For those of us who openly admit to watching porn, like myself, Jenna Jameson is a familiar face or vagina, depending on which end of her you’re prone to look at most. Note: A few years ago she had Vaginoplasty surgery because she never liked the look of her vagina. How does one determine that? Anyway, it was with a fair amount of smug humor that I purchased her autobiography/self-help book, How To Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, co written with Neil Strauss. At over 500 pages (chock-filled with nudie shots so the men-folk can wank while they read) this was to be no ordinary autobiography and it wasn’t. It was much worse and not solely because of the subject matter. Much like Anthony Kiedis’ book, Scar Tissue, it gives a blow by blow (literally) of all the family trauma she has suffered, psycho-sexual abuse she has withstood, all the drugs she has taken to cope with the aforementioned and, of course, the rock stars she has fucked. She fills the pages with too many chapters most of which are boring interviews between herself, her father and brother who relate tales of drug abuse, illegal activities and run-ins with the law. Ironically her father was a Marine in Vietnam and then went on to become a police officer because his ‘sense of justice’ dictated he serve and protect others, meanwhile he pretty much left his young children to fend for themselves moving them from one hick town after another.
The tone throughout these transcribed interviews is gleeful which makes the stories even more sordid than the fact hers is the classic “porn star’ evolution, regardless she makes plenty of excuses for her life choices, and the choices of her family members, through the use of psycho-babble and half thought out feminist theories.
The typical porn actress background unfolds: Of course, her mother died at a very young age, daddy emotionally checked out and, not surprisingly, Jameson was raped – not once, but twice, in the course of her young teen life. No shocker there. Then the subsequent, and excruciating, poor choices in love relationships result – her first boyfriend, a ‘tattoo artist,’ allowed his uncle to rape her on a boat and did nothing about it after the fact. She remained with this guy for almost ten years! Of course, living most of her young adult life in Las Vegas, she became a stripper meth head. While determining whether to move into the porn industry after stripping at the legendary Crazy Horse she would start drinking heavily and screwing other strippers – literally. She claims these interludes were the best love relationships she ever had despite a toxic relationship with another well-known stripper/porn actress who introduced Jenna to Vodka + Xanax abuse. But, hey, they were the ‘rock stars’ of porn! And that’s the sort of thing rock stars do.
Surely it would be easy to dismiss Jameson as the proto-typical porn actress if it weren’t for the fact that she has ascended to such a prominent position in the industry and does, in fact, possesses a good head for the business. She made millions by becoming a contract girl with Wicked, one of only two at the time (early 90s), Chasey Lain being the first to sign with the company. Then she jumped on the internet in the late 90′s launching her website, Club Jenna, sensing the internet would become the standard means of viewing porn. Yet, it’s undeniable that the stereotypical traumas associated with the career have wrought much damage in her life. Only recently it was revealed she is addicted to oxycotin and has regular violent fights with her current husband, extreme fighter, Tito Ortiz. Clearly she hasn’t evolved much despite leaving the industry and having achieved her (one true shocker!) goal of becoming a mother. I’d love to hear how she spins her career choice to her teenage sons (she has twin boys with Ortiz) once they discover ‘vintage porn’ featuring their mother in all her fake boobed, lascivious glory.
But Jenna is not solely a porn star but a master of rationalizations: she uses feministy mumbo-jumbo claiming that an actress can find a sense of power and independence through her sexuality if she is smart about her choices, setting boundaries early and easing her way into the industry. Undeniably, there is an art and technical prowess to performing sex acts on camera, but the claim that the equation of money x sexual acts performed can bring you a sense of personal liberation is just plain ignorant, especially given her own history of continual self-mutilation through plastic surgeries, violent relationships and drug abuse. Her theory simply doesn’t wash. Yet there is something tangible and sound to be gained from her life story and it isn’t to be found in her idiotic Ten Commandments to Giving a Good Blow Job. I’ve seen her at work: she way over does it. No, the best advice she gives is not laid out in the cartoon strips, verbatim porn contracts, nor the list of do’s and don’t. It is to be found between the lines of her faithfully reproduced diary entries stemming from her teen years up until her impending wedding to second husband, and fellow porn actor, Jay Grdina. In these entries you can see a sweet but fractured girl desperate for long-term stability in the form of a steady boyfriend. Sadly, the classic ‘daddy issues’ play out in diary entry after diary entry in which she reveals a life of chaos brought on by a flaky and self-involved father who clearly has no idea how to process the grief he evidently continues to feel for his young wife, Jenna’s mother, who died of ovarian cancer when Jenna was three. This cataclysmic event, and the subsequent downward spiral of depression and self-delusion, created the environment that allowed Jameson and her older brother, Tony, to become involved with the extreme end of drug abuse and self-destructive relationships.
It’s clear Jenna was a typical pre-teen girl with all the standard self-consciousness girls possess, yet it is also clear that she suffered from what is now called Body Dysmorphic Syndrome. She includes pages upon pages of diary entries that outline measurements of every inch of her body. Throughout the interview portions of the book she refers to specific instances related in the diary entries of her youth to explain her decisions and/or circumstances but she never blatantly explains the habitual measuring of her body parts. Literally measuring all of her limbs, digits, toes and torso. Even measuring the circumferences of her cranium! What she does continuously relate is that she was a gawky, unpopular, late-blooming girl of which she immediately contradicts with stories of her popularity as a cheerleader and winner of hick town beauty pageants. Taking her conflicting self-descriptions, coupling them with her many plastic surgeries, most sadly in my opinion, a boob job at 18 years of age even though she was a natural C cup which is rather sizable for a woman of her petite stature, and the fact she has abandonment issues, not to mention, her father’s continuous comparisons to her mother, a statuesque Las Vegas showgirl (not a stripper, but a showgirl) and you get the picture of a woman who has a profound sense of despair and self-hatred. No amount of ‘sexual liberation’ or cash money or a muscle bound Latino husband is going to assuage damage that deep.
In many ways, I related to her story, not so much the family issues, but certainly the fear of not being desired physically, but that is every woman’s fear no matter how beautiful she is. It’s the double bind of being an American woman where vicious Puritanism mixes with the saturated sexual self readily apparent in every consumable image wreaking havoc on our identities. In the face of such hyper mixed messages it is impossible to become a whole and confident (naturally sexual) human being, let alone, a woman. Self-destructive ugliness always finds its way in and is pervasive in the porn industry. It’s a wonder she didn’t have that poon surgery sooner!
All in all I would say her autobiography, published in 2004, lives up to its claim of being a cautionary tale. Jameson tried hard to justify her career in porn, offering sound advice to would-be starlets, but reading between the lines, you see that it is never, ever a wise decision for any woman (or man, for that matter) to trade their sexual selves (read: psyche) for cash and infamy. The ends have, thus far, not justified the means.