Sex The Annabel Chong Story

USA/Canada 1999

Reviewed by Linda Ruth Williams


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Grace Quek (aka Annabel Chong), a student at the University of Southern California, engages in the record-breaking feat of having sex with 251 men in 10 hours. The experience is filmed by John Bowen as the hardcore video The World's Biggest Gang Bang.

Quek's life is discussed by her family, her friends and her colleagues in the porn industry. She attends a porn convention in Las Vegas, and speaks at the Cambridge University Debating Society. Jasmin St. Claire, another porn performer, has sex with 300 men, breaking Quek's record. Quek is still owed $10,000 for The World's Biggest Gang Bang. She is tested negative for HIV. Quek decides to leave the porn industry and returns to London, where she was once gang raped. During a visit to her family in Singapore her mother discovers what Grace does in the US. One year later, back in Los Angeles, Quek returns to the porn industry.


Some of the many contradictions which riddle Sex The Annabel Chong Story are present in its title. Gough Lewis' documentary claims to be the story of Annabel Chong but it is also the story of Grace Quek, or rather the story of a multiple entity who is both Quek and Chong, student and sex worker, daughter and classmate, Asian and American. This is no single-subject biopic. It also becomes clear that at the film's centre is not sex, but rather a struggle for identity in which pornography is used as a canvas.

If the project of the porn industry was to turn Chong into a purely sexual object, then the project of Gough Lewis' film is to take an already divided identity and prise open its fissures to see what emerges. Lewis' fragmented directorial technique presents an astute diagnosis of its contrary hybrid subject. Formally, the film is part cut-up novelisation, part postmodern docu-drama, chopping backwards and forwards in time and across a variety of media: Quek/Chong's media appearances, porn performances, interviews with friends and family, and the developing narrative of the day she did 251 men, itself documented in the film-within-the-film The World's Biggest Gang Bang (directed by John Bowen).

The result is both difficult to watch and utterly compelling, having all the forbidden fascination of a freak show. Appropriate as this multi-strand approach is to Sex's star, Quek/Chong does not emerge as the postmodern schizo-heroine she clearly would like to be. Rather, as the film progresses she seems to slide from one popular cultural identity (star of hardcore) to another (crumbling psyche of the talk show), which gives this film the narrative trajectory of a car crash. Beginning with Quek's appearance on The Jerry Springer Show, Sex then clicks into Jerry Springer-like confessional mode when it eavesdrops on moments such as Grace's mother finally finding out what her daughter does in the US.

At the heart of the film is the issue of how we read Chong's record-breaking feat of fucking 251 men in 10 hours. Chong explains that she did it to shake up stereotypes about women being passive sex objects. This fantasy of female appetite is reinforced by the film's publicist at the event, who says she just wants to fuck and go (but then he would, wouldn't he?). Yet the record Chong breaks isn't that of how many orgasms a woman can have in 10 hours but how many men can penetrate her. Just whose fantasy this really is isn't hard to guess, especially when the sordid details of the shoot emerge. Once the idea, inspired by Quek's anger at a feminist theory class (wouldn't you just love to know what they teach them at USC?), is picked up by the porn industry it becomes anything but a girl-power statement. The pathetic narrative which emerges from the cracks between Quek's straight-to-camera justification, the Gang Bang shoot and the explanatory subtitles suggests she is just as much of a victim of male appetite (this time for the profits of Bowen's film) as any other girl in the history of patriarchy. Not only was she under the false impression that the men she partnered had all been Aids tested, she is also still owed $10,000 for her participation in the film.

So why watch this film? And who is its audience? Sex is as slippery about its viewers as it is about its star. Even if you wouldn't actually watch The World's Biggest Gang Bang, there is still something salaciously compelling about the way Lewis' film charts the progress of Bowen's filming. This art documentary shadows hardcore porn so doggedly that it makes you wonder about the difference. Sex shows us the action, as it were, only from the waist up, so that the real focus of Bowen's spectacle (cum and penetration shots) is tantalisingly denied in Lewis'. But perhaps because we don't get the money shots, we feel even more acutely the desire to see beyond the margins, such is the magnetic pull of off-screen space. This is art cinema which gets into bed with porn but keeps one foot on the floor. As documentary viewers plunged into the heart of a hardcore spectacle yet denied the most revealing shots, we are peculiarly visually disenfranchised. Sex seems to offer the arthouse viewer free entry into the porn cinema, but then leaves her standing at the door.

Yet do we really believe any of this? Perhaps the final question this film raises is that of its own credibility as fact or fiction. I was reminded of the sentiment at the heart of the documentary on Madonna Truth or Dare (aka In Bed with Madonna) that there would be no point in its star doing anything off camera since she only exists on it. Here, both sides of the Chong/Quek persona perform with equal unbelievability for the camera, yet neither seems to be able to exist without it. Whether there is a real truth at stake here is uncertain: feminism's heroine or patriarchy's victim, Grace Quek or Annabel Chong, Sex cannot decide whose story it's telling. Whether Grace chose truth or dare when she agreed to make this film, we'll never know.


Gough Lewis
Hugh F. Curry
David Whitten
Gough Lewis
Principal Photography
Jim Michaels
Kelly Morris
Gough Lewis
Tony Morone
Kelly Morris
Peter Mundinger
©Coffee House Films/Omni International/Greycat Releasing
Production Companies
Omni International & Greycat Releasing present a Coffee House Films production
Executive Producers
Kathleen Curry
Suzanne Bowers Whitten
Kelly Morris
Associate Producers
Brad Brough
Gloria Pryor
Story Consultant
Greg West
Stev'nn Hall
Title Music/Title Music Performer
Bruce Fowler
Additional Music Score
Paul Lopez
Rob Ultra Deluxe
Tippy A Go Go
Additional Music
Chris Stone Audio Productions (Toronto)
Post-production Sound
Konrad Skreta
Film Extracts
The World's Biggest Gang Bang (1994)
The World's Biggest Gang Bang 2 (1995)
I Can't Believe I Did the Whole Team (1995)
Depraved Fantasies 3 (1995)
Dirty Debutantes 37 (1994)
Grace Quek
Annabel Chong
porn star
John Bowen
director, World's Biggest Gang Bang 1/2
Ed Powers
director/performer, Dirty Debutante series
Dr Walter Williams
professor of anthropology, USC
Charles Conn
Dick James
president, Annabel Chong Fan Club
Monica Moran
Steve Austin
talent agent, World Modeling
Jim South
talent agent/porn director
Al Goldstein
publisher Screw Magazine/host, The Midnight Blue Show
Ron Jeremy
porn star
Lanisha Shanthi Easter
friend/former lover
Mr Quek
Mrs Quek
Allen Wong
best friend
Frank Sanford
publicist, Scoop Syndication
Seymour Butts
porn director/performer
Ona Zee
porn performer/director
Chi Chi Larue
porn director
Michael J. Coxx
porn performer
Calvin Teo
high school friend
Robert Black
porn producer/director
Israel Gonzales
porn designer/production assistant
Donna Warner
Jack Hammer
porn performers
David Hughes
art instructor/author
Chuck Zane
porn producer
Jasmin St. Claire
porn performer/exotic dancer
Elena Craig
the HVI clinic representative
Dick Nasty
porn performer
Raynard Tan
Susan James
student affairs counsellor
Metrodome Distribution Ltd
7,809 feet
86 minutes 46 seconds
Dolby SR
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011