The nude photo leaks are a strange thing for Sasha Grey, who is currently promoting a new film, "Open Windows," about criminal voyeurism. She has become a role model for sex positivity, especially as her visibility has increased since leaving the adult film industry. As Grey figures out what it means to call Hollywood home, the 26-year-old has found herself acting out a far darker version of the twisted celebrity culture she stumbled upon outside of pornography.
"Open Windows" was filmed in November of 2010, so this is all, as Grey put it, "bad timing and a terrible time for women on the Internet."
Grey plays Jill Goddard in the film, a starlet terrorized with spying and torture seemingly with the end goal of getting her naked in front of a web cam. Much of the fear is propelled by a disembodied voice rather than anonymous 4Chan and Reddit users, though the whole thing feels like a funhouse mirror reflection of the leaks which began to unfold at the end of August.
"In terms of my own privacy ... I never want the world to see me as vulnerable as one can be."
In real life, Grey is an interesting counterexample for the leaks, specifically the ongoing insistence of some that certain stars (read: Kim Kardashian) are more "deserving" of this crime than others. Enter Grey -- who has had people tweet at her with tongue-in-cheek inquiries as to whether her own photos will be shared in a upcoming round of hacks. You might think her past work in adult films would inoculate Grey to the invasiveness of "The Fappening." The reality is that every woman involved in this scandal is a victim, even if their body is already visible in some corner of the Internet.
"Obviously, I have no problem doing nude scenes. But in terms of my own privacy, no matter what, I never want the world to see me as vulnerable as one can be," Grey told HuffPost Entertainment.
"First and foremost, the serious answer to all of this is that no one deserves to have their privacy invaded," Grey continued. "The idealist in me wants to say this is why we should be more open sexually, because they we wouldn’t have so many hang ups and we wouldn’t be so afraid of these things happening, because we wouldn’t care."
Grey faces quite a bit of stress managing the distribution of her own non-private images. There are plenty of times when photos turn up without her permission. Remember when she thought she was in the "True Detective" credits, and it turned out it wasn't her? She still thinks it is.
"I’m not gonna lie," she said. "I still do think that was an amalgam of me. I mean even my mom called me like, 'What the hell is this?' You know, there’s Photoshop magic, and I can take the Prince route and get pissed off every time my photo is used or manipulated or made to look like me or I can just let it roll off. That was an instance where it was really strange, but what am I going to do? Sue the creators of 'True Detective' and HBO?"
There is only so much Grey or anyone can do to control the use of their likeness. She has plenty more to worry about, like the mounting artifice of celebrity culture, which is far more complex than anything she had to deal with in the adult industry. After all Grey has seen, one of her reactions to the nude photo hacks was to wonder how many people were involved in it themselves.
"You know, there are so many planned things where people leak stuff and act like it’s an accident," she said. "But they were really behind it and they hired a publicist."
"You know, there are so many planned things where people leak stuff and act like it’s an accident, but they were really behind it and they hired a publicist."
She's dealt with that kind of thing quite a bit, most egregiously fielding requests for staged dates. "Publicists of people contact me through my publicist or my manager and say, 'Yeah, would Sasha be interested in going to dinner with so and so, and being photographed? Then, who knows, maybe they’ll end up getting along!'"
It's strange to hear the lore of Hollywood acknowledged so explicitly, but Grey is past the pageantry. "It sort of feeds the culture of people who like that kind of news and that kind of gossip," she said. "They like to believe in these perfect relationships. You know, you’re in Hollywood, you’re walking around, you’re going to nice dinners. It's all sort of part of the game."
Another thing Grey finds frustrating about the Hollywood "game" is the paradoxical way we treat women's sexuality, the contradiction of restricting and indulging in it at the same time. She refuses to perpetuate that double standard, and the choices she's made reflect that. For example, she has a nude scene in "Open Windows," but she was only willing to do it because it made sense to the story.
"I’m definitely less inhibited, but there are a lot of scenes I say no to, because they only depend on my sexuality, and I’ve already pretty much done what I’ve wanted to do," she said. "So, there’s really no reason for me to take on these roles where it’s only dependent on my sexuality and there’s no character. I would rather not act again."
Not that Grey is trying to erase her past as a porn star. She couldn't if she tried, and Grey is far too smart and aware of the permanence of the Internet to even bother. As for the female celebrities who are maybe less enlightened than Grey, her only advice would be to use their platform to make a change.
Sighing over the gender differences in celebrity culture, she suggested that current victims reach out and "make the situation clear in order to educate future generations."
"It’s sort of hard for me to define myself as a feminist, but I definitely do believe in women being strong and self-empowered."
There's a lot to be done on the path toward liberation and away from the kind of misogyny that allows these leaks to happen in the fist place. Grey's thinking is certainly part of that progress. Yet, she wouldn't call herself a feminist.
"I’ve always sort of struggled with that idea because the word feminist has become such an overused, watered-down term," she said. "Some people think of feminism and they think of women who are so far left, they don’t wear bras and the only way they can get attention for women’s rights is being naked. Then there are women who are so far right they’re the exact opposite, and believe in very conservative, tight morals and ideals."
While that might have been a good time to spit out the Beyonce-approved definition, on some level, Grey already lives up to the point Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is trying to make. "It’s sort of hard for me to define myself as a feminist," she continued, "but I definitely do believe in women being strong and self-empowered."
"Open Windows" is available on VOD now and in theaters on Nov. 7.