by Asa Akira
2016 (Cleis Press)
Asa Akira is non-stop, an outspoken pornographic performer who has been working her (award-winning) ass off for years. Born and raised in New York City, she began working as a dominatrix at 19, then shifted into stripping before appearing in her first porn scene in 2008. Since then, she has become one of the most popular and prolific actresses working in pornography today-- having appeared in over 500 films, and won numerous times at the annual AVN Awards. When not performing as a contract artist with Wicked Pictures or directing her own pornographic films, Asa found time to co-host the podcast DVDASA with artist David Choe; served as one of the judges onThe Sex Factor, a reality television show produced by xHamster; and even made a cameo (as herself) on an episode of Family Guy.
Asa is also a writer, and Dirty Thirty is her follow up to 2015´s Insatiable: Porn - A Love Story. Both are memoirs, but not in the conventional sense: readers coming to Dirty Thirty expecting a chronological narrative of "how Asa grew up" might be disappointed. Asa instead structures her book experimentally: in addition to writing in first person prose, Dirty Thirty contains chapters written as short film scripts, journal entries, a letter, and a number of haikus. Instead of organizing the episodes of each section chronologically, Asa has chosen to jump around in time, creating more of an impressionistic feel versus a realistic one, a non-linear series of moments linked more by a series of subjects or themes.
Asa´s book opens with her on the eve of her 30th birthday, and trying to keep a lid on a looming freak-out. She´s already exceptionally accomplished & respected within her industry, has won multiple awards; but is this the beginning of the end of her career as a pornographic actress, where the life-span is briefer than it is for men, and where the emphasis is frequently on the Young and the New?
In the chapters which follow, readers get to ride shotgun through key moments in Asa´s life as a major porn star. And, for those that don´t already know, the reality of being a porn star is far less glamorous than what ends up on the screen of your device. Asa candidly shares (perhaps in more detail than some readers would prefer) how she prepares for an anal gangbang scene, as well as walking us through--on stiletto platform shoes-- her gigs on the road, where performers of her caliber get little sleep and little sustenance. Between this and the competition with others within her field, Dirty Thirty could serve as a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating a career in porn.
In addition to providing a window into this unique form of sex work, Asa shares scenes from her personal life, which give the reader the greatest insight into her world off-camera. A highly sexual person, she reveals her fantasies of being with people of all different backgrounds--from men and women, to people in wheelchairs and former inmates who have inserted objects inside the foreskin of their penis. She talks about her crushes on other porn stars, touches upon her teenage years before she got into porn, how she manages monogamous personal relationships when her job is to have sex with multiple people each week, and more.
A number of times during the book, Asa declares a strong desire to write more, and she clearly has a lot of views on a range of subjects--from body dysmorphia and drug addiction to the intersection of feminism and sex work. Organized more like a series of essays than a linear memoir, Dirty Thirty touches upon these recurring subjects and plenty else, providing more substance than most non-fiction by writers from the porn industry. Consistently Asa´s writing is cheeky, fiery, opinionated, confident. Each chapter feels intimate and conversational, as if one is speaking with her energetic self after the party is over, the lights have been turned on, and everyone else has gone home; used condoms and half-drunken champagne bottles are everywhere, and while Asa as a storyteller is lively and funny, her stories feel fragmentary, almost frenetic. I would welcome a future volume from her where she selects a smaller set of subjects, and goes more in-depth with them.
That all aside, Dirty Thirty is a well-written work. Fans of Asa Akira´s vast career in porn will enjoy these series of conversations with her, getting to know her more as a woman and as a person. For those unfamiliar with her or the inner workings of the porn industry in America, reading these essays can be alternately wild, surprising, funny, and sad. Asa´s book neither celebrates nor criticizes the porn industry, or her life within it. One of the strengths of this book is how plainly she describes her thoughts, feelings, and experience within this industry. Take it or leave it, Asa could care less. She is living her best and most filthy life, without any apology.