(book) Review – Girlvert: A Porno Memoir (2011) by Oriana Small

I love memoirs, and I love autobiographies.

It’s because I’m nosy, and it’s because I’m a sociologist.

As a sociologist, I know that all narrative accounts – memoirs, autobiographies, biographies, documentaries, and more – are both useful and need to be taken with a grain of salt. This is because individual versions of complex and multidimensional truths are wonderfully useful and enlightening, but they’re also products of human effort. As such, each is crafted and shaped with a particular purpose or mission. Be it completely overt or totally subconscious, we all tell stories the way we tell them for a reason.

(you can read more about accounts and the like here)

Further, given my sociological interest in and involvement with adult, it’s no surprise that I really love “porn memoirs” – accounts written by members of the industry.

Oftentimes, these accounts come from the standpoints of performers. Sometimes, they’re ghost written. Occasionally, we get tales from other significant industry personalities; and every once in a while, biographies.

I love them all, but one recent publication really stands out – Girlvert: A Porno Memoir (2011) by Oriana Small.

Girlvert is Oriana’s autobiographical account of her life through 2011. Though we do learn about her pre-porn days, the book mainly focuses on her years as extremely prolific and ultra hardcore adult performer, Ashley Blue. As Ashley Blue, Oriana has performed in over 350+ (and counting) adult titles and has directed almost 20 films (see Ashley’s IAFD listing here). She has won numerous adult performance honors, including AVN’s Female Performer of the Year award in 2004 and Best Supporting Actress in 2005.

Oriana tells us of her life – a life that was fraught with mistakes and hardships and negligence and fucked up things from day one, a life that was steered by a young woman who was both self-destructive and lacking in confidence. Add porn to this cocktail of already-present factors, and you set the stage for every epic sex worker tragedy imaginable.

Except that’s not how Oriana puts it.

The narrative arch of her story discusses an abused and neglected child turned adrift young adult turned cataclysmic porno brat who gradually comes out of some narcotic fog (of which the adult industry is just one dimension). In other words, she grows up… and then begins to grow beyond.

It’s not a clean and easy transition; but, from what I can tell via Girlvert, Oriana is in the process of doing it.

Some critics’ responses to Girlvert really annoyed me. Some talked about how raw and well-written it was. Others called it pedestrian, sophomoric, and delusional. Some lauded Oriana and her honesty, others panned her and her “art” (as her work/performance art was derisively described in one review).

In my opinion, most of these responses completely miss the mark. People seemed to love Girlvert, or hate it, because of how it made them feel about their lives and choices and the choices of others. But these love/hate reactions are nothing more than readers/critics overlaying their own issues on top of Oriana’s story.

Girvert might be amazing prose or shitty text. It might be delusional or raw or glamorizing or just plain stupid. But none of this matters.

What matters is that Oriana owns her experience, as she recalls it and as she has processed it so far. She doesn’t seem to “blame” anyone (including herself) for what may or may not have been any number of poor and/or brilliant decisions. In fact, you get the distinct impression that she’s fairly cognizant of her life’s path leading up to the ever-evolving place she’s in now. She doesn’t try to cut off the story with a happy ending like some do, nor does she claim to have moved past Ashley Blue.

It seems that Girlvert is simply a benchmark point in Oriana’s life, one moment in a larger process wherein she checks in with whomever cares to see what’s up.

Girlvert is a very different kind of memoir, not neat and tidy, not self-depricating or aggrandizing. It’s not a warning or an advertisement. And though I know there has to be some larger point to the book (like there is with every one of its ilk), I’m open to the fact that this memoir’s mission is simply… sharing.

(pictured: Oriana putting her hand down her throat, which is something she does during sex performances and, according to Girlvert, in real life as well)

Buy your copy of Girlvert (2011) on Amazon here.

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