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November 19, 2011 10:20am
Imminent Danger of Sasha Grey
Source: Rich Moreland
by: Rich Moreland

The Imminent Danger of Sasha Grey By Rich Moreland

The recent furor over Sasha Grey’s appearance before a group of elementary school children in Compton, California, has given me pause for thought.

Almost twenty years ago, author Wendy McElroy attended the AVN convention in Las Vegas as part of her field research for her book XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography (St. Martin’s press: 1995) From her conversations with John Stagliano, and the late John Leslie among others, McElroy concluded that female performers were acknowledged for their profit-generating value, but otherwise garnered little respect within the industry, a situation she lamented.

I heard Sasha Grey speak at an AVN seminar in Vegas a couple of years ago and recalled McElroy’s words. Sasha recounted how she studied the industry to make sure an adult film career was a fit for her before taking the plunge. Later in her presentation, Sasha called for solidarity among industry women, encouraging performers to help each other when rough patches pop up in a girl’s career. Opinions on Sasha may vary, but I doubt if one could argue that she does not command a definable level of respect.

Though she has left the industry, Sasha represents the public’s changing eye concerning porn. She is intelligent and maintains an aegis over her career, which I believe confronts the public with the startling recognition that porn girls can earn respectable money while calling their own shots. Every time a Nina Hartley, Tera Patrick, Bobbi Starr, or Sasha Grey appears on a talk show, a university campus, or even in an elementary school, they are furthering a familiarity with pornography that legitimizes it as part of our culture.

Understandably, the public is conflicted; one would expect the usual moral outcry over Sasha’s visit. In reading online news stories about the event, I checked out the accompanying reader polls. Though unscientific, the results were astounding. Two-thirds of respondents said Sasha’s appearance was no big deal.

Let me repackage that with a little Shakespeare. It was "Much ado about Nothing," at least among those who are not awash in our collective notion of prudery. And, that seems to cover more people than one would have suspected.

So, the question arises, exactly what is the fuss? Is it that little kids who have no real understanding of the adult human body were emotionally scarred by Sasha’s background in porn? After all, "think of the children" is a familiar trope for those who want to excoriate porn from our culture.

Maybe. But perhaps it is something else. Could it be a fear that moves beyond traumatizing adolescents who are clueless as to how they came into the world?

The media also reported that Sasha defended her appearance, though I dispute the use of that word because I’m not sure what she was defending. Sasha explained she understands people will express their opinions, but she wants everyone to know that she is an artist and an actor as well as her parents’ child. She refuses to live with any fear about her past and who she is.

There. She said it: The fear of pornography.

But I contend she has little to worry about.

When I began my research into the industry, I asked my college students for two questions they would pose to a porn performer if she were to speak to them. This is what I got. "How did you enter the business and how does your career affect your personal life?" Their interests centered on the ways a porn model managed her job and her individual happiness; concerns young people have about their own lives.

The question of "why would you do such a thing" never came up.

Here is the real issue. What do we do when porn cracks the morality ceiling and moves closer to the cultural mainstream? When it is loses its taste of the taboo?

To roughly quote Bill Margold, the public has always satisfied its curiosity with one hand while pushing the industry away with the other. But where are we when the pushing stops?

You see, acceptance is fostering a tolerance for porn and though a segment of the public continues to vent its usual indignation, the numbers are dwindling.

Sasha Grey’s reading was not about corrupting children, that’s a cover to make the outrage palatable. The real issue is attitude. "What is the big deal?"

Through it all, the media continues to peddle its central message of impending disaster. Reporters ran the story and offered the poll to gage the expected condemnation. Parental anger generated the headlines, convincing us of what the media wants us to believe. We live in a society filled with "imminent danger."

Sasha’s appearance reveals a different truth. Though "imminent danger" continues its alluring media dance, the public’s anxiety over porn is eroding.

What does this mean for the adult industry? Women equipped with brains are scattered around the porn universe today at all levels. The more they speak the greater society’s acceptance of the "pornography alternative."

Sasha is just the latest example.

While I applaud Sasha Grey and encourage other performers to do the same, where will the industry be when the acceptance level of her elementary school visit spikes beyond two-thirds?

Perhaps the "imminent danger" of pornography is not that it will corrupt the young, as the media would have us believe, but that its taboo no longer titillates and the business becomes just another form of entertainment.

This may be the authentic "imminent danger" of Sasha Grey.

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