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In her new book, Insatiable, Asa Akira recounts her rise from exhibitionist NYC private schoolgirl to world-famous porn star.
Warning: This article contains sexually explicit material and may be NSFW.
Asa Akira is insatiable in every sense of the word. She’s insatiable when it comes to food and has been known to devour two thin-crust chicken club Papa John’s pizzas in one sitting. She’s insatiable when it comes to drugs; she dabbled in everything from coke to weed to Oxy to crack during a three-day binge in her early 20s (she’s currently sober). And of course, she’s insatiable when it comes to sex, which is both one of her greatest passions and, as one of the most searched-for adult performers in the world, her profession.
It makes sense, then, that Insatiable is the title of Akira’s new memoir, an account of her rise from rebellious New York City private school student to high-end dominatrix to bona fide porn star. In the book, she discusses everything from her drug use (she’s smoked crack once, with a client in her BDSM dungeon) to her short-lived escorting career, to her suspicion that she might have been molested as a child by one of her former babysitters.
Yet although Akira’s book deals with such weighty issues, that doesn’t mean she adheres to the stereotype most people have about the drug-addicted, abused porn star. She consistently emphasizes her “normal,” upper-middle-class upbringing and her close relationship with her parents. Contrary to what most people assume about adult performers, Akira does porn not because she has no other options, but because she really, really likes it.
“I’m not ashamed that I’ve worked at an S&M dungeon, stripped, escorted, or that I currently have sex for money every day,” she writes. “On the contrary, I’m proud of myself for having the guts to indulge in my desires.”
Insatiable is, at turns, laugh-out loud funny (the book is punctuated with naughty haikus, such as “Home from Trader Joe’s/Was it there for that whole time?/Dried cum on my chin”), poignant (she writes imaginary letters to her future unborn child and her mother, with whom she is close but does not discuss her career), and outrageously politically incorrect, featuring anecdotes about Akira defecating during an anal scene (she initially thought it was blood, but it turned out to be the beet salad she’d eaten the night before) and why African-American performers don’t take their shoes off during sex scenes.
But above all else, it’s a brutally honest look at one woman’s journey through the adult industry, which Akira says is the ultimate culmination of her exhibitionist fantasies. As she puts it in her memoir, every time she shoots a sex scene, she falls “a little bit in love: Not necessarily with my partner, but just in general. In love with being watched. In love with being on display. In love with being the center of attention, for those precious 35 minutes.”
The Daily Dot spoke with Akira about being an exhibitionist, her relationship with her parents, race and porn, and whether anal is the new vaginal sex.
You write at the beginning of the book that you wanted to write a memoir because you felt there wasn’t a “healthy, honest voice” of porn. Did you read a lot of porn star memoirs prior to writing your own book, like Jenna Jameson’s book [the bestseller How to Make Love Like a Porn Star]?
Yeah, I’ve definitely read a few, especially Jenna’s book. I think it’s too good. But I saw this pattern of really sad stories, and I think that only represents a small percentage of the industry, even though it comes off as a large percentage of the industry. And I just wanted another voice to be heard because there are a lot of girls like me who had very positive experiences in porn. The girls who are victims of unfortunate circumstances: that’s definitely very prevalent in porn. But so is my story.
It seems like a lot of the response to your book so far has been insisting that that is the norm, though. They see you, who had this normal, upper middle-class upbringing and finds porn positive and empowering, and they think you’re more the exception than the rule.
Yeah, I’m kind of obsessed with reading those kinds of comments (laughs) To me, it’s more offensive than anything when I’m saying one thing and people are totally just shutting it down and basically saying I’m in denial, or “come back in 10 years and see how you feel.” A lot of people have commented that maybe I’m still hiding things, that I’m not telling myself the truth. First of all, it’s really offensive that they’re not even entertaining the idea that a woman like me might exist. And I think that’s more of a reflection on them than on me. What does it say about them that they can’t even imagine that a woman might be a sexual human being and an exhibitionist and in porn because she wants to be doing it? They’d rather think of me as a victim or a drug addict or whatnot.
One thing that really struck me is that you portray yourself as a really aggressively sexual person, both on and off-camera. Do you think that women necessarily need to be aggressively sexual off-camera to be successful in porn?
I definitely think you need to be a very sexual person, because that’s just the nature of the job. But personally, for me, I’m not in porn because I’m so promiscuous or I love sex so much. I mean, I do love sex, but for me, that’s not the point of doing porn. Porn, for me, is the ultimate fantasy. I like being on display, I like being on camera, I like turning people on, I like being a sex object. I like that aspect of it. Being a porn star is the ultimate fantasy, to me. It’s not like I’m in porn to meet my needs for sex.
When did you first realize you had that exhibitionist streak?
I can’t pinpoint a time when it started. I remember being in high school and my ex-boyfriend and I would take pictures of ourselves having sex on a disposable camera, and we’d go get it developed at the local Duane Reade. So even then, I was definitely into that idea, and it turned me on. Honestly, a lot of it has to do with the fact that my dad’s a photographer. Not that he ever took sexual photos of me, but I’ve always had that kind of attention on me. And I think that in some ways I equate that to love.
But women can’t say that, ever. Women can’t say, “I like sex, but I also like showing off, I’m an exhibitionist, I like turning people on.” In some ways, admitting that is even more transgressive than a woman doing porn.
Totally. And I think that’s so messed-up. It wouldn’t be weird for a guy to say something like that. Every guy wants to be seen as this macho, alpha male sex icon, but for a girl—even in mainstream Hollywood, a girl can’t say that’s what she’s in the business for. She had to fall into it, she had to become a sex icon. Even a girl like Megan Fox or whatever. If it doesn’t just happen to you, it’s not OK to say that’s what you’re going for.
You talk pretty openly about your experience with escorting in the book, which is something that a lot of performers in the industry are doing. How do you feel about performers escorting, and how is it different from doing porn?
There are two sides of it. I think prostitution would be a lot safer if it were legal. I don’t see anything morally wrong with it. Obviously, I don’t see anything wrong with using your body to make money. But on the other hand, it does concern me that adult performers do a lot of escorting because the guys they work with are not tested. I do feel like a lot of girls escort without condoms, because the first guy that I saw was pushing for it so hard. He was like, “Hey, I’m tested just like you, let’s do it without a condom.” And he’d seen so many girls in the industry that it made me think there were lots of girls in the industry who were sleeping with you without a condom. So that aspect does definitely concern me.
My impression is that it’s kind of an open secret in the porn world, but it’s still pretty controversial.
Definitely. In the industry, escorting is definitely a controversial thing. It’s something a lot of girls do, but they don’t necessarily talk about it on set. And if a girl does start escorting, you kinda talk about her behind her back, like, “Oh, I heard she’s doing it.” So it’s definitely still a little bit taboo, even though I would say half of the industry does it.
Did you get any blowback for writing about it?
At the time that I did it, I definitely wasn’t so open about it. I hadn’t made a decision that I was gonna do it on a regular basis. But once it was done, I was pretty open about it. And the guy I wrote about is someone most girls in the industry have seen. If anything, the reaction I’ve been getting is girls texting me and saying, “Hey, was that so-and-so?” and I’m like, “Yeah.” (Laughs) The thing about the book is that everyone in the industry knows exactly who I’m talking about, even though some of the names have been changed, because it’s so insular. On one hand, you have thousands of girls every day, but the people that stick around: That’s a pretty small group. I only work with, like, 20 guys over and over.
In the book, you write about playing a lot of stereotypical Asian roles. You say you’ve played a masseuse so often you could put it on your resume. How do you feel about being fetishized in that way?
When I first got into the industry, I hated it. I just hated the monotony of it. I didn’t feel sexy doing it, I guess you could say. But over the years, I’ve actually come to embrace it. I think a lot of people see it as degrading of Asian culture, but I see it as a celebration. I don’t see anything wrong with fetishizing what I am. I think if anything, that’s celebrating what’s cool about me. I mean, it’s not like guys are watching my movies and laughing. They’re watching my movies and masturbating. That’s, like, the ultimate cultural celebration.
More generally, do you feel like there’s racism in porn?
There’s definitely a lot of politics involved. But it’s not to the degree that I think people think. A question I get asked really often is, when girls start fucking black guys on screen, does that lower her rate? And that’s absolutely untrue. I don’t know if it was that way at one point, but really if you’re doing black guys, you’re only making more money, because now people are hiring you for more jobs. But yeah, race is a present issue in porn. You’re constantly aware of it, and I think it’s because we’re categorized so often. Everyone goes into a certain niche that it’s just something we’re constantly aware of. I’m Asian, and when I do a scene with a white guy, that’s not considered interracial. But when I do a scene with a black guy, that’s considered interracial. Which is the weirdest thing ever. But that’s just the way it is.
My understanding is that most performers don’t start out doing interracial right off the bat. How did you segue into it?
It’s just another thing you can sell. It’s really strange, but it’s just like another thing that if you hold out like a year, and when you first do your first IR scene, you can make a ton of money on that scene. You’ll get a whole movie to yourself, or a box cover. It’s a marketing thing. For me, I waited a year into being in porn, and I got a whole movie out of it, with me in all five scenes.
Why do you think that is? Why do you think there’s still so much weight attached to it?
I don’t know. I think most girls in porn—it’s not like they don’t want to fuck black guys. But it’s definitely a constant decision to hold out on it. It’s really weird, ‘cause it’s not like you get more money for doing your first Asian guy, or your first Hispanic guy. It’s just black. It’s weird.
I enjoyed your observation about African-American men never taking their shoes off during scenes. It’s something I’d noticed in porn as well.
(Laughs) Thank you.
Did you ever find out why that is?
No! I’ll ask them and they’ll all give me the same answer, which is that they do for traction. But no one gives me an answer that I’m satisfied with. Like, for traction? We’re on a bed, you know? What kind of traction do you need on a mattress?
Photo by Michael Dorausch/Flickr
Your book is really intensely personal at times: You write about your struggles with drug addiction, how you think you were molested when you were a toddler by one of your babysitters. Was there any one passage that you were like, “Maybe I shouldn’t write about this?”
There were definitely chapters that were harder to write than others. There were chapters that took me a month to write, just because it brought such a negative feeling, and it would ruin my day when I was writing about it. Definitely the one about my ex who died. That was hard to write. The Florida one [where she reveals during a hot tub dalliance that she suspects she was molested] was hard to write. I’d write a paragraph and leave it alone for three days, then write another and leave it alone for three days.
That particular one gets commented on a lot, because I think a lot of people find it very confusing. On one hand, I’m always saying what a normal background I came from and how I’ve never been raped. But there is that one moment where I’m like, “Was I?” Maybe I should’ve made it clear, but when I said that in the book, I was high off my mind on drugs, and half of it was me talking out of my ass. But another part of it is, that was a point in my life where I was really searching for reasons to justify my hypersexuality. I was trying a lot of things out, like, “Maybe this is why I’m this way,” or “Maybe that’s why I’m that way.” I needed a reason in me to find out why I am the way I am. Even while I was writing the book, I still felt that way. I felt so unsatisfied with the answer: “Oh, I am just this way because I am.” At that point, I think I was trying that on.
I have no actual basis for thinking my babysitter molested me. I have no suppressed memories or anything like that. It’s almost unfair of me to say that, it’s almost like I’m using that to justify or explain my sexuality. And by the time I ended the book, I felt like maybe I’d find that answer.
Do you feel like you have?
No, I didn’t find an answer. But at the same time, I don’t feel like I need an answer anymore. I’m kind of at peace with the fact that I am the way I am. I think that anxiety came from society needing an answer. I think being such a sexual person and wanting to do porn, people definitely demand an answer. No one is satisfied with me being like, “I had a normal childhood and I grew up this way.” I needed an answer too, but now I don’t. And I’m OK with it.
You write in the dedication that you don’t want your parents to read the book. Have they, so far?
I don’t think so. (Laughs) I think if they read it, I would know, because my mom would be calling me asking about a billion things. But yeah, my parents are proud of me having written the book, but I told them it’s not a book they’re gonna want to read. I mean, no one wants to know about their kid’s sex life, whether they’re in porn or not.
But you write this really long [imaginary] letter to your mom about what you wish you could tell her about your job. There must be some desire in you to have her understand you and the work you do.
My parents and I have a really close relationship, especially my mom and I. I’m in L.A., and she’s in New York, and we talk on the phone every day. But the one thing we can’t really talk about without ending up in a fight is porn, which to me is really sad. Being so close to my mom, I wish I could share everything with her. So to me, that letter is what I wish I could say to my mom. I don’t know that she’ll ever be able to fully accept it to the point where we can talk about it that candidly, like in the letter. It makes me sad. It really does. But it’s like I said—no parent wants to talk to their kid about their sex lives, and it just so happens that my job is my sex life.
Maybe you could start by giving her the letter.
Maybe. But at the same time, we have such a good relationship that I’m scared that would make it a not good relationship. Like, right now, we sweep it under the rug, and as unhealthy as it sounds, it works. And I’m scared to mess with it. Maybe it’ll change in a year, or maybe even a week, but right now that’s how it is. It’s unfortunate. I wish I could share everything with her, but I guess I’m scared to mess with what we have now.
You write in the book that your dream is to keep doing porn, but with this book getting so much press, and with your podcast and all, it seems like you’re sort of on the precipice of achieving mainstream fame. Is that something you’re interested in at all? Do you ultimately want to go mainstream, like be a Sasha Grey, like most adult performers do?
I don’t think that was my goal. My goal was always to do porn. That might sound strange to a lot of people, but my ultimate goal was to do porn, live out my fantasy, and it’s so great that I get to capitalize on that as well. Now, I wouldn’t say the goal is to go mainstream. I respect Sasha so much, I think she’s taken a great career path, but it’s not something I’m particularly interested in. Of course, I want my voice to be heard, I want the book to sell, but it’s not my goal to leave porn at the cost of something else. I see quite a bit of that [adult performers going into porn and then trying to go mainstream], and I think it’s, like, so dumb. If you’re trying to do anything else in the world, porn is not the stepping stone to it. Like, to anything. I don’t get that.
So I have to ask you one final question, about this tweet from a few months ago, where you said something like, “Ass is the new pussy.” My boyfriend and I have been debating this for weeks, and we’re wondering: If ass is the new pussy, what’s the new ass?
I guess maybe double anal. (Laughs) But you know what? It’s really weird, because it’s a very personal thing to say ass is the new pussy. So I’ve been getting fucked in my pussy for a really long time, and then I started exploring anal sex, and I started getting obsessed with it. So for me, ass is the new pussy. It’s like I lost my virginity all over again, and I was having sex for the first time. And now, I’m back to—I think pussy is the new ass again.
You think pussy is the new ass again?!? Wow. That changes everything.
Yeah, I think it’s a personal thing. I’m at a point where I still enjoy anal sex a lot, but I’m like, “Wait a second. Pussy sex is way better.”
But just to clarify: Pussy is the new ass for you personally, not for the culture at large.
I think culturally, ass is still the new pussy. It seems like, honestly, in porn, if you’re gonna be a really big star, you almost have to do anal now. It sucks for girls who don’t like anal, but it seems to be the reality now. Like, when I talk to fans and stuff, they’re always like, “When is she gonna do anal?” Or if I do a movie with no anal in it, they’re like “Why didn’t you do anal in this movie?” They’re, like, obsessed with it. They can’t understand it. So yeah, I think culturally, ass is still the new pussy.
Photo by Michael Dorausch/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)
EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.