Drunk and high, holed up in a hotel room with a beautiful blonde she barely knew, Jennie Ketcham was thirty-six hours away from entering rehab. Her on-camera alter ego, Penny Flame, was a rising star. Her personal life, however, had been getting worse for years and finally hit an all-time low.
Guys are gonna want one thing from you. To Jennie’s young ears, her father’s advice meant one thing: You can use your sexuality to control men. Life was imploding around her: her parents’ divorce, their spiraling addictions, her deteriorating relationships with them. She lost her virginity at thirteen and began a game of initiating boys her age into manhood. For the fleeting moments she spent in bed with them, she got to be the center of attention.
Eventually, Jennie found porn—that enticing world of immediate gratification, endless drugs, and seemingly endless money—and became Penny Flame. Divorced from her feelings, tempted into a lifestyle she couldn’t afford, financially or emotionally, she entered Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew to boost her career. But when Dr. Drew and his staff insisted she go by her real name, the once indestructible walls she had built around herself began to burn down.
Two stories make up this direct and disarming memoir: that of a troubled girl desperately fleeing intimacy and herself, and that of a woman courageously breaking down emotional barriers to build a new life. Many will recognize Jennie’s struggles: confusing sex with self-worth, addiction with love, detachment with strength. Ultimately, I Am Jennie is a tale of a woman who considers herself a work in progress but who finally understands that the only person she can truly afford to be is herself.
I had never allowed myself to wonder why i ran from people, from connection, from what Dr. Drew was labeling as intimacy. I had never questioned why I habitually hurt the men I dated, or the people in my family. I had never thought: Jennie, why are you doing this?
In the past, I had simply acted, and then moved forward. If I felt like crying, I shut the emotions down. This quality made me a good porn star. But it suddenly didn’t seem like a great way to live.
“It’s a wall,” I whispered.
“What do you think is behind that wall?” Dr. Drew said.
He looked directly in my eyes. The thought of something existing behind this impenetrable wall was horrifying, exhausting. I grabbed a Kleenex, thinking if I could make the perfect triangle, I could dab my inner eyes without disrupting the glue that held my fake eyelashes in place.
“Hopefully, a caring, sensitive person who can have meaningful relationships,” I said.
A self-excoriating, fairly raunchy memoir from a former porn star recounts her struggle to come clean and change her life, despite the powerful lure of money, sex, and drugs. Known in the adult entertainment industry as Penny Flame since she was a college freshman at San Diego State University, Ketcham entered the Pasadena Recovery Center in 2009 as part of the motley celebrity crew for the reality TV show Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, where she went by her real name for 19 days and found the experience excruciating but transformative. While "Penny was not a real person and could disappear," she writes with a smarting frankness, "Jennie could be stalked, captured, and hurt, all very easily." Her bits in recovery alternate with chapters that delineate very explicitly how she gradually moved from taking off her clothes for photo shoots for, among others, Hustler and Cher to girl-on-girl sex scenes and the hardcore boy-girl videos that brought porn-star recognition and raked in money for her, promptly spent on drugs and a fancy car. Lying to the men in her life became an enormous problem, and Ketcham reaches back to her memories of childhood growing up in the California suburbs with divorced parents and a heavy-drinking mom to trace patterns of promiscuity brought on by intimacy issues. Directing her own movies for one of the porn outfits, Shane's World, helped her gain a sense of autonomy. Ketcham's unflinching, clear-eyed desire to be "a normal girl with realistic dreams" rings with a vulnerable poignancy.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Couldn't put it down. Amazing transformation in the author. This book inspired me to start reading again. I gave it up at 13 & I am now 32. It used to be a passion of mine and this sparked it for me again. Thank you Jennie and congrats to you on your continued journey...
Talk about naked!!
The exciting thing about this read isn't the fact that Penny gets naked, it's that Jennie allows us to see her naked in the figurative. The honesty is both an intriguing and exciting read. Jennie shows that anybody truly can be whatever they want whenever they want.