Can we ever forgive and forget a porn star’s past?

Can we ever forgive and forget a porn star’s past?

Sasha Grey ~ By flickr/sincretic
Sasha Grey ~ By flickr/sincretic

This is a story about shame. Last November, former adult film actress Sasha Grey dropped by Emerson Elementary School in Compton, CA and read children’s stories to 1st and 3rd graders. The event was supposedly part of the school’s “celebrity guest reader” program, though the school initially denied her participation. Given the photo evidence, they probably just didn’t realize her background as an “adult” film actress (who also starred in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience).


In a followup to what she described as her ongoing mission to “expose children to the world of literature,” Sasha declared her intention to donate some of the profits from “Anal Artists,” a film Sasha produced and has one scene in, to the National Education Association’s (NEA) “Read Across America” program.

The NEA quickly refused the donation, aggressively dispelling any perception that the adult film actress/producer was in any way associated with the NEA organization. I briefly wondered: If Sasha was a repentant adult film actress, would the NEA still have rejected the money. Of course. Parents do not want their kids’ role models to take the form of a adult film actress/producer. Though I’m not sure the role models kids find in other celebrities is that much better

As a parent, I understand and support the NEA’s position. But another part of me is bothered by it…or bothered by the “necessity” of it.

It’s about shame. We think Sasha Grey should be ashamed of herself, and we are ashamed to have any connection with her. Shame researcher Brené Brown defines shame this way:

“Shame is the intense experience and feeling of believing you are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”

Brené Brown

So we believe Sasha Grey is (permanently) flawed because she acted in/produces adult films. Because she is flawed, we believe she is unworthy of any connection or acceptance by us–she doesn’t belong.

We are ashamed of her and ashamed for her.

What a terrible indictment. But I’m still not willing to support the idea of Sasha promoting reading to elementary school kids through the NEA program. There is a line I want to draw. But I want to draw that line without feeling ashamed of or for Sasha. Not sure it can be done.

It’s sort of like naming a child. During the selection process, if the name brings up bad associations (a bully in school or an adult film actress), parents won’t consider that name for their child. But once the  child is born and is identified with a name, if the parents later discover a serial killer, a horrible hurricane, or an adult film star has the same name as their child, they probably won’t go changing their child’s name. The stronger association wins.

So if Sasha could create as stronger association to her interest in kids reading, would we accept her?

I don’t think we’ll ever give her the chance.

And I guess that’s part of what bothers me  about this…and that’s a shame.

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