pornpolitics

When Porn and Politics Collide

A brief history of sex workers running for office

It’s easy to laugh when a porn star promises to run for political office — or at least to dismiss the campaign as nothing more than a silly marketing scheme for their latest project. But honestly, with a reality star president (i.e., Donald Trump) whose biggest nemesis might be a porn starlet and director (i.e., Stormy Daniels), it’s not all that far-fetched, or any more of a joke than our current political moment.  

To that end, I recently asked Nina Hartley, my favorite porn star, if she wanted to run for president. “People ask me that all the time!” she answers. “I don’t have the temperament for the job — plus there are those pesky shots of me on the internet with my face in a woman’s vulva or a dick sticking out of an orifice. I’d be better as a special advisor on sex education or some such.”

Still, such “pesky shots” haven’t stopped a number of other porn performers from running for local office. In fact, in 2013, Angela White and Zahra Stardust became the first political candidates to shoot a porn scene together when they both ran as part of the Australian Sex Party. So while there aren’t any porn performers on today’s ballots, it’s not necessarily a rarity. Here then are a few of our favorite porn-stars-turned-politicians…

Cicciolina

The Hungarian-Italian porn starlet, of course, is the most famous of the bunch. From 1987 to 1991, she served in the Italian Parliament as part of the Radical Party (known for its liberal opposition to the Italian establishment). She continued to shoot porn while serving as an elected official, and she reportedly delivered speeches with one breast exposed as a symbol of the power of her exhibitionism. She also offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein before the first Persian Gulf War. “I am available to make love with Saddam Hussein to achieve peace in the Middle East,” she told Newsweek in 1990. (She made the same offer to Osama bin Laden in 2006.)

After serving her term, she founded the Love Party in 1991, the same year she married Jeff Koons, the American artist who famously created billboards and other grand-scale artwork of the two having sex, a project collectively titled “Made in Heaven.”

The International Museum of Women remembers her legacy as such:

“Many saw Cicciolina’s exhibitionism, promiscuous persona and victory at the polls as a national embarrassment. Although she is unofficially credited with establishing one of Europe’s first green parties, she had little political experience when she got elected to the Italian parliament. And lest anyone forget that sexuality was her claim to power, she acted in an adult movie whileserving her term.

“But many others recognized that she was using sexuality not only to get elected, but also to poke fun at the hypocrisy she saw in the Italian government. Italian writer Umberto Eco is reported to have said of Cicciolina’s election, ‘Immorality for immorality; we’ve seen worse.’ Eco was alluding to the famously and chronically corrupt Italian government overrun by thieves, convicted criminals and mafia-sympathizers.

“As member of Parliament, Cicciolina critiqued the oligarchy of Italian patriarchs who lorded over Italian politics. She irreverently called male members of Parliament cicciolini, an Italian term of endearment that does not have a single-word English equivalent but can be loosely translated as ‘cute little tubby boys.’ The Prime Minister was a cicciolino. The all-powerful head of the Italian Socialist Party was just another cicciolino. By calling them cicciolini instead of prefixing their name with ‘Your Honor,’ Cicciolina insisted that they were just ‘cute little tubby boys,’ some woman’s naughty little children. And indeed, three years into Cicciolina’s term, a bribery scandal brought down two major Italian political parties.”

In 2002, Cicciolina ran for office in her native Hungary, and then, two years later, as mayor of Milan, which she promised to make more “exciting,” perhaps by building a casino. And as recently as 2013, she participated in city council elections in Rome as a “liberal, libertarian and environmentalist” who wanted to legalize same-sex marriage and medical marijuana. She didn’t, however, win this time around.

Mary Carey

Carey, as a rising starlet signed to Kickass Pictures, was urged to run for governor of California in the 2003 recall election by Mark Kulkis, the small porn company’s owner. “Porn Star to Run Against Schwarzenegger” read The Irish Times headline. And when the California Broadcasters Association (CBA) reduced the number of candidates allowed to participate in the election’s debates, she wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times alleging the change was promoted by bias against her.

“Why five, we asked?” she wrote. “If the CBA intended to accommodate six candidates Sept. 8, why should it scale that back only 24 hours later? I’ll tell you why. Because if you were to take a poll today, I’d bet either Mary Carey or Larry Flynt [who was also running for governor at the time] would be the sixth-most popular candidate in this election. … I know the CBA wants to keep us out of the debate because they don’t consider us to be ‘qualified politicians.’ What, they don’t like my proposal to tax breast implants? From Beverly Hills alone, we should bring in millions in tax revenue. And guess what? It’s the ‘qualified politicians’ that got us into this mess. It’s the ‘qualified politicians’ who saddled California with a $38-billion shortfall and 6.7 percent unemployment.”

“I always remind people she placed 10th in a pool of 135 candidates,” explains Brian Gross, a porn public relations expert with decades in the business. “It was initially a publicity stunt, sure, but it turned into something incredibly real. Schwarzenegger still won by a landslide, but she got votes. She was all in for it, very savvy and garnered a ton of publicity for it.”

Stormy Daniels

As I reported in our piece from earlier this year, “Everything You Don’t Know About Stormy Daniels,” Daniels was interested in politics long before Trump:

“In 2009, political science students and Stormy superfans created a movement encouraging her to run for a Senate seat in her home state of Louisiana against Republican David Vitter, amid Vitter’s family values-centric redemption tour after he was exposed as one of the D.C. Madam’s many civic-minded clients. Daniels ran as a Democrat, but the party distanced themselves from her candidacy. She’d later state that Libertarianism better suited her values anyway.

“As she told Marie Claire while contemplating a campaign, ‘I’m not one to judge someone’s sexual activity, but what annoys me is that [Vitter is] so hard-core values, and he puts his wife and kids out there, saying he’s a Christian family man. Then he’s caught up in a prostitution scandal. He’s a hypocrite.’ Her platform, she promised, was grounded in transparency: “A sex tape of me isn’t going to pop up and shame me; there are 150 of them at the video store.”

“Her proposed campaign slogan: ‘Stormy Daniels: Screwing People Honestly.’”

Daniels eventually dropped out of the race, but not before a bomb blew up her political advisor’s car. That’s right. A bomb. Luckily, he wasn’t harmed.

Cherie DeVille

Deville, the physical therapist/MILF superstar, only just recently dropped out of the 2020 presidential election.

“If Americans are going to vote based on celebrity and scandal, well, I can give them that,” Deville told The Daily Beast at the end of last year. Deville refers to herself as a liberal-leaning libertarian, and tells me over the phone that she had plans to run as part of the Reform Party because they accepted her platform more than anyone else. Her main policy initiatives were free college tuition and more equitable access to healthcare.

“College should be free. Today, a college education is equivalent to a high school education. We need to take a cue from countries like Germany, where a free, public college education is the standard,” Deville says. “Decriminalization of drugs is also an important issue because there are so many people in jail for non-violent crimes. Selling drugs is a victimless crime. The people buying the drugs wanted them. The seller is a supplier — not much different from the person at the liquor store who sells alcohol, regardless of what you think about drinking. If all drugs were decriminalized, we’d have a lot less nonviolent criminals in jail.”

Unfortunately, she ran into campaign-financing issues. “I had to drop out of the 2020 race,” she explains. “I wasn’t able to raise the funds to officially campaign, so my run is over.”

“In terms of porn being accepted in politics, I find it interesting that Americans love consuming something they also deeply stigmatize,” she continues. “At the end of the day, they’re more ashamed of themselves than they are of us as porn stars. But Trump’s candidacy has definitely changed the way we view political candidates. He doesn’t come from any political background and wasn’t part of the political machine beforehand. That’s very unusual. So regardless of what you think of him, he’s opened the door for folks from other industries to consider running for office.”