What does it take to put a past in porn completely to bed?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Nov. 11 2011 3:28 PM

The Inescapability of Porn

Sasha Grey
Can Sasha Grey put her porn-star past behind her?

Photograph by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Rolling Stone

I'm trying to wrap my mind around how the Read Across America people thought there was any other possible result from inviting the most famous porn star of the past decade to read to first-graders than what happened, which was irate parents. I'm the first in line to protest the way that sex workers are stigmatized and treated as a threat to children, when there is no evidence to support that fear. We should live in a world where Sasha Grey reads to first-graders and no one cares. But we don't live in that world, and any fool could tell you that there would be some parents who freak out just from the fear that porn star-ness is catching.

Of course, the whole incident does raise interesting questions about the inescapability of porn. Our hypocritical, puritanical society has an inexhaustable appetite for fresh porn product that requires a constant stream of people into the industry, but when they've served their masturbatory purpose, we collectively shun them and make it hard for them to find gainful employment outside of the industry. The probability verges on 100 percent that one of the irate parents in this situation has orgasmed while watching Grey penetrated in various orifices. (She's just that famous.) But they probably don't feel remotely bad joining in the shunning efforts.

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Grey is trying to walk that difficult path of transitioning from porn to mainstream entertainment. Many have set out on that path, but few have successfully made it. Even if they, like Grey, get other acting gigs, the coverage of their work generally references their past in porn. The only celebrity I can think of who has escaped the curse is Vanessa Williams, and that's mainly because she was able to spin those porn pictures as a one-time lark that wasn't ever supposed to see the light of day anyway. Grey isn't even close to that goal, but who knows, maybe she can break the pattern. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today