Porn: Now Even More Surreal at the AVN Awards

Bewildering sights, sounds, and truly disheartening Jenna Jameson rants at this year’s Vegas extravaganza

So long, Las Vegas: I'm home from the annual AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, and I've got the Vegas Cold—the same one that everyone seems to catch, no matter how many times you smear Purell on your mitts. And though it may be the haze I'm in from my codeine-laced cough syrup, I could swear the show this year was—well, strange.

Some might say the whole thing is a bit odd to begin with: an enormous convention space filled with booth after booth of larger-than-life-size posters of porn stars and their tinier-than-you'd-expect actual selves, signing autographs for fans who have been standing in line for hours. But after you've circled around a half-dozen times and been bombarded by imagery ranging from anal sex to talking dildos, it all feels pretty normal. The convention floor was notably less crowded than last year, and booths looked eerily as they did in 2007. Shane's World opted for a huge tour bus instead of the working hot tub it had one year—better for hygiene concerns, but worse for the environment, right? Arrow Productions used classic cars to promote old-school titles like Deep Throat. Some company called Fyre TV went the literal route, parking a fire truck in their booth. But hands down, the Best Presentation award goes to the Australia-based website AbbyWinters.com, which erected a curved Astroturf course that featured fresh-faced girls making out whenever I passed by, swapping so much saliva that they've all gotta have the Vegas Cold by now.

AbbyWinters.com is known for making porn filled with amateur "girl-next-door" performers, and their girls opted to meet fans in T-shirts, jeans, and demure makeup instead of the usual uniform of Lucite-heeled stilettos, stretchy fabric the size of a headband, and too much liquid foundation. I loved the irony of real, natural women set against a backdrop of fake grass; its understated simplicity contradicted the in-your-face smuttiness around it. But it symbolized a deeper meaning for me about the entire adult industry (again, might be the codeine talking here): the uneasy tension between the real and the artificial. In fact, I've always wondered what it's like for fans to meet their favorite stars and see them for the first time under harsh fluorescent lights after four hours' sleep. Might put a little damper on the fantasy.

Year after year, only one part of that fantasy is accessible to porn aficionados: the women. The porn industry believes that female performers are the stars and the ones who sell the movies—a mentality reflected in Vegas by booth after booth featuring only women to greet fans. In fact, there were only two dudes—Wicked contract star Randy Spears and the iconic Ron Jeremy—out signing autographs. (I'm not counting director Matt Zane, who attempted to break the world record for the longest flesh-hook body suspension at the Pleasure Productions booth. He couldn't hang by flesh hooks and sign autographs at the same time.) Porn studs never get any of the glory, and their fans miss out.

That's one reason I invited two of the guys from my movie, Chemistry 3, to join me as special guests and sign autographs at a cocktail party during the show hosted by Babeland. The store threw the bash to celebrate the release of the SaSi, a new high-tech vibrator that it distributes exclusively in the U.S. The party was an oasis from the usual overhyped events, and guests got to see the SaSi as they sipped martinis and munched on chocolate truffles with colorful drawings of anal beads on them. There I met the CEO of Sliquid, a lube company, and learned that green-apple-flavored lube was one of his biggest sellers. I also ran into the makers of a wooden dildo that I featured in my sexy gift guide, and they generously handed me one of their artful creations on my way out the door!

The convention concluded with the 25th Annual Adult Video News (AVN) Awards, which were not being boycotted by any writers' union because, shockingly, porn screenwriters aren't unionized. I walked the red carpet for the first time alongside famed director Paul Thomas, and I think people thought I was his girlfriend or something, which was highly amusing. I was excited to see how the show might be different this year, since it was being taped for Showtime for the first time. (It usually airs on the Playboy Channel.) Overall, the whole thing was pretty uneventful: Stormy Daniels's film Operation Desert Stormy was named Best Sex Comedy, and Daniels thanked the head of Wicked for "writing me a check to make this movie." Female Performer of the Year Sasha Grey cried and thanked fellow performer and director Belladonna for teaching her a lot. A scene titled "There Are Some Things Even an Asshole Shouldn't Attempt" (who knew porn scenes had names?), in a movie called Ass Blasting Felching Anal Whores, took home the prize for Most Outrageous Sex Scene. Like I said, no surprises really.

Then Jenna Jameson took the stage to present an award named after her: the Jenna Jameson Crossover Star of the Year Award. Before she announced the lucky winner, she said she wanted to be honest with everyone; I quickly craned my neck to scan the teleprompter, which was frozen. Indeed, she was off the script, rambling on about her new boyfriend, the tabloids, rumors about her weight loss, etc. She concluded with the bitter statement, "I will never spread my legs again in this industry." Way to really cross over, Jenna—into porno-hating land. People booed. Jenna is supposed to be the poster girl for porn success, the savvy woman who built an empire (which was recently acquired for millions by another empire, Playboy). Why did she sound so angry? And why would she make such a negative public statement? I happened to be sitting right behind Jay Grdina, Jenna's nearly ex-husband (their divorce is pending) and the CEO of Club Jenna, and a flood of people came over to pat him on the back and comfort him afterward. You would've thought someone had died. It was a moment of reality—at least Jenna's reality—that contradicted all we've seen from her before. I'm still not sure if it was totally spontaneous, or if she'd rehearsed her speech in the mirror. In porn, "real" is relative.

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