Sex: The Annabel Chong Story (Gough Lewis, 1999)
A film titled Sex. It cannot get more explicit or sensational than that. Why choose to be so blunt and crude? In order to shock and attract viewers or because this documentary is actually about sex and other issues around this divine, ongoing controversial topic. Exploration of sexuality, satisfaction of sexual appetites, pushing all boundaries beyond the missionary position and claiming a woman’s right to enjoy sex as much as a man does is Annabel Chong’s story. A frank and profound insight into the personal journey of a young Singaporean scholar turned porn star Grace aka Annabel Chong who takes us to her hell and back in order to heal herself from the tribulations of her past and her oppressive ethnic background.
The documentary paints a bleak yet amusing picture surrounding the sleaze of the porn industry. Like a sordid fairy tale, its setting is no where else more perfect than Los Angeles, USA. We are slapped in the face by the heroine’s journey of self-discovery. Through candid interviews with Grace and close friends, we are presented with an intense exploration into her sexuality; Grace, from humble beginnings as a nude model to her fame as the kinky porn star, and embellished with an English Accent and Asian beauty, has an incredible sense of confidence and determination to reach her mission.
Her most famous achievement is “performing” intercourse with 251 men in 10 hours. A true Olympic marathon, where Annabel’s craving for sex is relentless and paralleled by the horny urges of the chosen candidates. The whole affair, drowned by cameras from the hungry paparazzi and media vampires, seems like a circus for most present. But for Annabel it is an ego trip, while satisfying her huge sexual appetite. So it seems. Glamorous and horny at the beginning, we see her impatiently luring the men onto the stage and ready for anyone and anything. “You can do it to her any way you want in any hole you please. Just make sure you can keep it up and don’t hurt her.” The promoter lays the rules down while the candidates, lined up and naked, are tugging their organs wondering whether Annabel will let them all in.
During the course of the film we return to the “gangbang” and we watch Annabel’s stamina through sweat, tears and orgasms.We wonder at times whether her face melts with pleasure or pain.
Her performance proves that women do possess strong sexual urges and that being a porn star is one way to fulfil them. We meet her many sides: as the strong queen of kink with an incredible appetite for anal sex who enlightens us about double and triple penetration. Her own ego explodes a little when she realises how many men desire her. Misunderstood and portrayed as a nitwit by Jerry Springer, who asks her the obvious: why sleep with so many men?
Annabel, aware of the prejudices floating in the room is honest and blunt: why not?, she confronts the majority of the audience, who feel embarrassed simply at Annabel’s openness.
Often we see Annabel as the academic confident enough to argue about her sexuality within the Cambridge Debating Club. Upright and proper, she reclaims her right to be a female stud and to discover her sexual powers.
Her lifestyle and behaviour indicate how much she enjoys being an extrovert, a sexual deviant who is searching to stretch all sexual boundaries. At a supermarket we are aroused as we watch her buy the largest zucchini and we laugh at her t-shirt which spells “Slut” across her breasts. We see her playing the sex kitten by laying naked at the promotional press conference pushing her sexual assets on to the screen.
Annabel is erotic and ready to devour. One understands where she is coming from.
Family, friends, teachers and colleagues tell us how much they admire her and how determined she always was. Annabel is the new feminist icon who provokes and is not ashamed of showing her body to be viewed as nothing more than an object, assurance she acquired while modelling naked in order to finance her studies.
Her childhood memories portray her as a single daughter surrounded by profound love and secular icons. Sent to a convent and brought up within a strong religious family one understands her need to be erotic and explore her sexuality.
Alongside Grace’s journey we taste the brutal facts about the porn industry in LA. After having intercourse with 251 men, Grace didn’t make any money out of it.
The promoter shifts the blame upon her entourage and greedy gold diggers while he still owes her an outstanding fee. Reality bites her in the face when copycats out-do her efforts and she quickly loser her crown.
AIDS and other sexual transmitted diseases could be her next enemy as she was promised most guys were tested. Disillusioned, Grace physically harms herself to override the emotional pain from inside. Her sense of being betrayed is crushing. Slashing her arms with a knife feels more tragic than the pain from triple penetration.
Her attempt to distance herself from the industry takes her back to London where she was gang raped after getting off the Tube at a wrong stop. Her reunion with her family makes her look almost like a lost child. Her sentiments behind the tears that she shares with her mother bring you closer to the oppressive cultural expectations of Singaporean society. It makes you understand why she needed to overcome negative experiences through sexual liberation. Her mother’s faith in her is also very emotive and empowering.
Along her journey, she experiences a full gamut of human emotions, such as conflict, sadness, tenderness. Shocking and confronting images exist alongside funny ones, such as when during a break from shooting a porn flick the actors stand around, smoking, wearing nothing but their “work clothes” and rubber dildos, totally at ease.
Her courage to become a porn star in order to overcome the tragedy of rape is admirable. Although the perpetrators stripped her dignity away by raping her, Grace refused to remain a victim. She also empowered herself to the extent where she could restore her self-respect as regards her family. Although she can’t tear herself away from the industry which almost crushed her, she remains an academic and graduates.
The final image, pain in her eyes and sweat drops as tears as she completed her mission, left us to watch and feel how she would have felt at the end of the rape.
The film did receive loud responses from the audience I saw it with recently in Melbourne. Amongst the laughs and giggles, sighs and comments under anxious breaths voiced disapproval. The presence of so many Asian faces glowing with opinions overwhelmed me. Whether they identified with or condemned Annabel’s story is their journey.