Everyone has a camera these days and many people constantly snap away during even the most mundane parts of their lives, before putting a lot of those images online, so it's not often that a book of candid snapshot images can actually be fascinating. However, if the life we're given a window into is that of a young former adult movie actress who has appeared on a list of the smartest porn stars of all time, you can see why I thought that NEÜ SEX might be worth a look.
The accompanying blurb described Sasha Grey's first book as "an extensive catalogue of self-reflective images alongside her personal writings of sexuality, identity and personal liberty". Now I was extremely curious. She writes too? If anyone can have formed interesting opinions on sexuality and identity by the age of 23, it's definitely going to be a porn star. But how well can she express them?
If you've not heard of Sasha Grey, describing her as an ex-porn star will only give you part of the picture. Grey moved to Los Angeles and started her career in adult films just after turning 18. In the following year, she appeared on The Tyra Banks Show discussing teenagers in the sex industry. She won several AVN Awards between 2007 and 2010, and featured in music videos and advertising campaigns before making her mainstream feature film debut as the lead in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. She has since starred in black comedy/horror film Smash Cut, as well as having a supporting role in season 7 of HBO's Entourage. Quite a packed career so far!
As far as her latest project is concerned, Grey says that she is inspired by the work of Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin, and you can definitely see their influence in her book. Like the work of Goldin, Grey's images are frank depictions of her rather unusual personal experiences and, like Sherman, the subject of her photographs is often herself. Speaking of her photography, Grey said: "I figured if I am on set I might as well take advantage of my surroundings and document my life in an exciting, untraditional manner [...] Some of these photos were staged and some were candid. I find it beautiful that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the difference between the two."
Her writing is equally as intriguing. Appearing in small chunks throughout the book, almost like blog posts, her musings are brief yet thought provoking. Covering many related subjects - including photography, sexuality and shame, porn as performance art, the philosophy of the gaze, men's sexual insecurities, attitudes to gay sex, and honesty within relationships - Grey shows us that she has a lot of potential beyond her career as an actress. On sexuality, she writes:
"Human sexuality is drastically misunderstood and therefore remains an incredibly taboo topic. It is almost impossible to take an accurate sexual survey, because the shame people feel often translates into lies. Although we've developed our knowledge of sexuality in many areas, our society still remains ignorant."
Hopefully, like that paragraph, this is only the beginning for Sasha Grey as a sex writer. With her status, she could draw much attention to very important topics and educate a lot of people in the ways of safe sex and healthy relationships. However, perhaps I am expecting too much too soon. Whatever she chooses to do next, outside of acting, this book is certainly a great start. I can definitely say that I'm already looking forward to more Sasha Grey.
NEÜ SEX by Sasha Grey is published by Vice Publishing and will be available from 5th May 2011.
Lori Smith is keen to educate the world, one Bitch Buzz Sex & Relationships column at a time. She is a feminist, blogger and frequently tweets as @lipsticklori.