Apropos of Jenna Jameson's alleged abuse at the hands of boyfriend Tito Ortiz, The Daily Beast's Sean Macaulay says porn stars often go on to crappy lives. But maybe he's just watching the wrong kind of porn.
Drawing conclusions from the lives of several porn stars and from a documentary called Exxxit: Life After Porn, Macaulay writes that "porn is a fantasy world of quick money whose real price only becomes apparent when you try to return to normality." He mentions Jesse James's ex Janine Lindemulder and a few other actresses who have come to bad ends, but Jameson is his Exhibit A. He says,
[H]er chances of finding domestic stability were probably below average given her struggles with many of the personal issues that are so common in the industry. She lost her mother to cancer when she was 2, and was raped by four men in her early teens. She had tremendous rage at her police officer father, who was an archetypal distant authority figure. (They have since reconciled.) In her 2004 memoir, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, she talks about her battle with heroin addiction and her crippling body-image issues. "I have very bad insecurity about my body," she wrote in her diary, at age 15. "I feel there is something wrong with it. I hate being seen naked."
Exxxit director Bryce Wagoner disputes the idea that women with "personal issues" are more likely to do porn. He states, somewhat confusingly,
A lot of these people are smart, educated, well-adjusted. They get into it simply because they can make more money, and faster than if they were training to be a nurse. But it's a Faustian pact. If you enter the business with something deeply unresolved in your psyche, it's not going to cure it. It's like [porn historian] Luke Ford says in the film: 'You want the roll in the hay, but then afterward you want to burn the sheets.'
Mixed metaphors aside, it's certainly possible that porn stars have trouble starting over in part because people assume they must be fucked up. I'd be willing to bet that the disapproving neighbors Wagoner mentions, who barred ex-porn stars from babysitting and Little League coaching gigs, consumed porn themselves on occasion. But they apparently thought of the actors in said porn as dirty or damaged, a double standard that unfortunately pervades much public discussion of mainstream pornography.
Showing that it doesn't have to be that way is Tristan Taormino, whose appearance at Princeton yesterday caused some controversy. Taormino is a self-described "anal sexpert," and her talk "My Life as a Feminist Pornographer" challenged the notion that all porn must be exploitative of women. She told her audience, "Some people hold the opinion that sex is not valued in our culture, that making this as a product is not valuable, and that people who do it are not valuable workers" — which seems to encapsulate the attitudes many ex-porn stars face. However, Taormino said, "I want to make films that empower people who are making it and people who are watching it, and I know that I can change the world, one feminist video at a time."
To find out what a feminist porn video looks like, you'll have to watch one. But if you're, say, at work, Taormino offered a pretty awesome description in the Village Voice a few years ago:
For me, feminist porn is about character, choice, and consciousness. I like to collaborate with performers on how their sexuality is represented, rather than give them a script or formula to follow. I want to capture complex, three-dimensional beings rather than stereotypes, to create an open environment that's safe for everyone-especially women-to take charge of their pleasure and be able to express their desires freely. I want to represent sex as positive, fun, healthy, and adventurous. I consciously work to create images that contradict (and hopefully challenge) other porn that represents women only as objects and vehicles for male pleasure.
The lack of female pleasure in porn just sucks. I mean, if you're going to go to the trouble of sticking a girl's head in the toilet, you damn well better give her an awesome orgasm.
Life After Porn [Daily Beast]
Campus Controversy: Tristan Taormino Presents 'My Life As A Feminist Pornographer' At Princeton U. [Examiner.com]
Taormino Speaks About Feminist Pornography [Daily Princetonian]
Related: Political Smut Makers [Village Voice]