Is porn a misogynist industry that preys on women? One female porn star doesn’t think so

Slate’s Amanda Hess reviews a new memoir from porn star Asa Akira that specifically seeks to counterbalance the view that the porn industry is misogynist and preys on vulnerable women. But even as Akira expounds and jokes about her enjoyable adventures as a porn goddess, Hess finds cracks in the wall that point to a darker underbelly within the industry:

Throughout, Akira scatters hints of more compelling lines of inquiry, but each time, we’re afforded only a brief glimmer of complication or vulnerability before the story collapses into giggles (or reaches orgasm). Akira’s tale of an ex-boyfriend who launches a new career as a gay porn performer teases at a discussion of the rampant homophobia in the straight porn industry, but instead focuses on barbs about how Akira pegged him with a strap-on. We hear all the gory details about the time she bled on a friend’s car seat after her second abortion, but the backstory is wholly absent.

The industry’s treatment of Akira’s race—as one of the few Asian stars, she’s routinely cast as a mail order bride, a masseuse, or a human sushi platter—gets particularly short shrift. “When I first started porn, I resented getting cast as the token Asian. Starring in Oriental Babysitters 13: Anal Edition was not what I had in mind when envisioning my career,” Akira writes. But then: “Over time, I’ve come to embrace it. It’s gotten me to where I am today, and it pretty much guarantees me work until the day I quit, since there is always a shortage of Asian girls in the business.” How Akira manages to pursue self-actualizing pleasure within these tokenizing scenarios isn’t explored. The racist slight is ultimately profitable, so that’s all we get.