What I've Learned
Sasha Grey: What I've Learned
With her adult film years behind her, Sasha Grey talks about growing up Catholic, coming into her own at a very young age, and pursuing new passions: acting, writing, and music.
IMAGE J.A. Tadena
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This was originally published in our February 2015 issue. 

Sasha Grey spins EDM in Hyve, and everyone bumps their fists and goes mad to the music. Sasha Grey voices arch-villain Viola DeWynter in the videogame Saints Row 3. Sasha Grey waits in vain for the man that could be her soulmate, trying her best not to betray her sadness, in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. Sasha Grey opens her mouth wide, wiping her eyes as 15 men ejaculate onto her face. Sasha Grey dedicates a whole chapter to the transcendental nature of come in her novel The Juliette Society. Sasha Grey emulates Throbbing Gristle with her avant-industrial band, aTelecine. Sasha Grey, the definition of a renaissance woman in the 21st century, talks to Esquire about her thoughts on love, sex and everything in between.


What have I learned about sex? We could be here all day. That’s what I’ve learned. Like most things in life, I’m willing to try almost anything once.

After I started my band aTelecine I started getting offers to DJ. I asked a few friends if I should bring my records and they said, “No, absolutely not. Everything’s digital now.” I thought it was interesting and I said O.K., I’ll give this a try. I bought a good mixer and I’d always just play around at home. But the mixer is key for me. I started to realize that not everybody was there for the band—it was a small piece of it, it was like people were there for me. So it was sort of a strange thing to be booked based on one thing and then have it evolve into something else.

I was barely 21, had hardly stepped foot into clubs, and I played a lot of music that I liked and played a lot of older music and it didn’t really work, so I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning.

I’m a Nacho Vigalondo fan, and I really loved Timecrimes. I heard he was working on a new film, so I asked my manager to get me a copy of the script. I read it, I loved it, and lucky enough for me, Nacho and his producer were coming to L.A. three weeks after I read it, which couldn’t have been better timing. He lives in Spain, so it’s not always an easy thing to get meetings. The producer liked me for [the part] and Nacho liked me for it, too, but I didn’t know if I got the part yet. Several months later they called me and they said the part’s yours.

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Working on [Open Windows] was one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever had, but in all the best ways. There were days shooting with 16 cameras on a green screen; most of the days as actors we were shooting alone, which was very very strange. There was a second assistant director reading Elijah [Wood’s] lines, or the antagonist’s lines, so it was very different from anything I’ve ever done before.

I don’t see myself as a filmmaker. A lot of people ask me if that’s something I’d be interested in doing in the future, but I look at people I admire and love the most, they all have a tone to their films that’s uniquely theirs, whether they’re classic or contemporary directors. My biggest fear is I don’t know if I’m a storyteller that way.

I don’t know if I have that ability to bring something unique to a film or to a story. I have that confidence as a writer for sure, but as a filmmaker I don’t know if I could or I would. And I don’t know if that’s something that scares me, actually.

In a Catholic household, you’re supposed to think this way and you’re supposed to take these steps, and this is how women should be. I had a lot of shame and guilt for my ideas and my fantasies and I finally came to an age where I said, “What the hell am I so afraid of?”

I have read [50 Shades of Grey]. It’s not my cup of tea. But I understand what it represents, and I appreciate that it brought awareness of BDSM into the mainstream.

I think my heart is in acting. And I think a large part of that is also because it’s the most challenging thing for me right now. Like with music, I feel like it’s similar to writing, in a way that everybody sort of accepts you no matter what your background is. It’s easier to navigate in these worlds than it is with acting.

Growing up Catholic, I think that there were fundamental things that shaped me and made me a better and tolerant person in all the positive ways. And I’m happy for that. But I also understand that it’s a tool used to control people and strike fear into people, and I don’t like that.

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I got to meet Tony Wilson of Factory Records before he passed. You know people always say you don’t ever wanna meet your heroes because they may disappoint you, but Tony Wilson lived up to his persona and mystique. He was just so cool, he was so sarcastic. His commentary was all-natural, he was just that way, and he spoke to you that way. And in a very intimate setting—there were only eight of us—we watched the Joy Division documentary in a private screening before it was released in theaters, and he was sitting right behind me. You can’t pay for an experience like that.

We were in L.A. one night, and I have this vintage Cadillac. And we were waiting for my friend to come down, he was DJing this night, he was going to get his equipment and we were in the valet zone of this hotel just waiting. And we were not paying attention, we were just playing with the music in the car, he’s in the driver’s seat, and I’m in the passenger’s seat, and then I just hear, “Well that is a nice car, what is that, a Cadillac?” And in slow motion, I swear, I turn and it’s David Lynch! And my jaw dropped, and I didn’t say anything but you could see it in my face. I mean that is just awesome, you couldn’t get more L.A. in all the best ways than that. He had like a bottle of wine under his arm.

I do believe in UFOs because I’m a person with a great imagination, and a person that likes to have faith in crazy things, and because I believe I saw one when I was 13. I was at a barbecue with my older sister, with my best friend. We were just bored at the swing set, sitting, and we looked up at the sky, and we saw three green lights, and then they would sort of stop and then come back. And then we saw something hovering, and it definitely wasn’t an airplane. And we were yelling at my sister to come over, and I don’t know if you have siblings, but my sister ignored us and then she came over and by the time she got there when we looked up and it was gone.

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I think sex is more of a selfish thing, but it can be a good thing, and I think we should be allowed to be selfish without having to be afraid of that or ashamed of that. And I think love should have great sex in it. But love is about giving to somebody else, and being less selfish, and trying to understand people better.

Money is such a weird thing. The best thing I’ve done with money—okay. Buying my Cadillac. I think that was my dream car since I was five years old and I finally got it. And now it’s a fucking money pit. It’s a bluish-purple ’68.

I would like to know what [men’s] real fears are. I feel like men have to always be so confident and so self-assured, even if it’s fake.

I discovered this [cure for hiccups] with my best friend. You have to sit cross-legged with your right leg on top. You have to take a deep breath, and with your left index finger and thumb, take a deep breath, hold your nose, take your pointer finger, and the little bone behind your ear, you have to rub that in circles, counterclockwise, until you can’t hold your breath anymore.

It wasn’t till I started reading different [kinds of] literature that they didn’t give me in school, and I started listening to different music, and started reading about different artists and what motivated them, [that I realized] I’m not weird, I’m not different, there’s nothing wrong with me. I said, “Wow, these people speak to me and I don’t feel alone.” I wish I could’ve found some of those artists when I was like 12 or 13.

In a way, [The Juliette Society was a little] bit autobiographical. I’ve had a lot of people who asked me to write memoirs. I’m way too young and I’m not interested in doing that. And this was a way for me to address some of those things without it being a memoir.

Sometimes it does feel that [we are regressing in terms of gender issues]. If you see the comments and reactions of people towards the women in Hollywood who had their photos leaked, it’s like nothing has changed. But at the same time, I’m not sure if that’s because these people are hiding behind a computer screen and it’s easier to troll. The scary part is, what if they really mean it. But I don’t know how far we’ve come as a gender, that’s very questionable.

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What have I learned about sex? We could be here all day. That’s what I’ve learned. Like most things in life, I’m willing to try almost anything once.

I’ve learned to love, learned to forgive. [I’ve learned] to have confidence in myself, learned to take holidays. And learned to say no.

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