The unbearable lightness of being Sasha Grey

I’ve had Sasha Grey on my mind a lot this week; I don’t know her personally, but she’s popped up in my life a few times over the past year in some fairly significant ways. She really hit my frontal lobe last week when Fleshbot covered some on-set sideline footage of leading-lady Grey working with Steven Soderbergh on his upcoming film, The Girlfriend Experience. I actually didn’t make it all the way through that clip. I’m extremely entertained — subsumed — if I’m on one side of the camera or the other, but watching others set up shots isn’t akin to watching paint dry — for me it’s more like being hit with a Thorazine air dart, and I probably tried to run from my Cinema Display at about 2:36 in, but woke up on the floor of my office in a snoozy puddle of drool when the visual sedative hit in about two steps out. It’s that boring. But I really dig Grey.

For me, Grey occupies that hyperpublic, female-sexual-power groundbreaking space shared with young female porn performers such as Lorelei Lee (articulate eloquence embodied), Dana DeArmond (vanguard realist), Kimberly Kane (cutting-edge visionary), Ashley Blue (powerful muse), April Flores (playful agent of change) and Madison Young (soft-spoken shock troop of female sexual power). These women are my heroes, and they are not to be trifled with. Like her amazing colleagues, Sasha Grey is articulate, smarter than the journalists and pundits (and pud whackers) that record her every move, and she more than sees the forest for the trees when it comes to sex work and porn. Third gen feminism? Try screw-your one-size-fits-all feminism, or fuck feminism altogether and watch me shred your quaint old notions of female sexuality into pure feminine power and the redefinition of sex and gender roles — and porn.

These women — and Grey, on her mainstream star trajectory minus the porn stereotypes — are the death knell of anti-porn, all-women-are-victims mythology. Hear the bells tolling, Focus on the Family? That sound is the death of your porn hysteria and desperation to control over our bodies, our sex.

No, really. I don’t think that the mainstream media or mainstream porn industry is ready for these women because they’re from the future of female sexuality. And that’s a really good thing. Grey, like the others I mentioned, plays the porn femme to a delicious “T” and undermines the icon in the most subversive way, shattering all the underlying anti-porn messages that surround everything she does (and yes, the sexual shame that still permeates the majority of the mainstream porn industry). Which I’ve seen her do with a casual comment that later cuts the bullshit like a knife.

For instance, in a scene where she was giving a blowjob she freaked out the guy she was going down on by telling him to punch her in the stomach — on reflection she called the moment, “An exercise in improvisational fantasy.” This resonates neatly with another statement she made, saying “I wanted to express my sexuality as a strong woman, to push my own boundaries and see which part of my psyche would take me to my next euphoric sexual experience.” In Shot By Kern (highly recommended) she writes an artist’s statement, dovetailing similar sentiments with, “I have a huge appetite for sex and self-exploration. I wanted to express my sexuality as a strong woman, to push my own boundaries and see which part of my psyche would take me to my next euphoric sexual experience. I wanted to do all of this in a sex positive way. Despite the controversy that surrounds this industry, I felt I could ultimately bring an enigmatic quality to it. I decided that if my instinct continued to push me toward the reality of this, and the dissatisfaction with my education continued, I would seize the opportunity on my own.”

So when I look at the anti-porn pundits who get airtime on mainstream news outlets, like the Shelly Lubbens who see all women in porn as the typical, tired (and largely mythical) trope of the helpless abused victim, and I watch the suckers swallow it down like it’s gospel, I wait for the day that Grey is launched into the fray like the little sexy existentialist bomb that she is.

Actually, I want to see the day that any of us articulate pro-porn females are let into the gated walls of those Fourth Estate motherfuckers. Like me, Grey was also on Tyra, and like Grey, I had a really hard time trying to be who I really was — though I was despite all efforts to control my appearance and message. Grey and I both videoblogged our experiences. I wonder if, like me, Tyra’s lawyers went after Grey for nearly two months in a legal bully battle trying to get me to take my video, and according to them “the blog” offline. I stood my ground, and Grey’s video helped me do just that — stand up for the right to tell my story in the face of more money, power and wigginess than anyone can imagine.

Anyway, I love Grey, and I want to see her become a mega-star, upending even the played out (and Hollywood-predictable) road that blonde, big-boobed, surgified Jenna Jameson forged. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to Grey’s turn in The Girlfriend Experience, and enjoy the occasional gallery I find of her on Kink and other sites — like these:

* Fun with sex machines.
* Sasha Grey shot by Richard Kern.
* Sasha humiliates Trina Michaels at Device Bondage.
* Sasha in a straightjacket.
* In bondage with a pink-haired punk girl.
* An older shoot (last year) where she’s 18 and with her first fucking machine.
* Bound and forced to orgasm at Hogtied.
* At 18, playing a journalist in a bondage fantasy.
* Dominating Riley Shy last month at the Armory.
* Playing a “sex addict” in a girl-girl femdom medical/nurse fantasy.

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  • Holly Laughalot

    S.G. said she watched a lot of porn and found it boring and wanted to do something different.

    It’s still boring.

  • I absolutely *adore* Sasha. I knew when I first saw an interview with her and her “fuck you” to those who bitch about women being in porn that I was going to love her.

    Tyra Banks is a tired old Oprah wannabe. No one takes her seriously.

  • Nathan

    I completely agree with you. Sasha Grey is absolutely amazing and one of my favorite people in the world right now.

  • I can’t wait for the day when Sasha starts writing and directing her own films, which she talks about on the Shot By Kern segment. It’s going to do the porn industry A LOT of good, in my opinion. She’s an amazing performer with a lot of heart, and I have heaps of respect for her and the work that she does.

    Right now, though, I think Grey’s got a lot more “dominating” of the industry to do in terms of spreading her ideologies because most mainstream porn doesn’t show enough responsible sexual behavior (ie, negotiation before bdsm scenes, communication between partners, etc). No one wants boring, checklist-style dialogue while Grey negotiates a blowjob five times a movie, but I ultimately think we’ll all be a bit more sexually literate if Grey and her colleagues insist on putting more playful communication into the films that they star in. (Grey already does a good job of it in her gonzo work, but communication in her features, along with the work of most of her contemporaries, is somewhat lacking.) Not only that, but all that talkin’ will hopefully undercut the arguments of the anti-porners if they see that people are consenting to and enjoying such behavior.

    To be concise: I enjoy Grey’s work a hell of a lot more when I see her talking dirty to her co-stars, asking to be slapped around, than when I don’t see it. And I know a lot of people who feel the same.

    Not that any of this is Grey’s fault, nor the fault of any other performer. The industry is the way that it is and it’s hard to be helped. But if they start pushing and we all continue buying, maybe we can start weeding out all of that degrading porn that’s out there and make more room for friendlier porn.

    That’s my capitalist fantasy, anyway.

    In other news, I was actually just ranting the other day on my site about the awful crap that Tyra put both you and Grey through. In retrospect, I really wish I had titled my post, “You Can’t Spell ‘the Tyra Banks Show’ without BS.” ZING! (What a hypocrite she is!)

  • It is always great to see someone break the mold of societal expectations of women, especially in the taboo realms of porn and sexuality.

    Reading about and watching clips from the Tyra Banks Show, one can see that Tyra’s soccer mommy audience can’t handle a woman doing porn for herself. They, instead, want to hear that the girl was abused and her only way out of poverty was through exposing herself on film; they want to hear how much she regrets it and how she’d advise young girls to go a different route… and they especially want to write her off as a product of Christendom’s nemesis, Babylon. I’d love to hear Tyra’s conception of the liberated woman.

    I hope Sasha gets every bit of euphoric experience she desires; you only live once.

  • Richard

    Hi Violet,

    I agree totally with your sentiments about Sasha. She completely is devoid of bullshit. She knows what she wants out of the industry: to explore and develop herself as a sexual being, and along the way shatter the ignorant preconceptions of what women want and expect out of sex. Even though I am a guy, I admire her greatly. Her performances are always intense, full-on and truly capturing the essence of someone attempting to remove the cliched stereotypes of porn. OK, this sounds like hyperbole, but I think its true.

    Secondly, and most importantly, one of the things she wanted to do was to rewrite the expectations of a porn performer: in her mind she is an artist. Therefore any work outside of “the business” is not forced, or an attempt to forge a career in “legitimate” movies and acting roles based on creating notoriety, but because Sasha is not just a sexual being but is just carrying out another way of articulating her creativity. If she does make it big mainstream, will she continue her porn performing and on the way totally rewriting and blurring the boundaries of mainstream and “non-mainstream” (i.e. porn)? That is the question.