James Deen & Male Privilege in Porn

jamesdeen

With 11 years in the industry and over 2000 adult films under his belt, James Deen is arguably the most famous male porn star in the world. Feminists have long hailed Deen as the posterboy for ethical BDSM porn due to his apparent respect for safewords, limits, and ultimately, women. Having also starred in a non-adult movie alongside Lindsay Lohan and directed by Bret Easton Ellis, Deen has become somewhat of a household name. His boyish looks and love of cats only serve to enhance his reputation as everybody’s favourite porn star next door.

However, Deen’s good guy reputation came crashing down last month when porn star and ex-girlfriend Stoya accused Deen of rape via two Tweets that read: “That thing where you log into the internet as a feminist and see people idolizing the guy who raped you as a feminist. That thing sucks.” And then: “James Deen held me down and fucked me while I said no, used my safeword. I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

It didn’t take long for other women to come forward, and at the time of writing, 10 women have made accusations against Deen, 5 of whom say they were assaulted whilst filming with him.

One of the 5, Kora Peters, asserts that when she was new to the industry, Deen choked her before penetrating her anally against her will as the camera kept rolling. After the scene was finished, the said “The crew all high-fived [Deen] and told him what a great job he did getting an anal scene for the price of a [non-anal] boy/girl scene.”

Another women, Amber Rayne, alleges that during an anal scene with Deen, he punched her in the face and used so much force on her anus that he “ripped it” and she “bled everywhere” as the director continued to film. She had to get stitches to repair the damage.

Tori Lux wrote that, on an occasion when she wasn’t even filming with Deen, he approached her and antagonized her after she finished shooting a scene with somebody else. After rebuffing him “with a firm ‘no,'” Lux wrote that Deen responded by grabbing her by the throat and throwing her onto a mattress on the floor before beating her, all while people stood by and watched.

See, this is perhaps the most disturbing thing about the accusations: the vast majority of the incidents didn’t happen behind closed doors with no witnesses. They happened on set, while the victim was surrounded by the very people supposed to keep her safe. The fact that Deen was able to get away with such behaviour paints a depressing picture of the porn industry.

It paints a picture that says that although women in the industry may get paid more than the men, and may find it easier to get hired, ultimately they are still second-class citizens when it comes to their basic human rights.

Because yes, this is a gender issue.

How could it not be?

James Deen is an incredibly powerful man within the porn industry. Not only is he wildly popular with his fans, but he is also a dependable actor who can meet the heavy physical demands placed on him during filming. When you take into account that straight male porn stars who can meet such demands are in very short supply, men like Deen become a valuable commodity.

When you also take into account that many of the women firing accusations against Deen were new to the industry when they had problems with him, things take an even more sinister turn.

These women were not established performers who felt able to speak up for themselves. They were newbies, eager to please and scared that filing a complaint against somebody as powerful as Deen would be detrimental to their career.

Ryan Driller, speaking about this issue, says: “There’s always going to be a fear of saying anything [negative] experienced on a set. There’s a fear that the company won’t hire them again, and [will] label them to other companies as ‘difficult.’”

For an inexperienced performer desperate to break into the industry, there is very much the attitude of “put up and shut up.”

Just as with Bill Cosby, Jimmy Savile and countless other sexual predators, there has been a delay in victims coming forward against these men because of the power that they wield within their industries and the feeling that they are “untouchable.”

However, thankfully, it seems as though women are no longer prepared to tolerate the systematic abuses of power that exist within every industry, not just the adult entertainment industry. Another silver lining to this situation is that unlike with Cosby, who was still allowed to perform and make jokes about the abuse allegations levelled against him, the porn industry has stood up and taken notice.

Evil Angel, a major porn studio, has severed ties with Deen, as has Kink.com, who have worked with Deen on hundreds of BDSM films. Not only this but The Frisky have dropped him from his writing gig, and sex toy manufacturer Doc Johnson have ceased production on its James Deen line.

Kink.com has also resolved to review its Model Bill of Rights in order to strengthen the rights of performers off-screen and build supports for victims to come forward, including talk of a way for performers to anonymously file complaints.

However, despite being thrilled that Deen is having to face the consequences of his actions and that the porn industry is taking the accusations seriously, I fear that the point has been missed.

Kink.com already employs an extensive consent establishment process that involves “interviews with casting directors, informal conversations with scene partners and other performers backstage, off-camera discussions with directors, on-camera negotiations and establishments of consent, check-ins during scenes, post-scene filmed interviews, and confidential exit interviews.”

The BDSM community prides itself on being “safe, sane and consensual.” Abuses of power by the dominant partner are a huge no-no, and the rules and regulations in place to prevent such abuses have protected countless performers over many years.

If a performer crosses the line and ignores somebody’s withdrawal of consent, then that is not the fault of Kink or the BDSM community, but that of the perpetrator. While it is fantastic that Kink are doing everything in their power to make things safer for their employees, the responsibility must lie within the hands of the accused. It is Deen who has allegedly assaulted these women, and so it is Deen who should be forced to readdress his behaviour.

Making it easier for victims to anonymously file complaints at first seems like a wonderful idea, but we have to ask ourselves why it is necessary for victims of assault to be anonymous.

It’s simple.

Victims of sexual assault aren’t often taken seriously as it is, but when that victim is a sex worker, their credibility drops even lower. The myth that porn stars can’t be raped means that public support of victims is minimal. Because the vast majority of the public already misunderstand the industry, or subscribe to the belief that women in porn are exploited anyway (so what difference does a rape or two make?), it is difficult for victims to make their voices heard over the tidal wave of condemnation that arises whenever a situation like this unfolds.

It is stigma like this that makes it incredibly difficult for women like Stoya to come forward about their experiences. When they are told that they can’t be raped because they already consented to film a scene, or that they were ‘asking for it’ because of their line of work, how can they possibly feel supported in their choice to speak out?

The idea that women frequently lie about rape may also be a factor in why so many are reluctant to come forward, despite the fact that false rape allegations only account for between 2-8% of all allegations.

If victims of sexual assault within the sex industry are ever going to feel safe and supported, then it is not up to porn to change its regulations regarding consent. It is up to porn, and society as a whole, to change its attitudes when it comes to powerful men committing vile abuses of power.

Rather than make it easier for performers to report violations after they occur, we owe it to these women to ensure that they don’t get harmed in the first place.

The porn industry must make it absolutely clear to Deen, and to men like him, that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. If men like Deen did not already feel invincible, then they would not behave in the way that they do. The only reason that Deen has gone on to assault multiple women is because he was not held accountable for his actions the first time, or the second time, or even the time after that.

Why else would a grown man feel as though it is acceptable to beat a woman in front of a room full of people?

Because he knows that they will turn a blind eye. 

It is this that needs to stop.

Rather than punish the offender after the damage has been done, the adult industry must make it crystal clear that assaults of any kind will not be tolerated, no matter how much of a financial asset you may be to the company.

Porn needs to employ a “one strike and you’re out” policy so that men like Deen are not left to assault multiple victims. It goes without saying that victims should feel safe when filing complaints against offenders, but let’s not let it get to that. Let’s make the adult industry a place where it is the offender who doesn’t feel safe committing a crime rather than the victim who doesn’t feel safe reporting it.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s