On Leaving Porn, Smiling.

Porn star Penny Flame is now Jennie Ketcham, a transition she's documenting:

Recently, Penny Flame, a well-known adult film star, quit porn to pursue an art career. She also writes a blog, Becoming Jennie, about her transition to a new life - with what SFGate's Violet Blue calls "a sex-positive stance on porn, women and self-defined sexuality. And most of all, a cool attitude of sexual responsibility." In this she's distinct from other ex-porn stars who, Ketcham feels, perpetuate the stereotypes and either present themselves as victims of the industry or still want to profit from being sex symbols. As she writes,

I hate the common exit strategy, hate that girls join the 'god squad' or feel ashamed of the choices they made but I understand it. I can see that it's much easier to say 'porn did this to me, or that' but at the end of the day, we are all responsible for the choices we make. I chose to be a porn star. Now I'm choosing not to be. It's the beautifully terrible thing about free will: we can do whatever we like but we must be held accountable for whatever we do. Just because I don't want to be a porn star today doesn't mean that I should feel ashamed to have been one seven months ago. It's something I did and I'm not afraid to say I did it, loved doing it, and just don't feel like it's what I need to do anymore. Shame and guilt are useless emotions. The only way I would feel ashamed is if I'd decided being a porn star isn't what's best for me and then continued doing it anyway.

To some ears, this may seem like a simplified - if pragmatic - attitude towards something that can't be separated from its moral and social implications. And there's an understandable ambivalence to some of Ketcham's writings. She feel she had become a

woman that exists for the sole purpose of others' enjoyment. I realized I have no identity as Jennie Ketcham and that I am incapable of developing sincere and intimate relationships. I don't blame this problem on being in pornography, it was something I've struggled with for a long time, but to continue as an adult performer would just perpetuate the issues. I quit because I wanted an identity outside of being a porn star. I wanted to be Jennie again.

Ketcham's point is well-taken, and her insistence on personal accountability is laudable. She's right that porn did not "cause" her issues. As she says, "the notion that my worth revolves around my sexuality is something I struggle with on a daily basis... In fact, that's a big reason of why I entered adult in the first place." And it's much healthier to say that she's proud of her career, that "I wouldn't be in the wonderful place I am today if it were not for where I'd been as a porn star, and Penny Flame" than to draw a curtain of shame over a significant portion of her life.

But, as a public voice - which is what she's becoming, in a new book as well as the blog - Ketcham's feels, in some ways, more conflicted than "porn-positive." She did a wide range of work - some woman-positive, but much of it of the sort Ariel Levy, for one, would condemn as harmful. As such, there's no reason her attitude should be doctrinaire, either; she had a good experience but the industry is not monolithic. Ketcham has a chance to say something important - and getting out of the industry, with sex-positive feelings of self-worth in tact, is already saying a lot - and we'll be reading.


Leaving Porn On Her Terms
[SFGate]
Becoming Jennie