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Friday, March 23, 2001

Grace vs. Annabel

After seeing her many public and private faces in the film, I was wondering whether I'd be interviewing Annabel Chong or Grace Quek. As it turned out, I think I got Grace, in a sexy but elegant little black dress, revealing thoughts about what she was doing and why.

Grace Quek talking about her role as a porn star

Read on to meet Catherine MacKinnon's worst nightmare...

What attracted you to the idea of being the subject of a documentary?

Well, I thought it would give me a platform, it would allow me to have a voice. Because in the past I would be doing interviews with the adult press and I could say 20 million things in the course of an hour, and all they would print is three things: I like to have sex; I like to have oral sex; I like to take come on my face. [Laughs] Even if I don't say it, they fabricate quotes. It's just really frustrating. There were a lot of things I wanted to address with regards to the porn industry and my own motivations. So I thought it was worth taking the risk.

There are all these stereotypes of porn stars; they're almost like cartoon figures, action figures. And nobody really gets to see them as people.

Did you ever feel you were exposing too much of your private self?

Well, it was a very strange situation because the filmmaker and I got into a relationship. We didn't know where to draw the line between what was personal and what was for the documentary, so it got all mixed up and it created a sort of intimacy within the film that wouldn't have happened if he was just some guy following me with a camera. Of course it complicated a lot of things as well, but it gave the film an emotional charge.

What was it that pissed you off about that feminist theory class?

I wanted to challenge that whole idea in feminist theory that porn victimizes women. Because what about gay porn? Or lesbian porn, made by women for women? I wanted to challenge these theories and their own stereotypes about women as victims, which I see as being really sexist.

There are a lot of assumptions about what women want, what women like. And a lot of these myths are not just promulgated by "patriarchal culture," but by the feminists themselves. Women want loving relationships; they want vanilla, vanilla and more vanilla, right? I think all these stereotypes don't give women enough credit for just being complex.

The argument is that it's degrading for a woman to exploit herself, that we women should aspire to be something higher instead of living like dogs! But that puts women in the prison of the pedestal.

Was it more endurance than fun?

A bit of both. Like running a marathon, you have some rough stretches and then there are times where it's like running on air. A lot of it has got to do with the men. I tend to vibe to people, so if they come up to me and they're all neurotic about not having an erection, I get totally neurotic, too, really nervous.

I don't think I'd have been able to do it as a guy, I mean the pressure. Just imagine, failure is bad enough, but failure in front of the camera; your grandkids would be able to look at the video and say, "Oh look, grandpa's such a loser! He's fallen and he can't get up!" [Laughs]

Does porn increase men's tendency to view women as sexual objects?

Well, on one hand, yes, but I don't think it's possible to fantasize about anything without objectifying someone. Like for example, if I really like a certain lead singer in a band, when I fantasize about him, I'm not thinking about his talent and his sensitivity, I think about his ass! So there's always a certain degree of objectification going on, and people should acknowledge that.

But I do understand that there's an economy built around the objectification of women. We're trying to build up an "old girl's network" within the industry, so that people have information to empower their decisions. DV cameras are so cheap these days, a girl can afford one after doing just one shoot and start making her own stuff, start her own Web site, own her own image! And make money off exploiting herself instead of letting someone else exploit her. We want to be the Dogma '95 of porn.

What value do you place on your work other than the money?

I see it more like a journey: It's almost as if I'm immersing myself in this world for a little while, simply because it's like the polar opposite of the world I grew up in. Just to see what life is like on the other side. The porn world, for me, is such a playground of the id. If I have a certain fantasy, I just tell the director, and he'll create the set and let me play it out. For a while, I really made use of that to work out a lot of things in my head, personal demons and fantasies.

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