Hidden Truths, Frank Sexuality, and Dirty Haiku in a Porn Star’s Memoir

Reading between the lines.
May 7 2014 8:46 AM

Inside Asa Akira

Is a porn star’s memoir revelatory truth-telling, or a shield deflecting complicated revelations?

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Illustration by Chip Zdarsky

Asa Akira is not one to play coy. As one of America’s most bankable porn stars, Akira has spread her asshole for HD cameras and plaster-molded her vagina for mass reproduction as a masturbatory sleeve. But when a fan offered Akira $5,000 for 30 minutes of one-on-one attention, she felt unexpectedly vulnerable as she drove to the gig, a pink can of Mace rattling in her purse. Was it really a good idea to collapse the fourth wall between masturbator and material?

Amanda Hess Amanda Hess

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

As soon as she slinked out of her client’s hotel bathroom, wearing the slutty schoolgirl uniform he’d set aside, she began regurgitating dialogue from past porn scripts: She’d been a very bad girl, she needed to be taught a lesson, etc. To her surprise, the client bought the lines. “In this moment, I realized people are actually into these tired, old, clichéd porno scenarios,” Akira recalls later. “I couldn’t believe this cheesy half-assed act was working.” Soon, her performance got the client so revved up that Akira’s own motor started to purr. “I was starstruck on myself,” Akira says. “I was starting to enjoy this.”

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This story—told early on in Akira’s new memoir, Insatiableexecutes a clever little trick amid its saucy details: It trades one porn fantasy for another. High-paying johns may fall for the hokey schoolgirl trope, but readers of Insatiable are served a more sophisticated scenario: That of the working girl whose cool professional exterior is melted by her own uncontrollable lust. When fans watch Asa Akira’s movies, they fantasize about having sex with her. After they read Insatiable, they can fantasize that they’re making her dreams come true, too.

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Porn memoirists tend to come in two flavors—they are critics railing against the industry’s exploitation (Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal) or boosters reveling in its offerings (Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz). Akira states up front that she falls in the latter camp: “Not to say every day is sunshine and flowers, but I don’t feel a healthy, honest voice of someone currently looking from the inside out has been heard,” she writes. “At the end of the day, I do feel my sexual cravings as a woman are normal, and should be accepted as such by society. It’s bullshit that a man who fucks a thousand women is considered a badass, while a woman doing the same thing is shunned.” Working in porn has made Akira “more confident, more empowered, more sure of myself than I’ve ever been.”

And so Akira whisks us along on her multiple-orgasmic journey of self-discovery. After receiving a thorough education in blow jobs at her private Manhattan high school, Akira bounds around the ecosystem of American sex work—she performs lap dances in a New York City champagne room, dominates submissives in a sex dungeon, plays the live-in third wheel to a well-off polyamorous couple, acts as the “show whore” for a couple of radio shock jocks, escorts wealthy men on Hawaiian getaways, and becomes one of pornography’s biggest stars. Each adventure leaves her free of baggage but richer in anecdotes and cash. She indulges in brief affairs with OxyContin and crack, but swears them off with no signs of withdrawal. The colleague who penetrates her without her prior consent is always good for a laugh. Akira’s central beef with her industry appears to be that it compels her to eat her salads without dressing in an effort to keep her curves as springy as silicon.

As an argumentative tract, Akira’s carefree resilience is a screw-you to those who’d like to paint all female porn performers as coerced victims of a misogynist trade. But this is a memoir, and the porn star who’s more fulfilled with every thrust isn’t necessarily poised to launch a second career as a compelling literary heroine. Where’s her conflict? Not in porn. Porn’s the best.

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