opinion

Examining the New Era of Celebrity Porn Stars

Kayden Kross

Porn is invading America. Just as every white-breaded, Jesus-fearing mother and sweat-stained preacher and vote-groping politician predicted. Sex is no longer passive. It’s coming for you. It’s going to beat down your doors and warp your mind and put hair on your palms and disease in your blood. It’s the shadow in the alley. Run.

That’s actually not true. It seems America has new monsters growing in the closet. I decided after writing that first line that I should probably conduct some research on the general attitudes toward sex and porn before proceeding. Surely it’s still a living thing with an agenda. It was when I was growing up. So I googled it: “Sex is Taking Over America.” The results were mostly people telling Americans to get over their hang-ups, a few sites that still haven’t gotten over the fact that sometimes men love men, and, strangely, a high number of sites that fear Muslims.

I may be alone on this, but the last thing that comes to mind when I think of the ways sex might be invading America is the word “Muslim.” And if Muslims really were invading America, with or without sex, they’d have a tough time outdoing what the Puritans did that one time they invaded America. Remember that? I’d hate to be stuck following that act.

Then I googled “Porn is Invading America.” And you know what popped up? Mexican trees. Mexican trees are invading America. Last I heard, only ten percent of wild grass in California is native. The boa constrictor passed the crocodile on the food chain in Florida. And again there’s that whole bit with those Puritans. And here they’re singling out the poor Mexican tree.

So I googled “Porn is Bad.” And the thing the internet agrees is bad about porn is men who watch it end up trying to have sex like male talent and do that jackhammer shit and everyone assumes bigger, faster, stronger has a direct correlation to satisfaction. I’ll agree with this. The jackhammer can be overrated. People forget that when we make porn we are trying to give you a visual taste of something that is mostly internal, and while bodily cavities do fall under this umbrella, I’m really talking about the mental aspect. They also forget that we are trying to win awards, and to sell more movies, and that their dollars voted for this jackhammer shit. But I didn’t see anything about hell or predation or Satan’s premeditation on the first page of results. And our collective attention span doesn’t care about anything beyond that anyway. I’m sure there are plenty of things I could have searched to get the answer I was looking for, but the general point I’m digging at is that attitudes are softening on this whole porn/sex thing.

Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy and Traci Lords are household names in households that don’t watch porn. That’s probably not true either. You can get porn on your iPhone/your iPad/your hotel TV/your regular TV/your computer/the newsstands/the video stores/at Fry’s/through the mail/at trade shows/and probably somewhere in your parent’s closet in the unmarked box tucked behind the ski gear that they haven’t broken out in 30 years. And back in December you could get it through Barbie’s website. But once the news channels had their fill of that story and Mattel fixed the glitch, that option was taken off the table. You can get it at a price and you can get it for free, animated or CGI’d, old or new, gay or straight, fat or thin, soft or hard. Burger King tried to appeal to the psychology of “Have it your way” but porn just flat out provides it. We don’t need a campaign. So to tie off this thought, let’s just assume that those households that don’t watch porn have probably managed to squeeze a little porn watching in somewhere along the way. But another probability is that they knew Jenna Jameson’s name long before they ever saw one of her scenes.

And that was the big fear at some point right? That we wouldn’t be able to get away from it and society would collapse and it would probably spark seven years of tribulation followed by the second coming of Christ? But that didn’t happen. Rape is down and women’s rights are up and society just keeps trucking along and the sun keeps rising the same way it always did. Granted, more girls are kissing girls and trying it up the butt and rounding off their oral skills, but show me a person who takes issue with that and I’ll show you someone whose opinions you didn’t ask for anyway. And porn never did go after the children and the blood of the innocent like the spin-doctors feared. Instead it went after developing a better product. So much better, in fact, that our CGI in “Top Guns” has people believing that I can pilot a jet. I sometimes let them continue to believe this.

And that’s where we’re at — the changing face of porn as it tries to align itself with a more mainstream audience. Everything before this paragraph was just my wandering lead-in. No apologies. XBIZ sent over my homework assignment and the question was where porn stars fit into celebrity culture and what are the factors that make them a ‘celebrity?’ Then they asked about Bree Olson winning “World’s Biggest Whore” on Howard Stern, about porn stars associated with sleeping with famous celebrities, and obviously, about Sasha Grey.

So here are my thoughts: First off, I’m glad Howard awarded this title to a real sex worker. You can’t give MVP to someone who’s not on the team. And while I wouldn’t necessarily consider that to be true “celebrity status,” you can’t deny that Bree has in fact achieved this through other means. When People magazine is publishing pictures of you and Jay Leno is requesting video footage, it can be assumed you are probably there. When your name is on the ballot in the running for governor of California, you are probably there. When you’re landing mainstream magazine covers, mainstream news coverage, mainstream movie roles (ahem, Riley), again, you are probably there. When your name is Sasha Grey you are probably there.

So when does a porn star become a celebrity? One person I asked thinks it’s a factor of Twitter followers. Sasha and Bree can both claim well above 100,000. Advertisers have wet dreams over the idea of people who self-sort their demographics and then sign up for a live feed to receive ads directly to every device they’ve plugged into the Internet. But an undue level of importance seems to be placed on this, especially considering most of the world hasn’t latched on to Twitter yet. That’s the thing though. There are Internet and reality and local celebrities, and there are celebrity-celebrities. There are generational and regional limits in the demographics of a pseudo-celebrity. Boundaries of genre, if you will. Most of the world still doesn’t have much leisure time to spend on World of Warcraft or Brazzers, or even on power and clean water for that matter. But most of the world is privy to the likes of Obama and Julia Roberts and Michael Jackson. Charlie Sheen too. And now, Bree Olson is climbing into that territory where people know her name having never seen her work — which makes her a celebrity-celebrity. And Sasha Grey? A lot more people are familiar with her name from “Entourage” than are familiar with it from “Throat.” But then if you add up the number of people who are familiar with any one of her 1.2 million other titles, you’re probably giving “Entourage” a better run for its money. Was Sasha a celebrity before “The Girlfriend Experience?” That’s debatable. But from what I remember, people were waiting an hour in line for her signature before all of that.

Who waits an hour for a signature from a non-celebrity?

And before Bree Olson was a goddess she had hour-long lines too. And so does Jesse Jane. And Belladonna. And Jenna Haze. The list goes on. Hell. I even had lines at AEE this year. When Jesse and I were in Oregon for the “Top Guns” signing this month it was the same thing. The line snaked through the whole damn store. People had to take the scenic route to get to us.

But I’d say that was mostly Jesse creating that draw, because afterwards we went out and no fewer than five people recognized her at the first bar. This was in Salem, Oregon. It’s a good place to find an average American if you ask me. Military men were thanking her for her service, followed by a furrowing of the brow when they turned to me and said, “And you are…?” I think if the average American recognizes you then you’re something.

And god knows Jesse’s had her share of TMZ exposure. So if TMZ cares, does that mean you’re famous? Because TMZ also cares about Sasha and Bree, which would add weight to the theory. But then again they cared about a few other of Charlie’s girls. And Eliot Spitzer’s hooker. And everything that knew Tiger Woods biblically. So maybe the rule should be that you’re only a celebrity if your picture on their site does not have to be supported by the mug shot of the real celebrity you’re entangled with. So now we’re just back to Bree, Sasha, and Jesse and the ones I’m not familiar with because I don’t actually check TMZ. Sorry if I’m leaving out your name here. My research skills are severely lacking.

We need celebrities in porn. My theory on the world is that everything is just after a fan base. Coca-Cola and Apple and Lady Gaga and KB Homes and the Republicans and the Democrats and the parties that are still just running on principal and Jesse Jane and the school president and your HOA board and the green initiative and China and America. They all want to grab a hold of a fan base and direct it toward whatever they’re selling. A fan base is power. Here’s an example of what a little celebrity can do for you: the word “Coca-Cola” is the number two most widely recognized word in the world behind the word “no.” That’s a lot of power to direct opinions and dollars with. A few heavyweights in our corner can keep us legitimate.

I don’t think the point should really be about what makes a celebrity and what doesn’t though. I think what matters is that the world is taking a second look at porn and porn stars. They’re forming opinions about us all over again. We want to be legitimate, we want to be legal, and, in extension, we want to be able to lobby to protect the rights to our content, our right to create it, and our right to be classified as fellow humans despite the fact that our genitalia is often more recognizable than our faces contorting softly out of focus in the background. Porn stars are the public face of porn. So if you happen to be one and you find yourself in the public eye, you’re representing all of us. When a performer like Lisa Ann is commanding a rate three times that of an unknown performer, it’s because the mere sight of her face on the box cover will sell more pieces of your product. She has a bigger slice of the attention pie. She took me to a Lakers game last year and every few minutes, like clockwork, some fan would stop her in a low voice and ask for a picture without trying to draw attention. She was patient and friendly and down to earth, and she was polished. She’s one of our heavyweights and she’s good for us. There are thousands of people in the world whose only interaction with a porn star will be with her, and they’re walking away with a good impression. I’d say the same applies to performers like Stoya, Belladonna, Jesse Jane, Riley Steele, Jenna Haze, Tori Black, Alexis Texas, Evan Stone, Mr. Marcus, the Wicked girls, Julia Ann, Dana DeArmond, and the list goes on. It’s amazing how many good representatives we have in this industry right now.

We all have some degree of attention on us. It’s your call what you do with it. You can do cool things like make PETA smile, or you can do shitty things like make us look like we’re all strung out on drugs with no life skills. You can be indie and hip or smart or even just piece a sentence together in a relatively tidy way, or you can pee on the things you disagree with. And if you happen to be fucking a celebrity-celebrity, I think you’re representing us much better if you’re doing it as his girlfriend or even as his occasional good time instead of as his hooker trying to sell your story. That’s just where society is right now.

I’ve noticed that if you’re relatively normal in public, the world will assume it’s in spite of the industry, and if you’re a train wreck, the world will assume it’s because of the industry. It’s the fundamental attribution error of porn.

Either way, I think porn stars are only going to be getting more tabloid coverage as time goes on and we are given more of these opportunities to gain exposure outside of the porn studio. It’s less taboo to interact with us today than it was last week in the mainstream world. And next week we’ll be that much closer, unless the people in the spotlight confirm every low stereotype we’ve been fighting. It could be time to start managing our images the way the celebrity-celebrities do. If we’re on our best behavior, America might just keep redirecting its negative attention toward the Mexican Tree invasion instead. They might be so captivated that they don’t notice all of those porn stars creeping in from the realm of the pseudo-celebrity.

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