Sasha Grey: The End of Innocence

Tomorrow Sasha Grey turns 21. She will celebrate it in Vegas at Tao, and I am assuming she will reposition the 25 or so cutouts of Tera Patrick in order to make the joint more personal. She will also drink a lot of single malt scotch, which I’m sure she will sip demurely despite the fact that there will be hoses full of it at the ready should she decide to cut loose.

That Grey is now an established porn star, actor, and model at 21 throws into relief Nina Hartley’s rise to fame. Hartley, who turned 50 earlier this week, said that she got into the business at 25 and had to work her way up. While Grey has certainly worked hard, the fame that she has achieved in 2009 is much different than that available to performers in the long period of porn’s consumer explosion in the 80’s and 90’s.

Deep Throat ushered in “porn chic” in the early 70’s, a period that lasted a few years and which has not returned until recently, with help from people like Grey who can much more easily and competently straddle a line blurred by people like Hartley.

Early reviews for Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, in which Grey’s character supplies the title, are positive. A friend saw a work print at Sundance and said Grey was “a natural, and gorgeous.” Her nude scenes are limited to a couple of tame interludes and the rest of the movie she spends in scripted improvisations with the rest of the cast.

Grey grew up in North Highlands, an unincorporated area 10 miles north of Sacramento. She chose her words carefully in describing it.

“I wouldn’t want to raise kids there, but it made me a real strong fucking person, that’s for sure,” she said. “It taught me that no one is going to do it for you.”

Grey researched the adult industry before she started, and her first scene was an auspicious one, for John Stagliano in Evil Angel’s Fashionistas: Safado.

“I still can’t believe my luck with meeting those people,” Grey said. “And Belladonna is so nice. It meant a lot for the way I thought of this business that that was my first movie.”

Grey noticed that when she started getting noticed, that her casual mentions of bands, filmmakers, or books she liked fell under the type of condescending scrutiny often reserved for porn performers.

“I’d profess my love for a band or a film and people would give me a hard time about it,” she said. “Why are people so shocked that I like French New Wave [cinema]?”

And some of the scrutiny came from within the adult industry.

“You have to control your anger in this business,” she said. “You have to be the bigger person, when other people are trying to tear you down.”

Grey says she is not concerned about a “persona” other than being given the freedom to be herself. Indeed, she has continued to appear in everything from the grittiest gonzo movie to features, showing a sly sense of humor in movies like Digital Playground’s Nurses, Rob Rotten’s Swallow My Children, and Vivid’s Deeper Throat.

Despite Grey’s mainstream profile, she has continued putting in hours on porn sets and has shown no signs of flying the coop, which is at odds with the common perception that porn performers think of the adult world as a stepping stone to mainstream riches. Since this has rarely been the case in practice, it provides fodder for critics to show how self-deluding adult performers are.

But Grey seems to treat one job like another regardless of what side of the Hollywood Hills it is filmed on. And that might be a reflection of not having to prove herself to anyone but herself. It’s not a political statement, she is not a sexual revolutionary, and she is not holding a grudge.

Well, maybe one.

“I used to work in a restaurant with a bunch of idiots,” she said. “I can’t tell you how much I love the porn business by comparison.”

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Live in My Secrets; Gram’s Index; Gram announces Oscars of Porn; Spiegler’s porn dorm
See also: Sasha Grey

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Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist

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