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Feb 10, 2014 02:45 PM EST

Interview With A Porn Star (Exclusive): University Of Chicago's Sex Week Guest Speaker Jessica Drake On College Sexuality, The 'Hook-Up Culture,' And More

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The caller ID on Saturday morning said "Restricted," a little too appropriate I couldn't help but think, given the porn star I was about to interview. It's easy, almost natural to make jokes like that, which is nearly exactly why Jessica Drake has transcended the industry that's made her millions and become a valued voice in sex education.

During our call, I was in Long Island, and Drake was in Chicago, preparing to speak with University of Chicago students on how piracy has affected the porn industry (a topic for another time) and sex education as part of the school's second annual Sex Week. Drake mostly holds such talks at colleges in California (such as UCLA), where she lives, but when the University of Chicago contacted her, she obviously couldn't say no to one of the best higher level institutions in the United States. 

College is supposed to be a time of open discussion, among other things, but even it is susceptible to suppression, which is where Drake comes in. More than her extensive sexual credentials, it is a message of openness that is her main selling point when it comes to sex-ed. She believes everyone should have at least one trusted source for their sexual health questions. But not many people do, she has found. Thus, the jokes (and not the facts). Who better than an adult film actress to make talking about sex not just easier, but more fun and ultimately more informative?

There is a fascination with people like Jessica Drake, who have sex onscreen (and direct it, as she now does). That's what separates her presentation from that of a doctor's or a health teacher's or even someone innovative who promises to tackle the subject in fun and exciting ways, but doesn't have Drake's intrigue or industry recognition. She gives students an excuse to attend, in the process dispelling the taboo that surrounds sex education. No matter their initial motivations, getting them there is the larger goal.

In a way, that's how she got me. Perusing the 40 or so workshops leading up to sex week (which runs until Feb. 16), I wrote an article choosing the event's top five must see events. Drake's talk was among them simply because she was a famous porn actress; what college student wouldn't find that interesting? Then, her agent contacted me and we set up the interview. (I'll forgive her for calling us University Tribune instead of University Herald.)

When I asked Drake what she specifically talks about, she said that as she tells her life story and how she became involved in the porn industry (while stripping to pay her way through the University of Texas at El Paso), she speaks with the assumption that most people "don't understand the basic workings of the reproduction system," and goes from there. More valuable than her lecture, however, is the question and answer period, usually where each college establishes their unique identities ("different regions of the country are interested in different things," Drake said). As I learned from our interview, Drake is a skilled question answerer, whether naturally or by the amount of presentations she's given over the years. If she doesn't know an answer, she'll admit it, and, like Will Smith said in his "Pursuit of Happyness" interview, will do everything she can to find it.

Drake's is a two-part show because as important as sex education is, it can only be so interesting. Her other focus is performance, about which she is more uniquely qualified to speak. Still, the two subjects tie together. Though she's been in the industry of sex for nearly fifteen years and is currently training to become a sex coach (taking classes part-time in Los Angeles), her most general and useful advice is, like that of sex-ed's, openness and communication. She believes if couples or simply two people having sex communicated more effectively (likes, dislikes, and much more), their satisfaction would increase. Also like sex-ed, she said the best moments usually come from students' questions. To get more specific advice, however, you'd have to speak with Drake after class, where many of her most powerful exchanges have occurred (such as advising a gay man on coming out and helping a woman shed her self-perceived promiscuous reputation).

As an actress (who still does about seven films a year) and now director for Wicked Pictures as well (the only adult production company that uses condoms in every scene), Drake hasn't gotten this far in her career (her net worth is estimated at $2 million, according to celebritynetworth.com; I never asked how much she made, though we both agreed there is money to be made in the industry) without having deep thoughts about sex. While telling me the story about the so-called promiscuous woman, she spoke about the "fluidity of sexuality," and how the woman's preferences shifted from seeking many sexual partners to a relationship. In an interview before an awards show, she commented on the challenges of keeping herself engaged after so many movies. Of her own sexuality, she recalls early teenage years of uncontrollable "hormones" and good and not-so-good advice.

For college students, she believes the shadow cast on the "hook-up culture," as the majority of sexual relationships has been categorized at today's universities, is unfair and created by a lack of sexual education. Given the growing number of ways to meet people with similar interests, she believes these are exciting times for expanding one's sexual experiences -- if only people were more informed of their risks and nuances.

It's impossible to consider an adult film actress and not wonder if she's ever had doubts about the industry, or if she still does. But Drake isn't your average employee. Not every actress moves on to directing and then public speaking to some of the most prestigious colleges in the country. Wherever the scope of Drake's feelings on porn reaches, she's used its most positive parts to help college students and others become a little more comfortable with their sexuality.

For more on Jessica Drake, email her at wicked@wickedpictures.com, or follow her on twitter, @thejessicadrake

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