“My heart is a gypsy – continuously searching for a home, fighting within itself, wondering whether it is weak or even right for that matter to be searching in the first place. Lonliness is what it feels like…”- Jenna Jameson.
Regarded as a ‘household name’ in the adult film industry and a successful business woman, she is considered the ‘Queen of Porn’.
With over 100 films made between 1993 to 2008, 22 awards, and a business grossing 30million dollars a year, it would seem she has achieved the ultimate in fame and power.
But if we strip away the wealth, fame and glitz, who is the real woman behind the carefully choreographed sexual persona seen on film?
Until last weekend I had no idea who Jameson was – that was, before I made the mistake of watching Zombie Strippers (worst 10 minutes of my life – ergh). However, as a graduate of a psychology major, I’m always intrigued by how events in our lives lead to particular decisions, and I have been drawn in by the train wreck that is her story.
When attempting to find out what it was that made Jameson so famous my web browser immediately filled with all sorts of ‘visual’ examples of her ‘success’, but far fewer of who the real Jameson was.
Wife. Mother. Survivor of sexual abuse.
Stumbling across her early 2004 autobiography ‘How to Make Love like a Porn Star: A cautionary Tale (2004), I find myself shaking my head with horror as I read through her life story; a story filled with unfortunate tragedies, abuse and poor decisions.
Before Jenna Jameson became the ‘queen of porn’ that she is today, she was Jenna Marie Massoli, the daughter of a Nevada police officer and Las Vegas Showgirl who grew up loving ballet and dreamed of being a dancer like her mother. Sadly however, she was rejected from dancing as a showgirl due to height restrictions, and instead entered the world of glamour modelling and stripping.
At the age of just two, Jenna faced the first of many challenges to come when she lost her mother to cancer. With her father struggling to pay the medical bills from his wife’s illness, the family were forced to spend her early years living in a trailer.
Even worse to come however, were the events that followed in her teenage years. Multiple instances of sexual abuse beginning from when she was 15—which included being beaten and gang raped by four boys at the age of 16, and again the same year by her own boyfriend’s uncle – were quite clearly the beginnings of the downward spiral to come.
“I learned at a very young age I needed to fend for myself. I was always looking to preserve my life and what little happiness I had.” (Jameson, J., 2010).
The remainder of her school years were spent battling a drug addiction and issues with anorexia. The infidelity of her boyfriend when she was 17 was the ultimate catalyst that propelled her into the adult industry; a decision made out of retaliation.
As I sit here shaking my head in shock, so many questions burn in my mind. In particular I wonder just how many of her ‘fans’ would stop long enough to think – or even care – about any of this. Is her sexual identity the only thing we care about?
I can’t help but feel for this woman. I can’t help but feel that if only she hadn’t been the victim of such wicked abuse and betrayal perhaps she would have been a completely different person.
Rape is a horrible tool used to destroy a person from the inside out. Abuse is far from just physical, it changes your psyche, your thoughts, your soul, your dreams; everything.
It is no surprise that the porn industry is a house full of broken women who were victims of sexual abuse. Shelley Lubben, a former porn star who now runs the Pink cross foundation to help sex workers, has met hundreds of women in the adult industry who were abused as children.
“They get into drugs to numb themselves…they get their [bodies] ripped…and they turn themselves off emotionally and die” (Lubben, S., 2009).
It’s absolutely heartbreaking to comprehend.
The thing is, no one will ever know who Jenna Massoli may have been had she not had to endure such soul destroying experiences.
Jameson survived the horror of her youth in the sense that she found strength to keep moving, however the demons from her past have clearly continued to haunt her well into her adult life. I believe that her decision to enter the porn industry is in itself a continuation of the soul destruction inflicted from sexual abuse.
Victims of sexual abuse often feel such immense guilt that they subconsciously choose partners and lifestyles that continue the abuse. Despite the fact that they were not to blame, many still feel they deserve to be ‘punished’.
It is not surprising then, that these women choose a career that is centred around abuse.
Pornography celebrates everything that is not natural beauty, respect, true love, or reality. In her autobiography, Jameson explains the issues surrounding the negative self-imagery that the adult industry projects onto women and men; in particular, the celebration of plastic surgery.
“One of the most frustrating things about the film work was that the producers never wanted to put me on box covers. They all said my breasts were too small. My boobs were certainly big enough for all the men who stared at them every time I left the house. But they weren’t big enough by porn standards”. (Jameson, J. 2004, p160)
These women are presented to us as not as beautiful, intelligent, interesting beings who were designed to make a difference in this world, but rather as an easy fix for our sexual appetites, and a visual feast for our insatiable addictions. Disgustingly, sex workers are at times nothing more than a solution to men (and women’s) ‘boredom.’
Jameson is the first to admit that in this industry, you are nothing more than a product.
“These guys didn’t care about seeing a show. They just wanted to see some skin. So much for my delusion of actually being respected in the world at large.” (Jameson, J. 2004, p467).
There is no denying that when someone watches porn, they do so with the intention of sexual gratification. Let’s be perfectly honest, when a person watches Jenna Jameson they are definitely not thinking about all of the terrible things this woman has experienced, nor the physical pain endured to create the scene which some guy is currently touching himself to – because let’s face it, that would be a complete downer when you’re trying to get off.
But if we did stop to think of this woman with real feelings, real pain, as an individual rather than a sexual object for our own desires, perhaps porn wouldn’t be so worshipped.
The trouble is, with the overload of sexual images thrust upon us from an early age through music videos, film and magazines our society has become so desensitised that frankly, most of us just don’t care. As long as the song has a good beat, the video is sexy, or it makes us feel good then society says it’s okay.
And if you don’t agree, you get labelled some sort of religious prude.
Let me just be clear on one thing though—sex is not the problem. Lust is.
Sex is a wonderfully fun, sexy and intimate experience that has been ruined by society’s exploitation of its beauty. As American Evangelist Billy Graham wrote:
“Sex is the most wonderful thing on this earth, as long as God is in it. When the Devil gets in it, it’s the most terrible thing on this earth.” (2007. Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham).
Even Jameson herself, despite at times claiming that you can empowered in porn, has some very cold truths to share about the industry. Her autobiography is shockingly graphic, and at times hard to read, but above all it reveals the dark, lonely, abusive and psychologically damaging world behind the glitzy images.
Jameson reveals many disturbingly graphic instances where celebrities, industry people and everyday men and women abused her, or assumed that because of her career she must love nothing more than to be treated as a sex toy.
“Whenever we were together, he treated me like a princess. But in bed, the sex had to be dirty and he’d treat me like a slut, shouting obscenities and constantly trying to stick his finger up my asshole while fucking me, which is an acquired taste that I just never acquired…It seemed like in order to get pleasure during sex, he had to humiliate the woman; but it was impossible for him to humiliate the woman he loved.”- Jameson speaking about a former boyfriend (2004, p424)
Stop for a moment and think about this: if pornography isn’t destructive, then why does it require women to change their bodies, turn to drugs to numb the pain of what they are experiencing and be so brutally mistreated?
Forced to hold pose after pose for hours on end until their knees buckled, their backs bowed and they limped off set… these are just some of the brutal moments experienced by women in the industry.
Does this sound at all like something any woman would want; let alone gloat about?
Men—Is this the way you would want your sisters or daughters to be treated?
Jameson has achieved success, fame and ‘power’ in the adult industry, but at what cost has this come to her soul?
Along with Herpes, Aids and cervical cancer, miscarriage is another very common issue amongst women in the industry, one which both Lubben and Jameson have had to experience the heartbreaking consequences of. It is any wonder women’s health suffers so much? Our bodies just weren’t designed to be treated they way they are in porn films.
It is so easy for women especially, to hate adult stars such as Jameson. With her peroxide blonde hair, fake breasts and pouty lips all we see is another whore. Just like men, we see what the industry portrays to us.
So in my quest to find out who the real ‘Jenna Jameson’ was I delved deeper, taking the time to read her thoughts and to put aside my prejudices.
I found a few snippets on her website ‘House of Jameson’ that I feel actually revealed a little of the real Jameson. On this site there is no explicit adult content, rather it is a place where she can respond to fans questions; small things such as her skincare routines, to more personal questions about her strength through tough times.
I feel it is one of the few online spaces where she can be free.
Yes, Jameson has made some poor decisions. And as a woman I just can’t condone her belief that she has helped to pave the way for a cleaner industry, because every account I’ve read (including her own) has told of an abusive, cruel and dangerous world not made for humans. But I am horrified at what this woman has endured. I am angry about what this industry is doing to our young men and women today.
The only comfort I find is in the hope that more of these women will be given the chance to meet people like Shelley Lubben, who can show them just how amazing their life really could be, and just how alive they could feel once more.
As for Jameson, she has long since retired from the adult industry and has sworn never to return now that she has children. She has revealed passionately that if she ever had a daughter, she would ‘tie her in the closet’ before letting her enter the porn industry.
I just wish that Jameson had never had to see the inside of this world herself.
Written by Jas Swilks
To read more about the dangers of the adult industry, I recommend reading Shelley Lubben’s article, ‘Jenna Jameson’s 25 Good Reasons Why No One Would Ever Want To Become a Porn Star (2009, Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn).
QUICK FACTS ABOUT PORNOGRAPHY
- There are 4.2 million pornographic websites, 420 million pornographic web pages, and 68 million daily search engine requests.
- 36 porn stars died that we know of from HIV, suicide, homicide and drugs between 2007 and 2010.
- 66% of porn performers have Herpes, a non-curable disease.
- 2,396 cases of Chlamydia and 1,389 cases of Gonorrhea reported among performers since 2004.
- Over 100 straight and gay performers died from AIDS.
- 26 cases of HIV reported by Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), since 2004
- The largest group viewing online pornography is ages 12 to 17.
- More than 11 million teens regularly view porn online.
Graham, B. (2007). Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham. Harper One.
Jameson, J. (2004). How to Make Love like a Porn Star : A Cautionary Tale. NY: Harper Collins