Photo taken when I met Penny Flame – Jennie Ketcham – at the InterContinental Hotel downtown SF. L to R: Jennie, Tristan Taormino, Sinnamon Love, Adrianna Nicole.
This week’s SF Chronicle column came from a conversation I had on the set of Courtney Trouble‘s next film, where I chatted about how cool it was that Jennie Ketcham had left porn so gracefully and un-stereotypically; she shed her Penny Flame persona to seek something she felt would be more authentic, even admitting she didn’t yet know what that looked like by naming her new blog Becoming Jennie. She gets mad props all around for a sex-positive and porn-positive exit; it’s so sane compared to bitter ex-pornstars (Traci Lords, Shelly Lubben, the list goes on) who feel they need to decry their porn past and end up painting women who love doing porn with a brush that reeks of disempowerment, crocodile tears, and shirking personal sexual responsibility.
I think you’ll like it. Jennie has some great things to say; it’s her unique journey, but it’s cool to finally show a different kind of “quitting porn” story that we’re all used to being spoonfed by media, religious fanatics, anti-porn feminists and sex-negative crusading right-wingers. We never hear about people quitting porn and being practical and positive about it, though I think that’s more often the case than not. Here’s a snip from Leaving Porn On Her Own Terms:
I first met Penny Flame in a high-priced hotel room at the InterContinental, when she was staying in San Francisco, appearing as a star in promotion of her (then) new film, Chemistry #4. I recorded a long interview with Penny then met her, Tristan Taormino, Susie Bright and others for a post-appearance dinner. Flame was hard-edged but funny and kind; full of stories and humor about her job and the world.
Later, she performed in many more films, becoming a true star and a force to be reckoned with in the world of mainstream porn, and directed a female-centered series of hardcore sex-ed videos.
What I missed was meeting Jennie Ketcham. That’s Penny Flame’s real name.
Recently, Penny Flame quit porn. She immediately started a blog, beautifully named Becoming Jennie, and reinvested herself into her life as an artist. We recently reconnected; I was on a local porn set last week and one of the photographers started talking with me about Jennie and how excited we all are for her to be entering an exciting and positive new chapter — but with a sex-positive stance on porn, women and self-defined sexuality. And most of all, a cool attitude of sexual responsibility. You’d think this wouldn’t be hard math when it comes to women and their relationship to working in porn, but somehow it has been in the past. Jennie’s the new wave.
Talking with her last weekend, Jennie sees the women who leave the porn business and try to milk the publicity out of their situation as not only selling a hollow stereotype, but also creating an unsustainable model for their own healthy sexuality:
I hate the common exit strategy, hate that girls join the ‘god squad’ or feel ashamed of the choices they made but I understand it. I can see that it’s much easier to say ‘porn did this to me, or that’ but at the end of the day, we are all responsible for the choices we make. I chose to be a porn star. Now I’m choosing not to be. It’s the beautifully terrible thing about free will: we can do whatever we like but we must be held accountable for whatever we do. Just because I don’t want to be a porn star today doesn’t mean that I should feel ashamed to have been one seven months ago. (…read more, sfgate.com)