That Thing You Do With Your Mouth: The Sexual Autobiography of Samantha Matthews,
as told to David Shields

McSweeney's, 2015


I’ve known Samantha Matthews, 41, an actress, voiceover artist, and my cousin once removed, since she was a teenager. For a decade, I had encouraged her to make a self-reflexive documentary film about the job she’s held for many years in Barcelona–dubbing Italian porn films into English. It seemed to me powerful material, well worth exploring, especially since she wound up divorcing her Spanish husband. I thought perhaps the dubbing had something to do with the divorce, on some difficult-to-articulate level that she would try to articulate.

She’d gathered some footage but never was able to carve out enough time to make the film, so a couple of years ago I suggested that we work on the story together. To my horror and her own, she immediately agreed. Over eighteen months, I asked her increasingly difficult questions and she taped her increasingly revelatory answers. Initially, I thought we would wind up with an amusing novella about America and Europe and Daisy Miller, c. 21st century. I had no idea. Samantha tunneled so deeply into her own psyche that we wound up with nearly 1000 pages, relatively little of which had anything to do with dubbing porn.

Once she’d finished recording, my role was to try to shape the transcript into a focused, relentlessly honest, provocative narrative that explores what is for Samantha and for me and for many people a crucial or even the question: how and to what degree is it possible to get beyond early trauma?



  • One of the Huffington Post’s “Moving, Must Read Memoirs” of 2015



“Raw, unnerving, and morbidly funny, Matthews, who’s moonlighted as a dubber of Italian pornography into English, recounts her harrowing journey from child abuse victim to determined and headstrong mother. For anyone who’s struggled to forge their identity after a trauma, Matthews’ book offers a glimmer of hope.”
Jill Krasny, Esquire

“An insightful, thought-provoking probe into the impulses of human desire.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Honest, raw and compulsively readable.”
M. Scott Krause, Vegas Seven

“Memorable, gripping, risky, transgressive, and above all brave.”
Whitney Otto