By Rob Perez, Contributing Writer
On March 28th, New York City was treated to the presence of Sasha Grey, in town to promote her new photo book, Neu Sex (Vice Books), at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in the heart of SOHO. If there were such a thing as a porn “pop star”, that would be Sasha, who’s appearance that night caused the small, two story brownstone to be at maximum capacity. With the crowd gathered for that evening’s intimate Q&A already at standing room only capacity when this writer arrived, it was clear that this was crowd made up of Sasha’s people—a mix of young and young and heart hipsters.
They are the chic, bohemian, downtown New York scenesters who came out in droves in support for porn’s current “It” girl, even though Sasha not long ago said farewell to the industry that propelled her to mainstream pardon, but not forgotten where she came from. During the half hour Q&A, moderated by her sometimes collaborator Brandon Stosuy, Sasha spoke at length on a variety of topics. While other past and present porno queens may have given way to the obvious scantily clad attire to please the raincoater and peepshow crowd; giving canned answers to obvious porno type questions—Sasha Grey was covered head to toe, sat up straight and prepared to answer any and all questions, but in true porno style did manage to show up to the event 40 minutes late.
As the night went on and the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer flowed like water, Sasha began by explaining that Neu Sex came about when her literary agent suggested the photos Sasha had taken behind the scenes be put in a book. While reluctant at first, the project resulted into Sasha going beyond the usual self-portrait, snapshots, and just take photos of really raw, spontaneous images.
The mystique of the photos is furthered by the decision to not caption what is taking place at the moment. “Part of the book and part of sharing the book was not disallowing myself to interpret the photos,” says Grey. “It’s also about allowing the audience to interpret them the way they want to interpret them. If I were to put something generic along with the photos they would be limiting themselves to their interpretations of whatever it is.” With the subject turning to porn as performance art, Sasha explains that her body is the canvas that’s the most important tool.
Preparing for scenes the night before required Sasha to Psyche herself up and mentally prepare to work with her partner the next day by asking herself, “How can I do a better performance than I did the last time? How can I make them react differently? Not in a sexual level but in a visual level. How can I get a reaction out of them?”
Through that, Sasha could explore her sexuality in safe environment and learn about the “human condition” through porn. “That was really important to me because when I was growing up I felt really conflicted about my sexuality until I started having sex. Up until that point I was just guilt-ridden. This was just the continuation of my awaken sexuality. It was really important for me to continue expressing myself and learning about other people because it’s a constant really.”
Moving on to one of the other prevailing themes in Neu Sex, Sasha spoke at length about female empowerment, especially how sex can be used as a weapon by both sexes, but especially by women. “How do women not use sex as a weapon?” asks Sasha. “We’re taught to kind of keep it to ourselves, unless you’re a guy. That’s OK. There’s this weird thing that happens where we’re allowed to be sexy but we’re not allowed to be sexual. To me it’s a veil of safety. It’s OK to show your tits but it’s not OK to talk about what your kinks are when you’re a woman. But when you’re a guy that’s OK. I feel like somehow that comes full circle when there are women using that against men. Like, ‘Well, you’re not coming with me to see this movie so I’m not going to have sex with you tonight.’ That whole power play goes on, and I think both men and women are equally guilty of it.”
With that, the conversation then turns to the controversial idea that Sasha brings up in her book that all women are bisexual but if you mention all men are bisexual, men have serious issues with that. Without citing any real facts, Sasha talks about how men have come up to her and basically admitted they’ve had bisexual experiences without admitting it. “It’s kind of sad actually when you think about it. But it is something I came across time and time again.” She does cite that when it comes to sex, people sometimes find it easier to admit something that’s uncomfortable, or their frustrations with their sex life or their relationships to strangers than their partners.
As the Q&A drew to a close Sasha discloses that her current ambitions are to pursue mainstream acting jobs and to concentrate on her band, aTelecine. While the band prepares to release their debut album, The Falcon In the Pod, at the end of April, Sasha is relieved that this is a project where she can have another creative outlet without having to worry about pleasing others. Also in the works is script she and some friends are working on called I Am the Destroyer. And keeping us in the dark about her next feature role, Sasha does reveal that she is currently prepping for a film, “Where I get to kick some ass and take revenge.”