I like Sasha Grey. While Anal Cavity Search 6 doesn’t sound like my type of film, I love the idea of a (former) sex worker who campaigns with PETA, participates in a kids’ reading program, stars in an experimental drama and writes her own book, which is not entitled My Fucking Life.
It’s actually called The Juliette Society, Juliette being the name of Marquis de Sade’s lesser-known heroine – which is already a good sign. Sasha could’ve simply jumped on the 50 Shades bandwagon, published a crappy piece of mummy porn and it would sell like Durex on Valentine’s Day. Instead, she decided to fill her literary debut with wit, humour and cultural references. What it lacks is a half-decent plot.
Alright, you can say that looking for a storyline in erotic fiction is like trying to get your 5-a-day in McDonald’s. In different circumstances, I might have just enjoyed the sex scenes (they’re not bad, and pretty diverse: from vanilla to hardcore, both loveful and loveless; just all straight), but I made the mistake of buying the book at the airport, which meant I read it, squeezed between a guy that should’ve booked a separate seat for his belly, and an old lady with incontinence. In this very unsexy setting, all I wanted was a story I could immerse myself in. What I got was a generic if chaotic tale of a sexually frustrated young girl discovering the pleasures and perils of sin. Yes, there are good fragments: the idea of a secret sex society comprised of prominent public figures is exciting even when the poor woman peeps over my shoulder while returning from her seventh bathroom trip. But otherwise, it doesn’t all quite hold together: there’s a romance that’s going nowhere interesting, a not entirely convincing homoerotic fascination, a criminal episode that’s abandoned just as it’s getting compelling.
Plot is subservient to character, repeats the protagonist, a film student named Catherine. She may be right, but The Juliette Society cannot prove it. It’s full of stock characters: the wild blonde. The nice (if lukewarm) boyfriend. The corrupt politician. Catherine herself is harder to pigeonhole, but also to make sense of. Her goals and motivations are unclear; she’s unpredictable, obsessive and at times annoying. She could perhaps benefit from therapy – or a more careful re-writing.
What saves the book (if you’re looking for anything more than body parts in action) are Catherine’s digressions. Random ramblings about films (ever heard of the Stendhal syndrome?) Charming remarks on religion (“120 Days of Sodom.” The only book ever written that outdoes the Bible for sexual perversion and violence.) A 3-page analysis of the words used to describe genitalia and what comes from them (a far cry from James’s awkward “down there” and “manhood”.) These are funny, to the point and well-written; fortunately not well enough to make me cry of jealousy. With all my liberalism, if a porn superstar turned out to be a better writer then I’ll ever become, I might have to kill myself.
In my private ranking of Greys, Sasha is nowhere near Dorian, the ultimate sexy sociopath, or Earl, the steamy hot orgasm in a cup. But I’d pick her over Christian any day.