Sasha Grey has obviously hit a nerve with a large segment of the population, many of whom either deify or condemn her for her raunchy, anything-goes displays as a premier porn actress. Grey is not only proud of her accomplishments in the adult industry but feels she opened doors for women and altered misconceptions and stereotypes of what a female porn star is or should be. Each individual (anyone of age and with a strong stomach, that is) can determine the value of Grey’s body of work.

Grey made her foray into adult entertainment at 18 and starred in hundreds of films doing everything from licking toilets to anything one might think of (or never fathom to think of). She retired at the ripe age of 21 and now 24, Grey says she never dreamed of her crossover success or planned on a mainstream career the likes of fellow ex-porn megastars Traci Lords or Jenna Jameson. She has several TV and movie credits, including a stint on HBO’s Entourage, makes music with her industrial music band aTelecine, published a book of photography and quotes called “Neü Sex” and has a novel coming out in May called “The Juliet Society.” Her newest project is an IFC thriller titled, Would You Rather. She sat down with ScreenPicks for an interview:

Sasha-Grey-EntourageDid you have a plan to transition into more mainstream projects when you started in the adult film industry or did it fall in your lap after Steven Soderbergh asked you to star in The Girlfriend Experience?

It is definitely all due to Soderbergh. Leading up to that I had just been doing a lot of press and getting a lot of buzz. Honestly, I think it had a lot to do with my age and I had goals within an industry that is looked down upon. After that film, I decided, “Why not?” I should try this and I should fight for it. And I had already accomplished a lot of the goals I wanted to accomplish within the adult industry and, in my mind, helped create a lot of change in terms of the perception of women in the industry.

Why do you think some people find it so hard to reconcile that an adult actress or even a woman who enjoys sex would want to read books on existentialism or any books, for that matter?

I think unfortunately there’s a stigma that plays in the industry. That stigma is that of the cliché of a junkie, an abuse victim, or a complete—let’s say—idiot who wants to live a rock n’ roll lifestyle.

You started out fairly young in the adult industry. What made you decide to do it? When you went into it were you planning to transition in the vein of Traci Lords or Jenna Jameson?

No, when I started I had spent seven or eight months researching the industry and I definitely wanted to build up a successful career for myself. I definitely had a goal to form my own company and distribute my own films but the idea of sort of being an international porn star/sex symbol was kind of a million miles away in my train of thought. I kind of wanted to change the perception of women in the industry by diving in and being outspoken about my views and the industry in general. And I think that, within itself, propelled into this crazy world. The things I set out to do, I really had no idea what kind of impact they would have on the scale that they had. I’m really proud of that, actually.

Do you own the rights to a lot of your films? Most adult actresses get paid a rate and are really working for other people’s gain.

Actually, I don’t. And that was something that I was aware of going into the business. It’s an unfortunate thing but it’s also—I’m glad I knew, because a lot of people get in the business and sign contracts and don’t really know or understand what they’re signing up for as far as rights to a product. Yeah, I knew that going in and that’s why it was important for me to form my own company. At the same time that I was developing a company, I was also getting a lot of offers for television and film so that’s when I decided to stop. I also had a falling out with a business partner in terms of creativity but for me it was either start all over and build a company from the ground up or I put my focus into acting. Especially at that time, there was no way I could really dedicate my time and become a better actor and also run a company 24/7. It was just impossible.

Sasha Grey in Would You Rather

Sasha Grey in Would You Rather

Among your peers in the adult industry there are few performers that stand out and cross over as readily as you do, besides maybe Stoya. Kids have you on their Tumblr feeds next to pictures of Valentine’s Day cookies. Besides your age and being willing, comfortable and happy doing most things other adult actresses wouldn’t, what do you think set you apart?

I think a large part of it had to do with, like you said, my age. I never embodied the stereotypical image of a porn star. I was never interested in that. Honestly, I was never even interested in the image of trying to look good and present this buxom bombshell image. I was just me. I wanted to present my sexuality in my own skin and not in the form of some prepackaged silicone ideal of what a woman is supposed to be. It’s quite evident if you look at my really early work, I didn’t care about makeup. I didn’t care about clothes–none of that–because that’s not what was important to me whatsoever. That was a huge part of it.

Going back to being outspoken and sharing my point of view on things—whether it be the porn or not—in general, relating to the fans, in the very beginning I didn’t have a publicist. I didn’t have a manger. I had a porn agent and that was it. I did as many interviews as I could on my own. I communicated with my fans on my social network sites. That’s really important. I said this seven years ago almost, there’s going to be a time when I can’t do that everyday, but I take it seriously. And I came home every day and I would spend three hours answering fan mail on the internet.

Do you think most people might consider a job in the porn industry a lot like a job as a grocery store clerk? You do it to make a living but if you had the option of doing something else, you wouldn’t.

I think there’s probably a point in time where that was true but now, I mean it’s the 21st century, and there’s a lot more liberated women that love sex and they love doing this. Yes it’s a career but they also enjoy their job. I met Asa Akira a few nights ago doing this podcast for David Choe. She said on the podcast, she started porn with the idea of opening up her own Bikram yoga studio in the future, but she hasn’t done it because she really enjoys what she does and she doesn’t want to stop. I think it’s great that we’ve now reached a point in at least that subculture where the women are really owning it and really proud of what they do, rather than being ashamed of it.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, what is one piece of advice you would convey to women in order to help them improve their sex lives?

That’s tough. Be more vocal. Take a little control and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Would You Rather is available now on VOD and will be released in select theaters on February 15, 2013.