Barely Legal Whores Get Gang-F***ed

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f22Sometimes, in the Industry, you see things that you really wish you hadn’t. If it’s a certain kind of very independent girl, she’ll shrug it off, like “Hey, it didn’t turn out that well—but I have no regrets, and it’s good for business.” But it can be hard to watch someone you know being sincerely degraded—dressed up so she’ll look half her age, ganged up on and treated like a whore, and edited so she’ll intentionally sound like an idiot—even if you know she made a lot of money off it.

Like when Tasha Rey does The Tyra Banks Show.

(This is an excerpt from We Did Porn. At the beginning of the book, the author notes that, although this is a work of non-fiction, the names of all the adult performers in the book have been changed “to remind readers–and myself–that there is probably more to them than I managed to see or record”.  So, Sasha Grey is referred to as Tasha Rey.  Tyra Banks is Tyra Banks.)

It begins, as I assume is usual, with Tyra in front of a large blue screen featuring her own first name gleaming on an unconvincing computer-generated medallion.

Tyra says how, when she was in high school, her friends got jobs working in fast food, or at corporate chain clothing stores—like the kind that sell the sweater-vest-and-puffy-shirt combination Tyra is wearing. Tyra doesn’t say how it was an all-girl Catholic prep school called Immaculate Heart that held its graduations at the Hollywood Bowl and that, when she was there, her own job was being a runway model.

Tyra says, “But today, you wouldn’t believe the lengths that some teenagers are going to to make money.”

Tyra doesn’t say why she made Halloween: Resurrection.

Tyra shows some footage of Tasha Rey combing her hair and packing a bag and reading a book. It doesn’t show which book.

Tyra says that, as a teenager, Tasha was sexually active.

There are no statistics available on how many girls at Immaculate Heart High were sexually active.

In a voice-over, Tyra says that Tasha, in school, was “bombarded” by pornographic images while Tyra shows footage of Tasha, seminude in pearls, eye-fucking the camera.

Tasha says that, in school, far from having porn dropped on or launched at her in a military setting, she actually looked for porn online and stole it from her friends. This is in a shot where Tasha is driving and looking very sleazy and blurry in wraparound sunglasses and lighting that erases her jaw and in a from-below, up-the-nose angle that everyone in television, film, or photography will tell you is the shot you use to make someone look ugly and morally bankrupt.

There is no footage of Tyra Banks from that angle, not in the show or anywhere else, even in that part of Coyote Ugly when she’s dripping wet and doing a pole dance on the bar where it would be the most appropriate shot to accurately represent the point of view of the shrieking drunks she was supposed to be dancing for.

Tasha talks about the ways she likes to have sex. She is still in the horrible driving shot, where she is looking not at the cameraman, who must be sitting in the well of the passenger seat, but straight out the windshield. It makes her look creepily detached from the very many deviant sex acts and perversions she’s describing.

But actually it is good because when you’re driving you have to look not at the camera but straight out the windshield or you’ll kill yourself and everyone in the car and possibly other people or animals.

There is a Godard-ian edit and Tasha says how much money she makes. It’s unclear whether this is in response to a question someone off camera asked or whether this is something Tasha feels personally is important to communicate to the audience of The Tyra Banks Show.

Tasha says how she has to take some days off if she gets an infection and at the word infection there is a sort of doom-lite keyboard-where-a-guitar-should-be brake screech in the soundtrack and a sinister fade into a makeup room.

“Although the money is seductive, this young woman struggles with the trappings of her pornographic life,” goes Tyra.

Tasha says something unrelated while getting her makeup done.

As the interview proper begins, Tyra says that Tasha looks like a middle-school student, but does not say that when Tasha walked into the studio, Tyra told Tasha she looked too old because, in her natural habitat, Tasha has almost intimidatingly extreme and sleek Francophile-fashion-model-on-cell-phone-with-agent-with-whom-she-is-none-too-pleased-this-morning style and so Tyra had her people put Tasha in a shapeless rubber-ball-pink shirt, and clueless-attempt-at-cute earrings, and bruised-peach makeup and iron her long, dark, shampoo-commercial hair into a flat playground slide awkardly semitwisting around her neck so that she would—in the same daytime-TV hotlit-high-contrast glare that makes Tyra’s own face seem like a rusting bone mask—look like a middle school student. Who smoked.

Tasha talks about movies where they want her to be like a little girl: “I don’t do it though—you know—you wear the clothes, you wear the wardrobe, but I try to change that, I don’t want to portray that, that’s not me.” The camera pans back to show the Gap jeans and rube-ishly awkward flat brown slippers Tyra asked the wardrobe people to put on Tasha.

There is a cut to the nearly all-female audience looking like they are watching a live appendectomy being performed on an unanesthetized kitten after having been told that, if they move at all, the kitten will be impaled on fence spikes and then incinerated.

Then Tasha tells the famous Asking-to-Be-Punched story, and a pall falls over what we can see of the room and an atmosphere takes over the broadcast that is rare, and funny, and disturbing in every essential way. It comes from the sequence where Tasha’s small, roving, lash-shaded, and knowing eyes move easily, almost self-deprecatingly (I’m such a freak) across the crowd while she tells this story about how totally deviant she is, but then her whole face tightens as she realizes, in the middle, that she’s talking to someone with no sense of humor and we notice too, since all this is intercut with the paralyzed, lip-lifted, triangular slab of inert judgment that is Tyra Banks’s face and the edge-of-tears, speechless, butterfly-wing flickering of eyelids out in the audience.

Those who enjoy whatever private pleasure is to be gained from receiving physical pain publicly would appear not to overlap at all with those who enjoy whatever private pleasure is to be gained from inflicting shame collectively.

The idea that you could be playing a different game with your life than them and yet still be playing it with a full deck is totally alien to this audience.

Have you ever watched strangers play cards? It takes patience to figure out whether they have fifty-two, and whether the game is poker or rummy or bullshit. There is a cultural scar so wide and raw here that information can’t cross it.

There are parts of Tasha’s face that always seem like they’re squirming to do something cruel, around the lower lip and lower lids, under the sated stasis in the eyes, but her business sense keeps them still.

Tyra asks Tasha what she will do. Tasha says anything but children or animals.

Tyra asks about anal: “Anal sex? On film? Every scene?”

Tasha also has to explain to Tyra what a gang bang is. The five gyrating guys in wifebeaters and jeans deflowering the air behind a lone Tyra in Daisy Dukes and a bikini top in the “Shake Ya Booty” video did not explain it to her, apparently.

Tasha explains about fucking fifteen guys at once. This is something the audience can imagine, and they do, judging from a real or inserted rippling reaction shot of them imagining what it would be like to have sex with fifteen men at the same time. The audience girls look grave. One of them is hot. I’d fuck fifteen of her.

Tasha talks, twinklingly, about the always interesting experience of telling your mother you’re doing porn. Pale and still peachy in her makeup, time after time, she smiles and tosses the ball of human interaction to Tyra, where it hits a null field, loses all inertia, and is sucked straight to the floor. Thuck. If the look Tyra Banks wears while receiving reality was a sound, the sound would be thuck. If Tasha is very lucky, she gets instead a cautious, queasy nod before the next queasily asked question.

Station break.

“Up next: a teenager sucked into the seductive world of porn.” Tyra asks Tasha why there is something cold, hard, and distant about her and says she can’t help thinking there is something that made her that way.

This, coming from Tyra Banks, is really, really, really, really funny.

Tyra asks about child sexual abuse.

Tasha says she wasn’t sexually abused as a child.

Tyra says, “So you got into porn just because?”

Tasha says no, like she said before, she got into porn because of things she wanted to do that have to do with having sex.

Tyra says that it’s a fact that a lot of women in porn have issues whether they want to admit them or not and then talks a lot more about how people do things for reasons and then cuts immediately to Tasha’s boyfriend.

We see Guy, looking as if the camera just woke him up. He comes across like a dazed, blunt-headed mouth-breather in a collared shirt who doesn’t realize that his unwavering, upright posture and attempts at eloquence and pruned facial hair only seem to exaggerate how unwholesome and hollow he is. That is, Guy comes across here like all boyfriends ever on daytime talk shows.*

Tasha’s agent comes on and helps even less. He looks exactly like a shaved wombat in flared lapels that just ate a truck, and also exactly like sleaze.

The show tapers toward the next commercial break and Tyra asks Tasha to really sit down with herself and do some soul-searching and find out why she’s really in this industry.

And Tasha says she knows why she’s in this industry, which Tyra does not expect to have to respond to because she was planning on just saying all that and then just going straight to commercial, but then she has to respond to this or else redo it so they can reedit the whole bit, in which case the studio audience might realize how strange and manipulative that is, and so Tyra quickly says, “Yeah, okay,” but Tasha hasn’t told her a real reason, a “deep soul reason,” and then, okay, commercial.

Presumably there are soulful and deep reasons for a seventeen-year-old wanting to be a rich and beautiful actress/model/celebrity who fucks pop stars, gives people tips about makeup, cuts records, shows up in people’s music videos, and eventually has babies, but there are no possible deep soul reasons for an eighteen-year-old wanting to be a rich and beautiful actress/model/celebrity who fucks porn stars, gives people tips about sex, cuts records, shows up in slightly better music videos, and eventually has babies.

“We’ll be right back,” Tyra says, and gives the camera a Sir-would-you-mind-standing-behind-the-line? smile and then there is a shot of Tasha looking off into the audience with controlled hate.

When the show comes back there’s a segment about a fourteen-year-old prostitute.

I watch all this on YouTube—where the show is posted by whoever runs antipornographyactivist.blogspot.com. This entity claims that the (extremely involved) montage the show inserts after the commercial showing “Victoria” (the prostitute) wandering a city in a short skirt at night is misleading because Victoria was never a street prostitute and also that Tyra’s people told the prostitute they’d blur her face out and didn’t.

The (now) sixteen-year-old prostitute comes on the TV. Tyra does not ask her why she is cold or hard or distant, because she is feverish and quivering and gushing and looks essentially like a piece of confused cookie dough. Which isn’t surprising because she is a sixteen-year-old prostitute and she’s on TV.

Tyra interviews the little hooker with a measured condescenscion that stands in stark contrast to the measured condescenscion with which she interviewed Tasha (now in the front row of the audience next to her agent). With Tasha she kept herself coiled and steady-eyed—like if she asked the wrong question, Tasha would blink twice and turn her into a pervert. Her style with Victoria is that of an SVU cop wanting to know just exactly where she was when the bad men came and took her mother away.

Victoria is clearly totally fucked up, and not comfortable, and sad, and not very smart, so Tyra knows she isn’t going to tell her anything everybody didn’t already know when they saw the commercial for this afternoon’s show, and that that makes for good TV. Victoria says she became a whore because she wanted money and then started doing cocaine and it was scary and she says she is upset and that no one should do what she does.

Something that at first seems to be a giant pencil in a sport coat but is actually a celebrity doctor comes on in order to tell everyone more things they know.

He frictionlessly offers a Freudian, or post-Freudian, “compulsion to repeat” theory for Victoria’s behavior. He uses plural nouns enough that you can’t tell if he’s talking about Victoria and everyone else who’s irrational and on drugs and greedy, or about Victoria and Tasha, who is keeping silent in the front row of the audience next to her agent.

Tyra says she’s gotten in touch with an organization that will help Victoria and her family and that antipornographyactivist alleges did not actually help her as much as Tyra told Victoria it would. Tyra touches Victoria a lot, and while being touched, Victoria has exactly the expression the girl who gets raped while she’s high has when she’s in the elevator in the movie Kids.

After the commercial, Tyra says:

“Now, when she was a teenager, my next guest thought sex was an easy way to make money, but now at age twenty-five she knows how wrong she was.”

Her next guest is a fat whore (spiritually speaking) and a fat ex-whore (physically speaking).

Tyra asks her to offer advice to Tasha and Victoria collectively. The fat whore says she knows these girls and she is these girls. While the fat whore is certainly large enough to be at least tripartite, a certain ambiguity remains. She may be following the Catholic philosopher Peter Geach, who argued that the mutual indwelling of the Holy Trinity can be understood if one assumes that all identity is relative to a chosen sortal term.

To illustrate her perichoresis, the fat whore tells a story about her path from stripper to cam girl to whore to porn star that is teleologically similar in no way to the story of either of the other guests because, she says, it’s a slippery slope.

Rejecting both epistemic and pragmatic modes of argument, she says:

“It’s a lifestyle. I mean, you drive a nice car, you live in a nice house, you have tons of money, you can buy whatever you want, but, but what does that get you in the end?” Okay—sure—I see where you’re going—you have material things but you don’t have integrity or self-respect or love or Jesus in your life or something, right? No, actually, that’s not where she’s going at all—next she says: “I don’t have any of the things from when I did that.”

So it’s bad to be a whore or a porn star not because there are more important things than money, but because somehow the money, house, and car evaporate due to some form of as-yet-undescribed economic attrition that attacks only money made in the sex industry.

The fat whore has advice for Victoria: “Money and material things can be gone (snap) like that.”

Victoria cries a lot and nods.

The fat whore has advice for Tasha—oh wait, no, she says it is, but it’s questions. The first question has a false premise, which Tasha points out. The question also brings up the fact that Tasha licked a toilet seat in a movie, which Tasha then points out was her own idea because it was her movie. The fat whore says, “Then, well, I have a question for you.”

Examining the shrapnel in the wake of the rhetorical train wreck that is the second question, you can clearly pick out cars labeled aren’t-your-fans-horrible-masturbators? porn-is-a-bad-example-to-somebody, and your-movies-make-people-think-things-about-you-that-aren’t-true, but by the time the traditional verbal-question-mark-followed-by-pause-to-receive-answer is actually delivered, the fat whore is basically asking whether Tasha would like to be in an abusive relationship. Tasha says no.

Tyra goes on for a tigerish paragraph about how she—Tyra—can’t judge Tasha or tell her what to do because she hasn’t lived Tasha’s life, but that the fat whore can because the fat whore used to have the same job Tasha has and is now seven years older than Tasha. Tyra does not then invite Nina Hartley on to give advice to the fat whore.

The fat whore then says that all that anal sex will destroy Tasha’s butt. Tasha tries to say out loud that doctors servicing the world’s many homosexuals have not reported this to be so, but she is interrupted by the celebrity doctor in the suit and also Tyra, who both agree about her butt based on unstated evidence. When they’re done gang-interrupting her, the conversation has finally pinwheeled over to the point where Tasha realizes she has to explain to Tyra that, other than being white and a woman and once having had the same job, none of the things in the fat whore’s life resemble things in Tasha’s.

The fat whore says, “Your pimp is sitting right next to you.”

This shifts cameras and attention to Tasha’s obviously unsavory agent Jack Wiegler, whose silk-framed bald spot everyone in the studio audience has been eyeing queasily throughout the show, and so it gets the show’s first full-blooded-Orc-horde-Nuremberg-pecking-party-vintage-daytime-talk-show-We-Will-Drive-Them-into-the-Sea roar of approval.

Commercial.

Tyra, having finally realized where her points are going to get scored, tacks Wiegler-ward. Is he a pimp? Wiegler points out that Tasha does what Tasha wants to do. The fat whore points out the fact that Tasha makes Wiegler a lot of money because of all the sick shit Tasha does. Wiegler fudges and lies and argues with the fat whore and sounds generally governmental.

The fat whore keeps bringing up how much money the agent makes. Tyra talks about how “seductive” the money in porn is.

Tasha’s main crime appears to be talking about some other thing besides money. When she makes arguments that reference some nonmoney standard, no one else seems to believe or even hear her. The idea that sex might be “seductive” doesn’t seem to occur to Tyra, which is sad because what you see in a Tyra Banks music video is a woman licking a fist-sized microphone who is going to make a lot of money off the fact that her only talent is she makes you want to fuck her.

The doctor says Tasha is like a heroin addict because she is trapped in self-destructive behavior that she says she wants to keep doing.

He says he sees porn stars on their knees begging him for help: “—and that’s where this always goes. If it didn’t, it could be a healthy behavior—who knows? The fact is it’s destructive—if it were not destructive we wouldn’t all be shaking our heads [saying], ‘Why would someone put themselves in this position?’”

The audience applauds this provably inaccurate statement and its attached tautology.

“And Victoria wouldn’t be crying the whole time,” adds Tyra.

Victoria says it’s because all her emotions came out. The fat whore tells her to love herself and that money isn’t everything.

There’s a commercial and then Tyra tells any teenager out there that there are other places to turn for validation and support than pornography and prostitutiton, because money that comes that easily has a lot of consequences, and then says that whatever money you make you will pay for emotionally and then she touches Victoria again.

There is not another Tyra Banks Show about Tasha when she wins Performer of the Year and announces she is leaving her agent to form her own agency. You get the definite feeling about Tyra, and the fat whore, and the doctor—and the audience—that they would not care that, if Tasha really did what she said she would and started her own agency that avoided agents and commisssions and therefore their desire to book you for whatever, this could be a major step in the practical prevention of violence toward—and exploitation of—women in the Industry. You get the definite feeling that this wouldn’t matter to them and they would still think Tasha was missing the point.

The point is: they will not forgive her until she is ashamed.


*Although, presumably, his short performance here is his own fault, it is misleading. In actual life Guy’s swagger and goatee suggest he is the kind of guy who knows exactly how unwholesome and hollow you think being a thirtysomething boyfriend of barely-legal-porn-star Tasha Rey is but, much more than that, suggest he is kind of exactly the kind of lazily cynical would-be-director boyfriend an extremely sleek Francophile-fashion-model-on-cell-phone-with-agent-with-whom-she-is-none-too-pleased-this-morning-type girl would have if she chose true kinky-hipster love instead of marrying the first Mediterranean shipping magnate who offered to buy her an island. Also note that the collared shirt is not Guy’s fault, as Tyra’s wardrobe department provided both it and a pair of loafers to replace the Motorhead T-shirt and whatever likewise cliché-reinforcement-inappropriate shoes Guy showed up thinking he was going to wear on TV that day.

**

Sasha Grey’s Kink.com page (NSFW) Sasha Grey at Andrew Black films (NSFW)

 


Zak Smith is an artist who first came to prominence with his mammoth work Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow. Smith's paintings and drawings are held in major public and private collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. We Did Porn— a book includng drawings and stories about his experiences working in the adult film industry— his third book and his first to include writing— will be published in July 2009 from Tin House Books. He lives and works in Los Angeles. More from this author →