The next artists that we are recognizing in celebration of Pride Month are ecosexual filmmakers and activists Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, known for their 2019 documentary Water Makes Us Wet.
Beth Stephens was born on November 18, 1960 in Montgomery, West Virginia. After leaving her home state, she obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Tufts, as well as her Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers. In 1993, Beth became an art professor at UC Santa Cruz, where she also chaired the art department twice, once from 2006 to 2009, then again from 2017 until 2020. On top of being a professor, Beth has also worked as a sculptor, photographer, and filmmaker. Beth’s art is often made in collaboration with her wife, Annie Sprinkle.
Annie Sprinkle was born in Philadelphia on July 23, 1954. Annie grew up in both Los Angeles and Panama before moving to Tucson, Arizona at the age of 18. It is in Tucson that Annie was first introduced to the pornography industry. At 18, while Annie worked selling tickets in a movie theater, the theater was shut down for showing Deep Throat. Annie was forced to appear in court, but, once there, fell in love with the film’s director, Gerard Damiano, whom she began a relationship with, and followed to New York City to become a porn actress.
In addition to her films, Annie has championed sex education, becoming a sex educator herself and even obtaining a PhD in human sexuality. She has also created multiple sex workshops—in person, on video, and on stage—and has traveled across the United States to universities to showcase her art and knowledge. Annie is an important figure in both feminist pornography, as well as the post-porn movement, in which she pushes for the presence of queer and gender-diverse porn actors and stories. Annie’s art centers on female anatomy and sexuality, including that of Mother Earth. Alongside Beth, Annie has helped pioneer the ecosexuality movement, on which the couple’s documentary focuses.
Annie is an important figure in both feminist pornography, as well as the post-porn movement, in which she pushes for the presence of queer and gender-diverse porn actors and stories.
Annie and Beth’s connection to ecosexuality began in 2008, during their performance wedding ceremony to the Earth. The wedding was part of the couple’s long-running art project Love Art Laboratory, for which they did one “art wedding” yearly for seven years starting in 2004. The project inspired much critical commentary, and Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library has since collected Beth’s papers on the Love Art Laboratory.
Water Makes Us Wet is wholly original, and the sincerity and enthusiasm of its stars are palpable through the screen.
In her review of Water Makes Us Wet, FF2 collaborator Maiya T. Pascouche described the portrayal of ecosexuality in the film as “a radical form of environmental activism that centers around the fetish that Earth is a lover and therefore, we just treat it with respect rather than exploit it.”
The documentary, which follows Annie and Beth on a road trip interviewing experts in various environmental fields, showcases the intersection which, the couple preaches, exists between sexuality and environmental activism. Though the radicality of the subject matter may turn away many viewers from Water Makes Us Wet, it is wholly original, and the sincerity and enthusiasm of its stars are palpable through the screen.
Water Makes Us Wet pushes viewers outside of their comfort zone—as all art should—and leaves them questioning where pornography stops and environmental activism begins. Since Water Makes Us Wet is only the first in what the couple says will be a trilogy on the subject of ecosexuality, audiences can expect more queer, boundary-pushing storytelling from Beth and Annie in years to come.
© Reese Alexander (6/15/23) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Visit Beth Stephens’ Wikipedia page here.
Visit Annie Sprinkle’s Wikipedia page here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo, middle photo, and bottom photo: Photos courtesy of Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens.