There are many interesting things about this. One, of course, is that someone whose stage name is “Grey” has chosen to exploit the enormous fame of Fifty Shades of Grey (with the correct spelling unlike the weird variant mostly used on the other side of the Atlantic). Another is that this time the author is someone who actually knows something about what she’s writing about. And yet another is that the book’s title is a fairly obvious tribute to Juliette by the Marquis de Sade which has already taken this type of literature to its extreme limit.
I’m not likely to ever read the novel as any interest I ever had in reading novels about bondage and sado-masochism (BDSM) has been thoroughly sated by having already read the Marquis’ fairly unpleasant and tedious novels and the rather better ones by authors like Sasha’s near namesake Alasdair Gray. However, like other forms of entertainment which interest me only from a safe distance and which I rather more wince at than enjoy, like boxing and mediaeval torture, it can’t be denied that the practice of mixing pain with pleasure has fascinated many people and (Marquis de Sade and E. L James notwithstanding) has generated a lot of quality art and literature.
However, Sasha Grey is an interesting character in her own right. She is famous principally for her activity in hardcore porn which could be described as mutually exploitative. She is probably something of a threat to men who use porn just to moisten tissues, as she’s one of the newer breed of female porn-stars who sees her sexual activities as empowering and assertive. Her fans include not only men, but also women including the Russian woman, Lapshina666, whose illustration I used as a heading for this blog. She’s also diversified from being filmed having sex with men and other women, to work in mainstream cinema, most famously with Steven Soderbergh, to photography to American alt-rock.
I could easily be facetious about Sasha Grey, but the truth is I rather admire her. I see no reason at all why a woman shouldn’t make a successful career in porn, however seedy, and then move on using her past as a springboard to do other things. It’s likely that the huge sales of her novel, whether it’s good or bad, will ensure her a living beyond whatever rather young age most female porn stars retire.
One could say this was a modern phenomenon and, in the sense that it involves the modern billion dollar porn industry it probably is. But it’s a career trajectory that’s been successfully followed many times before, from Empress Theodora of Constantinople to countless others who began their professional lives in prostitution or other aspects of the sex industry over the millennia. And if Sasha Grey is an example to other women who have something to offer the world not only between their legs but between their ears, then more power to her.
My personal view is that in a world where not all career opportunities are exactly what one might choose and where the set of talents that a person possesses are not exclusively those of an academic or artisan nature, one should congratulate anyone who succeeds so well and in the process brings pleasure (however guilty) to so many million people.