Sinner Takes All
Tera Patrick is the unrivalled queen of self-promotion. Sinner Takes All, the latest ware from the Patrick production line, is a book so shameless in its celebration of all things Tera that upon surfacing it comes as a surprise to me to discover that the world has not yet been plastered with pink glitter and Hello Kitty paraphernalia at her behest. Even more so that she is in fact not ‘the world’s number one porn star.’
Still, despite Tera’s slightly skewed sense of her own importance, it is fascinating to read how little Linda Ann Hopkins, a gangly child who spent her time ogling Playboy pinups and baffling school bullies with her unique brand of ‘wit’, becomes the calculating first(ish) lady of porn. She was whisked out of school at fourteen to model in Tokyo, where she out-partied a group of older girls, got addicted to valium, and seems shaky on the details of losing her virginity to a photographer twice her age. From this first sexual experience onwards, Tera’s tales of erotic conquest explore the importance of being in control and setting rules – elemental to her success in the porn industry. In an anecdote illustrating her pre-porn love of the limelight, a fireman boyfriend whose heart’s desire is to fuck her in front of his colleagues is told ‘They can watch, but they can’t jerk off’. Arbitrary, it may seem, but Tera takes control.
This is central to the power she wields when filming and doing business: ‘I have my rules, I play by them, I make others follow them, and the consequence is that I don’t get hurt…I won’t put myself in any scene that I don’t fully enjoy doing, and I always make sure my movies are beautiful.’ There are some scenarios (specifically double penetration, spitting and head-stomping) that she simply refuses to shoot, with the result that porn ‘is empowering for me, not degrading’. The notion of ‘empowerment’ when attached to female sexuality, particularly with regards to women in the sex industries, is vastly overused, and is rendered conceptually empty. But, if it can be applied appropriately at all, it is here: Tera laid down the law early in her career and has reaped the financial and professional benefits, becoming a powerful force in the porn world. She is one of very few female porn stars to run their own production companies, and remains the second richest porn star in the world.
From the vantage point of her success, she muses on the debate surrounding the role of women in the porn industry:
People say porn is degrading to women. I’m no fool. Of course, porn can be degrading to women. Some pornos have scenes in which a man steps on a woman’s head…It’s not one I’ve ever done because, to me, it is degrading. Double and triple anal isn’t for me either. Putting two or three cocks in a woman’s ass is solely about degrading her. One is enough for me.
Tera limbos under the feminist bar at a low notch. For some, the existence of porn in itself is enough to degrade women. For Tera, three cocks and a head-stomping merits a raised eyebrow. It is refreshing to be reminded of the subjectivity of this discussion, so often hysterically reduced to absolutes.
After Tokyo and some drifting, young Tera goes back to school to get a nursing degree. It may interest readers to know that Tera’s nursing experience also turns out to be surprisingly helpful during her subsequent career: one unfortunate photographer unexpectedly steps through the crust of an active volcano and Tera, putting her training to good use, decides he may need a little TLC. Thoughtfully, she ‘was very gentle with him because I knew he was in a lot of pain and wouldn’t be able to do much. I did all the work. I climbed on top of him and used him like the sex kitten I was’. Tera kindly gives his brother a little ‘mouth-to-mouth resuscitation’ too. (It’s handy when you can bring your transferable skills to play in a new job.) Unfortunately, ‘between being interrupted by his brother and being in pain from his injured leg, the photographer never got off. And he was not happy. I felt bad.’
Anecdotes such as this are the most entertaining element of the book. The writing is often terrible, despite a ghost writer’s efforts, but Tera has an interesting life and has a (sometimes unintentionally) amusing turn of phrase. This could be improved by a continuity editor, as she often outlines the unbreakable rules on which she built her career, and then gaily breaks them within pages. But, while Tera’s memoir is emblematic of all of my personal annoyances – the desire for, and worship of, fame above all else, badly ghostwritten celebrity autobiographies, all consuming egos – I found myself growing incredibly fond of the big-boobed bombshell. It’s impossible not to feel some affection for a woman who, on failing to bring to orgasm a man who has had his leg burned in a volcano, optimistically decides that ‘you can’t please everyone. But I certainly pleased myself.’
Sinner Takes All by Tera Patrick, with Carrie Borzillo; Gotham Books; ISBN 978-1-592-40607-4; Avaliable in paperback from 24th March 2011, £12.99