Girlvert – a review


I’ve read a number of porn star biographies and memoirs in the last few months. I also read and posted a review of Gail Dines Pornland a few days ago (here), in which she mainly criticizes “gonzo” porn, yet quotes experienced-blessed (by porn standards) Jenna Jameson from a few interviews and her ghost-penned book How to Make Love like a Porn Star. I mention this to point out that if you put sex performers in a fish bowl and observe them from the outside, there are a number of observations that are easy to assert.

For instance, each seems to live and breath controversy. Each lives a rock star lifestyle of immediacy and excess. Each one begins their journey naïve and mainly concerned with survival. Eventually they all come around to a sense of maturity about their experiences.

Each story is a coming of age story, basically. The distinction between porn star bios and other celebrity bios is that they begin and end years before seasoned celebrities even feel the need to write a story about themselves. They have, essentially, lived a full life in a very short period of time.

Oriana Small, aka Ashley Blue, writes from the “gonzo” perspective. A counter to Jenna Jameson’s clean, blonde, physically-altered and polished adult industry presence, Oriana represents the other end of the spectrum. As Ashley Blue, she made a name for herself as a raw and raunchy performer. All-natural in appearance–even going so far as to abandon makeup most of the time–she became legendary very quickly for doing some of the hardest scenes you can do in the industry. To borrow again from my distinction between “gonzo” and rough porn, Ashley Blue was a “shock porn” superstar.

She is explicit and honest to the point of confessing to what lengths she’d go to for love and attention, admitting to submitting to the pressures of doing things she really didn’t want to do at the time, and talking about a number of people for their brutality (through aliases, of course), but she doesn’t apologize and she says she doesn’t regret her experience in porn.

 “Is pornography art? It’s something that is appealing or repelling just by looking at it, so I will say yes. Can a regular girl end up being in the sex business overnight? In my experience, the answer is yes. But can a porno girl ever become anything else in life but a warm hole? I want to say yes.”

What you may miss from staring in from the outside of the fish bowl is the electric process that springs from pressure and circumstance.

The problem with the dismissive “victim” portrait is that it takes a living breathing human being, assumes they are considered one-dimensional “objects” by one-dimensional “abusers”, and solidifies this idea by using it to disregard their voices in a void of silence and know-it-all elitism. The magic of books and the internet is that sex workers no longer have to wait for someone to shove a microphone in their faces to have a platform for their thoughts and feelings. Self-publishing is a miracle in itself just for the fact that a person doesn’t have to wade through the tedium of rejection until their story passes muster with people who can never completely understand why their voice and language have to be so “porno lexicon”. Oriana is vulgar in language, but if she weren’t, you’d miss most of the meaning.

This isn’t a read for anyone with a delicate constitution, but I would guess that even a sensitive person could adjust rather quickly and find themselves all-consumed by this direct, nonstop story. Though at times difficult, stressful and seemingly impossible, Oriana’s adulthood and career exploded like a supernova. Intense though it may be, it’s a captivating sight to behold, made all the more brilliant because she cherishes it.

I don’t make a comparison between Jenna Jameson and Oriana Small to suggest one kind of woman is more “real” than another. There are plenty of non-porn-star women with tattoos and physical alterations. It is a part of our world. I do suggest this as necessary reading if you want a glimpse into the non-glossy world of porn. It’s personable, fast-paced, and ends in a sensical way without wrapping up things up in a ‘my life is great and perfect now and this is it’ kind of way. Like Christy Canyon’s Lights, Camera, Sex!, it leaves the kind of room for possibility that tells us porn is just a marker in the road. The journey is far from over.

*This book was published through Barnacle. A big ‘thank you’ to photographer Dave Naz for pointing that out, though I got it stuck in my head the book was self-published because I couldn’t find the hardcover/library version. You can buy it through Definitely worth the investment!

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Author: Julie Meadows

Francophile, oenophile, French Scrabble advocate and future zombie apocalypse survivor.


  1. Put forth very well.

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