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May 15, 2009


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I enjoyed the profile (and look forward to seeing the movie) but the star of the show is Deeandria. As a mom to young children currently living in the southern part of the US, I have peripheral dealings with her type all the time and they never cease to amuse me...

Glenn Kenny

@Kia—It's interesting; anyone who knows me, and some of the work I've been involved in, knows that I do have some appreciation of the more problematic aspects of porn, and the porn culture. (And I don't think my Beast piece completely glosses over them, despite its breezy tone.) So that stuff rankles me a little more than I guess it ought to. But what are you gonna do—I sure as hell am not going to jump into that thread there.

I wish David Foster Wallace was still alive. For a huge number of reasons, obviously. But specifically, today, and a lot of the time lately, I do wonder what he'd make of Sasha and her project within the context of the industry. I would have loved to hear from him about it.

Tony Dayoub

Good idea, not jumping into that thread, Glenn. It's rife with crackpots and no forum for an intelligent analysis of the subject.


I second your assessment about the types you have "peripheral dealings with". I also live in the South, and find the same attitudes put out for public consumption. Ironically, the stuff that goes on behind closed doors here would frighten anyone from NYC or or my native Miami, though - some perverse shit as a way of dealing with all of that repression.

Steven Santos

Quite judgmental, those commenters. I certainly don't think those who work in the porn industry are innocent or don't clearly have personal issues, but how exactly is that different from anyone in all of show business? The entertainment industry isn't exactly comprised of people with stable mental health.

I also sort of suspect anyone taking a holier-than-thou stance on any subject regarding sex is suppressing some desires of their own that often come out in very ugly and harmful ways. We've seen it before, too many times.

Just saw the movie a few days ago. Felt it was more about how our lives are a set of business transactions (even personal relationships), as opposed to being about sex.

I still laugh at the way Glenn says "cocaine" in his scene. Also found it funny that the furniture store his character operated from was about 2 blocks from where I grew up. Greenpoint, Brooklyn apparently has some sleazy people behind closed doors.

Daniel O'Sullivan

"Shrieking harpy"- nice. Certainly not a low blow of gender stereotyping. And Stephen Santos' comment- "anyone taking a holier-than-thou stance on any subject regarding sex is suppressing some desires of their own"- certainly isn't judgmental. That is not at all similar to saying that all porn players must be covering up for abuse in their past.

I enjoy this blog in a detached lurking kind of way, and usually have no problem ignoring the differences of opinion between myself and the "Secular Movie Mob" (which label demonstrates a gratifyingly self-deprecating sense of humor, or else a charmingly defiant one). But when you refuse to directly engage the "other side" on something as many-sided as sexual morality AND make derogatory insinuations about their personal life on a different website, something seems wrong. Sure, Deeandria is loud and self-righteous- she's not afraid to say what she thinks straight and clear. Sure, the questions she asks are phrased kinda funny... but you know what she means. Condescending won't make her go away. Responding might not, either, but you don't have to act so scared about it.

(Yes, I know Mr. Santos might say that we MUST be scared of people like that- they think so DIFFERENT from us secular people and want to take over our institutions! Well...


Glenn Kenny

Daniel: I choose not to argue with Deeandria because she's not making an argument. She's declaiming from an incredibly self-righteous posture (as you admit) and (to be honest, this is what really pisses me off) ascribing all sorts of thoughts and motives to me that aren't there. Oh, right, shame on me for using the gender stereotype "shrieking harpy"—here's some choice material from Deeandria's first comment: "This writer has made a fool out of himself and of course he doesn't even realize it... Mr. Kenny reveals his own fantasy of what a happy (female!) porn star is like...I can hear him drooling from here." Oh, but for some reason I have to be above ad hominems, because I'm better than that? Sorry to admit, I'm not better than that. I wish I was. Maybe.

If you think I'm scared, there's nothing I can do about that, but I'm not going to engage in that thread. There really isn't any arguing with someone who comes right out of the gate with such disdain and such a fixed perspective.

Steven Santos

"Sure, Deeandria is loud and self-righteous- she's not afraid to say what she thinks straight and clear. Sure, the questions she asks are phrased kinda funny... but you know what she means. Condescending won't make her go away. Responding might not, either, but you don't have to act so scared about it."

One can also say that someone like Deeandria who sees issues in black and white doesn't really contribute meaningfully to any discussion. Self-righteousness often hides something else. That's not exactly an original or even controversial concept in my opinion.

Is it fair for me to insinuate anything about Deeandria? Probably not. But it certainly isn't out of bounds to wonder about the possibly dubious motivations of blowhards, particularly when I've encountered people like this before who often prove to be hypocrites. That's just common sense and observation of human behavior. Should I just take what she says at face value? Sorry, that would be gullible.

I'm not scared of people like Deeandria or a frank discussion on the subject matter. Is there anything suggested by her shrieking comments that suggest she's open to anything beyond absolute moral judgment about what's right and wrong (a stance I clearly didn't take in my comment above)?

I would like to have a discussion with anybody, but some people are, how shall I put this, assholes looking for a fight. And the tone people like that take often use is much like the one Deeandria used, Daniel. Not much unlike the tone you're using.

Aaron Aradillas

Living in the South (South Texas to be precise), I'm not sure "The South" has anything to do Deeandria's hysteria. Is her way of thinking any different than the Californians who voted against gay marriage?

She's just an irrational idiot. You can find 'em aanywhere.


Aaron's right. Why drag the South into this? Where did that come from?

Glenn Kenny

Aaron, Bill, at the gym today I will crank up some Skynyrd on the i-Pod in your honor. For reals!

Herman Scobie

I've lived in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and New Jersey and can testify that there is little difference in narrow-mindedness among the citizens of these environs--though Baton Rouge has a bit of a lead, with Syracuse second.

As far as mothers with questionable pasts go, I always howl when, in Arsenic and Old Lace, Jack Carson is trying to interest Cary Grant in his play and refers to his mother as Miss Peaches La Tour.


Well, it seems pretty clear to me that Dee's absolute moral judgment of all things porn, and of Glenn Kenny, because, you know, how dare he even write about this without moralizing about it, is rooted in Dworkin-esque feminism rather than in some type of religious belief.

So if that's what the Southern thing is about, I think it's wrong.


I'm the culprit who dragged the South into it. But not to disparage my current home, merely to give context for the particular dynamic that I find here. I grew up in Brooklyn (way before it's current chic incarnation) and I'll state the obvious, there are no shortage of lunatics and hypocrites there. There was just something about the tone of Deeandria's posts that reminds me of all the plastically augmented anti porn crusading moms that I've met while living in Dixie. A passing comment filtered through my personal lens, not a scathing indictment of a place I really love.

And as a tennis fanatic, heading into the meat of the season, count me among the many who miss David Foster Wallace.

Daniel O'Sullivan

Okay, I'll abuse your hospitality once more:

I'm sorry to sound like I'm "trying to pick a fight," Steven. That last parenthetical was pretty dumb, and "scared" sounds too much like a taunt to convey what I mean. A better word would be to say Glenn is "disturbed"- disturbed that people have "black and white" (i.e. morally clear-cut) opinions on the sexual morality of porn (and the implications of bringing it closer to the mainstream).

I will definitely say I overlooked just how nasty many of her comments are (esp. the "take her in twenty years" one- I don't think I noticed that one before, that's just ugly). I don't blame you (Glenn) for sniping back.

Still... something about this feels off to me. I don't blame you for not joining that discussion, if you believe it to be based on irrational, non-arguable terms (or just because you don't want the hassle). What I find slightly unreasonable is that you're perfectly happy making unkind rebuttals elsewhere- taking a firm position on the debate while claiming to be above it. (It's irrelevant, not worth even considering... but hey, that chick must be totally screwed-up, am I right?)

I feel weird sort-of defending Deeandria. I think your article is fascinating and thorough- no signs of drooling. But I also think she has a point. Sure, Grey is powerfully talented at "working the system,” but she's still a part of that system- the business of selling bodies- and possibly starting a trend of greater respectability for that business. Just as Steven doesn’t take Deeandria’s moralism at face value, I can’t take Grey's claims at face value; I don’t think the article meaningfully questions them. It dismisses "moralistic clucking" as automatically as Grey does. I think moralism is a significant perspective here, even though that bugs you. While Deeandria's methods are pretty cheap, she is expressing a point of view- parts of which I share- that the article sidesteps. I think there's value in that, even though it is pretty overblown in this case.

I don't really mean to pick a fight, and I'm genuinely sorry that people feel the need to assault Glenn's character to make their points. I just wanted to float out there my opinion that Deeandria's onto something, "shrieking" and all. Take it or leave it. (And I won't blame you for leaving it. The drool thing was totally not cool.)

Glenn Kenny

@ Daniel: I do appreciate your thoughts, and I especially appreciate the largely civil way in which you've expressed them. As it happens, I do have a fair number of reservations about porn, and particularly the industry that produces it. If you've ever read David Foster Wallace's essay on the '98 AVN awards, called "Big Red Son," one of the most detailed and kind of harrowing anti-porn pieces produced in recent years...well, I'm at least partially in sympathy with its perspective, as I edited it for Premiere and spent a lot of time discussing it with Dave.

The "business of selling bodies" is a vexed one in many ways, sure, but it's also a very old one, and bodies are sold in different ways and at different, shall we say, levels of intensity. I'm not bugged by morality, but I AM bugged by moralism, particularly of a dogmatic kind. And as I said, although the tone of the Beast piece was breezy—partially because of the requirements of the venue, partially because I like Sasha and believe what she says to me, and so on—if I want to get into some of the more problematic aspects of Grey's work, well, I could consider what appears to be the inherent contradiction between her assertion that she's challenging stereotypes, and (for instance) the fact that she appears on the cover of a video called "King of Coochie" with a word balloon emanating from her mouth saying of co-star Tom Byron, "He put his royal scepter in my coochie." Which is about as stereotypical as you can get with a porn starlet. And I imagine that were I to pose a question about that to Sasha, she might say that she's only been in the business for a couple of years and that before you can subvert its stereotypes you've got to play the old-boy game to a certain extent. So. Yes. The piece in the Beast does sidestep some issues that some might have liked to have seen addressed.

But as I hope you see, my overall view on this is not quite that of a clear-cut, porno-chic cheerleader or what not. Which is not to say I don't stand by every word of my piece in the Beast. And that I DO believe Sasha is everything I say she is there.

By the way, the inside joke behind that "secular movie mob" line is what I thought a rather silly a phrase of Armond White's. (Like that's something new.) As someone raised Catholic in the early '60s, it's actually impossible for me to be an entirely secular soul! As my wife reminded me when we were talking about Deeandria's question about whether I would want my daughter to become a porn star...

Daniel O'Sullivan

Before I read that very kind comment, I was actually about to write that I kind of take it back. While I agree with our friend D. about certain abstract moral positions (and think that dogmatic moralism can be a good thing), it seems quite inappropriate to take the side of someone who, like D., is actively trying to stain someone else's reputation in such crude terms, no matter what their ideology. I can't say I would react any better. And your piece was clearly intended to honor Grey's perspective, not to make sweeping claims about The Porn Industry and What It Means. I guess I really was trying to pick a fight, just an extremely abstract and passive-aggressive one. So, sorry. I just might read that Wallace essay sometime.

And I kinda figured that would be from Armond. He's interesting.

Tony Dayoub

As the someone else who elaborated on Kia's offhand remark on the South, I'd like to point out that I was referring to the South as a particular state of mind, not geographically. Miami is my hometown after all, and that's about as south as you can get.

But I do find a marked difference in the mentality where I currently live, in Atlanta. Atlanta is surrounded by a circular interstate, I-285, which is referred to as "the loop." And there are people who live ITL (in the loop) and OTL. ITL, you mostly find people with a broad spectrum of ideas, spiritual and political, that are generally respectful of others' opinions. OTL, you mostly find people with a broad spectrum of ideas, spiritual and political, that are NOT respectful of others' opinions.

True, I'm sure, of most cities vs. suburbia no matter what area of the U.S. you live in. But here, I found it particularly galling to be in this conversation:

"Where's your family from?"
"That's in Mexico, right?"

Steven Santos

Daniel: I appreciate the more restrained response this time.

Anybody is going to be naturally skeptical of Sasha Grey and her goals, as depicted in Glenn's article, which I feel is non-judgmental but isn't very celebratory either.

To go back to my first comment, the main issue I had with the comments was the passing of judgment by Deeandria and some of the other commenters. I'm probably more skeptical about Grey than Glenn is, but I'm not going to post a comment on a board judging her character based on an article. Grey's performance in "GFE" is fair game, but her morality is none of my business.

And when I bring up what I may suspect of these commenters, all I am merely implying is the old Bible quote: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone". And I am certainly not religious, but I'm reminded of evangelists and politicians caught in acts that they previously went through the effort to publicly condemn. One can easily argue they did so that they themselves wouldn't be scrutinized.

I live in New York where our supposed "Law'N'Order" governor was caught paying for high-priced hookers. So, anyone who chooses to preach morality so publicly to others these days needs to be met with a healthy amount of skepticism. Personally, I have to deal with my own morality on an everyday basis than to be arrogant enough to publicly call out other people for not following what I think is right or wrong.

T. Holly

I strongly disagree that any porn acts are "too dirty to be accurately described on any website that doesn’t require an age check" because this one doesn't, and you haven't. I think you're unwittingly in a conspiracy that legitimizes torture, assault and endangerment of young people, and when Steven Soderbergh keeps referring to her porn as "extreme," you and he are inadvertently colluding. There's more. For one thing, Deeandria's insistence that porn is related to abusive pasts is irrelevant and dismissive and an argumentative trap that leads nowhere. [Note that Lauren Wissot felt slighted because GFE dissed escorts as not being capable of being in committed relationship and for portraying the field unrealistically.] Sasha Grey faults other porn performers for getting into it for the sex, whereas she knows it's business; well that's self serving hypocrisy. How does she know? How come she thinks she's the only one who sees it as business and that keeps her safe? She's a brilliant marketer and willing to (I took a shot at a what, one day, someone might use to describe dirty with instead of extreme):

she's restrained and opened like 7-11 in an extended sequence accompanied by vociferous vocals of unknown origin, but that, in this writer's experience, would be known as masking extreme pain.

T. Holly

Assumption here: no doubt I'll have to rip David Polland some sort of asshole tonight like I did Scott Feinberg:

Scott, you angry person, let me get this straight, you talked about her porn work? I'll listen again for any sign of detail. The way I heard it and saw it, your connection to Brandeis U. gave you permission to touch lightly and delicately on the perfectly legal, dangerous, human sexual trade and exploitation-for-financial-profit film business and you thanked the audience for keeping it respectful, civil and surface level like your chat after several guys asked her polite questions? Give me a break. Who do you think you're kidding? I'll listen/watch again and take better notes. In the meantime, if you know any reviews and titles of her works, please share or write a review, assuming you've watched any, and if you haven't, please have her send you samples, so you know what you're talking about when you write about porn, or find a way to write about it that isn't light and breezy.

Glenn Kenny

@T. Holly: By "discouraged" I meant, "don't bother." I'll let these two comments stand, T. Holly, as a testament to your persistence and your lack of anything better to do, but rest assured that anything else you have to say here will be deleted without any consideration for content or whatnot. My blog, my money pays for it, I moderate, you are not welcome. Good night, and goodbye.


Hmmm...there's a "tholly" on another film site I check in on from time-to-time that offers up some pretty weird assessments of films (trashing The Third Man, No Country For Old Men, and Apocalypse Now, whilst praising really dopey action/comedies). The same?

Anyways, if Sasha Grey wants to move away from the porn industry into more "legitimate", artistic filmmaking, and possesses the acting chops to do so, I say more power to her. It's not like cross-pollination between the mainstream film and porn industry is likely to become a common trend, given the relative level of acting talent of the average porn star.

I trust your judgment in these matters, Glenn. You didn't strike me as much of a horndog in that Synecdoche, New York bloggers roundtable, in any event. ;)

don r. lewis

Like I said in the aforementioned "other blog," Sasha is cool and Sasha is GREAT at marketing herself as a "different kind of pornstar." But when she does the low end porno stuff ("Bang Bros" and any other group of shady seeming porno sites) she, as Glenn alludes to, kind of voids her own claims. As I always say, the one thing I learned living in L.A. is, you are whatever you say you are. Whatever label you put on yourself and trumpet is the label people will apply to you. Actor, producer, writer, "Existentialist Pornstar" included.

I also think that until an adult star lands a mainstream role in which she doesn't play: herself, a random pornstar, hooker or stripper, none we can't even have the discussion of being a crossover star.

Tom Russell

"I also think that until an adult star lands a mainstream role in which she doesn't play: herself, a random pornstar, hooker or stripper, none we can't even have the discussion of being a crossover star."

Most famously, there's Chambers in "Rabid", not to mention Ron Jeremy in the children's television series "Bone Chillers" and a bunch of Frankenheimer movies.

don r. lewis

Addendum; starring roles, not bit parts.

Jeff McM

Applause for 5/15/09 at 10:10pm.

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