At Sasha Grey's book launch, everyone seemed very impressed by the pornstar-turned-actress's courage. "She's brave," said one attendee. "Very brave," said another. "I think she's...open to things other people are not."
That tone of prim euphemism carried over to the event's main performance, a conversation between Grey and the Believer's Brandon Stosuy. Grey, when she found she could not avoid mention of the business in which she made her name, referred to it as "the adult industry," "my adult film career," and "doing...what I do." Stosuy slipped once and called it "porn." Only once in their half-hour discussion was was sex, the act as opposed to the fact of it, actually brought up. (Grey, who wore a black chiffon dress with green printed flowers on it, said that she had sex for the first time during her senior year of high school.)
Neü Sex is a book of photographs — Grey's and her husband, Ian Cinnamon's — taken on various porn sets during her years in the industry. (Grey hasn't shot porn since late 2009.) The book also contains a brief introduction and twelve essays by Grey, several of which are just a paragraph or two in length. (And if it seems like the book isn't getting much press, it may because her PR rep does things like this [link NSFW].) Grey described herself as a "huge Cindy Sherman fan," but said that, aesthetically speaking, her photography was obviously more informed by Nan Goldin.
Grey said that she appreciated the adult industry for the perspective it offered on "the human condition." And was there anything she missed about the work? "I miss the routine. It's nice knowing I'm going to work, like, Wednesday-Friday-Saturday."
She also called Neü Sex "My sexual philosophy." She rattled off a pretty good line about how "sex is used so often every day in the media, I mean, we use it to sell sneakers. And microwave meals. And at the same time we're taught to kind of keep to ourselves." Especially, she said, as women. "There's this weird thing where we're allowed to be sexy, but we're not allowed to be sexual. So to me it's a veil of safety. So it's O.K. to show your tits but it's not O.K. to talk about what your kinks are. When you're a woman." This leads, said Grey, to women "using sex as a weapon," against men. "And I feel like somehow that comes full circle with women using that against men. Like, You're not going to come with me to see this movie, so I'm not going to have sex with you tonight." Somehow.
"How are we doing on time?" asked Stosuy. "You've got plenty of time," said a man's voice, off-stage. Stosuy frowned, and asked if the audience had any questions.
One man came up to compliment Grey as a trend-setter. "Look at all the brunettes here," he said.
"I think that you are so brave. Some people are brave, in a moment, I guess, but you just wake up brave, or something," said a man with a shaved head and glasses, who was dressed in a black turtleneck. "You are transformative."
"Hey, Jack," said a startled-looking Grey. "That's my fan." Jack comes to most of her East Coast events.
"I have a 39-year-old son. And when should I tell him that I'm a Sasha junkie?" asked Jack.
"Let that poor man live in ignorance," a photographer in the crowd whispered.
"Anytime is a good time, my good man!" said Grey. "Next question," said Stosuy.
Another man told Grey "you are the definition of #winning. Please tell me you're going to do the last season of Entourage."
Someone else asked if she wanted kids. "I don't know if I want kids," she replied. "I don't right now! I'm 23."
At this, the audience seemed strangely shocked. "Jesus," someone muttered.
(Nobody asked the question that I most wanted to see addressed: Why the umlaut?)
Glenn Kenny, a film critic who played the "Erotic Critic," the john who writes Grey's character a scathing online review in Steven Soderbergh's movie The Girlfriend Experience, was in attendance. At first, he said, when he met Grey, "I didn't know if she was the real deal, or some empty-headed person who knew the right names to drop. But she knows the difference between Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin. She is the real thing."
Being in the film has had some interesting upsides for Kenny. "My butcher's son saw The Girlfriend Experience on cable one time, and so now my butcher's like, 'Hey your friend Sasha's on Entourage!'" Kenny was dressed in a corduroy suit and a gray shirt. "There's a character on Entourage who says at one point, 'I read for The Girlfriend Experience,' and it's funny because nobody read for that movie. It was all cast by people who knew people."
A line formed for book signing while Grey filmed something with a camera crew.
Zubaida Suliman was waiting, copy of Neü Sex in hand. Suliman, who is studying human rights at Baruch College, wore a hijab and had edged her brown eyes with winged liner. Why did she come? "Because my friend is really, really fascinated by her," she replied. Suliman, too, found Grey courageous. "I think she's really inspiring. I like how fearless she is."
The turtlenecked East Coast Fan was lingering near the bar. He gave his name as Jack Patterson. "Or, my nickname's 'Spike,' also 'Jocko.'" Was he going to tell his son, John, that he's a Sasha junkie? "Yes! In fact, I'm going to tell him on Father's Day."
Patterson had already gotten Grey sign his book. The dedication read:
Your father wants you to have me.