The Dehumanization of
Sasha Grey

Adult film star Sasha Grey is appearing in Steven Soderbergh’s
The Girlfriend Experience, which opens this month.

Until last week, I had never heard of Sasha Grey; but, apparently, her star is on the rise. According to the May 14, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone, this 21-year-old is the “adult industry’s reigning princess of porn.”

And Grey has a message to young women: “It’s okay 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 wonder if Grey has analyzed consequences like – oh, I don’t know – infertility, perihepatitis, septic arthritis, septic abortion, and complications during pregnancy and blindness? Those are some of the consequences of being infected by gonorrhea (she’s caught it twice) and chlamydia (she’s caught it once)? Mmmmmm, that’s sexy.

That’s also a lot of sexually transmitted disease for anyone, let alone a girl barely out of her teenage years. Displaying an astounding ignorance, Grey says that catching an STD is “like getting the common cold.” Lucky for her, she has “a good enough reputation” that she can “demand tests” from her onscreen partners. (I do wonder, though, whether she is aware that some of the most serious STDs can go undetected for months, while still being communicable?)

Could it be that people think that there will be consequences for their actions because, well, there are consequences for our actions?

It’s hard to know who is ultimately to blame for the dehumanization of Sasha Grey, but certainly Rolling Stone is now at least partly implicated. And while I have never looked at Rolling Stone to be a moral compass for culture, with this piece, they have reached an all-time low.

Rolling Stone, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Speaking of moral compasses, there is a great irony in the magazine’s decision to run this article. The cover story for this issue, “Bob Dylan’s America,” features an artist who is arguably the antithesis of Sasha Grey. Says Dylan:

“I like the morality thing. People talk about it all the time. Some say you can’t legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things: wisdom, justice, moderation and courage. All of these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person’s morality. And then that would dictate the types of behavior patterns you’d use to respond in any given situation.”

And then, a few pages later, there’s the article on Sasha Grey, where there is no wisdom, justice, moderation or courage to be found.

At 21, Grey thinks she is in control of her life. Little does she realize that she is but a pawn in a chess game where the kings are porn producers (who can’t move very far in any one direction, but wield too much power) and the queens are journalists-without-consciences who sweep carelessly across the board, writing more for shock value than for the good of humanity.

The journalist who presents the porn-star-as-feminist-hero contributes more to the destruction of humanity than customers of porn, and everyone knows that the producers who are making a mint off her will forget Sasha Grey as quickly as you can say “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” (which is just as easy to contract as gonorrhea, but unlike gonorrhea, is impossible to cure and can go undetected for months).

Third-wave feminism, be damned!

This article is one of the most irresponsible pieces of journalism I have ever seen. Like the “journalism” of Nazi Germany circa 1935, which convinced good people that killing Jews was good and right and helpful to society, porn propaganda sends a consistent, subtle message to otherwise decent human beings that watching someone perform violent sex acts on film – and even by porn standards, Grey is considered “vulgar” and “aggressive” – is pretty much harmless, and is in fact empowering for women.

Tell that to the woman married to the man addicted to porn. Tell that to the wife whose husband’s appetite for violence in bed leaves her feeling degraded and dehumanized. Tell that to the woman who cannot satisfy her husband any longer, because he wants her to do things she simply cannot do without losing her own humanity.

In her article, author Vanessa Grigoriadis calls Grey’s frankness about her business sense, self-awareness, and choices “appealing” saying, “Though she says it a bit too loudly, she has me convinced that she is not a victim.” To which I say, You, madam, have been snowed.

Of course Sasha Grey is a victim who is blind to the fact that she is the product of a broken system built by demented individuals who are using her now, but will forget her in no time flat. I predict that like most of us, by the time she’s thirty, Sasha Grey will be second-guessing her youthful indiscretions. And then she will be left to live with her memories.

In a shocking and horrifying revelation, Grigoriadis says that the idea of Ms. Grey being relegated to an office job (as opposed to living out her destiny as a porn star) is just as tragic as a sorority girl “trapped” in a dorm room with a boyfriend who expects her to “act like Grey,” who is known for her sadomasochistic practices from which people have died – choking, for example.

Are you kidding me?

The world cannot be both Bob Dylan’s, which celebrates morality, and Sasha Grey’s, which despises it. This is not a yin and yang type of situation. The two cannot peacefully coexist. Both are not right. One or the other has to give.

Which leads me to the conclusion that Rolling Stone is insincere and duplicitous, and doesn’t give a rip about the message it massages into the minds of its readers. From what I read in this piece, Rolling Stone would like its readers to believe that Sasha Grey is a hero to be admired. From what I read in this piece, Rolling Stone would like its readers to believe that it is possible to have violent, degrading, dehumanizing sex on camera and feel empowered, rather than ashamed.

To which I say: Rolling Stone, you are publishing dangerous lies.

In fact, you know what? The Emperor is not wearing any clothes, and Sasha Grey is not a hero to be admired. She is a tragic individual to be pitied and prayed for.

The Curator is an assemblage of original and found essays, poetry, reviews, quotations, image galleries, video, and other media in a continuing commitment to wrestle with all that is in culture, and to look toward all that ought to be in hope.