Quantcast
All photos by Heather Sten

'Anal Queen' Asa Akira Is Having a Porn-Life Crisis

Erica Euse

Erica Euse

We spent time with the immensely successful porn star to talk about her new memoir, where she's headed in the next phase of her life, and how to properly prepare for butt sex.

All photos by Heather Sten

"I am going to read about a three-way. Is that OK with everyone?" asked Asa Akira to a crowd of fans as she cracked open a copy of Dirty Thirty, her new memoir. She was standing in front of a microphone at Blue Stockings, a radical feminist bookstore tucked in New York City's Lower East Side, with her petite 5'2" frame hiked up by pair of tan Louboutin heels and her long black hair stick-straight despite the sweltering August heat. "It was either the [threesome] or the time I thought I was a hermaphrodite."

At 31 years old, Akira isn't just a budding author, she's one of the biggest names in porn. In addition to penning two well-received books, she has starred in more than 500 adult films and thousands of scenes that float around the internet on tube sites. Her work in front of the camera has earned her dozens of awards, including the Adult Video News's (AVN) coveted Female Performer of the Year in 2013 and Best Anal Scene in 2011 and 2012, not to mention she's often referred to as an "anal queen." After interviewing her two years ago about her first book, Insatiable, for VICE.com, I quickly realized how pervasive her fame was, even among people who don't watch porn. Any casual mention I made of her to a girlfriend would be followed by, "I think my boyfriend masturbates to her..."

Despite all of her success, Akira's life has reached a crossroads. When she first started out, like most women who enter the adult industry, she only planned on doing porn for a couple of years. Instead, she's been in the business for more than eight. As she enters her 30s, she's been forced to think more seriously about her future and whether or not it will involve porn or having kids.

When she isn't dishing about masturbating on nightclub stages or cleansing her bowels before anal sex, it is this sense of uncertainty around the direction of her next chapter that fuels her writing in Dirty Thirty.

"I wrote a bunch, and it all just seemed to have this underlying theme of turning 30, being a woman, and aging—but not knowing what the next step was," Akira said to me. "Whenever I quit porn, I'll be starting at square one again—I am going to be where all my friends were ten years ago. I don't know if I want to have kids, so that is a huge issue right now in my mind, too..."

Akira's inner turmoil is fueled by the stress of aging, which is a struggle for many women in a society that fetishizes youth. American ageism is only magnified in an industry like porn, where—despite niches like milf and mature—your overall value goes down as your years go up.

The quandaries of her quarter-life crisis are also a reflection of the pressure society puts on women to be mothers. Even someone like Akira, who decided early on that she didn't want children and wanted to focus more on her career, is impacted by our culture's limited notions of womanhood.

In Dirty Thirty, she addresses this, saying, "The same way I knew if I had never done porn, I would've looked backed and regretted it forever; I knew that if I never had a child, I wouldn't feel fulfilled in life." But even if she ultimately has children, she worries how her choices up until this point will impact the lives of her kids, who will have an "anal queen" for a mom.

"It's kind of a hard thing to talk about because I know people who are in porn who have kids. I don't judge them at all for it, and I think they're actually doing a really good job. But at the same time, I remember when I was a kid that every time I'd fight with my parents I was always like, 'Well, I didn't ask to be born!' Which is the brattiest thing to say," she said. "I think ultimately that's what I'm afraid of. That once my kids learn that I've done porn and kids at school tease them about it, they're going to be like, 'Why the fuck did she have me?'"

To Shira Tarrant, a women and gender studies professor and author of New Views on Pornography, the internal conflict Akira is facing over how her sexual history might impact her ability to be a mother is a reaction to the societal "slut-shaming" that all women face. "It is a form of bullying," Tarrant said to me. "It starts very early, and we internalize those ideas. It is a form of social control over women's bodies and sexuality."

In a time when pop stars like Beyoncé proudly throw around the word "feminist," and Hillary Clinton could become our next president, it's hard to believe that women still feel the weight of these dated gender norms. But with Dirty Thirty, Akira bravely reveals that even empowered and liberated women who willfully defy patriarchal conventions are not immune to the baggage of entrenched sexism.

Dirty Thirty's mixture of the literary and the profane is nothing new for Akira. In her own way, she's always been a memoirist, chronicling her erotic exploits. Growing up, she documented all of her teenage sexcapades in her diary, up until the day her mortified mom discovered the secret text and read intimate details about the boys she had been fooling around with.

Akira was in tune with her sexuality at an early age. But like most young women, she grew up in an environment where she wasn't able to express it openly.

"Our culture tells girls growing up that they should be desirable, but not desirable on their own terms," said feminist educator Shira Tarrant. "If you dare to be desirable on your own terms, [you get] the cultural smackdown."

It was these relentless "cultural smackdowns" that filled Akira with guilt over her sexuality. "I definitely grew up with the shame of, 'Oh my God, I am not supposed to masturbate, but I can't stop doing it!'" said Akira. "I've done it for as long as I can remember, and I don't know why. I wasn't like fingering, but I would touch my clit, and I knew it felt good."

Akira's curiosity about sex persisted, despite her family not being open to discussing the topic. Akira still doesn't talk about her porn career with her parents, even though she speaks with her mom every single day.

In Dirty Thirty, she touches on how this sexual repression can impact the psyche of young women and where it emanates from. "A young girl taught to suppress her sexuality learns that there are parts of herself that she cannot express, that she cannot enjoy," she writes. "Either way, we are both being taught that women are not equal to men, that women are not allowed the same luxuries as men when it comes to sex."

As a someone who finds immense joy in sex, her progression from a young girl who was in tune with her sexuality into a woman who could command and wield that sexual energy on camera happened fast. Interested in getting into the adult business, she started working as a dominatrix in a dungeon in Manhattan at the age of 19. From there, she became a stripper, dancing for dollars at Larry Flint's Hustler Club in Manhattan. Her next phase was doing cam-girl solo masturbation shows on the internet. She finally started shooting her first adult films in 2008 at the age of 23.

Akira's first ever boy-girl scene was directed by Gina Lynn, a porn star who's in the AVN hall of fame. The scene co-starred Lynn's then husband Travis Knight. After taking a three-hour bus ride to Pennsylvania from New York City, Akira went through makeup, snapped a few promo shots, and finally mounted Knight cowgirl style in the couple's bedroom while Lynn operated the camera.

"It felt so natural, like it didn't feel like this big defining moment," she said. "It felt almost like when I am on set now. I was really happy, like, This is definitely what I want to do." Four days after shooting that scene, she was on a plane flying out to LA to embark on her legendary porn career.

One thing that people often assume about actresses in porn is that they are victims being exploited by a misogynistic industry. But Akira has made it known throughout her career that pornography is something that she loves making, and it was that passion for her profession that gave her what she needed to reach the top.

For industry insiders like anal porn legend John Stagliano, her rise was undeniable and obvious from the very beginning. It came down to how much effort she put in. "She worked really hard," said the founder of the Evil Angel, a film studio that helped fund 2009's Pure, one of Asa's first AVN-nominated films. "She is a unique Asian girl who is really good at doing major lead roles. She is also unique because of her smarts."

Although her star was rising, Akira's big break came in 2010 when she entered into the world of anal sex. At the time, she had no intention of ever putting a penis in her butt on camera because it was the one thing that she wanted to save for a man who she loved. Her previous experience with anal sex was an uncomfortable, unfortunate situation where a sweaty dick accidentally penetrated the wrong hole. But Akira started to open up to anal sex after dating a guy who liked to be pegged. The ecstasy he felt as she fucked him piqued her curiosity.

"I did it with this guy, and he was really good at it because he gets fucked in the ass. He knew all of these good tips and how slow to go," she said. "Most guys I don't think even know, they just think it is another hole. He was really good at it, and I was like, Oh my God, I love this."

She went on to shoot her first anal scene as part of a showcase movie for Elegant Angel. The scene featured Akira in a three-way with two other men, one being her future husband Toni Ribas. It was meant to be her first vaginal double-penetration scene, but she felt so turned on during the taping that it quickly evolved into her first anal performance.

"I was like, 'Fuck it. I will just do it.' I was like, 'Just put it in my ass.' And they were like DPing me, and it was the best feeling ever," she explained. "That changed me, it changed my whole outlook. It made me just go into things with a more open mind... It was really a life-changing moment."

It wasn't long after that first scene that porn fans started to call her an "anal queen."

Akira's foray into anal couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Anal sex and ass play were becoming less taboo and more trendy. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 39 percent of women and 44 percent of men aged 15 to 44 experimented with anal sex in 2011. That's a significant increase from the 20 percent of women and 26 percent of men aged 18 to 59 whom the CDC reported on in 1992.

But it wasn't just the rise of anal sex that helped catapult Akira to the forefront of porn. As a performer, she brought something unique to the table.

"[With vaginal sex], it is much easier to fake it and not be into the act," said John Stagliano, who's widely known as "Buttman," to me. "Anal sex is hard to do. Some people physiologically just can't do it comfortably. It is a genetic thing as much as a mental thing. But the mental thing is really interesting to watch, to see someone overcome that and go through the pleasure and the pain of anal sex is very powerful." Akira's performances clicked with fans because they could tell that the pleasure she exhibited on the screen was real.

Today, Akira's brand is so synonymous with anal, she's asked to teach classes on it. She hosted one in August at the the House of Scorpio in Brooklyn, where a horde of eager fans purchased tickets to hear how she prepares for scenes. At the class, the star divulged her process, which included everything from cleansing her insides with an enema, rubbing coconut oil on her asshole, and drinking fiber-filled psyllium husk. It's instances like these with Akira that remind you that although what she does—whether it's with porn, books, or business—may look easy, there's a great deal of work and determination behind it.

"When I started doing anal porn, I was like, I want to be the best at this. I really like things I am good at, and I think as soon as I saw that I was good at porn—whatever that means—it made me say, 'OK, now I am really driven, now I want to win all of the awards.'"

As I sat in the crowd at the Bluestockings bookstore, during Akira's reading from Dirty Thirty, I saw the audience get entranced by her as she laid herself bare—this time, not through her flesh, but through her words. Following the reading, Akira answered questions from the audience. A man sitting in the back yelled, "You're not going to stop doing porn until you're 80 right?" Asa laughed and said, "Yeah, I am going to be like that," pointing to a cartoon of an elderly woman in a bikini hanging above a bookshelf. But the reality is that Akira doesn't know when she should or even if she could quit making porno films.

On the one hand, the industry has given her so much. Akira's net worth is estimated to be more than $1.5 million, making her one of the richest porn stars in America. But unfortunately there are struggles that come with her line of work in our society, especially as time goes by.

As Dirty Thirty outlines, now that she's in her 30s, Akira feels she is at a tipping point, where she has to reconcile the life she's led as a porn star with the life society would want her to lead as an older woman and a mother. It's unfortunate and unfair that this binary exists, even for sexually liberated business ladies like Akira. But what's so brave and bold about her is that she doesn't try to pretend that she's above or beyond this struggle. Her unguarded exploration of it in her writing and public life is powerful, real, and relatable.

"On one hand, I am so proud of what I do. I am proud that I am in charge of my sexuality, and I have done it despite what the majority of society thinks I should be doing," she told me. "But I am super aware that because of the way the world is right now, I have ruined a lot of things for myself. I have closed a lot of doors. It would be a lie to say that didn't sadden me."

Follow Erica Euse on Twitter.

See more photos by Heather Sten.

Asa Akira's Dirty Thirty was published by Cleis Press in August 2016. Purchase a copy.