Sexual Assault Allegations Flare Up in the Adult Industry
December 4, 2015 11:39 AM   Subscribe

On November 28th, adult and mainstream actress Stoya sent out a pair of tweets accusing adult actor James Deen of raping her. Deen replied on Twitter that the "egregious claims" were "false and defamatory", but more performers have since made similar accusations, including producer-director-writer-star Joanna Angel, who dated Deen for six years.

The Adult Video Network (which produces the "Oscars of Porn") has distanced themselves from Deen, as have sex toy company Doc Johnson and at least two production companies, including Kink, where many of the instances are alleged to have occurred. Deen also resigned from the Adult Performer's Advocacy Committee, which he co-founded and was the current chairman.
posted by Etrigan (121 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Joanna is a good friend of mine. She has been telling me for a LONG time that Deen is one of the worst people she's ever met. She told me that he is more sick and twisted than anyone she's ever met in porn, and that he's really the only one in the industry she's met who genuinely has bad intentions. FWIW. I am glad this is finally coming out. (also he's a total poser and is not actually into the punk bands he says he's into.)
posted by capnsue at 11:44 AM on December 4, 2015 [94 favorites]


She has been telling me for a LONG time that Deen is one of the worst people she's ever met.

That's quite an assertion from someone working in the adult industry. (I'm not questioning the assertion, btw).
posted by el io at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read the first link at lunch today, and although it is a pretty brutal read in general, the part where she had to deal with her fans (and his fans) constantly using social media to fantasize about the two of them getting back together after their breakup just made me shudder with horror. Getting away from someone so sadistic is hard enough-- but to have your "loyal" fans happily (and unknowingly, but still) tweeting about how they hope you'll return to him soon, for their viewing pleasure? Awful, awful, awful.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:48 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


James Deen previously, previouslier.
posted by Gelatin at 11:50 AM on December 4, 2015


What a piece of shit.
posted by josher71 at 11:51 AM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


...and also this one, sorry.
posted by Gelatin at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2015


I know exactly why people, especially women, don't say things sooner, but it's hard enough when it's just in a given social group that it turns out people knew somebody was awful and didn't say... it's just so terrible that the system is set up such that maybe there are only a few bad apples, but there's so much impeding anybody saying anything about the bad ones that they can get away with it for this kind of length of time. Years ago I wound up in a bad relationship with a guy where it turned out people I knew already knew about past things he'd done and didn't tell me before we got together. It took a long time to realize that there isn't any good way to get that sort of information out unless you're willing to burn every bridge you've got. This is just that escalated by several orders of magnitude.
posted by Sequence at 11:54 AM on December 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


I've been reading all of these accounts over the past few days, and even women who say they are friends with Deen have stories of being savaged by him. One woman (sorry, I can't remember who) required stitches to her rectum after doing a scene with him, and another was anally raped doing a scene where she had explicitly said anal sex was off the table. It's really pretty horrific, and seems more like he's a guy who got into porn in order to have a cover for his ability to assault women rather than for anything else. He's like a pedophile who become a teacher or coach.
posted by OmieWise at 11:54 AM on December 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


I was sorry to hear this. I liked that there seemed to be a normal, cute, progressive guy engaging in and normalizing kink. I hate that not only did he brutalize these women, now there's so many trolls saying, "well, what did they expect? Have you seen the type of scenes he does?" which is doubly gross a thing to say.

So screw him. I will never watch another video with him in it, and I think the women that came forward are so brave, as we all know the sort of comments and scrutiny they're receiving. I am glad that he's being dropped left and right by companies.
posted by Windigo at 11:57 AM on December 4, 2015 [57 favorites]


Also, as he has a very very large tumblr following, it's a good example that the monsters are often the ones that seem 'normal and cool.' The most monstrous are often to the most charming, of course, but sadly so many young people don't learn this in any other way except firsthand.
posted by Windigo at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2015 [29 favorites]


I saw some back-patting on twitter about how quickly the porn industry has moved on this (as compared to more mainstream rapists, like Bill Cosby). But the fact that two women were raped by him on camera indicates, to me, that something is seriously wrong in the industry. (TW: that article describes the rapes that OmieWise referenced. The scenes were released and Deen was, in one case, congratulated by the crew.)
posted by Mavri at 12:01 PM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


okay for reals is there any ethically produced porn out there at all? cause I loooove looking at naked people getting all naked and dirty with each other, but GOOD LORD the naked people image industry seems pretty much disgusting top to bottom.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:02 PM on December 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


Just to be clear, I think it's great that there have been real and fast repercussions after Stoya's tweets, but an industry where you can rape someone in front of witnesses and on camera and nothing happens (or you're even rewarded) is deeply fucked.
posted by Mavri at 12:04 PM on December 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


I don't know if it's the media bubble that I'm in, but I've been really heartened by the response I've seen to this news breaking. Back when I was working for a porn Death Star, the feminist solidarity of porn stars was… not great. I remember an editorial meeting where I had to nope the fuck out after being asked whether I'd rather rape Sarah Palin or Cindy McCain, and it was totally de rigueur for that sort of shit to be unchallenged even by feminist women.

"I liked that there seemed to be a normal, cute, progressive guy engaging in and normalizing kink."

Totally. But what honestly shut the door on it for me was seeing Nina Hartley's response. She knows basically everyone in kink, has worked with all of them (including Deen), and I've seen her defend guys over dubious allegations from female stars that later proved to be unfounded. She's someone whose opinion I respect immensely, and she wouldn't have given a signal boost to Stoya if there wasn't anything there.

I've defended a lot of outwardly fucked-up porn because I've known performers who were in them and been able to understand the difference between performance and real life (Ashley Blue is a phenomenal actress in terms of making things seem real that aren't at all), but it's a shame that Deen has apparently fallen into the deeply ingrained misogyny of porn producers and executives. Scenes that look like rape can be totally fine, and I'm a little worried about the backlash, but when you don't abide by the boundaries set by a partner, that's actual rape, and that it looks like it's ended his career is a good thing. The faster porn can police this sort of shit, the healthier it will be.
posted by klangklangston at 12:07 PM on December 4, 2015 [66 favorites]


The most monstrous are often to the most charming, of course, but sadly so many young people don't learn this in any other way except firsthand.

Something I've noticed as more allegations have surfaced has been how people are increasingly saying, "Ugh, I don't know why people liked him so much anyway. He was so obviously a creep, he has dead eyes, etc." It just reinforces the idea that we should be able to tell who the rapist bad guys are right off the bat when the truth is that rapists can be scary good at blending in. Wasn't there one study trying to determine if people could pick out criminals from a crowd, and it turned out that we're generally good at determining whether someone has a criminal background... except when it comes to rape/sexual assault?

Hindsight is 20/20.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 12:07 PM on December 4, 2015 [44 favorites]


Sometimes I think that the ability to suss out true character is correlated tightly with being a less outspoken and more sensitive person -- exactly the sort of person who wants to bend over backward to give the benefit of the doubt, or who feels that their input will be discounted anyway.
posted by jfwlucy at 12:13 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


"okay for reals is there any ethically produced porn out there at all? cause I loooove looking at naked people getting all naked and dirty with each other, but GOOD LORD the naked people image industry seems pretty much disgusting top to bottom."

Tons!

… but it's almost impossible to tell from the outside, unless it's the polysexual Annie Sprinkle kinda stuff. In general, if it's amateur, it's more likely to be ethical, but that's no real guarantee either. Even Kink.com has been dinged for all sorts of ethical problems, and it seems like some of these Deen shoots even happened under their auspices.

In general, because I know them, I'd feel comfortable recommending stuff by Nina Hartley and her husband Ernest Greene, or by Ashley Blue/Ori Small and her husband Dave Naz. They're folks who are into this stuff even when the cameras are off, and are pretty savvy about the ethical concerns. That doesn't mean that it's all ethical — I mean, I still have general complaints about how capitalism distorts the porn market, and this is still stuff that's often backed by big studios.

If you're really interested, I'd bet you could tweet to Stoya and ask her what her opinion is on it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:16 PM on December 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


I have a friend who was in a scene with him and had nothing but good things to say. This isn't a defense, more to the point that he isn't a monster all the time, only sometimes? When he thinks he can get away with it? Awful awful stuff.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, can I say how pleasantly surprised I am by Aurora Snow's reporting on this and other porn stuff? She's doing great work at the Beast.
posted by klangklangston at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


Hindsight is 20/20.

Agreed, but the ascendancy of Deen seemed sort fueled by people who were really, really, really eager to project/propagate/buy into the whole progressive/good guy thing he was selling. Personally, I think any dude performing/managing/producing porn should be presumed at best skeevy if not a wee bit predatory until proven otherwise.

Also, backslash.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:23 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


okay for reals is there any ethically produced porn out there at all?

Check out Erika Lust's site XConfessions (short films based on stories/fantasies submitted by site subscribers, really fun and well-made) and Lust Cinema (a site Lust curates, hand-picking titles that align with her philosophy of porn). All those links are NSFW, but you probably already knew that!

I recently did a (mostly) SFW interview with her for Daily Grindhouse in advance of a screening of XConfessions at the Chicago International Film Festival. Her sites and recommendations are a great place to start looking for progressive, ethically produced porn.
posted by tomorrowromance at 12:25 PM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


The progression of this from one woman finally speaking publicly to multiple corroborative stories, and stories of internal coverups and even open acceptance of nonconsesual sexual violence was predictable, and that's really saddening.

Deen didn't "fall in" to anything. He wasn't corrupted. He's a sexual predator who sought a career and life style that would provide cover for his bad behavior.
posted by muddgirl at 12:26 PM on December 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


I have a friend who was in a scene with him and had nothing but good things to say. This isn't a defense, more to the point that he isn't a monster all the time, only sometimes?

No, he's a monster all the time. He's just learned how to wear a nice-guy mask most of the time.
posted by Etrigan at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2015 [40 favorites]


I have never, ever seen it for him, and it's actually bothered me in the past because of his reputation as a feminist, an advocate, etc, I've felt like I should support him more than I did. But I always got the ickiest, worst vibe from his screen presence. I am in no way saying that I saw this coming or that I/anyone else should have known (and on preview, I'm definitely not saying you can visually identify the bad guys), but it puts into context some very strong feelings I've had about him.

To imnotasquirrel's point, they're feelings I've never felt comfortable expressing or even having, because I don't want to shit on the apparently woman-friendly guy in such a potentially exploitative industry. That I didn't like him honestly bothered me, because, what, of all the male porn actors out there and all the probably shitty people I excuse for my entertainment, the only one that really, viscerally turns me off is the "good guy" who supports women? What does that say about my real predilections as a man, as opposed to my professed politics?

I'm not trying to make it about me or my feelings, the issue is squarely that he is a garbage human who needs to be held accountable for his crimes. I just wanted to address a possible reason why other people might also suddenly be saying out loud "I never liked him" now when they didn't before, besides wanting to be on the smug side of history. Believe me, I was happier about it when I thought he was the nice guy I just didn't get, I'd much prefer that reality to this one.
posted by Errant at 12:28 PM on December 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


Agreed, but the ascendancy of Deen seemed sort fueled by people who were really, really, really eager to project/propagate/buy into the whole progressive/good guy thing he was selling.

Yeah, true, and it does weird me out that people were apparently very gung-ho about putting a feminist label on him, when AFAIK Deen actually disavowed the label, going so far as to say that he hated feminism. Plus he'd make rape jokes on twitter.

Disclaimer: This is secondhand/thirdhand info, as I have never been to Deen's twitter.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 12:30 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, there is plenty of ethical pornography out there, a great much of it not made in a studio but between consenting adults in an amateur setting. That Deen was able to continue as long as he did - given cover and even congratulated for his abuse - is a testament to the sick, broken system that is industry porn.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:30 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


No, he's a monster all the time. He's just learned how to wear a nice-guy mask most of the time.
I always have mixed feelings about calling people like Deen monsters. I totally understand the impetus - I have called my own abuser/rapist/shitstain of an ex a monster many times. But it sort of dehumanizes them, doesn't it? And this almost pulls away some of the blame. Monsters do these things; people do not. It's a natural thing to say, but I wonder if it doesn't abstract the issue a bit too much. All this said, yeah, I say "monster" when I talk about people like this, because it's partially the only way I can make sense of these people. Human beings should not treat one another this way.

This broke my heart because I used to very much enjoy Deen. But after I left my ex, I couldn't watch him anymore. Something was too familiar about him. His charisma, which was once sexy and appealing, had this strange grubby creepy feeling to it, to me. I'm not saying "oh it was obvious and anyone could notice it," but I wonder what that's about, you know? I've noticed it in other men, too, and inevitably people start accusing them of the same things. What is that?

I hope he never works in the industry again. And I hope he doesn't do this to more women.
posted by sockermom at 12:39 PM on December 4, 2015 [36 favorites]


RE: ethical porn, in addition to the more "mainstream" explicitly feminist/queer-friendly stuff, there's quite a large volume of material by fetish performers on sites like Clips4Sale who basically own their own small businesses selling individual clips (as far as I can tell, at least, it really doesn't have a lot of coverage). There are also things like cam sites where you can interact directly with models. Obviously these are systems with middlemen but compared to what MindGeek does you're closer to supporting whoever is actually appearing in the content.
posted by Small Dollar at 12:42 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always have mixed feelings about calling people like Deen monsters. I totally understand the impetus - I have called my own abuser/rapist/shitstain of an ex a monster many times. But it sort of dehumanizes them, doesn't it? And this almost pulls away some of the blame. Monsters do these things; people do not.

I agree with you in many senses, and I don't think one should call someone who is {[just]}* a rapist or murderer a monster. But the sense I alluded to above, that Deen went into porn for the cover to assault women gives me a different vibe.

*I have no idea how to say this. No rape or murder is "just" a rape or murder, obviously, but I mean someone who does something that this awful and assaultive but hasn't structured their lives to be a predator.
posted by OmieWise at 12:45 PM on December 4, 2015


I am hoping for criminal consequences. Violent rapists belong in prison.
posted by bearwife at 12:51 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


That I never truly know the context in which a clip was made is why porn does nothing for me. Who knows what the situation really was when these naked people made the film I'm watching? Does this person hate the partner chosen by the folks behind the camera? Is this person grossed out by them, or by a particular act? Were they pressured into doing this scene? Especially when the actors cry, which from what I've experienced seems super common in porn. Kink dot com videos generally have footage of the actors after the fact talking about how the scene made them feel; how am I to know they weren't coerced into saying everything was okay? And the longer I avoid porn for fear of seeing non-consensual acts, the worse it seems when I do watch porn.

In fact, James Deen was one of the few actors I occasionally enjoyed watching, and now that I know what I know about him, I doubt I'll be able to enjoy porn again. I suppose there's ethical porn out there, but I was under the impression this whole time that kink dot com videos were ethical. It's evident to me now that they don't prioritize joyful consent in everything they produce.
posted by theraflu at 1:22 PM on December 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


[A few comments removed, cut it out with the "so he's a rapist just because people say so?" thing.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:24 PM on December 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


Windigo: "now there's so many trolls saying, "well, what did they expect? Have you seen the type of scenes he does?" which is doubly gross a thing to say."

It's also eminently frustrating because the "type of scene he does" is clearly very appealing to both men and women, in part because of its dark edginess &c, and it would be a real shame this killed off consensual kink in mainstream porn. Of course, it will be a net benefit if this results in better + safer conditions for all the artists in porn, including those making mainstream kink.
posted by chavenet at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The worst part for me is not James Deen - the worst is the people high fiving about how his rape meant they could get a more expensive act for the price of a cheap act.
posted by corb at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Well one of the things that I found appealing about some of his kink work was that he was very good at 'appearing' playful, very good at 'appearing' to check in on his partner and focus on her responses. It was really sexy to see that, the consensual (I thought) back-and-forth.
posted by Windigo at 1:52 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


We should not be surprised that studios which produce rape fetish porn (oh sorry, consensual kink) are going to attract abusive men. I really don't know where the line is drawn, or what's considered mainstream, but facials are an act of humiliation, and the whole anal gap fetish is clearly and obviously about causing pain. That's how the scenes are filmed, as a sexual endurance course the female performer must endure to "pass the test".

Porn has consistently gotten more degrading (bukkake) and dangerous (double anal and choking) towards women, over the last 40 years, and it's pretty obvious that it would be worse if not for the threat of producers being charged with obscenity. The notorious 2 girls 1 cup, which I believe is essentially an emotional snuff film, originated from a 3rd world Latin America country, but porn studios would be producing the exact same thing in LA if they thought there was money in it and they could get away with it. Seriously. It's a very sleazy industry dominated by abusers and users.
posted by Beholder at 2:08 PM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jesus, Deen pulled a lot of scarily harrowing shit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:12 PM on December 4, 2015


'Consensual kink' is not a code word for 'rape fetish porn.'

Rape fantasies can be a type of consensual kink, but it's only one subset of a much much larger galaxy of interests.
posted by Windigo at 2:15 PM on December 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'd bet you could tweet to Stoya and ask her what her opinion is on it.

Stoya even has her own company now which I won't look up to link because I'm at work, but you can find it pretty easily.
posted by kenko at 2:22 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure "why are we surprised the kink porn industry may attract awful people?" Is much more than a very small stone's throw from "can porn performers ever really be raped?"
posted by obfuscation at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2015 [21 favorites]


I have a friend who was in a scene with him and had nothing but good things to say. This isn't a defense, more to the point that he isn't a monster all the time, only sometimes?

My guess -- having never seen any of his work and knowing nothing of his ethics, I should say -- is that he is probably a great guy to work with and is really good about checking in and ensuring his partner is comfortable with what is going on, for as long as she is comfortable and doesn't check him or ask him to stop anything. I have known a lot of people like that, people who were charismatic and warm and really likable and built rapport very quickly but who very rapidly moved into pressure, intimidation, coercion, and sometimes outright violence as soon as someone pushed back or even expressed discomfort. It's very scary to be in a vulnerable place with one of those people, particularly because you feel so much internal pressure to continue to "be okay" with everything so that you won't "make" them get angry or cause a scene or what have you. It's hard to even describe.
posted by KathrynT at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2015 [73 favorites]


I'm not sure "why are we surprised the kink porn industry may attract awful people?" Is much more than a very small stone's throw from "can porn performers ever really be raped?"

They seem miles apart to me. The first is focusing on the abusers and placing blame on them, where it belongs, and the second is blaming the victims.
posted by Mavri at 2:31 PM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of the Jian Gomeshi stuff, where a guy has this abusive reputation among the women in a scene for years, but it doesn't surface because women don't think they'll be believed or because the man has sufficient power to make confronting him hazardous to one's career and continued presence in the scene. And then the dam breaks, and we find out, surprise surprise, they knew what was up all along and did their best to minimize the damage, and our culture of patriarchal silence is directly responsible for this not stopping sooner.

We need to make it easier and more acceptable for women to come forward with their stories. We need to understand how abusive people are able to use all the power at their disposal to marginalize their victims and shield themselves from repercussion by using our willful disbelief, our presumptive and privileged generosity that we call benefit of the doubt. We need to make it so that the next time we hear something like this, it's one woman's story and not dozens all at once because now we're finally listening. We need to make it so that it's not brave when a woman comes forward. Telling us that she was assaulted shouldn't have to be an act of courage. It's not our fault that this man hurt people, but it's definitely our fault that those people couldn't and wouldn't tell us. We need to earn women's trust.
posted by Errant at 2:43 PM on December 4, 2015 [37 favorites]


It's a bit disappointing how much people are focusing on Deen specifically as a bad apple. If, say, a boss at a factory was exposed as raping some of the workers there, folks would rightly point to the larger context of the industry: the oppressive and exploitative working conditions are shitty in and of themselves, but also enable even more egregious abuse on the sides.The fundamental issue is not some specific shitty boss, it's the material conditions that enable him, as well as the even larger context of a patriarchy that tells men they have the right to women's bodies, especially women they have economic power over.

All of which is to say that the mainstream porn industry is fucked from top to bottom, and this needs to be a moment where we point to that as the root cause, and not just debate exactly how long Deen has been a monster. The fact that the news sources like Jezebel, who are now breathlessly reporting this, are the same ones who only a few years ago were so excited about this kewl&progressive rich powerful male porn star, the ones who literally built a base for him and contributed substantially to his power in the industry, is sickening, but it's sadly not surprising. It just shows the utter fucking paucity of this brand of neoliberal sex-pozz feminism, that balks at any serious analysis of the industry as being "anti-porn" (heaven forfend)
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


1) if a sex scene involves physical restraints, it is implicitly a "rape" scene even if it doesn't fit the "rape fetish" genre tropes: why else would someone be in bondage?

2) there are plenty of court cases involving bdsm gone wrong. but, they tend to illustrate just how much of the legal concept of rape is built on patriarchy. when you are participating in acts which simulate rape, it's a genuine problem to determine what constitutes a violent sexual assault.

3) "safe words" don't solve the problem. they just represent another boundary which can be and are transgressed, consensually. there is no universal standard of conduct. more over, if you consider the position of women in many Christian subcultures, sex within marriage becomes a form of what I would consider to be "rape" but is entirely normalized within the subculture.

4) rather than the porn industry, think about those Christian submissive women. defining what constitutes rape within that community actually reinforces the domination of women within the community because it is explicitly legalizing forms of domination which aren't "rape".

5) returning to porn. this complaint against Deen should not be seen as the actions of a bad apple, but an illustration of what it means for an industry to depend on the exploitation of it's workers, because the power of employment makes consent impossible to determine. what a person will do to maintain employment is a constantly moving boundary which employers will always try to transgress: doing a scene with Deen is a ticket to further employment...
posted by ennui.bz at 2:58 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


1) if a sex scene involves physical restraints, it is implicitly a "rape" scene even if it doesn't fit the "rape fetish" genre tropes: why else would someone be in bondage?

Because they like it?

Oh, this whole comment is uncharitable or ignorant.
posted by kenko at 3:03 PM on December 4, 2015 [81 favorites]


It did give me the willies a bit.
posted by Justinian at 3:07 PM on December 4, 2015


If, say, a boss at a factory was exposed as raping some of the workers there, folks would rightly point to the larger context of the industry: the oppressive and exploitative working conditions are shitty in and of themselves, but also enable even more egregious abuse on the sides.

Surely the following things are relevant:

(a) Deen is a performer, not, in the main, a boss. (AIUI he has a production company as well, but didn't for much of his career and he doesn't work exclusively for himself—that's why all the organizations that are bosses are able now to say they won't employ him anymore.)

(b) His crimes took place outside his professional activities as well—I read (I don't know whether it's linked above because I haven't followed any of the links because, again, work, which admittedly raises the question why I'm on this thread at all but w/e) an article focussing on Joanna Angel and her private and horrifying-sounding relationship with Deen). Certainly you might expand your critique to say that any time any man is abusive this shows the exploitative structures in which the actions were embedded, but that seems, to me, to be a criticism that can comfortably live alongside, not instead of, attention to the particular actions of a particular person.

After all, not everyone in the industry, and not everyone in industry (i.e. not every boss at a factory) is an abuser or a rapist. I don't see why there's a "the" fundamental issue here: it's like you're trying to allegorize something that actually happened in the real world. The thing you identify as the fundamental issue certainly is an issue here as elsewhere, but the particular matters too.
posted by kenko at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's a bit disappointing how much people are focusing on Deen specifically as a bad apple.

i don't think it's disappointing at all to focus on the rapist who assaulted women in intimate settings, in work settings, and in between scene moments. i also don't think it's fair to hyperfocus on the porn industry, when you see similar things happening in hollywood, in canadian radio, in tech, in sf/f circles, and and and. this is rape culture. many serial rapists find communities that will give them the cover they need. deen choose porn. there are definitely things to fix in porn, but the fact that they hid a serial rapist put them on par with a bunch of other industries.

and anti-porn/whorephobic rhetoric pretty much always harms the women in the industry far more than it harms the men or the companies that produce porn, a fact that sex workers and former sex workers point out over and over again, but feminists critical of the industry don't much like to listen to them about their own lived experiences.


if a sex scene involves physical restraints, it is implicitly a "rape" scene even if it doesn't fit the "rape fetish" genre tropes: why else would someone be in bondage?

are you fucking kidding me? so when i tied myself to a bed when i was 12 to masturbate it was because i was fantasizing about raping myself? bullshit. bondage feels good to some people, full stop.
posted by nadawi at 3:13 PM on December 4, 2015 [79 favorites]


Ok, ennui.bz's entire comment is full of the sort of frustrating suppositions that make me exhausted and ask myself 'why do I even try to advocate?'

No, bondage is not 'implicitly a rape scene.' People can enjoy bondage for so many reasons. Some people enjoy the pure aesthetic of it. Other like the feel of it against their skin. Some people actually find it comforting and it gives them a sense of security, not unlike swaddling. Some people are very twitchy during sex and have trouble reaching climax because they can't keep still and build up the friction, so types of restraint help keep them steady. And yeah, some people like to feel the loss of control. And some people use it to play out rape fantasies.

And all those reasons are perfectly acceptable and legit between consenting adults.

I am not even going to get started on the rest.
posted by Windigo at 3:13 PM on December 4, 2015 [39 favorites]


FWIW, ennui, a friend of mine* recently related to me that she finds being in bondage almost instantly relaxing and calming, and pleasant on that account, even if piv sex or other sex-related program activities aren't forthcoming. So even if you were thinking of an argument to the effect that a person who enjoys being in bondage is, at some level, implicitly thinking of him- or herself as the victim of a rape during sex, there's a prima facie problem with the people who enjoy being in bondage without sex being on the table at all.

* really
posted by kenko at 3:16 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


as stoya said in the guardian article :
But also there is ‘Well, you know you can’t rape a sex worker,’ or ‘She still defends porn when she was raped by a pornographer’ – everybody has got their own fucking agenda, and that’s why I was scared to say something.
when you make this about porn as a whole instead of about this serial rapist who has a repeated pattern and has long been a missing stair, you discourage victims from coming forward.
posted by nadawi at 3:17 PM on December 4, 2015 [31 favorites]


it's a good example that the monsters are often the ones that seem 'normal and cool.' The most monstrous are often to the most charming, of course, but sadly so many young people don't learn this in any other way except firsthand.

Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby both used the same playbook for years. I'm glad that these stories are finally coming out and that these assholes are being exposed for what they are. Fuck these guys.
posted by Fizz at 3:19 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Stoya even has her own company now which I won't look up to link because I'm at work, but you can find it pretty easily.

For the lazy among you, it's trenchcoatx.com; Stoya and Kayden Kross run it. FWIW, Kross had this to say about Stoya's story. In particular, talking about why Stoya initially chose to stay quiet, Kross writes:

"Already our industry battles the constant din of claims that the women, simply by showing up to work, are victims. Already we battle the claims that porn is rape, that consent is questionable, that no woman given a fair choice would engage in it. Stoya knew that if she were to name one man who did, in fact, violate consent, then the entire industry would be assumed to be complicit."

Which, sure enough, seems to be exactly what is happening in a lot of comments in this thread. Not that I don't think the additional stories coming out about Deen in the time since are damning of other people in Deen's professional circles, but this whole "this just shows that the entire mainstream porn industry is rotten from top to bottom!" attitude is exactly the viewpoint which made Stoya (and probably many other sex workers) want to stay silent. It doesn't just happen in porn, it's not a symptom of a rotten industry; it's a symptom of a rotten culture, in which people just find it easier to "not get involved" rather than call out predators and slimeballs when they know about them.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:22 PM on December 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


His crimes took place outside his professional activities as well

Not all of them. IIRC, one of the women who's come forward - don't remember which one - said that her assault happened on set when Deen forced her to do a sex act she didn't want to do (anal) and then the people on set congratulated him for getting an anal scene out of her.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 3:23 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


speaking of jian - another great article to read about bdsm and consent and rape and missing stairs, do you know about jian.
posted by nadawi at 3:25 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not all of them.

yes, that's why the thing you're quoting says as well.
posted by nadawi at 3:26 PM on December 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


To back up a bit from the sex/porn angle, when I was much younger I had the bad luck to hook up with several sociopaths whose names are still on knife handles sticking out of my back.

Sociopaths do indeed often seem warm, caring, and interested in you. They practice this and they're good at it because when they are acting they aren't distracted by actual feelings. The turn when you become uninteresting to them can be so sudden and extreme it makes your head spin. The story Joanna Angel tells, revolting as it is, is entirely characteristic and similar things happen in completely nonsexual situations. The way I have always put it is that once they get bored enough they will cut you just to see what color your blood is.

Unfortunately, just as there can be a problem after the fact telling a well acted "cruel" BDSM scene from a record of an actual violent act, there is a big problem telling the well acted patter of a sociopath from the genuine attitude of a concerned and caring partner. In my experience it's the sociopath we would usually prefer because their patter will be more perfect; they will not get distracted and make the kind of nervous missteps and mistakes which are natural for the rest of us when we are also dealing with powerful feelings.

As for why the porn industry has reacted so much better than the MSM did to Bill Cosby, I think that has much to do with the simple fact that even the most influential porn people are drops in the bucket of life next to even washed up has-been major MSM personalities. Deen simply doesn't have the kind of omnicidal career-killing influence that Cosby was perceived to have. Nobody in the porn industry does. The vertical separation between the intro n00bs and highest earners simply isn't as great, probably by two orders of magnitude. So there might be some tendency to keep quiet for the sake of peace, but once someone breaks the silence it's much easier for the other victims to come out too.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:26 PM on December 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


nadawi, then I parsed that sentence incorrectly; I took the OP to mean "as well" as in, in addition to their point A.

Regardless, while I don't agree with the posters saying that all bondage is implicitly rape, I do believe that a work industry that can result in the sort of incident I mentioned does require a critique of that industry. Doesn't mean we have to throw out the entire thing.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 3:28 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, I meant "as well as within his professional activities".

I do believe that a work industry that can result in the sort of incident I mentioned does require a critique of that industry

Take out the part where he was having sex on camera professionally in the first place and I'd bet you can find examples of similar incidents in many kinds of industries, where even though sexual relations between people in a supervisory relationship are disallowed or illegal they take place and aren't complained about for fear of reprisals etc. So, yeah, I do believe that if you want to take your criticism to a broader level than focussing on Deen specifically, the place you want to come to rest isn't porn as an industry but power relations in society generally.
posted by kenko at 3:35 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


this whole "this just shows that the entire mainstream porn industry is rotten from top to bottom!" attitude is exactly the viewpoint which made Stoya (and probably many other sex workers) want to stay silent. It doesn't just happen in porn, it's not a symptom of a rotten industry; it's a symptom of a rotten culture, in which people just find it easier to "not get involved" rather than call out predators and slimeballs when they know about them.

No, that just precisely shows how tightly the wrench is turned: it's exactly in the economic interest of sex workers to stay silent about this kind of super-exploitation, because of the possible ramifications of coming forward. I don't agree with all of ennui.bz's comment, but this remark is on fucking point:

this complaint against Deen should not be seen as the actions of a bad apple, but an illustration of what it means for an industry to depend on the exploitation of it's workers, because the power of employment makes consent impossible to determine. what a person will do to maintain employment is a constantly moving boundary which employers will always try to transgress: doing a scene with Deen is a ticket to further employment...

Do you not see that you're literally defending the employers here? I'm not even saying that, on balance, porn is obviously much more exploitative than any other industry. But like, we live under capitalism y'all, and any serious feminist analysis absolutely must be grounded in an understanding of the material conditions of women's oppression. The idea that doing so is "whore-phobic" would almost be comical if it weren't so depressing.
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 3:48 PM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Which, sure enough, seems to be exactly what is happening in a lot of comments in this thread.

Also happening in direct reports from some women he attacked in front of witnesses: “The thing is, Deen isn’t the only one who’s crossed boundaries,” LaBeau tells Vocativ. “James is the one that was the worst, but there’s been others. It’s not just James and that’s the problem.”

Men in all professions rape their co-workers. They don't all do it on camera in front of scores of witnesses. I'd like to see some male porn professionals stand up and talk about why they said nothing when they saw these attacks happen, if they really valued their careers and the industry above human decency or what.

kenko - "take out the part where he was having sex on camera" means take out the part where the workplace didn't just harbor one rapist, but scores of accessories and accomplices. Enough of his assaults were during scenes that any defense of the industry as no worse than any other has to account for this.

I have worked in enough corporate offices to know beyond doubt that any workplace with more than ten or twenty men probably has at least a couple who might do or have done things like this. I have never worked in an office where it seemed reasonable to fear that if one of them did attack a woman, he would be unafraid to do it in public, at work, on the clock, because the rest of the office would sit around, watch, chat, laugh, and applaud when he was done.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:54 PM on December 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


the employers like stoya and joanna angel? or some nebulous employers? and yes, lets talk about capitalism, just the other day i had a conversation on twitter with some (former and current) sex workers and every single one of them agreed that the entry level jobs they took that weren't sex work were far more soul crushing, awful, oppressive, and filled with harassment than shaking their ass.
posted by nadawi at 3:56 PM on December 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


"She said she would try to bring it up with him: what happened, what had he been thinking? He would tell her, she said, that her tears were “abusive”."
Holy shit, that is some serious gaslighting.
posted by edheil at 3:57 PM on December 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


kenko - "take out the part where he was having sex on camera" means take out the part where the workplace didn't just harbor one rapist, but scores of accessories and accomplices.

Yes, and the part where he got cheered on for explicitly going against predetermined boundaries on camera is super fucking disgusting and disturbing. It just seems that he was a determinedly shitty person apart from that, and if he'd been punctiliously clean on set my opinion would be substantially similar.
posted by kenko at 4:01 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Do you not see that you're literally defending the employers here? I'm not even saying that, on balance, porn is obviously much more exploitative than any other industry. But like, we live under capitalism y'all, and any serious feminist analysis absolutely must be grounded in an understanding of the material conditions of women's oppression. The idea that doing so is "whore-phobic" would almost be comical if it weren't so depressing.

oh my god I don't know at all where I stand here and it makes me a little dizzy thinking about it.

The place I want to land, I think, is that sex work isn't inherently more degrading than other kinds of work (work that takes more emotional labor, work that's more physically dangerous, work that takes most of your waking day, work that can't support a worker at a reasonable standard of living, and work that requires willfully sabotaging yourself are all categories that are more degrading), and that many people disapprove of sex work out of a hatred for women, for bodies, and for sex, and out of discomfort with how sex work in a way literalizes the relationships established between employer and employee (and customer and worker).

but like that position involves sort of glossing over the unique and distinct ways that sex work is exploitative, which might be problematic.

So I think the position I'm going to provisionally adopt (which seems to be the position of the people in this thread most informed about the pornography industry) is basically summed up in the slogan "All power to the sex workers!" Worker owned co-ops, sex worker unionization, workplace democracy, the whole shebang.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:28 PM on December 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


(also, fuck James Deen. What a sickening man. He makes me ashamed for my entire gender.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:32 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty vanilla, personally, so in some ways, I'm a poor advocate for people who are into kink. That said, I'm fairly certain the answer to "Isn't [type of porn a commenter finds repellent] basically just horrible abuse/degradation/indicative of depravity?" is "There are more kinks in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

I'm a big horror movie fan and I can recognize this kind of thing you like that I find awful means you are secretly evil and warped horseshit a mile away, even if it's directed at people with a different enthusiasm than I have.

There's a reason we say YKINMKBYKIOK. Let's not let moral outrage over this shithead and his abuse cause us to puff up our hangups with freshman psych analysis and have us making bold claims about which people are obviously depraved. There are nice people who like stuff other people don't get. If you don't know this, you may not get out enough.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:34 PM on December 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


It just shows the utter fucking paucity of this brand of neoliberal sex-pozz feminism, that balks at any serious analysis of the industry as being "anti-porn" (heaven forfend)

Or maybe they balk at people who have minimal experience with particular acts or fetishes holding forth about what they are "clearly and obviously about." I'm not here to defend the porn industry in the shadow of the image of a room full of producer dudes high-fiving as a performer is violated. But for all their "serious analysis" of that industry most anti-porn writers I have encountered show a serious failure to understand - often an apparent and insulting lack of interest in understanding - porn itself and the varieties of human sexual experience.

So I think I'd rather hear the critique (of which there is lots to be made I am certain) primarily from the people who have been there, thanks.
posted by atoxyl at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


You kinda got there first, DirtyOldTown. I actually also feel like there are quite a few kink people who themselves try to squeeze everybody into one framework or another that doesn't quite fit. Like whoever decided the BDSM are four letters that belong together. But that's another discussion really.
posted by atoxyl at 4:46 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Deen didn't "fall in" to anything. He wasn't corrupted. He's a sexual predator who sought a career and life style that would provide cover for his bad behavior."

So, one of the things bugging me about this is that Deen also has a long history of glowing reviews from coworkers who talk about how careful he was about respecting their boundaries.

The problem with turning it into this or the reductive "monster" is that Deen doesn't have to be a "sexual predator who sought a career and life style that would provide cover" — he can still be someone working in porn who bought into a bunch of toxic bullshit that permeates the industry, and a lot of toxic shit out there about D/S relationships.

Turning it into monsters is dumb and reactive, and blaming rough porn ignores the agency of the people involved on both sides.

"I suppose there's ethical porn out there, but I was under the impression this whole time that kink dot com videos were ethical. It's evident to me now that they don't prioritize joyful consent in everything they produce."

In general, the ethical complaints about Kink stuff tend to be things like wage disputes over cam girls, and whether people were trained riggers for their bondage, etc. Like, pretty prosaic labor shit, when it comes down to it, and most of them have been resolved. This stuff with Deen is outside of the general complaints that have been around about Kink, and a lot of that comes from them conspicuously holding themselves to a higher standard.

I mean, the real answer is to make your own porn, or buy porn from people you know, but that's not necessarily something most people want to invest in. Outside of that, look for non-commercial options, or options from people who are explicitly (no pun intended) making feminist porn.

"My guess -- having never seen any of his work and knowing nothing of his ethics, I should say -- is that he is probably a great guy to work with and is really good about checking in and ensuring his partner is comfortable with what is going on, for as long as she is comfortable and doesn't check him or ask him to stop anything. I have known a lot of people like that, people who were charismatic and warm and really likable and built rapport very quickly but who very rapidly moved into pressure, intimidation, coercion, and sometimes outright violence as soon as someone pushed back or even expressed discomfort. It's very scary to be in a vulnerable place with one of those people, particularly because you feel so much internal pressure to continue to "be okay" with everything so that you won't "make" them get angry or cause a scene or what have you. It's hard to even describe."

Again, he had a reputation of being someone who was really good about checking in and pulling back when his partners used safewords or complained, and had a reputation broadly of being someone who didn't violate boundaries like so many other male talent. This is something that many of his female costars said, and that's why it's been shocking to see a lot of the dirty laundry finally get aired — several of the women that complained put him on their list of people they wouldn't work with; some of the women complaining did work with him again. It's not like Ron Sullivan (aka "Khan Tusion" of the "Meatholes" franchises), who has a long litany essentially filming sexual assaults, and who does come across as charismatic until he's told no.

I don't want this misconstrued as a defense, but rather thinking about him like a date rapist — there are undoubtably guys who have assaulted women in one relationship and have gone on to have at least outwardly healthy relationships with other women. Those relationships don't mitigate or excuse the violation, but rather (at least to me) highlight that the violation was a choice, rather than some ingrained character flaw. Deen repeatedly demonstrated that he did know better, which makes him more responsible, not less, for the assaults.

"It's a bit disappointing how much people are focusing on Deen specifically as a bad apple. If, say, a boss at a factory was exposed as raping some of the workers there, folks would rightly point to the larger context of the industry: the oppressive and exploitative working conditions are shitty in and of themselves, but also enable even more egregious abuse on the sides.The fundamental issue is not some specific shitty boss, it's the material conditions that enable him, as well as the even larger context of a patriarchy that tells men they have the right to women's bodies, especially women they have economic power over."

Well, and then the stigma around sex work makes it even harder to get material redress for workplace violations, the same way that immigration stigma makes it harder to enforce OSHA for migrant workers.

And then there's dumb shit like legislating condom use, which makes performers less safe (the liberal version of the right wing disingenuous "safety" concerns about abortion).

But yeah, basically one of the biggest problems with porn is capitalism.

"if a sex scene involves physical restraints, it is implicitly a "rape" scene even if it doesn't fit the "rape fetish" genre tropes: why else would someone be in bondage?"

That's such bullshit that you might as well have written that if a sex scene involves any power relationship, it's rape. At best, it's a burlesque of a burlesque of Dworkin.

"there are plenty of court cases involving bdsm gone wrong. but, they tend to illustrate just how much of the legal concept of rape is built on patriarchy. when you are participating in acts which simulate rape, it's a genuine problem to determine what constitutes a violent sexual assault. "

Well, given that you've started from a palpably false premise, it shouldn't be surprising that your conclusions are wildly off the mark.

But let's think this through — there are plenty of sexual assaults scenes in non-pornographic movies. We rarely have trouble distinguishing them from actual sexual assaults. So it must not always be a genuine problem. From there, you could probably suss out some ways to distinguish, and most of them can be applied to porn too.

""safe words" don't solve the problem. they just represent another boundary which can be and are transgressed, consensually. there is no universal standard of conduct. more over, if you consider the position of women in many Christian subcultures, sex within marriage becomes a form of what I would consider to be "rape" but is entirely normalized within the subculture."

o_0

How would transgressing safe words be consensual? I'm getting the sense that you have no idea what you're talking about.

"FWIW, ennui, a friend of mine* recently related to me that she finds being in bondage almost instantly relaxing and calming, and pleasant on that account, even if piv sex or other sex-related program activities aren't forthcoming."

From the Temple Grandin Guide to Sex.
posted by klangklangston at 5:38 PM on December 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm just happy whenever I get to say "X-related program activities" for any value of X. (Of course, if X happens to be an open compound, I say "X–related program activities".)
posted by kenko at 5:45 PM on December 4, 2015


So, one of the things bugging me about this is that Deen also has a long history of glowing reviews from coworkers who talk about how careful he was about respecting their boundaries.

Do you think that other serial rapists walk around raping every woman they work with or date? If they did that, they would all get caught a lot quicker. They pick situations where their victims will not be readily believed, or where they will be actively encouraged and abetted by other men.

Deen is not a unique and special snowflake. He's predictably mundane.
posted by muddgirl at 5:58 PM on December 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


but rather thinking about him like a date rapist — there are undoubtably guys who have assaulted women in one relationship and have gone on to have at least outwardly healthy relationships with other women.

there's this thing with missing stairs - some people are like "i got over the stair just fine! what's everyone's problem!" or, they ignore all the warnings and then when they fall victim to the missing stair they don't want to speak up because they knew they ignored previous warnings, and in our victim blaming rape culture, that is seen by some as just as bad as asking for it. stoya speaks on this a little in the guardian article when she says she'd been warned prior to their relationship.

one of my closest friends in my early to mid 20s was a missing stair. i had heard from people who had heard from other people that he stepped over consent, that he preyed on women who wanted drugs, that he was a bad dude - but every time there was a reason to question, to disbelieve, to trust him over them. after all - he and i had a sexual relationship for years and he always respected my consent (i realize now because i had never said no). i mean, there was that one time when dropped xanax in my beer when he knew i didn't do new drugs on work nights, but he did it right in front of me and offered to take the drink - but the line to the keg was long, so i drank it down (and then learned what drunk xanax sex was like with him later on that night). and so we kept our friendship and i became his cheerleader. when people would bring up (how i saw it at the time) the gossip, i'd assure them that he wasn't like that - that if he was, i'd know. and then, (we all know where this is going right?) we spent the day drinking and i'm pretty sure he drugged my drink (out of my view this time) and...something...happened in his car. i had already started blacking out so i can't say for sure what it was, but it wasn't consensual and i know he knew that. we never talked again and i became part of the whispering network trying to tell other women. i despair to this day when i think of how many women i've put in harms way by being the big strong take no shit feminist who convinced people to trust him.

so when i see stuff from some of his women friends standing up for him, saying they ~know~ stoya is lying about a thing they could not have witnessed i feel revulsion and pity for them. i hope they never have to learn, but i also know from reading the stories from all of deen's accusers that they will likely find it out if they keep their close, sexual relationships with him, because at some point they'll want to say no, or they'll make him mad, or whatever, and then they'll realize who they've stuck their neck out for and they'll likely feel like they can't come forward.
posted by nadawi at 6:09 PM on December 4, 2015 [105 favorites]


Or what nadawi said much better. Thanks for sharing nadawi.
posted by muddgirl at 6:10 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, yeah, I do believe that if you want to take your criticism to a broader level than focussing on Deen specifically, the place you want to come to rest isn't porn as an industry but power relations in society generally.

I mean, IA that this sort of attitude and fear of reprisal/retaliation aren't at all exclusive to porn, not even close. But it might manifest itself in a certain way when it comes to the porn industry (e.g. the rape being filmed as part of a scene), because sex work does have a somewhat unique set of issues that you don't easily find in a lot of other spheres. Which might make it worth addressing this sort of thing as how it pertains to porn specifically, in addition to overall societal power relations.

And that doesn't just go for the porn industry. We hear about a sexual assault committed by an athlete, and there are the discussions of how toxic jock culture breeds entitlement in boys, especially when it comes to high-stakes sports. Or the latest complementarian abuse scandal breaks out, and we hear about how complementarian theology is so easily used to rationalize domestic violence. Etc. There's the issue of sexism within the gay male community. An inevitable complaint that comes up is how unfair it is to single out gay men when ALL men are sexist. And of course it's true that gay men hardly have a monopoly on sexism and misogyny, and people like Rose McGowan who want to act like gay men are worse than straight men in this regard can STFD. But that doesn't mean it's not worth looking at sexism within the gay male community specifically, because the sexism manifests itself in a wholly different way. (e.g. the defense that "I can't be sexist because I'm gay.")

I do agree that we should be hearing more about said issues from people who actually work in the porn industry though, and that a lot of criticism comes from anti-sex moralistic crusaders. (I follow a lot of Southern Baptist bigwigs on twitter. I'm sure they'll find some way to work this into their diatribes about the sexual revolution.) And I don't agree at all with the wide, unfair generalizations dismissing all BDSM as rape and omg you are an awful person if you like that sort of thing.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 6:16 PM on December 4, 2015


...Okay, complementarian theology is admittedly a horrible example, because I find complementarianism inherently problematic, which isn't the case with athletics/porn/gay men. Complementarianism is sexism wrapped up in a pretty little bow. Patriarchy by any other name.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 6:17 PM on December 4, 2015


"Do you think that other serial rapists walk around raping every woman they work with or date? If they did that, they would all get caught a lot quicker. They pick situations where their victims will not be readily believed, or where they will be actively encouraged and abetted by other men."

Well, no, which should be clear by reading the rest of my comment. And since the part you were replying to was specifically in reply to Kathryn saying that Deen would be fine until someone said no, the bit you quoted was at least trying to point out that it's more insidious than that.

The point of the earlier bit, where I was actually replying to your earlier comment, was that describing him as a "sexual predator … etc." obscures and encourages the type of misleading picture of rapists as some clandestine other, similar to how the mantra from elsewhere that "all rape is about power" also obscures these issues — to the detriment of victims. By portraying Deen as a predator whose aim was to rape, rather than as someone who raped because he transgressed consent and boundaries, it foregrounds the bad behavior in hidden personality traits, the lurking monsters, rather than in a situation where Deen had the responsibility to stop and willfully violated that.

This is like a spokesperson for MADD getting busted for driving drunk. Whether that's because they're an alcoholic or because they don't think they were really impaired doesn't matter in terms of their responsibility and their repeated public statements of knowing better; it does matter in terms of getting them and others like them to recognize the problem and prevent it. Saying that people just drive drunk because they're alcoholic monsters encourages people who don't think they're really impaired to get behind the wheel, because, hey, they're not alcoholics, right?

So that's why I was objecting to your comment and calling Etrigan's comment dumb and reductive. Not because I thought that serial rapists rape everybody they see.
posted by klangklangston at 6:45 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


IA

What does this mean?
posted by kenko at 7:07 PM on December 4, 2015


Alvy Ampersand: " Hindsight is 20/20.

Agreed, but the ascendancy of Deen seemed sort fueled by people who were really, really, really eager to project/propagate/buy into the whole progressive/good guy thing he was selling. Personally, I think any dude performing/managing/producing porn should be presumed at best skeevy if not a wee bit predatory until proven otherwise.

Also, backslash.
"

As per hindsight, I guess I should have known too. He seemed a little too perfect, a little too easy to imagine oneself being. A decent looking, but mostly average guy, hanging out with friends, cooking, taking goofy pictures and generally being okay. I'll confess, I bought into his shtick.

At this point, I am reserving judgement, as I hate being part of the other side of the internet hug machine, but, just the consistency of the complaints in conjunction with the affected parties' relationship with him is enough to pretty much taint him eternally for me.
posted by Samizdata at 7:22 PM on December 4, 2015


Kitty Stryker: When Feminism Is A Brand
We need to talk about the ever increasing number of men like James Deen who utilize feminism as a marketable identity to cover up their abusive behavior.
posted by divabat at 7:38 PM on December 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


[Several comments deleted. First, let's dispense with the 'smart cookies' and just rewind that exchange. Second, klang and Etrigan, neither of you thinks what Deen did is okay, so can you please dial down the rhetoric and not accuse each other of somehow being pro-rape? It sucks, it will turn this thread into a super-pointless dumb argument, which it doesn't need to be; please don't do that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:39 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Sorry about the smart cookies. I just think Stoya is really brill and I like her writing.)
posted by Samizdata at 7:55 PM on December 4, 2015


The one good thing about the litany of serial abusers being exposed, from Ghomeshi to Cosby to now Deen, is that each time it seems like it makes it easier for the victims of the next one to be believed. I would hope that eventually the barriers to speaking up get lowered sufficiently that the perpetrators can get caught before they have had a chance to hurt so many people, but that seems to be a very slow change, if at all.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:08 PM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Fuck it. That's it. I'm done with porn. It's no longer possible to know whether or not I'm witnessing a rape. I'm fucking out.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:16 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I pretty much get all my porn in the form of erotica now, from Archive of Our Own.
posted by Windigo at 8:37 PM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fuck it. That's it. I'm done with porn. It's no longer possible to know whether or not I'm witnessing a rape. I'm fucking out.

Yes, that's exactly the point: under capitalism, porn is almost necessarily opaque as to whether rape is ocurring, because the structural conditions make it so that it is functionally very difficult for women to say no. (c.f. the lot of married women when spousal rape was legal and acceptable).
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 8:42 PM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


So if these women are being raped while doing scenes......unless he's the only one there holding the camera, he's not the only one complicit in this.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:27 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, the "actually it's about class" response is the most typically shitty thing in this thread.

You want to do a Marxist analysis of porn? Maybe start another thread, instead of distracting from a discussion about sexism.
posted by maxsparber at 4:45 AM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think a bit of Marxist analysis goes quite well in pretty much any thread personally.
posted by colie at 4:48 AM on December 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not when it's blinkered, distracting, rape-is-a-subset of class oppression, and here's my uneducated opinions about how porn and BDSM are symbols of this class oppression nonsense.
posted by maxsparber at 4:59 AM on December 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


Regardless, while I don't agree with the posters saying that all bondage is implicitly rape, I do believe that a work industry that can result in the sort of incident I mentioned does require a critique of that industry. Doesn't mean we have to throw out the entire thing.

There have been a number of FPPs in the last year or two about the prevalence of sexual assault in field work research and employment and how those risks serve to limit women's professional options in those fields. There was also a recent article about the extraordinary risks that women working as custodians/janitors face, and another about the dangers taken on by women in farm work; I think both of those were turned into FPPs as well but I might be misremembering.

This is not limited to porn at all, and there are a lot of industries that have been structured in ways that magnify these risks while protecting the perpetrators (where, in fact, sexual access is or was a job perk for men in supervisory positions, sometimes quite explicitly). Not many women have the public voice of Stoya, and even she is explicit about the reasons she kept quiet until now and had to consider the risks and implications of her decision to speak out.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:25 AM on December 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


This discussion has highlighted a very interesting meta-phenomenon which I think is important for us to understand, because it keeps coming up on Metafilter and this is just one of the clearer instances of it.

Sex is the source of some of the most powerful feelings we can experience. Those feelings have also been used and abused to manipulate us through a lot of societal pressures and personal experiences. For a lot of people sexual feelings and experience have been so transcendent or traumatizing that the very idea of reducing sex to a commodity is offensive. Sexual offences are in a special class, more disturbing than offences involving money or more ordinary violence, and even the discussion of sexual matters must be flagged with trigger warnings and handled with care. This is, in fact, why the S in Law and Order: SVU stands for special.

But in another context, as it is seen by some other people, sex is a commodity. It can and, one can argue, should be traded. This is the nature of the world in which we live. It is of course subject to Marxist analysis. For some people sexual assault is just another form of assault, not particularly any more personal and in some ways less threatening than having for example a gun aimed at your head. It's definitely a bad thing of course but not necessarily needing to be couched in trigger warnings and elevated in some special way above other crimes.

Deen's transgression is perfectly placed to make a perfect storm between these worldviews. It is the absolute distilled essence of nightmare for someone who places sex in a special category apart from other feelings. And that makes it very difficult for the others to simply discuss it in a rational manner, because simply pointing out things that seem obvious will sound dismissive or even monstrous to those who do see sexual offences as special. Deen is a fairly ordinary sociopath who did the thing sociopaths always do, but he did it in a context that is calculated to freak a lot of people right the hell out.

The fact is between one and two percent of the people around us are monsters who will cut us when they get bored just to see what color our blood is. That is a fact that will come out both in sexual and nonsexual situations, and it's pretty fucking horrible. There doesn't seem to be any solution to it either. Sociopaths are skilled at passing as normal; they usually do a better job of it than normal people do because they aren't distracted by actual strong feelings. There is no treatment; the best evidence we have is that therapy just makes them worse because it trains them to do a better job of passing. It is such an intractable problem that the writers of the DSM can't seem to figure out what to do with it even though it's been described in the literature since the 18th century.

Stigmatizing sex work and putting porn back in a closet will not do a damn thing about the problem of sociopathy. Anybody you meet in the course of ordinary life could actually be a sociopath and unless they get curious about the color of your blood, you probably won't know. This is a fact far more horrible to me than anything sexual. I have encountered four of them that I counted among my most trusted friends and I'm still not sure I would recognize the signs in a new acquaintance if they were actively feigning companionship. If you have never woken up with another knife handle sticking out of your back you simply don't understand how deceptively charming they can be.

This is to me a more interesting and important conversation than the one about porn, because any form of "doing something" about the problem of sociopathy is going to smack of pre-crime. If we could somehow detect them, what could we do? They can pass for having self control for long periods of time before deciding to lose it for the amusement value in situations where the consequences and criminal penalties would deter a normal person. Consider, Deen pretty much threw his career away for a few experiences he could have pretty much had anyway just by waiting. He was positioned to enjoy a limitless procession of lovers and adoration. What sense did it make to risk that by forcing his dick into someone who wasn't in the mood? That is exactly the essence of the sociopathic departure though. It has no sense of proportion, which is the most dangerous thing about it.

But as we have seen in this thread and others, it's hard to discuss such matters when sex is part of the mix because of all that sexual specialness. Deen isn't just a predator, he's a sexual predator which makes everything else about him fade into low-contrast black and white by comparison. But in this case that's not really a very useful frame. It's much more accurate to think of Deen as a predator who just happens to have landed in sex work, and who would probably have been just as dangerous if he had been a night watchman. Except that we probably wouldn't be talking about it here on the Blue, or at least about him specifically, if he was a guard with a habit of raping janitors.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:24 AM on December 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


What a horrible story.

FWIW, there's a porn producer/performer who posts semi-regularly on SomethingAwful. He mentioned, in the wake of this, that his own production company had refused for years to ever work with Deen, due to these rumors swirling around.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2015


I'm also reminded of the article about Paul Schrader's The Canyons, in which it is observed that James Deen was the only cast member to never have friends or family visit him on-set.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:27 AM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Amanda Hess: James Deen Was Never a Feminist IdolJames Deen has always been the least essential element of the James Deen phenomenon [...] Now, Deen’s fans are realizing that they were the ones who wrote James Deen into their fantasies, and they can write him out of them.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:16 AM on December 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


I just want to thank wholeheartedly those of you with the strength and the articulation to clarify how kink is built on mutual trust and informed, enthusiastic consent, because gods know I do not have the stomach for dealing with the kind of ignorance that comes up every fucking time BDSM is mentioned on this site.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:42 AM on December 5, 2015 [24 favorites]


The account of a female performer, I think it's Lily Labeau, on a Kink.com shot, saying that Deen was about to do one of the acts she had explicitly listed as a no on her contract, that makes me sad.

When she stood up for her boundary, in the middle of a shoot, which is an extraordinarily vulnerable position, he 'relented' but then took her written list of OK/not OK acts and according to the performer and (now) Kink.com proceeded to do every one of the OK acts in as cruel a way as possible as retribution.

Taking someone's boundaries and then punishing them for having them is awful. That he felt he could do this on camera and get away with it ... well, it took Stoya speaking out before Kink.com dropped him, which speaks to a failure of so many people to keep someone safe, even where boundaries were written down and the behavior was witnessed by multiple adults who should have been looking out for vulnerable performers.
posted by zippy at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


I actually feel a little sorry for the people at Kink.com because after the demise of Insex and the reconsolidation of the industry they are walking a dozen tightropes at the same time, and it would be hard enough for them to keep everyone happy while shipping the product that keeps their doors open without asshole sociopaths probing their system for weaknesses.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:14 PM on December 5, 2015






Deen now has 9 allegations against him but (somewhat ominously) says he's 'not going to play whack-a-mole with every accusation.'
posted by colie at 3:33 AM on December 8, 2015


Wow, that interview. If that's Deen's idea of "not throwing stones" or "not blaming the victim," it doesn't reflect very well on his judgment and consideration.
posted by KathrynT at 8:30 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to throw anyone under the bus!, he says, as he tells the interviewer his ex is probably just jealous that he's in escrow with another woman and that basically every woman that accused him is crazy and lying and nobody could possibly understand unless they currently work in the porn industry because man, these women accusing him, some of them got it into their heads after leaving the industry that they had been abused and that's just not okay for a person to get some different context about the things other people did to them.

At this point I'm like 99% sure I'll never be able to get off to porn again.
posted by palomar at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


At the very least, his PR people should have told him that any response other than, "I didn't know or realize that I was violating their consent, and I'm sorry. Beyond this public apology, I'm reaching out to them personally to apologize. Because consent is even more important in rough porn, I'm taking time off from making any until I understand why and how I violated my partner's boundaries," is pretty much just digging himself deeper. Even if you feel like you're innocent and being wrongly accused, at a certain point you have to recognize that your partners all experienced something different than what you did, and it was your responsibility to prevent that, and so you failed.

The only way BDSM can work is with the complete consent of the sub. They have to be able to trust that the dom is going to always act in their interest so that they can have the freedom to enjoy things they might not otherwise. Trying to spin it, like Deen did, as either people regretting things they did after the fact (which echoes too much rape denial rhetoric) or that he was acting the way that the companies wanted him to, basically means that he shouldn't be doing this (and highlights why libertarianism is so appealing for the wrong reasons). His responsibility as the dom is always first and foremost to the sub. If he doesn't feel like he can uphold that, he shouldn't work with the person — it's not on them to avoid him.

(Since I saw it in the comments on one of these news stories, but can't seem to find it now, where someone compared these allegations to "topping from the bottom." Since the power that the dom has is only power of autonomy that the sub has consensually surrendered, if Deen or anyone else felt like women were making unreasonable demands and limiting his freedom while domming, he shouldn't have been domming them. That power is something that's given, not something to take, so if you think your sub has too many stipulations or limits, don't fuck 'em. But the last thing BDSM needs is another Gor-ean "natural dominant" thinking that his will to power trumps someone else's right to consent.)

"At this point I'm like 99% sure I'll never be able to get off to porn again."

Somebody upthread mentioned Clips4Sale — there are a ton of people doing all sorts of freaky stuff in a way that all parties agreed to. The production values are lower, but they're generally better than iPhone and there are a lot of small women-owned or women-run studios that still put out enough stuff that all flavors of kink are pretty well covered. I don't keep up on current mainstream stars, but folks like Joanna Angel largely control their own distribution — if Burning Angel puts out a Joanna Angel scene, even where she gets roughed up, you can pretty well assume that Joanna was OK with it. I know that Tera Patrick and Jenna Jameson had similar power at the height of their careers. Dave Naz and Ori Small/Ashley Blue have similar control now (though I think Ori's pretty much given up acting in new stuff).

There's also a ton of homemade stuff that you can find out there, if you don't feel comfortable contributing to the distortions that capitalism causes. Fetlife also tends to have a fair amount up on that end of the spectrum. And for something that's totally not my bag but is pretty ethical, one story I did for the MeFi mag was interviewing to be a live-in copy editor at Dr. Susan Block's uh sex commune is probably the best term for it. She's got kinda wacky ideas (bonobos as a model for human sexuality; fuck-ins against the Iraq War), and some of the "therapy" she offers seems dubious (basically, phone in sex lines as "sex therapy") but everyone involved who I spoke to was a true believer. As a bit of historical trivia, she was the sex columnist for the LA Weekly that started Love Lines as a call-in radio show, and Love Lines is now probably best known for boosting Dr. Drew and Adam Corolla to national prominence (I would not judge her by them).

I'm sure someone else could give broader non-het recs if that's what you're into.
posted by klangklangston at 3:05 PM on December 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


His interview made me have a lot of thoughts I have to ponder, but one thing I did say - I had /no fucking idea/ that adult performers could start at 18 - like, before we let people legally drink, we let them fuck for money as directed. And I think that when you're having them do serious rough BDSM work, you are creating norms and should be held accountable for that.
posted by corb at 4:26 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing a documentary about the porn industry not too long ago which included interviews with numerous actors, actresses, directors and producers. When asked what advice they would give to young women interested in working in the field, two pieces of advice that came up most frequently were "Avoid working with Max Hardcore" and "18 is way too young for this".

Good advice, especially as Max is now out of prison and apparently not barred from making more porn. But there seemed to be this kind of reservation that neither talent nor directors nor even producers could do anything to change "the way it is". If there's going to be any changes in the industry, one thing that would certainly help would be for people to do what other workers have done in other exploitative workplaces: organize. It's heartening to see there are sex worker unions, but even radical organized labor is skittish about showing any solidarity with them. It's pretty sad. I can only hope people can learn to put their judgements aside and ally themselves with these workers.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:58 AM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


i don't like max hardcore's work and i wish he'd stop making it, but he went to prison on bullshit, trumped up obscenity charges and it would be an even more absurd overreach to bar him from porn on the basis of those charges.
posted by nadawi at 9:09 AM on December 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


also, beyond mainstream labor unions aligning themselves with sex workers, another thing that would help greatly is if payment processors weren't such assholes about sex workers getting paid. this comes up when we talk about jiz lee's national fisting day and the cambria list. these prohibitions keep things mostly concentrated in the hands of producers who have made deals with the payment processors and keeps performers from monetizing their own content.
posted by nadawi at 9:14 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


don't like max hardcore's work and i wish he'd stop making it, but he went to prison on bullshit, trumped up obscenity charges and it would be an even more absurd overreach to bar him from porn on the basis of those charges.

To be clear, I don't think he should have gone to prison for "obscenity". I think "rape" on multiple counts would have sufficed. And barring him from doing porn for that reason would have been just fine with me. The man is a reprehensible pig who takes pride in breaking actresses down and traumatizing them.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:36 AM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


ok, but that's not what he was charged with. i can hate his work and hate judicial overreach as it pertains to sex work. i also don't know why you're lecturing me on what type of man he is, i'm obviously aware.
posted by nadawi at 10:13 AM on December 9, 2015


No one appears to have said that he should be barred from porn based on the obscenity charge.
posted by Etrigan at 10:18 AM on December 9, 2015


especially as Max is now out of prison and apparently not barred from making more porn.

that suggests to me that Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane thinks max hardcore should be barred from making porn based on the thing he was in prison for - obscenity. i would love max hardcore to be in prison on rape charges, but he'd have to be found guilty of rape, which he sadly hasn't been.
posted by nadawi at 10:23 AM on December 9, 2015


Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane has clarified that. Can we drop it?
posted by Etrigan at 10:28 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


i also don't know why you're lecturing me on what type of man he is, i'm obviously aware.

I'm not lecturing you? I'm just adding my opinion of the guy. I also think obscenity charges are bullshit, if that helps. What I'm saying is I feel his rapist behavior is what should have gotten him in prison, and gotten him barred from the industry. I hope I've made that clear enough now.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:35 AM on December 9, 2015


that suggests to me that Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane thinks max hardcore should be barred from making porn based on the thing he was in prison for - obscenity.

That's an absolutely bizarre inference. It suggests to me that Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane thinks that Max Hardcore wasn't making porn in prison and can make porn now that he is not in prison (and possibly that he should not be allowed to make porn, but I don't think that's really all that clear from the statement you quoted).
posted by kenko at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2015


speaking of bizarre inferences...
posted by nadawi at 5:51 PM on December 9, 2015


Yes?
posted by kenko at 6:15 PM on December 9, 2015


nadawi: also, beyond mainstream labor unions aligning themselves with sex workers, another thing that would help greatly is if payment processors weren't such assholes about sex workers getting paid.

To be clear, payment processors abolutely loved the porn industry until the Feds decided to go after Insex with the PATRIOT act by claiming that porn is funding terrorism. After Insex went down the same letters went out about other less notorious studios, and it became very obvious it was a strategy that was going to be used in ever broadening waves.

Peter Acworth shut that down by negotiating terms to with a couple of providers strong enough to give them the spine to challenge those letters. This is why kink.com's contract is now umpty pages long with paragraph after paragraph of detailed requirements. Those terms were negotiated with, as Acworth calls them in the Kink documentary, "the billers."

Non-BDSM porn producers and their billers saw that first wave, probably correctly, as being ultimately headed in their direction too and even though Kink stopped it they still face a limited number of credit processors willing to work with them and a skittishness that did not exist within the credit industry before 2005. Nobody knows when the next puritanical ratfucker will decide to use an anti-terrorist statute against porn.

So while I'm not in the habit of defending bankers, a big reason sex workers have a problem with getting paid is the government's misuse of the PATRIOT act. It's nice that Kink got clever on on a bluff but it would be a lot nicer if the courts had called them on their shit.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:30 PM on December 9, 2015 [6 favorites]




Stoya wrote a post on her website about the industry & her decision to come forward.
posted by giizhik at 4:23 PM on December 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


« Older Walking on Tigers' Tails   |   Best Albums 2015 Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments