GIRLVERT: A PORNO MEMOIR — “It will rivet you — if you can deal with it!”

girlvert

girlvert cover by oriana small lynsey g

GIRLVERT: A PORNO MEMOIR
A Barnacle Book

By Oriana Small AKA Ashley Blue

309 Pages

If you know anything about pornography in the past decade, you know who Ashley Blue is. She’s a multi-AVN-winning (Female Performer of the Year, Best Supporting Actress) performer, former JM Productions contract girl, and star of the award-winning, almost-deemed-obscene-by-the-government, over-the-top Girlvert series. She’s done things on camera that many people don’t even know can be done, put hundreds of thousands of dollars of drugs into her system, been peed on and cum upon thousands of times… and come back for more, swinging, shit-talking, and proud every time. To some, she’s hot. To some, she’s a hero. To others, she’s a symbol of all that’s wrong with the world of pornography and the state of modern women. And now, to add to her list of accomplishments, Ashley, AKA Oriana Small, is an author.

Girlvert: A Porno Memoir was recently released by A Barnacle Book, and it will rivet you to its 309 pages — if you can deal with all the shit, piss, cunts, cocks, drugs, and general degeneracy. Trust me, just like the rest of her creative work (even her visual art, some of which is featured in the book, is in-your-face and seething with bodily fluids), this book is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach. She recounts her life in vivid, no-holds-barred, intense, and extremely hardcore detail, starting with her entry into pornography and flashing back to her traumatic childhood, forward to her experiences on double-anal sets and around to her behind the scenes partying, all with an unflinching honesty that will make you squirm while unable to stop turning the pages. Brutally candid, fearless, and disturbing, Girlvert is almost impossible to put down. (Even on the subway, surrounded by people who look put off by the cover art — a comic version of Ashley shoving her own fist down her throat in her trademark move. Trust me, I’ve been there. Turning the other direction doesn’t help matters, either — the back cover features a photo of Ashley doing the same thing.)

But it wasn’t the shocking language, the joy of upsetting the strangers waiting for the 2 train with me, or even the lurid descriptions of fringe sexual acts that impressed me about Girlvert as much as it was its simple, unaffected, unforced honesty. Oriana/Ashley is obviously intelligent enough and has enough perspective on her own twisted story to write a deeply convincing book if she wants to. She could write a treatise on why porn is or isn’t degrading, what people should understand about the porn biz, why she regrets or doesn’t regret about her actions… Really, any weepy, whiny, convert-now fable with a moral at the end, using her massive life experiences as the media to paint almost any kind of picture she wants — but she doesn’t. She doesn’t argue one way or another, for or against any of the things she has done, the people she has encountered, the porn industry, its supporters, or its detractors. She simply tells the tale, never claiming to be an expert on anything except herself. She spends no time moralizing or telling her audience what to think, and that’s admirable. In a world where porn is constantly at the center of debates full of windbags on both sides trying to tell people what to think, and where most of us decline to use our brains at all when it comes to the sex industry, Ashley/Oriana refuses to do the thinking for her readers. She instead pulled off something I myself could never do — she just wrote a memoir, one so full of violence and paranoia and deep empathy toward her own younger, stupider, deeply troubled self in a wise, conflicted voice — and a totally honest one.

As a writer, I felt humbled reading this book. I, personally, can never just say what happened — I always have to justify the why. I can’t stand the idea that a reader might not fully understand why I did what I did or said what I said. But Oriana/Ashley has never cared what people think about her motivation. If there’s one word to describe her, it would have to be hardcore, and in interviews, films and writing, she proves herself to be as fearless as her JM character, the Girlvert. While telling the story of her fearful, desperate, attention-seeking life, she in turns sympathizes and mocks her former self, her lovers, her friends, and her colleagues, never backing down from the truth or hiding behind philosophies, never trying to appease her reader or beg for their sympathy in the book’s most harrowing moments.

And her book’s tale truly is harrowing. More than a breathless page-turner and an honest memoir, Girlvert is a learning experience, too. I’ve been writing about the porn industry for years now and have almost always taken the most optimistic approach, telling myself and others that the beauty of porn is consent. That it’s professional; it’s a business, so anytime you see something that you find upsetting, you can rest assured that everyone there was there because they wanted to be. A lot of pornography can be difficult for me — I often find scenes of degradation, humiliation, and violence disturbing because I want to support the porn industry but have moral issues with some of the things I’ve seen. And so I have become something of an apologist. Oriana/Ashley, on the other hand, supports and works in the porn industry far more deeply than I do. She doesn’t just write about this stuff — she does it. She’s done it all—the most out-there things you can imagine or have ever seen in porn, from gangbangs to double anal to piss play to creampies, and so on. And watching scenes like that, which I rarely do these days, I always give myself a pep talk: “She’s enjoying it or she wouldn’t be doing it. She’s a consenting adult. She’s in control of her faculties. This is ok.” And I’m not wrong — it’s all legal and it’s all verified consensual as far as the paperwork is concerned. But what Oriana/Ashley isn’t afraid to inform us is that, yes, there is always paperwork signed and the performers are always consenting adults. But they are not always sober. They are not always excited to be there. They are not always in full control of themselves and their emotions when they’re on camera. These things you see are real, and they’re not always fun. But they are happening, and she is careful not to say whether that’s good or bad. It just is. Deal with it.

To the last, even in the weirdest, wildest, and worst moments of her memoir, Oriana/Ashley reminds us that the porn industry is not the bad guy in all of this. Each individual she mentions, including herself, her directors, her costars, her lovers, are moved by their own private engines. Victims there may be, but each victim, she implies, is self-made or at least self-motivated. Oriana may have done things most of us would regret, and she may have made some bad decisions, but she spends no time blaming anyone else for them or indicting pornography for it. (Shelley Lubben, take notes.) In the end, she is still involved in the business and deeply grateful for it, but has found other things to fill her life and round out her sense of self.

Girlvert is a strangely hilarious, deeply disturbing, and yet ultimately hopeful book about one woman’s journey through life. It’s not so very different from any other coming-of-age story, but it’s got a whole lot more booze, drugs, cock, cunt, and piss in it. And, coming from Ashley Blue, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

—Miss Lagsalot

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. ORIANA SMALL aka ASHLEY BLUE — “I had a need for men to use me, because it was somehow empowering.” « WHACK! Magazine

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