Ex-Porn Star Speaks Out About Sex Addiction In Porn

Former porn star Jennie Ketcham has written a memoir about her struggles with sex and cocaine addiction and her decision to leave porn for good. She says of her days in porn: “You don’t know people’s names, you just know if they have a clean bill of health and if they’re willing to sign a W-2 to take it up the a**.”

Jennie Ketcham, formerly known as porn star Penny Flame, was a contestant on Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, and is now the author of the memoir I Am Jennie, out July 10.

Can you talk about your decision to leave porn and go on Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew?

I decided to go to rehab [in 2009] because I thought it would really help my porn career. The way that porn works is you have to always be willing to give up more — you start with girls, and then you have to do guys, and then anal. It’s a progressive thing. Once you’ve done everything you’re willing to do, there’s nowhere else for you to go in porn. You can go into the business side, or you can escort, or you can go into stripping. I wanted to go into the business side, and I thought Sex Rehab would be a great promotional tool for me. But once I checked into rehab and couldn’t use sex or drugs or men or women or anything to numb myself, I realized I didn’t have the coping skills a woman of 26 should have. It was time to make some changes. And with all the feelings that started to come up during rehab it was obvious that porn wasn’t an option anymore.

What kind of feelings?

The awareness that I’d been using people and drugs and the industry as a means of numbing myself. The awareness that I had no marketable job skills at 26 — that was horrifying. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in porn. A lot of women in the business say they’re going to do this for a few years, and it’s going to get them to x or y or z. It’s always a means to something else. But it became really obvious when I was in rehab that I didn’t have anything else.

What was your recovery from sex addiction like? I understand you were abstinent for a period of time, but you aren’t anymore.

It’s just as unhealthy to go on not having sex forever as it is to have sex the way I was. So I define my sobriety around things that were unhealthy for me, like using my body to get things I wanted from men and women. My wardrobe changed dramatically in sobriety, from skirts that looked like belts to Gap jeans. I learned to have conversations that weren’t based around sex — asking people how they are, asking how I could be of service to them, and not in a sexual way, but just how can I help you make your life better today? I have been in a relationship since November 2009 — we made it official in the beginning of 2010 — and a big part of being in a healthy relationship for me is communicating. It’s really difficult because I have to be really open and vulnerable and honest, and a lot of times I have difficulty being honest with myself, let alone another human being. We don’t have any secrets from each other, and secrets were a big part of my old life.

Ketcham on Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.

When you met, did he know you’d been in porn?

The first night I met him, we were at a party and I was trying to flirt with him. I didn’t know how to flirt because I’m not good at flirting before I’ve had sex with somebody. I was talking about the weather or something, and [director] Duncan Roy came over and said, “She’s one of the biggest porn stars in the world.” But [my boyfriend] just said that everybody’s got a past, and it’s good that it’s behind you and you’re taking steps to get past it. He’s had his own journey and things he’s struggled through too — not porn or selling sex, but other obstacles he’s overcome.

Why did you decide to write the book?

I was inspired after I started my blog, Becoming Jennie. More than anything I started the blog so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back to porn. Then I got such a positive response to that from people who had seen my videos and people in the industry, and somebody approached me and said, “You should really write a book about all this.” That person was someone who had the resources to help me do so. I didn’t have the confidence to take that kind of thing on when I started blogging, but with support I could do it.

What do you think of discussions in the past few years about whether sex addiction is real?

It’s understandable that there are a lot of questions about sex addiction, especially because sex is something that’s paramount to our nature. We have to have sex. And in America you’re either virtuous and a virgin or you’re a total whore. It’s hard to talk about what healthy sexuality is because it’s difficult to talk about sex at all. So unfortunately the exposure sex addiction does get is related to cases like Tiger Woods and David Duchovny. Whether they are sex addicts is up to them. I think what’s good about that kind of exposure is people who are struggling with their sexual behavior, whether they identify it as an addiction or not, know that there are places they can go and people that can help you. I know that for me, the behaviors of sex addiction are absolutely parallel with alcoholism.

How common would you say addiction of some form is in the porn world?

I think it’s probably very common. I don’t think women would end up in porn for as long as they do if they weren’t chasing something else. Women can make $15,000 a month, and that’s plenty of money to live on. And you start looking into girls’ finances and talking to people at agencies, and it’s like, these girls can’t pay their fucking bills. I don’t know if it’s drug addiction or some other financial ruin behind it, but it’s pretty prevalent. But it’s not talked about, because a lot of things aren’t talked about. You don’t know people’s names, you just know if they have a clean bill of health and if they’re willing to sign a W-2 to take it up the ass.

Is it possible to do porn in a healthy way? Is it compatible with a healthy life?

There have been a few women that I’ve talked to that do seem really psychologically healthy. Like Nina Hartley, what an awesome lady. She knows what she wants, she’s very sex-positive, she’s in a healthy relationship. Women like that give me hope that it’s possible, but I’ve got to say that a lot of people that get into the industry are not Nina Hartley. They’re not as mature as Nina — I’m not just talking about age, she knows a lot about life and the way that things are. But a lot of people that get into the industry are 18 and just want quick money.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Porn actress Nina Hartley.

What would make porn better for performers?

I do think there are things the industry could do to create healthier standards, but I don’t think it’s likely because it narrows the pool of prospective performers. I think it could be good if we were to have psychological testing to make sure performers were of sound and stable mind and understood the consequences. But I think what would be more realistic in terms of providing a healthy environment would be for someone to provide psychological counseling for women in the industry. As it stands now there’s just no place to talk about the shit you experience as a performer, where you don’t feel like you’re going to be judged.

A lot of people say porn is bad for society — what’s your response to that?

Talk about a sticky thing to talk about. I try really hard to have no opinion about any of that. The truth of the matter is porn is not healthy for me to engage in. And a lot of people I know in porn, it’s not healthy for them. For the people I know personally, which is anecdotal but all I can really talk about, porn hasn’t been the best thing for them emotionally or psychologically. How that radiates into society I’m not sure. Tristan Taormino goes to a lot of lengths to make sure the people performing in her films are comfortable, and she likes to make sex-positive and female-friendly porn. I think it’s kind of awesome and super-hot to watch other people have sex, but the introduction of the financial exchange changes things, especially for the people performing. Maybe not for everyone, but it did for me. I’m sure there are people who can watch porn and it’s not a problem, and it doesn’t create false ideals of the women that they are with or would like to be with. But I don’t think people that have a healthy experience with porn are really going to be that into talking about how it’s totally fine. The squeaky wheel gets the oil — the people with the problem are the ones who talk about it.

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