Beyond Fifty Shades of (Sasha) Grey
Sasha Grey, former pornography star and current human being, will no longer be part of a Sex Week panel. According to the Student Health Advisory Committee, the student group hosting the panel, Grey is wary of continuing to be associated with the porn industry, even in the context of a speaking engagement.
As disappointed as I am, I can’t really blame her. A while back, she caught a lot of media flak for daring to read to children at an elementary school in Los Angeles, even though she had retired from the industry. Because you can catch “sluttiness” from merely hearing the voice of a former porn star. Look into her eyes and your genitals will turn to stone, as punishment for daring to consort with a “fallen” woman. Any kind of sex work is inherently distasteful and degrading—from stripping to prostitution to pornography—even when all parties involved are consenting adults.
Sexuality should just be another part of who you are. For Grey, it was part of her job as well as her private life. There isn’t any moral difference between a sex worker and anyone else—not based on his or her chosen profession, at any rate. It also doesn’t affect his or her literacy or worth as a human being. Slut-shaming should be an outdated concept by now, but hell, I get shamed—albeit playfully—for failing to wear a bra every so often.
Most of us at Washington University aren’t porn stars, though I’m pretty sure WUFI-S isn’t so slow because everyone is desperately trying to finish their WeBWorK at the same time. However, negative attitudes toward sex and sexuality inevitably pervade how we treat people. Being sex-positive doesn’t just mean embracing pornography, it’s encouraging everyone to feel comfortable in their sexual identity. Our culture is supposedly pervaded with—and perverted by—sexuality, but in many respects, it’s not really all that sex-positive. There are still debates over the merits of gay marriage and insurance companies covering birth control. Virginity, abstinence, most fetishes and any shade of “grey,” homosexuality, transsexuality, asexuality and polyamory are also weird and/or shameful. The degree to which they are accepted and embraced varies from group to group, but whether you’re saving yourself for marriage or you have sex for money, somebody somewhere is going to look at you askance. The myth persists that men are insatiable horndogs and women fit neatly into the Madonna/whore paradigm.
As college students, we ostensibly have a lot of freedom for exploring our sexualities. The Internet is for porn and college is for coitus—provided you have an understanding roommate. Having porn stars host an event isn’t anything too shocking or shameful, at least at Wash. U.
You can have too much sex and too little sex. If you like the “wrong” kind of sex, well, go screw yourself. Words like slut and whore are tossed around like Mardi Gras beads—whether or not anyone’s shown their mammary tissue. Why can’t we judge people based on whether or not they’re jerks, not based on particular habits when they’re jerking off?
And then there’s the reprehensible side of sexual behavior: rape, molestation and sexual harassment. In general, our society can’t even begin to discuss the issue of sexual assault on college campuses—let alone in general—without speculating about whether or not the victim was “asking for it” by daring to be drunk or sexually active or breathing.
SHAC’s porn star panel, “A Night With the Stars: Life, Love, and Sex in the Workplace,” includes other high-profile panelists and the discussions should be lively. But Sasha Grey’s cancellation, and in particular, her reasons for that cancellation, serve as a reflection of the very reason we need Sex Week. It’s an opportunity for dialogue, as well as sexy, fun times (rope workshop, anyone?). As for Sasha Grey, I wish her all the best—it’s hard out there for a “fallen woman.”