PVV – the dying art of reading aloud

As any one of my students will tell you, I love reading aloud. Whatsmore, I think it’s a dying art. Consequently, I make them read aloud in class. Often. Because college should occasionally resemble first grade. And sometimes, when I’m feeling generous and dramatic and they’re feeling exceptionally unenthused, I read to them!! I think it’s a nice thing to do.

So when I heard that Sasha Grey had read Dog Breath to some first and third graders as part of the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America program, I thought “that’s nice.” But I had a sneaking little “uh oh” brewing in my head as well.

This is what happened: on November 2, Sasha Grey read the aforementioned book, Dog Breath, to some kids at Emerson Elementary School in Compton, CA.

From what I can tell, this is all the “fact” available at this moment. Other alleged details include: Sasha was booked (“booked”? maybe “scheduled”…ehhh) by an outside person who regularly coordinates “celebrity” readers…

(because what better way to inspire notoriously marginalized and underprivileged children than with a little celebrity free time!!)

…for NEA’s program/this school district/region/area. This scheduling person let school administrators know about some of Sasha’s mainstream acting credits, like “Entourage,” but didn’t provide her full resume, which includes credits like these, as well as several other mainstream media projects…

(why would they? would they require my full work history and publication listing if I was volunteer reading to kids? no, they would not)

…Sasha was also supposedly registered/signed in/whatever under her given name, not as “Sasha Grey;” and some parents apparently flipped the f out when they learned Sasha had been reading aloud to their children…

(wait, what?? how did they even know who she was? hmmm…)

…In response, school officials allegedly denied Sasha had even been inside the building, much less interacted with kids. But luckily, TMZ was there to clear the air.*

  (pictured: Sasha reading, kids listening; more photos posted on TMZ here)

Eeeesh.

Eeeesh, and what the heck??!!

Although I can’t see the kids’ faces in this image, I’ve been around enough college-aged “kids” to know that initiating and maintaining that sort of rapt head posture is difficult… both for the individual imparting whatever information/stories and the audience taking it all in.

Based on the backs of their heads alone, these kids seem interested and entertained. Sasha is reading an age-appropriate book and is obviously engaging. These kids aren’t getting anything other than enriching attention, and there’s nothing on their minds other than “what a good story this lady is reading us, eeeyah!!”

(at least, I would hope kids of this age aren’t already browsing the archives of XXX Whatever with “other things” on their minds… but whose fault is that if they are? Oh right… Sasha’s)

Again, eeesh and what the heck?

Anxiety about and over this horrific volunteer reading debacle comes strictly from the “adults” involved. Calling sex worker discrimination is easy and obvious. Lamentations from angry parents asking why the school district couldn’t just get someone with a “respectable” (former) occupation attest to that.

But maybe the volunteer coordinator(s) and even Emerson Elementary School itself didn’t highlight or disclose Sasha’s past because they didn’t care about her career in adult? Maybe they were just excited that someone, “Sasha Grey” or otherwise, wanted to read to the kids… Or maybe they wanted to contribute to Sasha’s efforts to destigmatize the adult industry and work therein?

Maybe?

Somehow I doubt it.

I can think of 8 million far more nefarious and asshole-ish scenarios that are more likely than any of one those more benevolent ones, but what I most wonder about is the person who coordinated this booking in the first place… Wasn’t this a person who had handled these sorts of things at least once or twice before? Don’t people have to get pretty seriously background checked to even be in the same room with kids these days??

Given all that, who was stupid enough to bring this apparently vile and villainous woman into the hallowed halls of Emerson Elementary School? Who pitched this beautiful, entertaining, and apparently literate evolving performance artist without any sort of due diligence? Wtf!!??

Perhaps the heavy-hitting and enticing “Entourage” references were just too much for star-fucker wannabes/volunteer organizers to bear? Or perhaps Sasha’s hypnotic former sex worker powers scrambled their brains?

We’ll probably never know, but I have many guesses.

What do you think? Email Dr. Chauntelle!!

*it has also been alluded that this reading thing was all a publicity stunt on Sasha’s part… that would definitely add another dimension to this discussion.

Sasha talks about this incident on “The View” – enjoy!!

 

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You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”

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4 thoughts on “PVV – the dying art of reading aloud

  1. In general, I tend to agree with you, Dr. Chauntelle. But I’d like to stake out a slightly different position. I actually think that Sasha Grey shouldn’t have been part of this program. However, I don’t think it was some horrible or unforgivable thing she did.

    First of all, any assertion that what Grey was doing was sexually corrupting is absolutely preposterous. In the picture you’ve provided she’s dressed more modestly than, I’m sure, plenty of parents who pick their kids up at school and probably even than many people. Also, she’s an articulate person. I’ve seen videos of athletes who have come to school to read to children. These athletes were horrifyingly inarticulate and did a horrible job of reading, thus potentially reinforcing children’s beliefs about the unimportance of reading. That strikes me as worse than anything Sasha did.

    (By the way, to me, Sasha Grey is about ten million times sexier in interviews like the one on “The View” than she is in her porn videos or when she was doing interviews about her feelings on porn.)

    So, if I don’t think there was anything inherently wrong in her reading to the kids, how can I say that she ought not to have done it? The answer is that I think sometimes acts can be wrong without being inherently wrong. In particular, the response to this event was totally foreseeable. That someone like TMZ would spread the word was (whether or not Sasha would have wanted them to or would have approved of their doing so) something she easily could have predicted. Does this make TMZ also a bad guy in this? Yep. So, now the issue is out there. And the kids are going to be made aware of it. Again, this isn’t the world’s worst thing. In fact, the kids probably will only be interested in it for about five seconds before turning their attention back to Sponge Bob or whoever the kids watch these days.

    That said, she was still setting in motion something that she probably shouldn’t have been setting in motion. The fact of the matter is that the decision of parents to control when they discuss issues of sexuality should be left up to them.

    More to the point, doing this in Compton raises some interesting issues. For example, let’s say she’d done this in Beverly Hills. Would the result have been the same? On the one hand, you’ll probably find a lot fewer children being raised in deeply committed Christian evangelical homes. So, you’d have less an issue with parents who were unprepared to have any attendant conversations with their kids or children who were unprepared to consider the relevant issues. On the other hand, in Beverly Hills, the kids likely aren’t passing adult bookstores on their way to and from school. They don’t see streetwalkers in their neighborhood either. Or vials of crack. So, this pushes in the other direction.

    So, my short answer. The people who perceive that what Sasha was doing was deeply, inherently immoral are incorrect. But the fact that they perceive it that way is a social fact that needs to be dealt with. It may be wrong that the stigma of working in adult performance exists, but the fact that it does exist is a solid fact of human expectation. And that does impose burdens on people to deal with it.

    One last aside, as the controversy at Penn State has illustrated, there is really no way to know who is willing to victimize children and who isn’t. But I have a theory. People in adult films probably are more concerned about preventing child abuse than the average person not less. I can’t prove this, but I think that adult performers, because they (A) have a better understanding of the range of sexual desires (including the range of acceptable desires, healthy desires, and, of special relevance to my argument, predatory desires), (B) are aware that these desires are not distributed so obviously as the average person might expect (i.e., sometimes it’s the conservative looking Church volunteer who’s into kinky stuff and the porn performer who just wants vanilla, missionary sex in her personal life), and (C) were probably (though not necessarily) sexualized earlier than the average person, is more aware of the potential harm caused by the premature sexualization of children than the average person is. So, I’d actually think that Sasha would be the least likely candidate to do something inappropriate in those circumstances.

  2. How did TMZ find out about it? If the school wasn’t completely aware of who she was, who made the call to TMZ that she’d be there? I didn’t know that National Education Association’s Read Across America program fell within their radar, unless someone tipped them off–most likely, Sasha.

    She states on The View that one of the major reasons she entered adult was to “stop the stigma” people have against people in the adult industry. Maybe it was orchestrated by her for that reason; an opportunity arose and she saw a chance to get publicity and tackle the issue of adult actors contributing in a school environment. It’s not an impossibility, I guess.

  3. @KC – completely agreed – there is nothing inherently wrong with what Sasha did; and had she been permitted to just read to kids as a kind volunteer, all good.

    I also agree with you that, through no real “fault” of her own but certainly as a direct result of her presence in the classroom, some if not all of the kids involved were in/directly exposed to something meant for adults. whether they overhear an adult discussing something or they just get the sense that something “grown up” has happened, a little door into a world that is not intended for first and third graders (or any other student at Emerson Elementary) may have been brushed against…

    which gets to your next point – essentially, responsibility. also agreed. regardless of the fact that there is nothing “wrong” with a former sex worker (porn performer or otherwise) reading to kids, Sasha Grey certainly had to know that exactly what happened (negative reaction and tons of press/discussion) was a very real possibility before going in.

    as an adult, she made a series of decisions about her own life; and she is an intelligent woman who fights for personal freedom and choice. Thus, given her smarts and sense and beliefs, why take this particular step? why not volunteer to read to sight-impaired adults, for example; or teach adult-aged folks who may have not learned how to read at an earlier point in life how to do so now? there are plenty of other options to help, without exposing kids to adult things.

    the whole notion of this being a an opportunity to get publicity and tackle the issue of adult actors contributing in a school environment and/or and tipping folks off about her presence though (re @LL’s comment)… well, that changes this issue for me.

    just like there’s nothing wrong with sasha reading and volunteering, there is nothing objectively wrong about orchestrating a demonstration and press to make a point. this could be just that… but the presence of kids changes it some for me.

    I wish I knew more of how this had unfolded exactly, but we probably have all the details we’re ever going to get.

  4. I’d be okay with her reading to me, my friends, and even my scores of children if I had any but let’s be honest in terms of the likely motives involved and the possible repercussions. If there is anyone out there buying Sasha’s reasoning, I have a bridge to sell them. To suggest her or those representing her were not involved in publicizing this is simply lame. I’ll go further and say the whole event was set up from square one for that purpose alone, her “mainstream career” not going anywhere fast (when I see her in roles where she doesn’t play a hooker, porn chick, or something along those lines and does so in a credible fashion, I’ll reconsider).

    Those suggesting it was done to positively portray porn performers or the industry seem laughably clueless, far more credible efforts such as Evil Angel’s efforts during the recent LA AIDS Walk (yay Karen Stagliano and friends!) garnering positive press without the cameras called in by the PR hacks. See, the way this has unfolded leaves no doubt in my mind that in was calculated from the beginning by folks with little real exposure to parents of children.

    Anything involving children runs the risk of a huge backlash. Already the reading program is being scrutinized, subject to cancellation, over complaints of how inappropriate a selection she was. And despite the attitude that it is all much ado about nothing, you can almost see the wheels in motion regarding how most people involved in such programs are going to “protect the children” from this, perhaps even in a hypocritical manner given the nature of Sasha’s work and how they knew about it. Let’s face it, whatever free speech rights we might believe in or pro-porn stance we may champion, this is the kind of thing that energizes the anti-porn crowd more than BS about the need for condoms or better testing protocols.

    Was there informed consent by the parents? Don’t they have the right to know and approve/disprove of whom their kids are associating with? Like it or not, Grey has professional baggage that will be with her for the rest of her life and beyond. Again, if I had kids in the school and was ASKED if she could read to them, I would have no problems with it but leave the kids out of the stunts in the future, okay?

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