Girl On The Net | Contributing Writer | Thursday, 3 December 2015

James Deen Allegations – What Will The Impact Be On Porn?

What Do The James Deen Rape Allegations Mean For The Porn Industry?

The Debrief: As porn consumers we need to make informed choices about what we're watching, and think carefully about the studios and performers we want to support

No one who’s remotely interested in porn can have failed to notice that this week the industry has been in turmoil. As soon as James Deen’s ex-girlfriend Stoya tweeted that he’d raped her, companies which had previously worked with Deen scrambled to distance themselves from him.

As the week progressed, more stories came out, and it’s clear that Deen’s behaviour will have a long-term effect on porn – both for those involved in making it and those who watch it.

This article contains some frank discussion of rape and sexual assault, so please be advised before you read on.

On Saturday night, Stoya – who was in a long-term relationship with James Deen, as well as having worked with him on a number of films – tweeted that he’d allegedly raped her. Soon afterwards, more women came forward to tell their stories.

Tori Lux, writing for The Daily Beast, gave a shocking and graphic account of what she claimed happened to her. She wrote that off-set, but with other cast and crew members present, Deen hit her several times before forcing her face into his crotch. Ashley Fires claimed that he grabbed her and pushed his erection up against her. Amber Rayne and Tori Peters both describe horrific things that allegedly happened while they were on set with Deen, and another performer – who has chosen to be identified only as TM – has claimed that Deen raped her at a party in Las Vegas.

Hearing these stories is intensely shocking, and it’s hard not to stand in awe of the bravery of these women in coming forward.

Deen has denied all the allegations, but a number of companies have announced that they’re pulling all support for Deen and his work. The Frisky, where he had a regular column, was one of the first to announce that it would sever ties. Oh Joy Sex Toy, one of the largest sex toy review sites, immediately pulled all advertising for James Deen’s website. Porn companies Evil Angel and Kink.com have both said that they won’t produce any new material with Deen.

A spokesperson from Kink.com said they are ‘ending [their] business relationships going forward,’ although the question remains as to what will happen with archive material. At the time of writing, Kink.com has over 200 scenes featuring Deen, going all the way back to 2005.

In one of the many articles detailing the allegations, James Deen is referred to speculatively as ‘the Bill Cosby of porn’. I’d actually argue – as others have – that the key thing differentiating this sex scandal from those in other industries is the sheer speed with which companies have reacted.

Bill Cosby, and other high-profile celebrities, generally have a fairly long time before the first allegations trickle in and the moment their name becomes poison. The porn industry, on the other hand, dropped Deen like a hot brick within days of the first story coming to light. And rightly so. In any sex work environment consent should be one of the foundations of what you do.

It’s naturally hard to stomach a CEO who sexually harasses their employees, but it’s unconscionable to consider that someone who has sex for a living should be incapable of recognising sexual boundaries. Or worse – perhaps recognising them and simply not caring.

James Deen has been one of the most popular male porn stars in the world, so it’s not surprising that some of his fans are getting angry about the industry which is choosing to turn its back on him. Cries of ‘trial by social media!’ are pretty common, and alongside being intensely depressing (whatever happened to offering support for victims of sexual assault?) they miss a pretty huge point.

This is not a man who is accused of petty theft at work: this is a man whose job is all about sex work, who has been accused not just of making mistakes but deliberately riding roughshod over people’s sexual consent. Would you continue to trust a firefighter who’d been repeatedly accused of arson?

This is not about ‘trying’ Deen for anything – it’s about porn companies taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of those who choose to work with them.

And those companies that have chosen to avoid working with him may well be making a savvy commercial, as well as ethical, move. Writing on her personal blog, Kayden Kross – a close friend of Stoya’s and partner in porn venture TrenchcoatX – explained that scenes which feature Deen, which went live on the website around the time the allegations were made public, were significantly far less popular than other updates.

‘The most recent update featuring James on TrenchcoatX has been one of our worst performing updates since we launched. This is not a reflection of the licensor, as that content is typically some of our most popular. This is a reflection of the consumer,’ she said.

Choosing what to do with those scenes that feature Deen must have been an incredibly tough decision – and it’s one that other porn companies will have to make too over the coming weeks. But apart from decisions around content already produced, and ongoing projects with Deen, what impact will this have on porn going forward?

From a consumer perspective, I’d be surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t reflected on the ethics of the porn they watch – particularly where performer safety is concerned. If the allegations about Deen have made you wonder how you can become a more ethical porn consumer, there’s a fantastic guide by Jiz Lee, who has been working in porn for a long time.

Jiz explains that one of the key problems that porn consumers can solve is the fact that so much porn is available free online. Large sites like PornHub or xHamster offer rips of videos, and apart from often having no idea as to their provenance, not paying for those videos means you can’t support the producers who pay their actors fairly, or know which studio you’re watching.

I’d expect (and hope) that in the light of the Deen allegations, more people will start looking into where their porn comes from: is it from a known studio which pays performers a fair wage and has policies on performer safety? It’s not a guaranteed solution - some of the allegations against Deen relate to incidents that happened on set, with other cast and crew nearby – but it’s definitely a start.

Beyond paying for porn, and supporting studios which are visibly linked to performers (you can feel much more comfortable about a particular scene if it’s been blogged about by the performers, for instance), will these incidents spark a broader discussion around consent and porn?

So far I’ve been disappointed with the way some people have used the allegations to make political points about porn as a whole. Anti-porn campaigning site AntiPornography tweeted that: ‘It’s horrific that James Deen has raped several women in porn, & even more so how his porn fuels rape of ALL women.’

This kind of thinking is actively harmful to those who work in porn. For a long time society’s attitudes towards all sex work (not just porn) have been confused to the point of being incredibly dangerous. One of the things that makes it harder for sex workers to come forward about rape and abuse is the attitude that, ‘Well, sex is your job so it doesn’t count’ – like for instance, the columnist in the Chicago Sun-Times who, earlier this year, argued that a man who raped a sex worker at gunpoint should be guilty only of ‘theft of services’.

However, while some (like the anti-porn org) have taken a similar line, and tried to equate Deen’s behaviour to the industry as a whole, the fact that the media response has been broadly supportive of the victims shows that attitudes are changing on this issue.

I don’t think there’s any way to guarantee that all porn sets are safe for performers, as there’s no way in life to guarantee that people can be free from the threat of sexual violence. But I do hope that in light of the allegations there will be a number of mainstream studios (particularly those involved in the on-set allegations) looking very closely at their working practices, and that the support that has been shown to people like Stoya and the other women will make for a safer environment for others to share concerns.

Ultimately, though, while many in the porn industry will no doubt learn some lessons from this, some of the most important lessons are ones which impact society more broadly. I do hope we continue to have a discussion around consent and porn, but I hope that conversation is led by the sex workers whose safety is at the heart of this discussion.

As porn consumers we need to make informed choices about what we’re watching, and think carefully about the studios and performers we want to support. As human beings, we need to listen to the women who have spoken out about James Deen, and applaud their bravery.

Picture: Getty

Like this? Then you may also be interested in:

Porn Star Stoya Alleges She Was Raped By Co-Worker (And Ex) James Deen

Online Retailer Include ‘Rape Us Now’ Button On Black Friday Campaign 

So How Do We Stop Violence Against Women?

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Tags: FFS News, Rape