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Story of the Day Replay: Penny Flame Speaks Out on Montana Fishburne

from – Some say Montana Fishburne got just what she wanted. Attention. The sort of mainstream attention she said she was seeking in the way that Kim Kardashian has achieved.

She has done the media circuit —some wondering why with the familial connections she had would she resort to porn, others lauding her as an empowered “post-racial” woman, others reminding her that as a black woman she doesn’t have the sort of liberties a white woman would to pursue porn because of the stereotype of the over-sexed black jezebel. Some say she’s too lazy to pursue a “serious” acting career, others think she has “Daddy issues.”

While there seems to be a level of coercion from her “sponsor” Brian Pumper (though they both deny it), it’s the kind of self-exploitation that’s baffling, particularly considering the connections she must have in the acting world.

It’s common for young people who have run away or are living on the street to become a part of the sex industry. According to the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, over 70 percent of young people who live on the street will eventually become victims of some form of commercial sexual exploitation.

But that’s not Montana’s story. Her father is Wilford Robinson, he’s Dap, he’s officer Russell Stevens, Morpheus, Furious Styles, I mean damn, he’s Othello. She wasn’t really fumbling for loose change as a kid.

Most recently Montana has said she got into the industry simply because she likes sex. Probably about 99 percent of the population share this same passion, but not as a paid career.

So we talked to two people who work with Fishburne’s new employer, Vivid Entertainment, the world’s largest adult video producer. Like Montana, both lived fairly privileged lives before getting into the industry and got the kind of recognition that Montana is seeking.

Jennifer Ketcham [aka Penny Flame], a former porn star and film director for Vivid Entertainment made it into the mainstream as a reality star on Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew on VH1.

Ketcham realized on the show that she suffered from sex addiction, and after the show quit the porn industry. She thinks Montana needs to seek therapy.

Tristan Taormino, a Wesleyan grad, and current film director at Vivid, thinks what Montana is doing is sexually empowering and is thrilled she’s coming to Vivid because women of color are desperately needed in the world of porn (well, that is sort of true..).

But at what cost? Her porn past will always follow her, even if she has a level of mainstream success like Heather Hunter (the first black actress to sign with Vivid). And will it cost the relationship with her father?

Laurence Fishburne’s friends tried to buy up all of Fishburne’s porn DVDs for a million dollars hiring famed attorney Yale Galanter to make the offer to Vivid Entertainment. But still, it got out.

So today we talked with Jennifer Ketcham about what makes young girls go into the business when money isn’t the issue. Tomorrow, TristanTaormino will talk about how she believes Montana is making the right decision.

Q. What drives girls that don’t need to do it to prostitute themselves or do porn?

A. I was in the porn business from 2001 until April 2009 and I climbed the proverbial pornographic ladder, did girl/girl and boy/girl and produced my own things.

It may have started after my parents divorced I cut my father out of my life. A missing father played a large role in it. I didn’t feel like I had a right to have feelings so it was easier to numb my feelings. This wasn’t what my parents did, this is just the way I internalized what happened.

Q. So financially your family was fine?

A. I didn’t have money coming out of my ass, we weren’t millionaires, but we did well. I had another job before I started doing porn, I was working as a hostess which is what I’m doing now which is kind of karmic retribution.

Q. When did you realize it was a sex addiction?

A. April 2009 I think there a lot of misconstrued ideas about sex addiction, when you think sex addiction, you think Tiger Woods f-ing everybody which has very little to do wth it. Its using people in a sexual way to numb yourself. Using my sexuality to manipulate situations to get what I think I need from people in a way that’s super shady and not authentic.

Q.What’s the distinction between someone who’s a player and someone who has a problem?

A. One person is doing it because he thinks it’s cool and the other person is doing it to validate his existence. When I quit being Penny Flame, I had no identity outside of my sexuality. I had no coping mechanisms, not only could I not process my emotions, but I couldn’t identify them. I had spent so long using sex as a crutch to deal with reality and it’s a shame based disease you do things cause you feel shame and usually those things make you feel more shame and it just compounds and feels heavier and heavier. There’s a breaking point, there’s various things that happen in childhood that plant the seeds for this kind of behavior for this kind of addiction.

Q. What was your first thought on Montana Fishburne?

A. Could you imagine trying to pursue a career in mainstream acting if your Dad is Laurence Fishburne? Those are hard shoes to fill. Its hard to follow up on that. My immediate thought was she’s taking the easy way out. When I got into porn it was because I always wanted to be a Playboy model and I was like I can try to be a Playbody or I can do nude layouts and be guaranteed to get paid. That guarantee played a big part in the end. Its guaranteed success. Especially because of publicity she could get by being his daughter. This is more spotlight than she’s ever had. He tried to buy back the tapes for a million dollars.

He officially put a value to her, which isn’t something he intends to do. She’s gone out of her way to get attention. If she didn’t want attention she would have done something in the bedroom with her boyfriend, uploaded it to redtube or one of the other free porn sites. She wouldn’t have gone to Vivid. Vivid is where you go if you want people to know. That’s where I went. That’s where you go if you want to be known. She could never have filled her father’s shoes, no matter how great she could have been. Even if she came close it wouldn’t have been enough in her eyes. That’s not to say in his eyes, but in her eyes she wouldn’t have. She could do something totally on her own path, totally defiant, when you’re 19, you’re not much for swimming with the rest of the fish.

Q. Do you think her relationship with him played a part?

A. I don’t really know. I idealize him that he’s a Hollwyood actor, he probably spends a lot of time on set, but then again I don’t know. On the other side of that coin, I also convince myself he’s made enough money when they go on vacation that should be sufficient.

Q. How hard is it to make the leap from porn to mainstream?

A. I think it’s a common notion among porn stars that its possible, even if it’s not something that they would ever say out loud, but it’s in the heart of every porn star. Everyone thinks someone will be watching this and be like Sasha Grey.

Q. Did you at the time?

A. Yeah it was in the back of my mind, like maybe this will open some doors but being out of it, its like that’s the last thing I want to do, its hard enough to go from being a porn star to being a regular person that works as a hostess, its just a huge jump.

I think there are a lot of girls who don’t know how to get positve attention who end up in the industry, it’s like the kids who don’t get hugged enough so they act bad in the supermarket so they get hit cause thats the only kind of physical affection they get. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of individuals in the sex industry are addicts. It takes a certain disconnect and a certain lack of intimacy to be able to have sex for money. It takes more disconnect to convince yourself that you’re a star. You’re just a really good prostitute, you have just convinced yourself that you’re a star. There’s a lot you have to convince yourself of in order to do that kind of job. I have awards from porn, and its not an Oscar and I’m not convinced that it is.

Q. What do you do now?

A. I’m in bi-weekly therapy sessions, in a relationshop. I make $10 an hour, live in a one-bed guest house, I drive a bicycle, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I made as much money as a girl without a college education could make. I’ve driven every car I want to drive, lived in every house I want to live in, at the end of the day this is exactly where I want and need to be.

Q. What would you tell Montana Fishburne?

A. I’d say she should start going to therapy now. Of course, if this is something she really wants to do, who am I to tell her not to. But selling your body for money has consequences, if you’re unwilling to address those consequences, they will show up in your life later on. Whether it’s her Dad not being down with her anymore, whether it’s her not being able to develop healthy intimate relationshops, whether it’s her ending upon the street because the movie didn’t sell. If she wants to get positive attention from people there are positive ways to go about it.


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