Grey's anatomy: An interview with Sasha Grey

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Sasha Grey
shot by Richard Kern

To state that hardcore porn nymphet Sasha Grey has mainstream appeal is like arguing a truism. Thrust onto billboards and magazine covers, written into highly publicized Hollywood movies, integrated into our cultural vernacular, Sasha Grey didn't just cross over into mainstream territory; we brought her here.

It's easy to see why, among the many female performers in adult entertainment, Sasha Gray has become the unwitting locus of the public's gaze and speculation. Next to those flaxen, suprafemale Barbies who dominated porn in the 90s, Grey's handsome brunette naturalism seems somehow transgressive. Grey's bosoms are not big enough to generate their own gravity, and her smooth, skin-colored skin and svelte muscularity are the products of youth and genetics rather than of dubious cosmetic procedure. With her placid, heavy-lidded eyes, broad forehead, and insistent jawline, Grey's face looks real rather than representational. She looks like the pretty 21-year-old that she is -- with an age appropriate penchant for darkening her already dark Mediterranean eyebrows -- and it's this sense of the familiar that makes Grey, a real girl among a valley of dolls, so erotically appealing.


Sasha Gray in an ad for American Apparel

The media has the tendency to describe Grey in extreme binaries: young yet wise, beautiful yet intelligent, intellectual yet a porn star, and so on. In a sense, this tendency is understandable. Most writers, yours humbly included, are not citizens of the adult entertainment world. It's tempting for writers to use obtuse paradoxes and reductive generalizations when describing those who seem, by virtue of their work, so fascinatingly equivocal. And Grey doesn't make our jobs any easier, with her casual mentions of Baudrillard and Sartre, her appreciation of Godard, and her use of the adjective "Jungian," while cheerfully inhabiting an industry that we take for granted as being intellectually unconcerned. As fellow twenty-something with an affection for cultural theory and French New Wave, I relate to some of her interests, but beyond that, my interpretive abilities hit a wall and all that's left is conjecture. Grey is a descriptive paradox, and it would not surprise me if she preferred it that way.

Grey was recently announced as this year's keynote speaker at the 2010 AVN Awards and I had the opportunity to interview her. Not wanting to add to the guesswork that surrounds Grey's celebrity or to embark on a vague meditation of the porn-star psyche, I limited the questions to her involvement with the AVN ceremony. The result was simple, straightforward and, at least for me, refreshing.

SFBG: As such a young performer -- and one relatively new to the adult entertainment industry -- are you comfortable with the responsibility of giving the AVN keynote address?

SG: This has been an incredibly exciting year for me, and I feel each year I continue to excel... but the industry has changed rapidly, in my almost fourth year of experience. I am proud that I have the chance to share my voice with the industry and show appreciation for the fans that support my career and adult film-making.

SFBG: At the moment, what are some of the most important issues or concerns for the adult entertainment community?

SG: First and foremost the never-ending battle of obscenity laws, i.e. the ongoing case against Evil Angel Video. If Evil Angel is found guilty, we'll be rolling backwards in time when Naked Lunch was banned for obscenity. Secondly, the state of AIM Healthcare, where all performers are tested, could be shut down any day due to grueling legal battles with Cal OSHA, which would temporarily shut the business down until there's a replacement testing facility... and who knows how long that could take.

SFBG: You've performed in so many films and been in the spotlight for so long that it feels strange for me to ask, but are you nervous about giving this speech?

SG: Nope.

SFBG: This will be your third year attending the AVN Awards. Do you enjoy the ceremony?

SG: The awards show has always been a fun way to end a long week of press and meeting fans, and there's certainly the neverending people watching which always entertains!

SFBG: Just out of curiosity, have you read "Big Red Son" by the late David Foster Wallace? He attended the AVNs 11 years ago and wrote about his overwhelmingly negative experiences as a journalist and onlooker. He prescribed the AVNs as a humble alternative to self-castration and described the adult industry as "predictably vulgar."

SG: No I haven’t. Why do you think they don't hold most awards shows in Vegas? People would be letting their inhibitions go! Vegas: a great example of the Jungian idea, the duality of man. People put on a mask; those who don’t ordinarily drink too much yet end up wasted, spend too much money on strippers and gambling, etc, this goes for 90% of people who visit the city of sin. People from the adult industry or those who mingle with its crowds are aware that Vegas calls for celebration, and they are usually comfortable letting their inhibitions go, or wearing these masks. I am sure this might intimidate an onlooker with no knowledge of the adult entertainment community, but this doesn’t reflect the day-to-day life of the businessmen and women that run this industry.

SFBG: What did it feel like to win your first AVN award in 2007, less than a year after having entered the industry?

SG: It was a real shock, I had only been in the business for five months before the nominations went out, so I was just happy to be nominated.

SFBG: You've won 4 AVN awards in 4 separate categories. Of these awards, which one meant the most to you?

SG: Female Performer of The Year of course!

SFBG: In your own career, are awards a huge honor for you, or just icing on the cake?

SG: I used to think they were something to add to your resume, until I actually won. The anticipation, being unsure, and then winning... yeah it's incredibly gratifying.

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