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'Insatiable': One Woman's Love Affair With The Porn Industry

By NPR Staff | 05/11/2014

Asa Akira had a happy childhood. The daughter of an upper middle-class family, she attended private schools in New York City and in Japan, where she lived for six years as a child.

"I'm from a very normal family," she tells NPR's Arun Rath. "My parents are still together; nothing dramatic or traumatic has ever happened to me."

After high school, as her peers started careers or went off to college, Akira decided to pursue her dream job: porn star.

Akira says even from an early age, she was both comfortable with her own sexuality and interested in the sex industry.

"For me, being in porn was just the ultimate fantasy," she says, "to turn people on and be this kind of sex symbol." In New York, Akira met people who worked in the sex industry, and within months she had flown to Los Angeles for her first pornographic role.

Now, six years after she made that decision, Akira has written a memoir. The book, Insatiable: Porn — A Love Story, is not for the puritanical. A hypersexual narrative of the author's experiences making adult films, the memoir is itself pornographic. Its tone is celebratory, because Akira sees her career not as a descent into objectification but as a rise to celebrity.

"A lot of people might look at it as a downward spiral," she acknowledges, "but for me, I really do see every step as a promotion."

Still, Akira is in many ways conflicted about her chosen career. First, there's the money. Pornography has long attracted young women desperate for fast cash, but Akira came from a stable financial background and says she doesn't do it for the money.

"To be honest, if porn were a regular-paying job, if it just paid a regular salary like any other job, I would still do it," she says.

However, she acknowledges that money was one thing that hooked her early in her career. As an 18-year-old, she was paid thousands of dollars upfront for striptease acts or short film scenes. "I had never held cash like that in my hands before," Akira remembers. Her pay only increased, as she rose to become an industry celebrity.

Akira acknowledges that her positive experience in pornography is not necessarily representative. Many women fall into the sex industry because they feel they have nowhere else to go, or they're forced into it by abusive men. Drug addiction is very common, and many women who have left the industry say the culture is one of emotional, financial and physical exploitation of desperate young women.

As the title of her memoir suggests, Akira is happy to be a porn star. She doesn't feel her work is degrading or exploitative.

"I don't really see anything degrading about living out a sexual fantasy," she says. "I see it as empowering."

But Akira also says that when she chose a career in porn, she "knew it would ruin my life forever." Her profession could limit her options for the future; the social stigma that comes with being a porn star means she will likely never hold a regular job or be able to work with children.

One of the toughest questions Akira faces about her future is whether to start a family. She wants to have children, but she is concerned that explaining her work to her kids would be difficult. Her husband also works in pornography.

"I think it would be a lot to put on a child," she says.

As for whether she would allow her own daughters to pursue a career in the sex industry, Akira is unsure. "It's a really hard question, because if I knew in my heart that, say, my daughter was getting into porn for the same reason I was getting into porn, I would say definitely go for it," she says, "but ... how would I know that she's in it for the right reasons?"

For Akira, the "right reason" for her own career has been that she enjoys her job. It's fun. If that changes, she says, she'll leave pornography.

"I don't think you should ever sell your body for just money," she says. "It's not worth it."
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