This will be the only memoir review so far that is, regrettably, unfavorable. I really wanted to like it, but Tera Patrick’s Sinner Takes All is full of distractions and confusion.
I should start by saying that I read Sinner Takes All before I read Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. Probably the most unfortunate aspect about this book is how closely it mirrors Jenna’s, yet doesn’t offer an explanation as to why it so closely mirrors it, and what it seeks to resolve by doing so.
Tera’s story begins talking about her early life and a modeling career in Japan, which is really interesting and exciting! Also, I did not know Patrick was a nurse for a time, so that was also very interesting. But it quickly devolves into a kind of grandiose and congratulatory piece that reads like she’s showing off for one or two people (maybe just friends and fans?) rather than pulling in any and every reader with the core of her personality beyond the young, still-learning female and the eventual porn-powerhouse persona.
One unexplained issue is the back and forth between pride and ‘Glad I didn’t do that,‘ regret.
“Rumor: I’ve had gangbangs with a S.W.A.T. team, Navy SEALs, and an entire firehouse. Truth: No gangbangs. Sure, I fucked in front of some firemen but only did the one. I did once confess that I fantasized about filming a gangbang, but I never did it and I think if I did, I would’ve regretted that big-time!”
Why? In other areas of the book she boasts about how accepting she is of other’s sexual tastes, and expresses pride over her sexual kinks and prowess: secretly enjoying rough sex; allowing ex-husband, Evan Seinfeld, to pee on her; showing up at neighbor’s apartment doors (pre-porn career) to have instant anonymous sex with strangers. Without clarification, how is a non-porn person supposed to process what’s not okay from what she considers okay? It appears to me she’s saying she would have regretted performing in a gang bang from a career standpoint, but that should ultimately be clarified for the non-fan reader.
The details themselves are not significant in an itemized way, but it is significant in a sum-up memoir about one person’s life in relation to a hyper-judged industry. Adult star, Houston, was famous because she performed in a gang bang. Without intimate explanations that focus more on personal story rather than comparisons, it reads like one long press release for her porn career, and overall, competitive and insulting towards other sex worker’s choices. Yes, she had an illustrious career, but who is she really? Many relayed experiences don’t go into that kind of depth.
For instance, Tera (Linda Hopkins) talks about being interrupted by a friend while “making out” with an older man.
“My friend Danielle walked in on us and said, “You might want to close the blinds.” We stopped the make-out session, pulled apart from each other, and I said my good-byes. When I look back on it now, I’m glad Danielle caught us. I think it spooked Mark. I don’t know if we would’ve tried to make it further than kissing, but if Danielle didn’t interrupt us, maybe he would’ve. I don’t think I was prepared to handle what could’ve happened on that couch that day. I’m glad we kissed, but I wasn’t ready for anything more. However, in that moment, in that twelve-year-old brain, I probably wouldn’t have had the maturity to know that it would’ve been a bad thing. I think Danielle’s interruption might just have saved me from doing something that would’ve left me with some severe emotional repercussions and a lot of regret down the road.”
It’s a premature declaration relative to the entire story because she experiences other more jarring sexual situations, while still underage. And it’s an excessive amount of ‘would’ves’ from someone who’s supposed to be making these moments more cohesive for us, the reader, not the other way around. In a memoir, one gets the feeling that the person is compelled to write because they have the overwhelming need to offer revelations about their life experiences; an unquestionable inner monologue, if you will. ‘This happened to me for that reason’. Yet many moments like this are offered with awkward armchair psychology, as if she hasn’t actually given any of it much thought. It leaves lots of questions hanging in the air.
Several youthful statements are made without the encouragement of a talented ghost author pushing her to flesh out the now-matured, later-in-life perspective that would give the story balance. It literally reads like she recorded her spoken answers for journalist, Carrie Borzillo; the answers were transcribed; and only a few drafts later, it was sent to print.
“I always thought I’d lose my virginity to someone like Joe Elliott, the lead singer of Def Leppard, in a field of flowers. This was not that.”
“I instantly thought to myself, ‘That dark figure who’s running across the screen with a big wiener is going to be my husband someday.’”
“…I was also a little worried about some of the things I’d heard about him from my friends. The words “pig,” “womanizer,” and “cock puppet” kept coming up. “Cock puppet” I liked. But what worried me was whether he was really a womanizing pig.”
“He had me at that fuck.”
I put off writing this review for several months because there’s no graceful way of saying that this book straddles the fence between Tera Patrick–too much pride angled at friends and fans; and Linda Hopkins–not enough explanation about the sensitive woman underneath. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good personal moments, but they’re passed over really quickly in favor of the… not even ‘porn star’ story, but ‘porn super star’ story. It creates a kind of disproportionate polar narrative between her youth and her adult career. Bluntly put, it’s not a thoughtful piece of work. Thoughtfulness would be the glue that melds hers into one full-life experience, but the glue is completely missing. It doesn’t tie her childhood to her adult self in any real way. They exist in static juxtaposition from a story about Linda Hopkins on the one hand, to Tera Patrick on the other, with no warning or segue that you’re about to jump from ‘I don’t want to dwell on this because it’s murky,’ to ‘Yeah, man, rock-n-roll!’. You’re either reading her bragging and using misplaced, vulgar language, or still stuck and somewhat confused in a moment that happened long ago.
The epitome of this is evidenced in the statement, “Unlike so many porn stars, I was never sexually abused or raped.” Yet, she talks about feeling raped by a photographer who took advantage of his power position as her employer and as an adult in order to have sex with her during a non-porn photoshoot; taking her virginity while she was underage. The boastful part of the narrative gets kicked around by these tender revelations, when they could easily coexist and mingle on the page with the slightest consideration.
I also get the distinct feeling that on the tail of Jenna’s success with How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, the prospect of penning another porn star memoir from an almost equally famous star like Tera found the publisher with dollar signs in their eyes. It’s unfortunate. 1) Because Tera is a fascinating person with an interesting story, and 2) a good memoir is a careful and wonderful photograph of one person’s life. When done well, it says everything there is to say about you. I do not believe for a second that this book is an honest depiction of the woman who embodies both Tera Patrick and Linda Ann Hopkins.
Typos and run-on sentences abound here. Also, there is obvious and uncomfortable animosity towards Jenna Jameson in the form of really rude comments that went completely unexplained, while simultaneously borrowing from Jenna’s book: a dual narrative about how Tera and ex-husband, Evan Seinfeld, met; a “Ten Commandments” section listing reasons for not doing this or that. The reader should never walk away from a book wondering what just happened. I did. Between the unrefined language, pot shots at Jenna and contradictory statements, I kept wondering if there was text I’d overlooked that explained what I was definitely not getting from the story. If anything, it made me want to read Jenna’s book when I had intended to read so many other bios and memoirs first.
Pluses: The cover art is stylish, there are a tasteful number of photos, Margaret Cho sings Tera’s praises in the Foreword, and the title is catchy and fun. But all is not lost from the content.
By the end of the book, Tera and Evan have split up, and Tera is given the opportunity to rewrite her story to reflect that, but she chooses to leave the text intact. This text is a brave and touching admission on her part. She explains that she feels used by him, but that he did help her through a near-impossible mental and emotional ordeal over the breakup with Digital Playground. Her pain and the closeness of the breakup comes through in a way that demonstrates the kind of thoughtfulness and maturity she is capable of expressing. I would have really enjoyed seeing more of that perspective throughout the rest of the book.
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