The Porn Star Crucible

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porn star crucible
Twitter is great for many things: networking your novel, real time news updates and juicy celebrity tirades. But what about the astounding flurry of reaction from a couple of tweets porn director and BDSM star Stoya typed and released on November 28th, 2015?

In just a few short words she accused her former boyfriend and co-star James Deen of rape, claiming that while they made BDSM porn together, he ignored her pleas to stop being too rough, forcibly restrained her and even continued assaulting her after she used a mutually agreed-upon “safeword” – all cardinal sins in the BDSM community. From there, speculation spread faster than witchcraft rumors in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” though consorting with the devil in this case meant your comarade looked like the average Joe – or should we say- James. James Deen, one of porn’s Golden Boys, takes great pride in his rough sex skills. His teen girl fan base is a whole new demographic for the billion-dollar porn industry, and for years Deen has simply given an impish grin whenever others have hyped him as a feminist hearthrob. Why? Because Deen has always preached from his pornographic pulpit the importance of always having the consent of and respect for sexual partners.

But this handsome devil’s fall from grace landed with a loud thud, for after Stoya’s bold statement, nine other women brought their own horrific stories of assault – perpetrated by none other than James Deen. Half the alleged incidents occurred on active movie sets and before numerous eyewitnesses who did nothing at all to stop these terrifying acts by the star of the show. Now, Stoya and all nine survivors say they refuse to ever work with the man again.

After Stoya’s tweet came an onslaught of shamers and ignorants – seemingly every village idiot the Internet has to offer. Working a sort of “whore’s vengeance” angle, comments from both men and women about Stoya’s tweet ranged from, “How can a porn star get raped? That’s an oxymoron!” to, “Well, if he raped her, why did she ever get into a relationship with the guy?” Some even questioned why a male porn star should feel compelled to rape women when he gets consistent sex at his job without having to resort to force. (But as research about rape has shown, human sexuality is wildly complex, and rape is never about sexual gratification alone.)

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, Stoya’s tweet received instant, strong response from the porn industry. Major production companies severed all ties with Deen, and his blogging gig for the BDSM website The Frisky is no more.  Hard to believe, but other big entertainment and sports money machines might learn to humble themselves from porn’s example and when a star athlete or actor gets outed as a violent creep, halt or trash altogether all business transactions with that person. Who knew porn could be such a… well… trailblazing industry?

Needless to say, Mr. Deen is in deep trouble, though in responding tweets he’s denied (despite his past history of having tweeted rape jokes) his accusers’ allegations of rape and excessive slapping and choking, saying they happened just as the porn scripts entailed, and he was only doing what directors expected of him. Others he explained as miscommunications within the typical context for a BDSM pornography shoot:

“If at any point I pushed boundaries past the point of comfort, I am sorry. I have always tried to respect peoples’ limits and safe words and operated within that space. If someone expressed anything to me I honored the request with the fullest care.”

Deen has even provided video evidence, raw footage of one of his scenes with Stoya, in which the actress uses her safe word and Deen immediately stops.

Inevitably, this defense leaves a bitter aftertaste for his accusers. Isn’t Deen implying that if he was only “doing his job,” his accusers might just be “hysterical bitches” who won’t shut up and do what they were hired to do? Since the shelf life of a porn career is so short, why shouldn’t these actresses just be happy their bare asses aren’t fired and flashing unemployment lines?

It’s been alleged that Deen, without consent and off-script, urinated in a woman’s mouth, sexually assaulted another with a beer bottle, and during a photo shoot he tried to use a cattle prod on an actress, even though he knew that was clearly forbidden on her Prohibited Acts list. It’s also said that during this same photo shoot he slapped the woman so hard her jaw locked.

Though James Deen must stand alone in his sociopathic choice to attack his female counterparts beyond BDSM agreements, what about the directors and crews looking on – and his co-workers? It’s been reported that after one porn actress was forced to comply with unscripted anal sex with Deen, the crew congratulated him for his “initiative.” When she called her agent he said she should feel “honored that James wanted her so badly.” What’s even more unsettling is that so far the industry’s let Deen direct 51 movies himself.

Though porn’s largely still a man’s world, there are growing numbers of female porn directors. These pioneering women are taking the old formulas and customizing them with a whole new approach, called Ethical Porn. In this work environment, female performers call the shots of which sex acts they will or won’t do. The porn industry’s also making strides to revise their own Bill of Rights, hopefully ensuring that in the future, performers will be more protected on and off-screen and that support awaits rape victims who share their stories. Society rarely takes sexual assault survivors of any kind seriously enough, and if the accuser is a sex worker, she has little chance her case will actually be filed. I can only imagine the pain Stoya endured to see her rapist hoisted on feminists’ shoulders like a quarterback hero.

Some might consider the BDSM lifestyle a free-for-all for immoral degenerates. But BDSM is slipping slowly into the public consciousness and even into our daily language as accepted sexual practice. It’s simply no longer a dark, secret subculture. Partners have to constantly communicate and understand each other in intimate ways most non-BDSM lovers never do, and that’s not a bad thing. They define boundaries, weigh risks vs. rewards and know how to carry out their pleasures without causing real harm. They even engage in low-risk activities only by lengthy, detailed consent. (In no way do rape fantasies mean people who have them really want to suffer actual rape.)

We have come a long way in understanding rape and acknowledging the validity of women’s claims of it, and very often no other proof that it’s taken place remains afterwards. In 1991 the last US state finally made marital rape illegal. Throughout most of world history, a woman’s sexuality belonged to anyone who paid for the monetary value of her virginity. In some eras a sex worker couldn’t even “own” her own body, for anyone who raped her and ran would only be charged with something called “Theft of Services.” Today lawyers still drag gross victim-blaming and slut-shaming tactics out of mothballs at rape trials (though now many jurors have evolved past those malignant ruses and deeply understand the horror of rape and where the real blame for it lies).

We’ll doubtless see more accusations and testimonies about this issue on social media, inviting all to join in trying in the Court of Public Opinion. But how can either an effective charge or a defense be mounted with 140 tweeted characters? Is Twitter the ideal place to fully explain violence, post-trauma stress disorder, or to point fingers? James Deen hasn’t yet responded to Stoya’s profoundly brave tweet heard ’round the world with a defamation suit.
Perhaps there’s this lesson we can take from this controversy: No matter who you are, what you do for a living, or how you engage in sex, consent between partners needs to be even more clear, consistent and constant. Communication between partners has never shown itself more vividly to be vital to building healthy, passionate relationships.

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1 Comment

  1. “Partners have to constantly communicate and understand each other in intimate ways most non-BDSM lovers never do, and that’s not a bad thing. They define boundaries, weigh risks vs. rewards and know how to carry out their pleasures without causing real harm. They even engage in low-risk activities only by lengthy, detailed consent. ”

    There’s all this talk of rape culture, and how sexual assault isn’t taken seriously in society (only according to feminists; rape used to be punishable by life in prison and death) but BDSM manages to have a golden candle to all of this. So long as ‘consent’ and ‘safewords’ are used, a woman or man can be whipped, chained, gagged and bound because it’s just how they view pleasure. So long as ‘consent’ is there, anything can happen. But the moment things go out of control, that’s when it considered rape. When a porn actress finds that her BDSM session didn’t use enough ‘consent’ and ‘understanding’ it’s rape.

    Even if pornography is replaced by ‘ethical’ and ‘feminist’ women (who may or may not write about their three vomiting cats) it’s not going to change the fact that it is an abusive industry. These feminist pornographers will simply go out of business, because the money goes towards men like James Deen. No word on gay pornography, as that’s an entirely different field and we don’t want to sound homophobic, do we?

    This article presented the case that pornography is an abusive industry, citing an example of a porn star who was raped, and then devolved into an argument on how BDSM is better than non-BDSM relationships because of all the talk about consent. But a daily reminder that these people are consenting to be choked, slapped, whipped with belts and/or cattle prods, and blinded because that’s their kink. A non-BDSM couple who uses social cues and is actually built on a family is so passe.

    This is indicative of a double-standard. You can have your 72-year-old ‘boytoy’, farting dogs and vomiting cats, but don’t ever say you didn’t enjoy the world you helped create. The men who love porn may hate women, but your response to such a lucrative industry was ‘it’s sexist and BDSM only becomes rape if it gets too rough.’

    You made this bed. Lie in it.

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