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lip lit: not your ordinary housewife

Picking up a memoir about the porn industry, Not Your Ordinary Housewife, I didn’t expect the story Nikki Stern offered. I expected Stern to be a disadvantaged woman, struggling to make ends meet for the sake of her children. Instead, I found that Stern was involved in the adult industry in many different and varied forms (including prostitution) and she was part of the industry for decades – not out of economic necessity.

Stern left her quiet life in Melbourne with her adoptive Jewish mother to travel around Europe backpacking and creating art. She didn’t realise how this decision to travel would change her life. She met Paul in Amsterdam, fell deeply in love with him, and began a career in the porn industry.

The story is filled with the twists and turns of life and her trials and successes, from living in The Netherlands, England, and moving to Australia where Paul and Nikki end up becoming not only involved making porn, but two of the biggest names in the local porn industry.  The couple had three children who grew up never understanding the unusual jobs their parents had. The book details the changes in law in the porn industry during the 1980s and how the industry was a huge undercover trade that was flourishing during this time in Australia.

The graphic and detailed descriptions of sex and porn were confronting to read. In one scene, Nikki and Paul were part of a pornographic photo shoot, ‘He’d already selected the image… featured me in black lingerie… “fuck me” expression… Most importantly, it had a clear view of Paul’s cock shoved way up my rear passage.’  Younger readers may find it disturbing.

Many people would ask why Nikki got involved in the industry. She was deeply in love with her husband Paul, who persuaded her to change her appearance and push her comfort zones. Nikki always wanted to make him happy and this meant doing the things he wished her to do. She also always wanted her children to have a steady relationship with their father, and doing what Paul wanted made him a better and more loving husband and father. It was not a good decision for her or her children to stay with Paul, but her love for him made her stay.

The story is an important one to be told as it exposes the nature of an industry that is tabooed in modern society, and gives an insider’s look into the industry especially during the 1980s. It is also important for young women to read as Nikki expounds important lessons implicit in her story, such as standing up for your rights, how people can be manipulated into doing things they otherwise never would (and not allowing yourself to fall victim to manipulation), and staying strong for your children.

Though not the main focus of the book, I found that the story’s ending most compelling.  Nikki finally builds the courage to do what she needed do all along ‘it was well overdue for Paul to leave, and I asked him to move out in early 2001’. The end of the book is refreshing as Nikki begins to get her life and children’s life back on track, with relocating, getting a stable career. Nikki finally stands up for her against Paul’s eccentric and dominating personality, and in her decision she imparts an important lesson.

Not Your Ordinary Housewife gives a candid insider’s view of the porn industry. It’s a good, if not a comfortable, read for those interested in the subject, especially in the experiences of women in the industry. It’s not for kids though.

Not Your Ordinary Housewife is published by Allen & Unwin

By Leah Roberts

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