Beyond Fifty Shades of (Sasha) Grey

| Senior Forum Editor
Courtesy of Jo Anna Barber

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 Slut-shaming should be an outdated concept by now, but hell, I get shamed—albeit playfully—for failing to wear a bra every so often.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.”

  • Courtney

    In rebuttal to some of the negative receptions of this article- in my opinion, a major theme in this piece is a modern view, slight feministic approach to exploring sexuality and sexual identification in today’s society and should be reviewed as such. The intent was not discuss or make medically peer reviewed claims in regards to STIs or HIV transmission…

  • Courtney

    You can’t please everyone; hence the negative and positive comments in response to your article.

    I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with your view. Regardless, the peice was extremely well written and argued. It was clever, witty and intelligent; I thoroughly enjoyed it! Thank you

  • Mike

    Its pretty disgusting when adult film stars are now becoming mainstream. When I was growing up this stuff was not only taboo, but kept in the corner of seedy neighborhoods and not as open as it has become in modern society! Amazingly, folks are now more accepting of an industry that frankly has DESTROYED the lives of many men
    and women in America! It RUINS MARRIAGES, AND FAMILIES. It Degrades Women and Makes Men Addicts to this Perversion!

  • Henry Palmer

    Good job stealing your title from WUnderground

  • Nikki

    I find that people who make comments like yours are usually more sexually depraved then any sex worker I know. Basically If I had the choice between sasha or you reading to my children. I would choose Sasha!

  • Megan

    This is a wonderful article. Thank you.

  • Mike

    This is probably the best piece that has been written in Stud Life all year.

  • Dr. James Bozzuto

    This comment is non-comprehensible. Sasha Grey is not your ordinary sex worker. She invaded a grade school, to promote her brand. The school was outraged and she caused the reading program to be cancelled. Also she practices a brand of porn that by CDC definition, is guaranteed to contract HIV. She is not a “fallen woman”, but a deliberate woman who wants to use children to promote pornography. Call the Sandy Hook parents, or any other parents in the world, and ask if they would give permission to a porn star to read to their 6 and seven year olds, then tweet to her followers, some of whom are pedophiles, how much she “enjoyed the sweet young children.” nothing wrong with pornography, but when you use children, to promote it, it is stepping over the line, and is probably criminal. She should have been arrested under California statues, for using children to promote pornography. She escaped this offense, but she should not be rewarded by making money, from your university, for this behavior. Shame on the university and the students for trying to recruit her to speak.

    • Eyebrows

      As a matter of clarification, she is a former sex worker, and there is no sort of porn one could do, short of something involving injecting HIV-positive blood, that is “guaranteed” to give the participants HIV.

      I question your degree, and I suspect you are not a doctor of medicine.

      • Dr. James Bozzuto

        I am a licensed Physician, Connecticut license #17272, since 1971. You are correct, that injecting HIV positive blood is guaranteed to infect you with HIV. OSHA has been trying to regulate the porn industry for the regulation of the transfer of blood borne diseases for years, unsucessfully. If you spill blood in the workplace, all sorts of precautions are initiated. Not so in the porn industry. The CDC states the best way to contract HIV is to have anal sex without condoms. Sasha’s signature scene is to have anal sex with 15 men, without condoms and significant amount of blood is exchanged. The average time of sero-conversion from HIV negative to positive is three to six months. Who knows the HIV status of these men, even if they tested negative the day before. One topic for sex week should be the dangers of STDS, not the promotion of sex workers who use children to promote the dangerous kinds of sex Sasha engages in.

  • SAhoy

    Don’t be so gender-normative. Male porn stars have it rough, too. In some respects, they’re even worse off, given the greater stigma attached to male-male homosexual activity than female-female.