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Between the sheets: Gay porn star Aiden Shaw does little to illuminate his life in memoir 'My Undoing'


Washington Blade - July 7, 2006

Celebrities generally promote themselves using one of two strategies. Either they aim for a humanizing effect, portraying themselves in unflattering, everyday situations with which the reader is meant to identify (think Britney Spears' recent interview with Matt Lauer) or they try to up their "cool" factor by, for example, showcasing their bling (think "MTV Cribs"). The same goes for celebrity autobiographies: essentially, they are calibrated to make their subject seem either more or less like regular people.

The popular British porn star Aiden Shaw, in his new autobiography, "My Undoing: Love in the Thick of Sex, Drugs, Pornography and Prostitution," tries to find a middle ground. Intensely aware of his sexy-cool image among gay fans, Shaw structures his narrative, which is based on the last seven years of his life, around sensational, drug-fueled situations meant to confirm the notion that gay porn stars do not lead dull lives. As he notes in his introduction, "I've cut out not the sex and drugs and what some might consider the extraordinary parts, but rather the domestic stuff that actually takes most of my life." Because a desultory string of orgies, rock concerts and parties does not a good story make, however, Shaw insists, per the title of the autobiography, that what he really wants - despite what his reckless behavior might lead us to believe - is love. Looking back on the first of many relationships he chronicles in "My Undoing," he muses, "I was unconsciously determined to prove that prostitution hadn't fucked with my head too much to have a lover." The sentiment itself is provocative enough - after all, who hasn't wondered how porn stars manage to balance the demands of their chosen profession with a desire to settle down - but coming from Shaw, who by turns pursues and is pursued by literally scores of men, it seems disingenuous.

THE LIFE OF Aiden Shaw is rife with elements that should, in theory at least, arouse interest in him. In addition to starring in adult films, the man who Index Magazine called "the thinking man's porn idol" acts, writes and sings (his band, Whatever, features prominently in his autobiography). Raised Catholic, Shaw turned to the sex industry at an early age and was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1997. "My Undoing" opens with Shaw calling off the action mid-scene when his condom slips, threatening to break.

Rather than use his HIV status to make insightful commentary about the progressiveness of the modern porn industry or about how the perception of disease tempers celebrity, Shaw folds it into the dangerous cocktail of drugs and sex that appears to rule his life. Even if he scores points for his brutal honesty, he squanders the opportunity to add depth to the Aiden Shaw readers see onscreen.

At times, the author is downright oblivious to his own life. The book's singular cause for reflection (a roadside accident in 1998 that paralyzed Shaw temporarily and rendered him immobile for many months) does not shake him of his old habits or bring about change. Indeed, the incident only plunges Shaw deeper into drug dependency. As such, any hope of narrative appeal is lost, for the hero does not learn from his mistakes.

"My Undoing" has its reflective moments where Shaw's unique perspective is welcome. Offering unexpected tenderness, he observes, "As a rule, men with my needs didn't break through their fantasy of me. I could shout, 'I want to be held' and it would fall on deaf ears." This and other revelations about the disconnect between the image projected by a porn star and his real-life persona illuminate a man who perpetuates artificial standards of machismo in the public realm even as he falls short of those standards in his own life.

Too often, sadly, "My Undoing" abandons insight for shock value. The result is an autobiography that reads like the diary of a lovesick teenager who happens to have a voracious taste for sex and an insatiable drug habit.


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Information in this article was accurate in July 7, 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.