Sex & SexualitySex WorkThe Queerview Mirror

The Queerview Mirror: Insatiable: Porn-A Love Story

I’ve watched porn exactly once, and it was in a class (Human Sexuality), so pretty much everything I know about porn is from a secondary source. I believe that porn is not evil but also that it is not uniformly good. I worry about objectification and exploitation of women and that porn viewers develop unrealistic expectations and unhealthy relationships with their partners, but I also try to appreciate the growing recognition that all types of people are capable of voracious sexuality and try to celebrate women defining and claiming their own sexuality.

I picked up Insatiable: Porn-A Love Story by Asa Akira because I know so little about porn. I wanted to hear about porn from someone who makes porn for a living. I was also intrigued because there were a couple places in the cover summary and in the blurbs on the back cover that suggested that the book might contain some theory or at least discussion of porn in relation to women’s rights and feminism, if not also porn and racism or race relations.

On the back cover of the book, Alissa Nutting, author of the novel Tampa, is quoted as saying, “Akira is the Galileo of women’s sexuality, shifting our culture from the Dark Ages of slut-shaming into an enlightened celebration of female desire. Hot, hilarious, and engrossing, this book is a path toward greater freedom for us all: Read it and evolve.”

This is the quote that most led me to expect awareness and discussion of the larger context of sexism and contradictory expectations of women to be both sexy but have low sex drives. Insatiable did not live up to those expectations.

However, my expectations were unfair because they were more based on my personal interests than anything else, as I am more interested in theory on sex and porn than in sex or porn themselves. Further, I don’t think my initial disappointment over the lack of theory has anything to do with the quality of the book or its revolutionary or evolutionary power.  Though I misunderstood her quote, Nutting was not entirely wrong about Insatiable. 

Just about everyone who reads Insatiable will put down the book with a worldview that has been anywhere from slightly to radically changed. First of all, it is a very engaging and entertaining book. Akira is a good writer and her voice is open, frank, often funny, and utterly relatable. If nothing else, it will put to rest the myth that porn stars are only interested in sex. It will almost certainly help the reader recognize porn stars as human, with fears and insecurities, doing all the things humans do, including falling in love and facing the challenges of long-term relationships. Indeed, this personal style of writing may change more minds about porn and the people who participate in the industry than theory can, because it is so much more accessible and even more tangible than theory usually is. Furthermore, it does celebrate female desire and may open the reader’s mind to the fact that women’s sexual desires can be as insatiable as the stereotypical man’s are.

Beyond that, Insatiable also encourages greater comfort with sexuality outside of the well-defined boxes of straight or gay/lesbian. When talking about her own sexuality most directly, she writes, “Fucking the shit out of a woman is enjoyable, but it’s mashed potatoes – the delicious extra something on the side. The main dish has to be a man. I don’t see myself ever dating a woman, or feeling a deep emotional connection to a woman I’m having sex with, either” (28). She also writes that she is only attracted to very masculine men and most attracted to masculine women, commenting “I’ve often wondered if this just means I’m straight” (28). This is the closest she comes to stating a sexuality, and it is not conclusive. The rest of the book describes her sexual and romantic behaviors, which include having and enjoying sex with a lot of people, including women, and being in a loving relationship with a couple. I think it is a powerful thing that she doesn’t label herself and is comfortable with a sexuality that doesn’t easily fit into any of the traditional boxes.

Though it demonstrates sexuality outside of the heterosexual/homosexual standard, Insatiable does nothing to address the frequently problematic handling of queer female sexuality in porn. Akira describes several films she has performed in, involving a variety of different scenarios, including some in which she engages in sex with other women.  However, she never mentions how those scenes impact women who do think women are the “main dish,” to put it in her own terms.  She doesn’t acknowledge that most porn, even that involving two women having sex, is “straight,” in that it is designed for the heterosexual male gaze. Nor does she acknowledge that the performance of lesbian and female bisexual sexuality for male pleasure in porn has and does contribute to cultural ideas about how lesbian and bisexual sexuality is always a performance for male pleasure and that all women, regardless of their personal identification, want and need men for sexual pleasure or that these cultural ideas can lead to violence against lesbians and bisexuals. Though Akira identifies as somewhere beyond straight, she ignores or simply lacks awareness of the intersectionality of her experiences producing porn with queer experiences.  I do understand that Insatiable is a memoir, Akira is only human, and the focus of the book wasn’t on queer issues.  However, a truly “enlightened celebration of female desire” would include lesbian and female bisexual desires and concerns more fully.

Ultimately, Insatiable can be read for simple enjoyment, perhaps even as porn itself, or it can be read as an enlightening, perhaps even transformative, look at the life and experiences of a porn star, especially if one is willing to make connections beyond the scope of the individual life and experience presented in the book.

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Ser

Ser

Ser is asexual, on the aromantic spectrum, gender-questioning, and atheist. They recently graduated from the University of Montana with a BA in Environmental Studies with a focus on nature writing. They love to read, write, play ultimate frisbee, cook, hike, row and cross country ski.

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