Let’s start this off with a big old trigger warning for detailed, graphic accounts of rape and sexual assault, as well as people being assholes in regard to those subjects.
You may have heard that over the weekend, adult film star James Deen was publicly accused of rape by his ex-girlfriend and fellow film star Stoya. Stoya and Deen had at one time been widely seen as the power couple of porn, but she has by now apparently reached her limit with public praise of Deen, and tweeted a brief but harrowing story.
That thing where you log in to the internet for a second and see people idolizing the guy who raped you as a feminist. That thing sucks.— Stoya (@stoya) November 28, 2015
James Deen held me down and fucked me while I said no, stop, used my safeword. I just can't nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.— Stoya (@stoya) November 28, 2015
Since then, two more women have come forward with their own stories of Deen’s abuse. First, Tori Lux, a former adult film performer, gave The Daily Beast her account from a 2011 encounter following a shoot Deen wasn’t a part of, but was present for. Immediately after wrapping, Deen began to “antagonize” Lux. “Antagonize,” in this case, seems to be one hell of an understatement.
I hadn’t even had time to dress myself when he said, with a smirk on his face, “Tori Lux, would you like to sniff my testicles?” “Nope,” I replied in a neutral tone. “I’ll repeat myself: Tori Lux, would you like to sniff my testicles?” he asked, more aggressively this time. I replied with a firm “No,” in order to establish my boundary—which James then disregarded by grabbing me by the throat and shoving me down onto a mattress on the floor.Deen then straddled Lux, pinned her arms down with his knees, hit her in the face with an open palm “five or six times— hard” before letting her up, only to grab her by the hair, force her back down to her knees to make her— you guessed it— sniff his testicles.
Another actress, Ashley Fires, also gave her story to The Daily Beast, about why Deen is now on her professional Will Not F*ck list.
“The reason I put him on my ‘no list’ was because he almost raped me,” said Fires. “The only time I’d ever seen this guy, he walked into the green room at Kink [studios], picks up Jessie Cox like a caveman, grabs her by the hair, and takes her off somewhere… and I can only imagine.”
“Later on that night, I was getting out of the shower of the communal bathroom at Kink, I reach for my towel to dry off, and he comes up from behind me and pushes himself and his erection into my butt,” she continued. “He pushes me against the sink and starts grabbing on me and I was like, ‘No, no, no James, no,’ and he released me from his grasp, and says, ‘You know, later if you want to fuck around I’m in room whatever-it-was. I was like, ‘Fuck you.’ I didn’t even know this guy, he was so out of line and entitled with my body.”
‘OK, can you just say something else? Say that I remind you of your brother’ is what he says—his advice to me—to tell people why I won’t work with him instead of the truth.Just in case you somehow missed that, let me recap: James Deen attempted to anally rape Ashely Fires. She didn’t press charges, but did say she wouldn’t work with him. He then asked her to stop telling people that story AND INSTEAD SAY HE JUST REMINDS HER OF HER BROTHER. I would love to retain some degree of objectivity here, but all I can think is WHAT A F*CKING WEIRDO.
All of these harrowing stories bring up two very important issues, that influence everything that’s been said, and all the ways they’ve been received. First (and I mentioned this earlier today with a link to a fantastic piece at Medium), Deen is not an “ordinary” porn star, whatever that may be. He has spent years cultivating a reputation as a feminist man (as well as something close to a serious, respectable actor) in the porn industry. I’ve seen him called— to name just a few monikers— “porn’s ‘feminist’ sweetheart,” “the Ryan Gosling of porn,” the “libertarian porn star,” “”the boy next door of porn,” “the nice guy of porn”— there are many, many more, but you get the picture. (For an excellent look into Deen’s cultivated creepiness, check out this profile from 2014, again from the Daily Beast, apparently your one-stop-shop for Deen info.)
Despite being no stranger to rape jokes—
Do they make candy hearts that say "rape me"??? #pornoromance— James Deen (@JamesDeen) February 14, 2011
Things I've learned… It's not rape if you yell surprise and if you put enough bbq sauce on anything it will taste ok— James Deen (@JamesDeen) February 19, 2011
—Deen is still widely regarded as the male feminist of porn. He was (until today) the chairperson of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, he’s been vocal about Project Consent, and—maybe most notably— he’s made good and public friends with Gaby Dunn, the face of BuzzFeed feminism, an idol to hundreds of thousands of teen and early-twenties women (exactly the demographic Deen hits hardest). Deen is— in an upsettingly timely and direct way— the Bill Cosby of porn. He has cultivated a reputation— one of the ultimate family man, the other of a male ally in a taboo field— in direct opposition to his actions and standards of personal behavior. And that reputation gives him a ridiculously strong shield against criticism and accusations. Even Dunn herself has had a number of her Twitter DMs leaked, in which she basically calls Stoya a liar, but won’t speak out publicly for fear of making it harder for other “actual” victims to come forward.
This issue of a very public young feminist icon (seriously, if you don’t know Dunn, she’s basically the internet’s Taylor Swift) DMing people to discredit a woman because she “knows” she’s a liar, but doesn’t want to cloud the issue of sexual assault— thereby giving the assholes of the world more of that Rolling Stone ammunition in their crusade to prove rape isn’t real and “feminists” value the myth of assault over men as a whole— is worthy of a million think pieces and 100% of our ire, so let’s move on. Because we need to save a bit of our ire for Problem #2.
The other HUGE issue here is that with these women coming out, there are still a f*ckton of people who believe them, but legitimately don’t think you can legally or personally call this rape. Like this ostensibly human waste of space, who is the worst I’ve seen (H/T The Mary Sue) but please do not let yourself believe he is anywhere near the only one spewing this nonsense.
It’s not just randos outside this industry, either. Lux’s attack happened in full view of a number of coworkers. But no one intervened, and Lux felt unable to speak up.
I felt pressured to maintain a professional demeanor as this was a major porn set, with other people present and failing to intervene.
This story is bound to grow and expand, because for a man who has spent years in the adult film industry, and filmed thousands of movies— many of which are in the S&M/bondage/rough sex/rape fantasy oeuvre, I’d bet dollars to dildos there are many more women out there with this story. And as long as we— not you people, obviously; you’re great— allow men to build up a reputation that automatically outweighs women’s accusations, and so long as we view sex work as a total surrender of a woman’s (because shocker that this never comes up with male porn stars, no?) body, these stories will remain in the scandalous shadows. And that is nothing but pure bullshit.