Love? Hate? Worship? I say worship: Sasha Grey in Playboy

This link is 100% Not Safe For Work. So don’t go clicking on it, and then screeching to me about how you got your ass fired and can’t afford to feed your Alexandrine parakeet and how it’s all my fault.

I like Sasha Grey. Not necessarily for high-falutin’ pseudo-intellectual reasons either. I think she’s really pretty, and she seems to be the type of person you could have a genuine conversation with, and that is really all I need.

A couple of my male friends are always sending me links to her work. Someone even told me that he kind likes the idea of me watching Sasha Grey movies (now that’s honesty – and no, the context of that wasn’t at all creepy, but it’s true, I find men just like to hang back sometimes, and watch us debate porn, hah). The truth is, the kind of porn that Sasha Grey does is way too extreme, in my opinion, even though I like looking at pictures of her and reading her interviews. To each their own, right?

There are several reasons why I’d like to highlight this particular interview/photo-shoot, however:

PLAYBOY:…why not define your work purely as art?
GREY: Because some of it’s porn. And I don’t think that’s a negative. It’s like junk food. We all need a little McDonald’s once in a while. It’s cheap and easy and available and it might not be the best, but it gets the job done.

A lot of people have this smug response to Grey – “oooh, she thinks what she’s doing is art, girlfriend’s in denial, she has no idea WTF she’s talking about.” I think that what these people really want is for Grey to go on a popular talk show and completely break down, send mascara running down her cheeks, and tell everyone about how she really WAS in denial, how soulless and horrible and disgusting her life truly is, and how she’d rather do something more wholesome and fulfilling from now on – stock the shelves in a rural Mississippi Wal-Mart for minimum wage, maybe. I think what grates on everyone is that Grey appears to actually know exactly what it is that she’s doing, and that just doesn’t make sense. Porn stars aren’t supposed to act self-aware. If they do act self-aware, they’re supposed to be doe-eyed and apologetic. And if they’re not doe-eyed and apologetic, they certainly can’t appear to be smarter than you.

PLAYBOY: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
GREY: Yes and no. I feel like the term “feminist” has become so watered down that it’s almost become meaningless.

This is important. While the term “feminist” is certainly not meaningless to me, or to the most people on my blog-roll (I think), the truth is, it is pretty damn meaningless to a great percentage of the American public. If you spend a large portion of your free time hanging out in the comments sections to big-time feminist blogs, you might not appreciate it when it gets pointed out to you, but I think it’s the truth. Personally, I know plenty of smart women who consciously reject the label – because, guess what? Mainstream feminism hasn’t done them that many favours, just the opposite. My colleague, Renee, comes to mind, for example. Last month, in the NYT, Joanne Lipman pointed out that feminism remains a toxic term for many women. Like Lipman, I don’t believe that this is happening because all of these women are self-loathing dittoheads. Grey is on to something.

(Of course, neither do I believe in being a contrarian for the hell of it, Camille Paglia has that covered. My two, very broad solutions are: 1) The spirit of self-congratulatory, white, upper-to-middle class feminism still needs to evolve dramatically and 2) We need to engage pop culture in a more nuanced manner. Let me know what you think about that.)

There are many more things to address in Grey’s interview, but I’d like to briefly touch on the pictures, inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s take on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. A meta-meta fantasy. Honestly, I think they’re pretty rad. They’re also fairly creepy and problematic and all that good stuff – but of course, I’m one of those feminists who believes that “rad” and “problematic” can easily exist in the same sentence. And props to Sasha Grey for not shaving it all off – and generally doing her own thing (I’m not a huge fan of pubic hair myself, but girls need to do what they want to do).

And as for you, haters, Andrey Arshavin would like to show you what to do:

Arshavin shhh

12 thoughts on “Love? Hate? Worship? I say worship: Sasha Grey in Playboy

  1. I just wanted to thank you for writing this. You saved me some writing, because you’ve basically written almost everything I would have written about Sasha Grey and feminist responses to her.

    “how she’d rather do something more wholesome and fulfilling from now on – stock the shelves in a rural Mississippi Wal-Mart for minimum wage, maybe.”

    Interestingly, that’s not too far from real life example. When evangelical self-appointed savior to the porn stars Shelley Lubben was writing about getting another performer out of the industry (Jersey Jaxin, I think), she made much to-do about finding her a job as a supermarket checkout cashier, followed by the phrase “Praise Jesus”. I’m all for helping people out of the industry who want out, but this seemed a bit much – personally, that’s the kind of job that would rate more of an “Eh, its a living” rather than a “Praise Jesus!”

    Another thing about Sasha Grey that I find key to understanding her – she’s not from rural Mississippi, but she is from a California Central Valley town called North Highlands. For most people outside of Northern California the name doesn’t ring a bell, but basically, its a suburb of Sacramento with an unfortunate “white trash” reputation. Its basically the kind of backwater suburb with really limited prospects that somebody with ambition might want to put behind them. (I bet there are places in Ukraine that are a lot like this.) Based on this, the reason for arty, urbane, intellectual persona she tries (sometimes too hard) to project becomes clearer.

  2. Even though I’m not necessarily a Sasha groupie myself, since my tastes in porn and porn starlets tend toward the older, bustier, and Cougar/MILF prototype; I can’t help but respect her for being so out in front about building her particular niche in porn. Plus, I like the fact that she defends doing porn HER way without the usual apologetics or elitist rhetoric about how “different” (read, “superior”) her subgenre is from more “mainstream” porn…she actually respects the diversity of choice and the sensibilities of men and women who choose to buy her product.

    And of course, it would behoove feminists and others who analyze pop culture to take a more nuanced stand and not just use their own personal biases and neuroses to dismiss out of hand pop culture as innately reactionary merely because it flips your personal fee-fees. Liking NASCAR, wearing mullets, and watching the WWE does NOT make you a racist redneck; and enjoying anal porn does NOT make you a rapist stalker, either.

    And a special +1 for noting the assinity of Lubben thinking that minimum wage slavery being better than middle-class security from working in porn. Never mind that HER middle-class security is the direct result from HER porn career, mind you.


  3. “” My two, very broad solutions are: 1) The spirit of self-congratulatory, white, upper-to-middle class feminism still needs to evolve dramatically and 2) We need to engage pop culture in a more nuanced manner. Let me know what you think about that. “”

    – on 1) – I think we need to define it better for starters, as not just white upper to middle class feminism but as the subset of Radical Feminism that it is… a sort of PopRad feminism – where Radical Feminism gave us the “all sex is rape and every man is a rapist” trope and the “all prostitutes are victims” trope these PopRad types have simply accepted those tropes as truth. — And I think it’s important to point out, time and time again, how the early RadFems were heavily influenced by religion. Mary Daly – hardcore Catholic, catholic schools all her life, and even taught at a catholic college all of her career — her ideology has been shaped by the extreme oppression of women in Catholic institutions – which is all well and good when applied to the church I guess, but her theories don’t apply so well to people who were never infected with those sorts of “God says women suck” messages from everyone around us.

    I think that the sexual obsession they have – the anti-sex obsession that many of the early hardcore RadFems had comes from the christian teaching that woman’s sexuality is what damned us all… Xtian Religion teaches that women are naturally sinful and slutty, and must be avoided, and must be silenced because of the sluttiness, otherwise they will tempt men to sin. Radfeminism didn’t ever seem to get beyond that, instead of totally rejecting the church propoganda of slutty women are evil, they sidestepped it and focused on a belief that MEN and Patriarchy are responsible for convincing women to be sinful sluts, instead of saying to themselves “what’s so wrong with sinful sluttiness?” They could never really break away from the notion that Sex Is Sin. They in essence teach that slutty women are indeed sinful (dirty), but it’s the fault of men, instead of recognizing that slutty women are NOT sinful at all and men’ve only called their sexuality sinful to shame them and render them powerless. —-

    So the PopRads have read the stuff the Radfems wrote and they take it as gospel – when it’s based on the faulty premise that Sin is real and women are tricked into being sinners by men.

    From the start of the anti-porn movements (heck even before that) – it’s been a WTF? alliance between radfems and right-wing religious folks – and PopFems don’t question it, not then and not now— when it’s clear as fucking day… most of the people who are actively fighting prostitution and pornography today are religious extremists who have given themselves the title of “feminist” or say of themselves they are “involved with women’s issues”, the PopRads are as gullible as the people who send in money with a prayer request to a TV preacher – they don’t quesiton AT ALL that maybe the people they are sending their money to are not what they claim to be.

    dear god I ramble too much… sorry….

  4. Am a fan of Sasha Grey (although visually in that niche I like Stoya more personally) although I wouldn’t say I’m a groupie. I remember a Belladonna video some time ago where their scene was uncut, starting from them chatting beforehand. Belladonna mentions that Sasha could make a lot of money because she has her own look and is smart.


    I think that junkfood response to porn is probably just about right. No one considers junk food glutting the market a *good* thing most people don’t deny it has its place.

    As for the “feminist” label. I don’t think it is as simple as pop-rad fem, that doesn’t seem quite right to me. I think “watered down” does have something to do with it. I’m not sure what to do about 1) – or even specifically what you mean by it. As for 2) – I do think that’s important.

  5. Sasha is just a naughty-minded saint. She’s awesome and much smarter than your average bimbo in the adult entertainment industry. I love her.. though, yes, some of what she does is extreme but it takes a complex person to truly understand her nature.

  6. “Someone even told me that he kind likes the idea of me watching Sasha Grey movies”
    Yeah, because you’re one of the “nice feminists,” not like those mean ones! Radical feminism isn’t perfect by any means, but I don’t know why you felt the need to create a straw radical feminist (about how they see porn performers as not self aware). It isn’t the radical feminists who think women are subhuman.
    Also, Renee is one of the most woman hating women I have ever read. She didn’t care that one of her contributors planned to rape a woman and wrote a masturbatory article discussing it in detail (Snowdrop explodes), and she thinks that all WOC who disagree with her only do so to suck up to white people.
    But what do I know? I’m too stupid to understand that a woman in a porn video where her head is shoved into a toilet is totally empowered.

  7. Hhhhmmm. Sacha Grey may be able to drop names like Godard and Neitzche, but she sure as hell has a hard time getting her head around Nobakov and Kubrick. Lolita was a satire about a peado justifying his actions and blaming his child victim. It ain’t a barely – or not – legal trope… Sting understood this back in the day – so it can’t be that difficult can it? Or if she does understand the texts, she ain’t in control of the shoot.

    She’s made a lot of money selling a fantasy about child-women being controllable and totally submissive to sado-desire. The hair is rare for Sacha. She’s usually bald – and with her pseudo-intellectual approved child-like body, she looks about 12-15 in the buff.

    It has always been the way that it’s ok to take pleasure in a woman’s pain so long as your clever. And if she can look like she’s read a book, all the better. Hey she’s in control it’s ok. Let’s all enjoy what looks like a child getting raped. No problemo – it’s not like were all smelly working class people or anything.

    She looks to me like a first rate capitalist. A clever girl all right, living the American deam, making her millions any way, any how. Selling the fake libertine fantasy on screen. Going home to cocoa, slippers and her long-time, monogamous relationship. The MacDonalds analogy is spot on. Fast food full of shit, killing the soul of bodies and minds for the sake of a bank full of millions. And pitty the men who believe all the crap – yes, men really are that stupid.

  8. Wow, so much epicness to unpack in your comment, berenger, that I don’t quite know where to start!

    I suppose I’ll just have to give you a special shout-out for implying that Grey’s body is not a woman’s body – and leave it at that. Hating on skinny women is *super* progressive! Right on!

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