BOOK REVIEW | "HOW TO MAKE LOVE LIKE A PORN STAR" BY JENNA JAMESON & NEIL STRAUSS
photo & text by nacrowe
there was a brief few-month period in-between teaching gigs more than a decade ago when i was temping as a paralegal for a law firm two blocks north of the NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE. i remember at the time there was a BORDERS bookstore (remember those?) around the corner that i would take my lunch break at, usually reading and drinking coffee. because this was the WALL STREET location, there were usually book signings fairly regularly and one day i remember the line stretching around two corners. which was absurd. the line was filled with men and women, young and old. it was for TERA PATRICK, the porn star. i just remember being amazed by it all. how mainstream and just out in the daylight that whole industry was becoming.
probably the woman to thank/blame for that mainstreaming of adult films is JENNA MASSOLI, a.k.a. JENNA JAMESON who in her autobiography HOW TO MAKE LOVE LIKE A PORN STAR: A CAUTIONARY TALE (HARPERCOLLINS, 2004), co-written with NEIL STRAUSS (co-author of other books by MÖTLEY CRÜE, DAVE NAVARRO, MARILYN MANSON, etc.) recalls her life trajectory from a LAS VEGAS misfit to taboo mainstream SEX SYMBOL.
JAMESON really goes out of her way to educate the reader about the ins and outs of the industry, often dispelling misinformation regarding safety and abuse while not shying away from the permanent consequences of being filmed having sex for money. she must know that her book, much like her career, is providing access to a taboo subject and mainstreaming information. i really give her credit for not glamorizing the industry but rather being clear-headed and transparent about its perks and pitfalls.
all that being said, this idea of self-exploiting one's SEXUALITY for financial gain is hard to stomach and you get the feeling that the subplot of this book, her drive to find connection (both EMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL), made her vulnerable for this career path. having no nurturing, maternal force growing up (her mother passing away when she was an infant) and a father that was largely distant and unavailable found her searching for a community that saw her making poor choices (by her own judgement) again and again as her family continually moved during her formative years. having dealt with other traumas (both of CHEMICAL and SEXUAL in nature) you really get the sense that JAMESON is at her core a survivor who does't look back to make and most definitely does not make excuse for her actions. she makes us aware of her past as a means of transparency, but you definitely get the sense that she doesn't want to be defined by such. she owns her choices.
i was taken aback by how familiar this narrative is to other books i've read over the years related to musicians and actors. this need to connect and affect others. it just so happens that her vehicle was PORNOGRAPHY and that she was the avatar that brought such to bear during the beginnings of the digital age, which we are currently in and dealing with the consequences of. i can't imagine the hardships she went through, just on a societal level where women's SEXUALITY is something to be tamed and compartmentalized. given that she started her own production company, hers is a story about power and her ability to grab it in the most male-dominated of industries.
i'm not passing judgement on her choices or the industry itself. i just think its a fascinating subject and i'm glad she decided to speak her truth. definitely a book worth reading if you are interested in sexual politics and representation(s) of femininity in the media.
this book was published in 2004 in the ensuing decade-and-a-half JAMESON has transformed into a twice divorced mother of three who has adopted staunchly ultra far-right conservative views. she is a stridently vocal supporter of former POTUS DONALD TRUMP and his regressive agenda regarding immigration, guns, abortion, etc. in my opinion, THAT TRANSFORMATION is far more interesting than anything found in her autobiography, arguably released at the height of her fame. what would make someone who arguably broadened the parameters of free speech and mainstream discussions surrounding sex, and even profited off it handsomely, choose to dive deep into reactionary rightwing politics. seems to be a trend of that with the similar likes TILA TEQUILA (alt-right nazism) & JENNY MCCARTHY (vaccine denial) utilizing their public personas to misguide the public. again, i am not passing judgement here, but THAT is the book i'd like to read from JAMESON.