprinkle has asked audiences to carefully examine their sexual attitudes.  In this book, she joins her audiences on that journey of discovery.

Gabrielle Cody’s commentary at the end of Parts I and II are written in a very different voice from Annie’s; a drier, academic voice.  Which would be fine were it clearly indicated that a different narrator is speaking, but such indication is lacking.   Readers should expect to endure some reader’s whiplash as narrative voice changes from Sprinkle’s to Cody’s and back to Sprinkle’s.

Part III is a collection of interviews and conversations Annie has had with various leaders in the porn industry, art circles, media, and academia.  Veronica Vera, Linda Montano, Barbara Carrellas, Richard Schechner, Mae Tyme, and Monika Truet are among those included.   An impressive cast, Mae Tyme shines the brightest, being a well-known anti-porn feminist.  During the interview she and Annie converse, learn from each another, disagree, and enjoy thinking about porn from the other’s perspective.  A true artist, Annie is, to pull off such an interview so beautifully.

Hardcore from the Heart concludes with a letter written by Sprinkle, addressing her relatively new audience of twenty-something feminist intellectuals.   Annie, ever the performer, must address her readers one last time before exiting stage left.   She parts by sharing her vision for the future, offering some handy advice, and bestowing a mermaid blessing upon us all.  May boundless joy come over you, too, Annie Sprinkle!  

© 2002 Chris S. Witwer


Chris S. Witwer is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas.  She holds a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Texas.  Her publishing credits include Austin Monthly Magazine, a weekly column entitled "Lesbian Aesthetics" for, and the recently-launched
travel portal.