Compared to all the professional types who were on the program at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation 2014 Summit in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, Nadine was relatively obsequious. She just sat in a chair along with a couple of other women for a late-morning panel last Friday, one of several presentations that day.
But Nadine’s story was truly compelling. Compared to the other women who spoke with their professional research about pornography and its effects, Nadine’s story was personal. She had actually been in pornographic movies.
Nadine — she didn’t use her last name during her remarks — looked to be in her 70s. See appeared to be quite unassuming, but that could be because she was conditioned to be that way.
“My mom was a product of the 1940s, when you went to college to get your ‘MRS’ degree,” Nadine said. But then Nadine came along. “I was the stone in her puddle. She couldn’t be who she wanted to be now that she had me.”
It left the little girl emotionally starved -– “no conversation, no touching, no nothing at all,” Nadine said. It got to the point that her mother would develop a list of offenses she had committed each day to tell her father, who would then spank her when he came home from work. “I remember my dad really being angry when I stopped crying” after being hit, she added.
Nadine went to a Catholic school, where she was regularly bullied, including what she called mental torment and abuse. “The nuns turned a blind eye” to it, she said, adding that her father told her, “If you cooperate with the boys, it won’t hurt so bad.” She did cooperate, but it still hurt.
“By the time I got to high school, I was an emotional wreck,” she recalled. “I graduated high school, I don’t know how.” After graduating, Nadine moved to another town to get away from her family.
“I went to a dance, and the man came down from the bandstand and asked me for a date,” Nadine said. On that first date, she remembers, “I got into a Porsche. We went back to the big city, dinner, dancing. He asked me to marry him on the first date.” She declined.
As they continued dating, though, she was told, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to that man.” “I hate when you get referred to as a ‘thing,’” she said. However, “he was taking care of me. He wasn’t hurting me,” but now she understands that this new boyfriend of hers was grooming her to appear in porn movies. “He spotted me, he groomed me, and he married me.”
One day, not long after she turned 21, Nadine’s husband told her they were going to go to a friend’s house for dinner and drinks. “The man who was to film me for the next three years and three months showed me” the things he had in his basement, which would double as his studio. “I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, but this man was a friend of my husband,” so she figured he couldn’t harm her, she said.
But then “I got a shot in my arm. He drugged me,” she recounted. “The first time (she was filmed)I remember almost everything,” Nadine said. But they kept returning to the house. “I was filmed every two or three months, several sessions at one time.” Nadine never put up any protest to her husband. But to cope, she added, “I was drinking water glasses full of liquor.” Because of the harshness of the sexual activity, Nadine noted, “it took me two or three weeks before I could be intimate with my husband.”
Her husband never said anything about Nadine’s prolonged absences from the dinner parties. They went on summertime yacht trips. He also fathered three children with her. But when the porn business beckoned, according to Nadine, “he would drop in on me and say, ‘You can go shopping with’ — the pornographer’s wife. It was just an excuse to get me over there.”
What happened to Nadine, she told her attentive audience, “was a lot of violence, being in a bedroom and being raped and locked in — a lot of bad stuff. … I learned to cooperate. If I saw it happening to someone else, I just” — here she clicked her tongue -– “checked out.”
“(The pornographer) told me I was a star. So I guess you could say I was a porn star,” Nadine said, pausing before she gave a cheerless, quiet “Yay.”
She admitted, “I compromised. But I was young and wanted to live.” Even so, Nadine noted, “I had a suicide plan.”
At one point she decided she had had enough. “I left a note, took a bag and my hair dryer, and I left,” Nadine said. “I went to work. I got a sleeping bag and a pillow and rented an apartment.” But the day after she got her apartment, “my husband found me, strangled and beat me.”
She got a divorce — and got nothing in the settlement, suspecting that her lawyer had been bought off by her husband’s attorney — “but the threats and the stalking continued,” Nadine said.
At one point in her hard-won freedom, the pornographer’s wife offered to meet her one last time. She, too, had been sickened over what had gone on in her house, and over the course of a weekend she filled in a lot of blanks for Nadine. One of the revelations: “My husband did know what was going on. He was the (film) editor.” Another revelation: “One of the girls from the pornographer’s house was in my house four days after I left.”
What’s it like for Nadine now, decades after all this? “It’s really bad,” she said. “I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder. Panic attacks. I hate when I have to throw up” because it reminds her of some of the scenes she had to act in in the porn movies. And “don’t ask me to make a decision about anything,” she advised. “It’s just a horrendous experience.”
She remarried. “On the honeymoon I knew something was wrong. He was gay, and he only wanted children,” Nadine said.
The pornography also had a negative effect on her now-grown children. All three have chronic health conditions, brought on by the drugs she was injected with while pregnant so she would act in porn movies.
“I’m in isolation. It’s self-imposed,” Nadine said. “The last several years, the Lord my God, the king of the universe, he sent good people to be with me.
Nadine considers herself lucky in that she never caught a sexually transmitted disease during her brief but all-too-long career.
What disgusts Nadine is the apparently true prophecy of the pornographer. “The main filming me said, ‘You are setting precedent. Someday what you are doing now will be normal.’ And then I look at music and TV and video games …” Her voice trailed off, a tacit acknowledgment of how on the mark he had been.