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More airport trash than porn expose
on 15 July 2014
Firstly, let me address a popular myth. It is a common assumption that because people work in porn, they must be stupid. One of the reviews here begins with "most porn stars find it hard to string a few words together, never mind write anything down". Perhaps this reviewer knows a number of them personally, and thus feels qualified to make such an absurd, generalist statement. I would suggest that he do a little more homework. A quick google search will tell you that among the porn community there are qualified accountants, musicians, people with degrees is all manner of subjects. These people work in porn for two reasons. They enjoy it. And they make a helluva lot of money.
Having dispelled this myth, I am keen to address the praise this book has received. There are a number of great quotes from reviews on the front and back of the book, and the reviews here support my feeling that a huge part of the phenomenon actually has more to do with the fact that everyone expected it to have been written by a total moron. (See previous paragraph of this review). Oriana Small is not a moron, but is she really that smart? Is this book really that well written? My two cents, it's competently written, at best. She has an interesting sense of humour and is engaging enough as a story teller, but it was clear to me within a few pages that she is not a writer.
The book is called a porno memoir. This is a total misnomer. A lot of the reviews for this book seem to revel in the idea that this is the only honest-to-goodness "real" account of life in the porn industry. It isn't. This is just one person's story. The reason someone decided it was worth releasing this book, is that it's a particularly extreme story (in places), by virtue of the fact that Ashley Blue made her name by being willing to do pretty much anything on camera. If you find that intriguing, just hang on a minute. The majority of the book is not about porn. The bulk is actually made up of stories about Oriana's totally dysfunctional relationships and disgracefully excessive use of drugs. Don't make the mistake though of thinking that this is some cautionary tale about the excesses and pitfalls of getting rich quickly. For the most part, the stories about partying and doing drugs are told in such a way that it's clear they are not exactly regretted. Sure, there's a token "but the drugs were bad" sentiment thrown in at the end, but the tone of the book throughout suggests that drugs are great, they're fun, they're hip.
There are pages and pages of whining about various deadbeat boyfriends, all of which signposts the attempt to make this book about something more, something deeper, like a woman's self-worth and the need for equality in a relationship. Sadly it's all so contrived - like I said, Oriana Small is not a writer - that the book comes off like a trashy airport romance.
And what about the porn? Well, like I have already said, the actual role that porn plays in this book is a relatively small one. Most of the stories are purely anecdotal or are simply there to illustrate what a scumbag her boyfriend was by making her do this, that and the other. It's probably worth letting the squeamish know what "this, that and the other" entailed. Ashley Blue's speciality was anything and everything extreme. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the kind of porn you get in a business hotel, 10 being animals, faeces, rape), we're probably talking about a strong 7 or 8. While a great deal of Ashley's, err, "work" was standard smut, the type for which she's famous and the type talks about in the memoir is a little more gruelling. Among other pleasantries, she subjects herself to being slapped around, choked out, urinated on/in and generally humiliated in every way. The Girlvert series, from which the book takes its name, effectively saw her delivering a similar level of abuse and degradation to other women. I guess its different strokes for different folks, but I found most of it about as erotic as my grandmother's socks. Moreover, it all feels a little too much like shock for shock's sake. The horror stories may actually have had more effect if we were given a few tamer stories about Ashley Blue's working life. Ultimately, despite the fairly modest number of genuine porn stories on offer, the shock value wears off pretty quickly.
There are a few token psychological ponderings, but most are pretty thin. We are told of Oriana's ongoing eating disorder, and maybe we begin to feel a tiny bit of empathy, right before she goes on to sexualise and celebrate her "illness". Her bulimia, she suggests, explains her obsession for shoving her fist down her throat (see front cover of the original release - Google it), not to mention her willingness to put just about anything else in her mouth. We are told that her mother was/is a drug addict. Isn't that terrible? Apparently not, as we're told this between two celebratory stories of Oriana's own indulgences with various substances. We're told that at one point she was spending $1000 a week on cocaine, but she tells us this in such a way that it feels as though she wants us to be impressed, rather than shocked or appalled.
So what does it all amount to for her? Not much really. There isn't much of an arc and it doesn't feel like any lessons are learned. In fact, in the end, Oriana defends her position in the most hilariously ludicrous way. Let me state here that I am a vehement defender of the right to make and to watch porn. I'm what you might call pro-porn. I think it serves its (very direct) purpose and a huge number of people clearly enjoy it, so what's to dislike? Sure, there are some (very) bad pockets in the industry, but I believe that the majority of people who work in porn do so freely and happily. Having said all of that, Oriana Small illustrates the true limit of her intelligence (and her estimation of her readers') quite perfectly in the last few pages of this book, trying to justify her extremities by calling them... wait for it... snigger... "performance art"!
You read that right. Performance art. According to Oriana Small, letting a man pee in your mouth is performance art. Letting a man choke you until you pass out is performance art. So, yeah, really smart girl. Again for the record, I am pro-porn, but I can't help but choke (pardon the pun) at the suggestion that anybody with basic cognitive faculties would refer to it as performance art, no matter how extreme it is.
So, if you're curious or tempted, read it for a giggle, but don't expect to be blown (pardon me again) away. The quote on the back of the book, comparing it to Ernest Hemingway, is ludicrous (I'm surprised Hemingway's estate hasn't sued). To be clear, this book is not a revelation in any way. Oriana Small is not an undiscovered talent. She's just not the intellectually subhuman bimbo everyone apparently expected her to be. Don't let that fool you into thinking this book is any more than it is. It is not a vicarious journey into the murky depths of a sordid world, nor is it an exploration of a dark heart which turned to the light. It is, quite simply, the story of a shallow and self-destructive little girl, told with very little reflective insight by a slightly less shallow and self-destructive young woman.