I love porn stars.
Over the years, I’ve developed friendships with many adult actresses, whether it be through Van, the odd junction between Streetwear and porn, or simply because to be able to say something like that – well, it’s not as rare as it once was. Nowadays, porn stars are literally the girls next door and hardly live up to the preconceived stereotype of abused, fatherless, drug addicts. Instead, they can be well-educated, career-minded, and have healthy relationships with their dads. In an era where celebrities are made off sex tapes, social media has smeared the line between selfie and self-objectification, and hardcore porn stars like Sasha Grey can handily transition into mainstream Hollywood, the stigma of being in adult just doesn’t bear the same scent. Plus, my porn star friends are some of the coolest, strongest, most resourceful people I know. Maybe it’s the nurture of the practice or the nature of the performer, but their confidence and fierce independence are hard to match. Also, boobs (JK).
I remember when Giant Robot issue 14 came out probably more than a decade ago now, and Eric interviewed Asian porn pioneer Asia Carrera for the magazine. At the time, that was a pretty big deal. First, to read an objective journalistic approach to an adult industry professional. But also to see Asia as a MENSA-minded Rutgers graduate, breaking all sorts of socially constructed boundaries fencing in Asian-Americans. It humanized her and gave my people new dimension. Also, BOOBS. JK.
Asa Akira is a popular Asian-American porn star in the industry today, for those of you pretending like you don’t know who she is. And like Asia, she is also affecting how the world understands Asian-American women. As Dave Choe’s co-host on the DVDASA podcast, Asa has had just as much reach with her clothes on than any filmed gangbang could achieve. Her latest endeavor is Insatiable: A Love Story, a collection of true short stories from her 28 years as a sex icon.
Asa came by The Hundreds Homebase last week to catch up. We toured the landscape from sex-addled childhood to Streetwear dudes and their daddy issues…
Me: When did you move here? How old were you?
Asa: No, I’m from here. I was born in New York. But my grandpa was a diplomat and they were stationed in New York when my dad was 17. And then when the family moved to the next country, my dad just stayed and he met my mom, who was here on an exchange program or something for college.
Do you have siblings?
No, I’m an only child. That’s why I’m so jealous of, like, twins and stuff (referring to Bobby’s assistant Katie and her sister Lizzy). I’m so lonely. I’m like eternally lonely.
But you’re married now.
I’m married and I’m lonely.
You’re still lonely?
I’m so lonely!
What does that mean?
I don’t know.
Are you being serious?
I swear to God. I’m a very lonely person. Even growing up, I was never around a lot of kids. My parents—my dad’s a photographer and my mom runs a not-for-profit – they were cool and always taking me to bars and stuff and…
Yeah, but not like in a gross way. They were these hip parents. I was like a Williamsburg kid. Like one of those now, but back then. Where it’s like “Oh, we’ll just take our babies everywhere.”
Isn’t that kinda crazy for first-generation Japanese (Issei) to be that way?
Yeah, but I think that’s why my parents are so accepting of the porn thing now. I think they would obviously rather I do anything else pretty much. My dad’s an artist. My mom came to New York when she was young. So, they went through that whole thing where their parents weren’t happy with what they were doing and they were kinda rebels back then. So, I think that helps, because traditional Japanese parents would probably disown me.
Asa’s just signed a new contract under Wicked. We talk about how much – and how hard – she works, to the point of bordering nervous breakdowns… Aside from her shooting schedule, her brand has exploded into other arenas…
And then do you have other means of building income? Like, do you merch out your—
There’s a lot—like, shooting—I think when you first get into porn, your main thing is you’re making money from shooting the scenes. But obviously if you want to make an actual career out of it, you’re working toward the things that’ll make you money. You want that to be a small part of your income.
Like I have a Fleshlight, which is like an athlete getting a shoe. I have my website, which makes me money every month, whether I shoot for it or not. And then I just did the book. I’m trying to do other writing jobs, which have been really cool, and which pays surprisingly way more than I knew.
I thought it was impossible to make it as a writer.
Last month, I almost paid all my bills with just writing gigs, and I was super impressed with myself.
I also feature dance. That’s a big part of my income. I go dancing once a month.
For porn girls, hooking is a big part of it too, but not for you?
I’ve done it twice, and I wrote about it in the book. It just wasn’t for me. Like, not in the sense that I was scared and I felt like I was taken advantage and I felt dirty or anything like that, but one of the guys I saw, I ended up really liking him (laughs).
And I was like, “This is it. This is my freakin’ moment.” We went to Hawaii together and everything.
It actually started turning into something?
Well, no. In my mind it was turning into something, and I did the Hawaii trip for free, and I thought we were like…
This is really like Pretty Woman.
Yeah. I thought this was gonna be a Pretty Woman situation. And then it wasn’t.
He’s like, “You’re a fuckin’ hooker. I paid a pimp to fuck you.” He didn’t say that, but he said it with his eyes.
While you were wondering, “Hey, is this kind of turning into something?”
We never had an official talk. Even when it was ending, or toward the end of the “relationship,” he was like, “So, how much longer do you think you’re gonna do porn?” And I think that’s when it just really hit him like “Oh, she fucks for a living.”
Why don’t people see that from the beginning?
I think it’s just easy to forget, I guess. I mean, every relationship—almost every relationship I’ve been in since I’ve been in porn —in the beginning it’s like “Yeah, I’m fucking a porn star. This is awesome. My girlfriend’s a porn star.” And then once they fall in love, it’s like “Oh, this is all of a sudden so not cool anymore. My girlfriend is fucking other people every day.”
I mean, I understand it. I think it sucks and it’s kind of hypocritical because they knew what they were signing up for and then all of a sudden they were backtracking, but at the same time you can’t help how you’re gonna feel and you don’t know how you’re gonna feel once you’re in love or really liking someone. So, I get it. And this is what I signed up for too, you know. I knew going into porn I wouldn’t be able to have everything all the time.
The other time I hooked was the CEO or CFO of a huge company.
How did you get linked up with him?
He was seeing my friend, who’s also in the business, and that was actually the first time. And she was like, “Hey, come with me.” And I was like, “I don’t do that. I’m not interested.” But then he was like, “5 Gs for 30 minutes,” and I was like, “Fuck that. I’ll go. Who cares? I’m gonna go hang out with my friend and have sex for like two minutes. Yeah, perfect.”
And then I saw him a couple times, but then he was trying to convince me to fuck him without a condom and it just got weird, ’cause I was like, “Eww, that means other girls are fucking you without a condom. That means…” It just made me feel really weird.
In late 2012, Asa married Spanish porn director and performer Toni Ribas…
Me: How did you meet your husband?
Asa: In my first DP scene.
So, he’s a performer also?
He’s mostly a director, but he also performs and he—
How does that happen? You’re just like, “…heeeey” ?
In porn there’s something called shooting content or trading content, where I have my website, he has his website, and if we’re like, “Hey, let’s trade content,” it means we’ll both do the scene for free, but we both get to use that scene on our respective website, production, whatever. So, after the scene, I was like, “Ooh, I really like this guy?” Which happens…
…more than you would think, actually.
When I’m shooting, a lot of times I do feel an emotional connection and I’m like, “Ooh, I kinda like him,” but it usually doesn’t last. By the time I’m driving home…
But you still feel an emotional charge during the scenes?
For sure. ’Cause it’s different. The first time you shoot with a guy, there’s this element of, like, “Oh, we’ve never met and now we’re fucking and I kinda like you,” and then there’s the guys that I’ve been working with for years and there’s just a certain kind of love I have for them.
So, I requested him for a scene ’cause I knew he was in town, and then it was actually supposed to be just a regular three-way vag scene, me and two other guys. And then I was so turned on that it turned into an anal scene and then it turned into a double penetration scene just ’cause we hit it off so well.
Yeah, during filming.
But I thought filming was always the unsexiest thing. Isn’t that the myth?
Not for me. I’ve definitely been on sets where it is very unsexy, where the director is like, “OK, now go to doggy style. Now go to missionary.” But this particular set was not like that, and it was just like “Just do whatever you want.” And then after the scene I was like, “Hey, do you want to shoot content for our Web sites?” And I called him the next day and I went to his apartment and we fucked.
Me: Let’s talk about the book.
Asa: It’s insane. I never thought I would write a book. I love reading and I love writing and I’ve always kept a journal and stuff. Of course it’s like “Oh, it would be cool if I could write a book.”
Is the book a memoir?
Yeah, it’s a memoir, but… Do you know David Sedaris?
Yeah, of course.
It’s written like that. Essays, and they’re not in chronological order. It’s not an autobiography. It’s just a bunch of true short stories.
And are they all related to working in adult?
No. I mean, I definitely also wrote about being in high school or just random stories. I would say half of them are about porn, my time in porn, but most of the stories have a sexual undertone. It’s not erotic fiction. It’s not exactly the kind of book someone would jerk off reading—or maybe they would.
It’s not all sex.
Has that sexual undertone always been a running theme in your life?
…since as far back as you can remember?
Definitely. I’ve always been obsessed with sex, and I don’t know why.
I’ve been masturbating ever since I was really young, like really young, before I could even cum. And I remember being really little and my mom would catch me masturbating all the time.
Like elementary school?
Oh, way younger.
Like three. Really young. And I remember there was a period of time where my mom—when she tucked me into bed, until I fell asleep she wouldn’t put my covers on me because she knew the second the blankets went over my shoulders, I would start masturbating.
How did your parents react to that?
Sexuality is something that’s not shunned in our household, but it’s not talked about at all. When I was in first grade, I remember I checked out a book from the school library about how babies are made, and I made my dad read it to me. And I remember he really didn’t want to, and I remember my mom being like, “Don’t make it a weird thing.” So, I think they definitely wanted it to be a normal thing in the household. At the same time we’re not the kind of family that’s like, “Oh, I was fucking this guy last night.” That conversation would never happen.
And then when you decided to work in the industry, when was that?
I can’t really pinpoint an age when I knew I wanted to work in the sex industry, but I was always really drawn to it. I thought strippers were really cool. I grew up listening to Howard Stern, so I was like, “Slutty girls are the best.” And I’m sure a lot of it is an attention thing. I think early on I learned that sexuality will get attention of boys, and I’m sure that really stuck with me. I was always the first girl to give a blowjob in my grade and the first girl to have sex. And I knew that this was something that worked to get people’s attention and get people to be interested in me. So, I’m sure that was a big part of it.
What about the negative repercussion of that? Did that ever bother you? Most girls don’t behaving like that because they’re like, “I don’t want to be a slut” or “People are gonna hate me.”
For some reason it just didn’t bother me. If anything, I welcomed when girls were talking behind my back like “She’s a slut” ’cause to me, girls talking shit about me was worth getting the positive reinforcement from the guys.
I’ve always been really drawn to guys. And not that I don’t have girlfriends, but the urge to impress a guy is way greater than the urge to make a girlfriend.
Do you ever psychoanalyze that and make it about your relationship with your dad or—
I’m sure. I mean, I think the longer I’m in the sex industry and stuff, I realize I really think all girls have daddy issues and all boys have mommy issues.
I think all boys have daddy issues also.
My thing is that in my industry, every guy in Streetwear or anything that’s kind of related to the street culture, they all have daddy issues.
And in porn, all guys have mommy issues. All guys in porn have either poor relationships with their mom or are too close to their mom. Just kind of weird, or their moms are dead.
So, Streetwear’s opposite?
Streetwear’s opposite where I had a terrible relationship with my dad. Or people who just grew up mostly without dads.
Guys kind of grew up without a father figure, and so they’re always looking for a dude’s approval and validation. So, if you go to a Streetwear party, it’s just all dudes checking out each other’s shoes and posturing and trying to wear the coolest clothes for other guys. And they’re totally fine with there being no girls.
That’s so true though. All these Streetwear parties, it’s always a sausagefest.
If that happens in normal life, it’ll bother straight guys. They’d be like, “Dude, this is a sausagefest. Let’s get out of here.” Streetwear parties, it’s like, “I don’t care. Let’s get wasted.” All these dudes hanging out alone. It’s really homoerotic and strange.
Even skate culture.
Yeah, skate culture too. It’s very intertwined.
Which makes you guys so appealing to us, ’cause even growing up, I remember the skater boys never gave a fuck about us. We would go watch them in the park and we’d be sitting there all day watching you guys, and it’s like—
We don’t care.
—we don’t exist. Like all you want to do is skate and we don’t even matter.
Me: What are your five favorite books?
Asa: Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk.
Oh. I don’t really like his stuff.
I think his books are really hit or miss.
Yeah. And I’ve read way too many misses, so I gave up on that guy.
Read Invisible Monsters. It’s really fucking good. I really love American Psycho. I love that. I’ve probably read that the second-most after Invisible Monsters.
I’m really liking this new guy named Chad Kultgen. He wrote The Average American Male and The Lie. All his books are good. He only has like four or five out and they’re all really good.
I read a lot of fiction, then I love anything like David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs. I love those guys. I’ll read anything they write. Even if it’s horrible, I’ll read anything. And then I really like Agatha Christie a lot.
Have you ever read anything by her?
No. Should I?
It sounds really boring, right?
Like, really boring, but her mysteries where the detective is this guy, Hercule Poirot, they’re so fucking good. The whole time you’re guessing who—they’re all whodunits. Really good. And then…
I think that’s five.
Yeah, I think that was five.