A One-Woman Erotic Manifesto: How Sasha Grey Is Saving the Porn Industry

by: Mimi Nguyen

“Come here, you have to see this porn.”

I looked at my friend as I prepared our dinner from her kitchen stove and said something like, “Porn during a meal? I guess that’s okay.”

She sat cross legged on her kitchen floor and pointed to the laptop screen in front of her. “Do you know who Sasha Grey is?”

I looked at the screen and saw a thin, brown haired woman take it in the ass by a machine that vaguely resembled the mechanical arms that put cars together.

“Is that her?” I asked, right as Ms. Grey opened her beautiful mouth and screamed, “Fuck yeah!”

My friend beamed. “She’s amazing. Sasha Grey taught me how to have an orgasm.”

Despite my friend’s high recommendation of Ms. Grey, I lost interest in the adult film actress after two or three more videos. She intimidated me with her intense eyes and raunchy language. Now, a few years after our introduction on that cold kitchen floor, I’m beginning to appreciate her and it’s not because I’ve been watching more of her porn. On the contrary, I’ve been reading more about Sasha Grey as research for my graduate thesis.

Did you know Sasha Grey has an erotic manifesto? Unlike other porn stars, Grey intentionally entered adult films because she wanted to explore her sexuality and change the industry. She thought it strange to simply send porn directors her naked photographs so she drafted a mission statement and included it with the pictures. “Most of the XXX I see is boring, and does not arouse me physically, or visually,” it read. “I am determined and ready to be a commodity that fulfills everyone’s fantasies.”

That’s one hell of a woman. In a single document she basically tells the porn industry they’ve been doing their job wrong, but never fear, she’s here to save them. By all means Sasha, save us! I, too, have found mainstream hetero pornography dull. It’s the same formula over and over. Woman in a stereotypical outfit gives a guy a blow job, then he goes down on her, then they have vaginal intercourse, then move on to anal, and finish off with sperm spraying on the woman’s chest or face. Occasionally there’s variation here and there, but it still ends up being pretty boring.

I don’t watch much porn anymore, but as you know, I’ve been reading a lot about it and it’s been an enlightening education. Sasha, in particular, has been an eye-opening teacher in her quest to liberate female sexuality. “I want to tell young women that sex is OK,” she says. “It’s OK to be a slut. You don’t have to be ashamed. People think that young women can’t understand sex, that there will be consequences for our actions, but we can be as analytical as anyone.” I’ve heard this speech in other ways before, but no one has really hit the message home for me the way Sasha has, and it’s because she publicly lives and breathes what she believes. She lets people choke her, spit on her and triple penetrate her because she loves perverse sex and that enthusiasm keeps her from being labeled a victim. Her message is simple: own up to who you are, what you desire, and the agency will be yours.

I want to be secure in my sexuality and articulate when writing and talking about sex, just like Sasha, but the process is taking a little longer than I had hoped. Part of me worries my family will one day read my writing and look at me even more strangely than they already do. I am the black sheep, the one who left home and dyed her hair pink. What will they think when they find out I’ve spent years of my life and thousands of student loan dollars on a thesis about pornography? What did Sasha’s family think of her when she confessed her dream of being a porn star? When asked about this Sasha admits her mother was not happy with the decision, but didn’t stand in the way. I think my mother will have a similar reaction. She’ll crinkle her nose, say something like, “Agh. I don’t know about this porn stuff…” and in the same breath ask me what I want for dinner.

Steven Soderbergh once described Sasha Grey as “a very voracious person in every direction. She’s watched a lot of movies, she’s listened to a lot of music, she reads a lot. She’s a new breed of something. She may fuse all of these influences and experiences into something extraordinary. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.” I hope somewhere in my future a person will say I am a voracious person, a new breed of something, and I’ll turn to them and ask, “Do you know who Sasha Grey is?”

Tien (Mimi) Nguyen is a former TriQuarterly Online Art Director, and nonfiction and fiction editor. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction at Northwestern University. She contributes regularly to TriQuarterly Online and has worked for The Long Beach Press-TelegramRunes Literary Magazine and The Iowa Review.

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