2000-02-11 06:56:54-08 by Dan Lyke 1 comments
I got a flame yesterday over my notes on the Annabel Chong documentary where I compared the spectacle around the movie at Sundance last year to the excesses of sports and the attitudes that have caused the various Olympic scandals. I'd softened my attitudes about her (rather than the furor over the documentary) when I read the Amy Goodman Interview with Chong in Nerve (Nerve apparently doesn't understand the web, you'll have to enter that URL twice because they send you to their main page if your referrer isn't from them), but a New York Times interview of the documentary complains about many of the same issues I saw in the earlier media coverage. Now that I'm worked up about it I suppose that I ought to make an effort to see it somewhere.
[ related topics: Sexual Culture ]
comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous forwarded some notes on to me on this topic:
I just finished reading your online article about Annabel Chong and her 251-man stunt and such. I must admit that when I first heard about that, I had a rather queasy reaction myself, despite the fact that I generally am not all that shockable by sex acts, gore, etc. It inspired me to do a lot of reading about Annabel Chong (whose real name is Grace Quek), and subsequently about others in the porn business, and later about those involved in prostitution. Yeah, I know, it became a bit of a research project I guess; it's pretty interesting stuff in a way.
Anyhow, I'm not sure how much you know about Grace Quek, but the more I learned, the more I think I did understand her little feat, though of course I still think it was insanely risky on her part and was probably not the best way of handling her problems.
To make a long story short, Grace was a girl from Singapore who grew up in a conservative home with both parents being teachers. She attended an all-girls Catholic school for most of her life, then attended USC in the States for her undergraduate education, during which she majored in Fine Arts.
By the time she just passed 20 years of age, she was in London, attending King College Law School, in preparation to work at a job waiting for her at a respectable law firm in Singapore. Somewhere along the way, she started experimenting with massive amounts of drinking and frat-style orgies.
One evening, coming home drunk from a party, Grace was gang raped by three or four 20-something guys in an empty London Underground station. She remembers very little about it, but says there was a 12-year-old kid standing nearby who she remembers being quite shocked by what he encountered.
Of course, it affected her quite a lot, and she proceeded to then get involved with stripping in local bars and such. Ultimately, she dropped out of law school, moved to Southern California, and started stripping full time. She told her parents she was just taking some time off, so they didn't really know what she was doing.
As many strippers do, she ultimately got involved with the porn business in the Los Angeles area, and she became known as the Queen of Anal and was one of the most famous Asian porn actresses. When she was looking for a new video project to do at one point, her friend (using that term loosely) and porn producer whose name I forget suggested a big gang bang movie with 251 guys, breaking some record or other.
She says the idea immediately settled well with her, in retrospect she thinks perhaps because it gave her a way of taking back control over her sexuality that she had lost at the gang rape incident in the Underground station a year or two before.
You're correct that in reality there were only about 90 guys present, not the reported 251. But nobody claimed pornography was replete with journalistic integrity. All 90 or so guys were made to stand in line naked during the ten-hour affair. Most of them were just guys off the street who responded to ads in porn mags and such. There were likewise a few pros there that Grace said she recognized.
The movie was shot in five-minute sequences, during which two or three guys would all get around Grace while they jerked off and tried to cum on her. Some would actually penetrate, though she said that wasn't required. She claims she remembers having one or two orgasms during the ten-hour deal, but she's not really sure in retrospect as it all became something of a blur. She was able to get up every hour or so to stretch her legs (I suppose) and get some water or a snack.
Her so-called friend kind of botched one part of the deal in that he didn't actually check to make sure all the guys had clean recent HIV test results as he promised Grace he would do. Luckily, she did insist that they all wear condoms, much to her friend's dismay since he said it would make the video more difficult to sell in Europe. She says there were a couple bodyguards near her who would handle anyone who got out of line or tried taking off his condom.
In retrospect, she admits that it was pretty risky, and she says that at 26 she now feels her mortality every day, in her words. I'm only 21, younger than she was when she did the video, and I guess I already at least recognize my mortality a hell of a lot more than she did at my age. Personally, I think the whole gang rape incident and a few other things I've read about her from her past put some major bats in the belfry, and I'm not convinced that she still doesn't have some problems in dealing with all of her past.
She's tried committing suicide a couple times, though she's either sought help or been stopped. She's also had a few problems with drugs, though she claims this isn't a serious problem in her life. She also feels she's lucky that her past hasn't left her with a ton of STDs and such, though of course as many are asymptomatic for some time, it wouldn't surprise me if that's not entirely true.
Last I recall from back when I read up on this stuff, she had some gay transvestite guy that was her, well, boyfriend, or something like that. She's out of the acting part of porn, as she feels it's too "risky" and such, so she's now in the producing side of it. One of the things she says she doesn't like is how so many of the girls in porn are always loaded up with drugs and such to numb their minds during the long shooting hours and rather unsatisfying sex. In one interview, she seemed to recognize that there's a little bit of herself in every girl she sees on the other side of the lens now that she claims is, "screwed up."
On a side note, you're likely right about most of the sex involved in pornography. As I studied the industry in a broader scale, I found out several interesting things about it, including the fact that very long shooting hours are not uncommon. And to top it off, guys are required to remain erect during most of the shoot, which many guys admit kind of puts a damper on their real sex life and ultimately drives them out of the business, which quickly turns into a chore and less of an exciting fantasy. Grace Queck once said something along the lines of, "Porn sex is kind of odd. It's not really sex for pleasure, but rather sex for visibility."
Oh, one other thing. It's interesting that Grace seems to be rationalizing out all of her "work" by claiming that she's part of the feminist movement, by rejecting the stereotype of women as having to always prefer romance and intimate, monogamous relationships, whereas guys are supposed to always be polygamous playboys.
In other words she doesn't like the double standard that a lecherous guy is a stud while a lascivious woman is a whore. Of course, I can't really say that I agree with her tactics, and in any event, such "causes" will always end up being cyclical and rather futile in the end. For instance, if she succeeds and it suddenly becomes expected for a woman to seek many sexual partners in extreme conditions, then the next big thing would be for the next line of "feminists" to demand that women remain chaste and virginal, to counteract the stereotype that all women are sluts. Que sera sera...
Anyhow, thought you might find the above interesting. Enjoyed reading your essay quite a lot, for whatever purpose you wrote it and put it up on the web.
in a subsequent message, he added:
Yes, Annabel Chong and several other prostitutes, porn performers, and others in the so-called "red light industries" have left me rather baffled after my studies of their interviews, writings, etc., as well. There is no truth at all in the idea that all sex workers are simply, "dumb sluts and bimbos," that are just too stupid to realize the risks of their occupation or are just sex-crazed nymphs or anything like that.
I can't say that I really a much better understand of the "typical sex worker" now than I did before my research, because there really doesn't seem to be one. No more than there is a "typical bartender" or "typical engineer" or an archetype of any other profession.
Regarding what I wrote to you earlier, I'm glad you found it interesting. Another detail I recall that I can't remember if I sent you was that Grace is also a chain smoker. Now I have nothing against chain smokers or smokers in general, but I think that might be a clue about her personality and general character.
To briefly explain, the thing you might notice throughout all of her interviews and writings is that to the very end she will claim to have full control over her life, including and most especially her pornographic and sexual pursuits. Note that she also has worked as a stripper and lap dancer at various points in her life, though she claims she has never been a prostitute. I'm not quite sure what her definition of a prostitute is, but I can assure you that it's most likely much more precise than the definition in most peoples' minds.
In any event, she will claim to have full control of her life to the very end. She says everything she does is a, "calculated risk," and that she is willing to die for the experiences she's had. And at first, this cogency in her message was very convincing to me. But while I could be wrong, I'm afraid my last impression and conclusion is that in reality, she seems very much like the chain smoker who knows the risks of heart disease, cancer, birth defects, and all the rest that come with smoking, yet who until the very end will claim that there isn't enough proof of the ill effects of smoking or that he can quit at any time or that he really only smokes for social reasons and not because he's addicted.
I'm not quite sure I would go so far as to say that pornography or sex or anything else in particular is an addiction with Grace. I simply have no way of knowing as all of my knowledge of her only comes from what she chooses to reveal through her statements and actions in the public eye. But I will say that it seems to me that she was very dramatically affected by the gang rape in the Underground station when she was 22 years old, and she has never been the same since.
In fact, in one interview I read of hers, the interview actually asked her if they could talk about the gang rape (very few interviewers did broach that subject). Much to my surprise, this was the only thing that she explicitly refused to talk about, as nearly all the rest of her life and physical body is open for the world to see, at least in a way.
But when she was asked about the rape, the interviewer commented on how she flinched a bit and quickly said, "Can we not talk about that too much? It's still very painful for me, and I would rather talk about other things," or something to that effect.
I do not have the least doubt that she was telling the truth. I had thought in my own mind well before reading this that surely the rape must have been a very profound part of her life. And indeed I think her response made me even more certain. Not one other subject was ever brought up--from Grace's personal thoughts on anal sex to the relationship she has with her parents in regards to her career--that ever caused her to back away from telling the whole story as she saw it.
In the end, the only thing she did say about the rape was a brief description of what happened and then a suggestion that perhaps her decision to become a stripper and ultimately to do the gang bang scene was an attempt to take back control over her sexuality and her sexual power over men. She wanted to turn the tables more in her favor, it seems.
And now I personally feel she's reaping the psychological consequences for all that has happened in her life in the last several years. She's clearly a very bright girl, and a very tough one at that to be able to put up with all she has as well as she has. But I can't help but get the feeling whenever I read the interviewers' descriptions of her appearance and whenever I read and reread her comments that deep down there's more on her mind than she's admitting.
Obviously, I wouldn't want to hazard a guess as to precisely what that is, as I am neither a trained mental health professional nor a personal acquaintance of Grace. But there seems to be something there, and I think that if that something were really explored, it would reveal that she's not really quite as much in control of her life as she claims, in several ways. Again, I'm being purposely vague here, as I can't really put my finger on what she's thinking.
But I really do think that her comments on the intellectual properties of pornography in regards to homosexuality and feminism and other such comments are really somewhat analogous to the snide remarks regarding clinical studies of the link between cancer and smoking made by the lifelong smoker. Rationalizations for past and present behavior, in other words. That's just a guess, though.
If you would like, feel free to post on your website any of the comments above or in my past e-mail. Though I would like to note here that all of my factual comments regarding Grace (aka Annabel) were typed from memory, so some dates, places, and orders of events might be a bit off. But any readers may feel free to check the details themselves, and I trust they'll find that the essential details are present and correct. Likewise, of course, my opinions of Annabel are simply that and are not based on any sort of professional psychological analysis or anything of that sort.
Finally, I would prefer that if you do post my comments that you do so anonymously. Of course, if it wouldn't be too difficult, I would appreciate being informed of any comments from anyone else who might know more than you or me on this matter. Other than that, do with my comments what you will. Glad you enjoyed them, and yes, I definitely enjoyed reading your website, as well. You've actually inspired me a bit to perhaps one of these days get together some of my thoughts I've typed out over the years and stick them up for anyone who's interested. Ugh, that sounds like a project, though! ;-)
Sorry to bother you again, but one more thought I had was as follows:
Though I don't at all want to minimize the likely severe effects on her psychological well-being that the gang rape in the London Underground station had on Grace, I think that this traumatic event was likewise combined with another troubling thought in Grace's mind. I believe that for some reason she was forced to admit that up to the point that she was attending law school, so much of her life was already planned and completely beyond her control. She had had little to do with her position in life in reality, and in a way she wanted to gain some control.
She says over and over again in her interviews that she is trying to avoid doing the things that every middle class Singaporean girl is expected to do. Thus she continues to work as a stripper and porn actress and director. She chain smokes, does drugs occasionally, associates with transvestites and homosexuals, and generally flaunts as many conservative middle class conventions as possible. But ironically enough, the very fact that she is doing all of these things given her background makes it simply all the more obvious that in the end, she really is simply running away from her past full speed ahead, even if she is aware that she is doing it.
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