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
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
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
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.