BACKLASH

Porn World Cuts Ties With James Deen and Stands With Stoya

Several big-name porn companies and performers have opted to sever ties with Deen after other women have joined Stoya in accusing porn’s ‘boy next door’ of sexual assault.

12.01.15 12:31 PM ET

In heated online battles of he-said, she-said, it’s difficult to take sides. But when the allegation is rape, people tend to side with the victim—especially when more than one victim comes forward. Call it the post-Cosby era; a time when 1 out of every 6 American women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, and when if the perpetrator is a celebrity, they tend to operate with impunity. Women know all too well what it’s like to be silenced.

And that is where the court of public opinion comes in.

On Saturday, the adult actress and writer Stoya accused James Deen, the most famous man in porn and her ex-boyfriend, of rape. “James Deen held me down and fucked me while I said no, stop, used my safeword,” she tweeted. “I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

In the wake of Stoya’s revelation, two more women have come forward claiming they were violently assaulted by Deen.

The first is Tori Lux, a former adult film star, who in an essay first published by The Daily Beast, recounted how Deen attacked her on an adult film set in June 2011, striking her “five or six times” with an open palm before, she says, “he grabbed me by my hair and shoved me to my knees, forcing my face into his crotch several times before shoving me to the floor.”

And the second is Ashley Fires, a current porn star who told The Daily Beast that Deen “almost raped” her on a porn shoot for the S&M company Kink. “I was getting out of the shower of the communal bathroom at Kink, I reach for my towel to dry off, and [Deen] comes up from behind me and pushes himself and his erection into my butt,” said Fires. “He pushes me against the sink and starts grabbing on me and I was like, ‘No, no, no James, no,’ and he released me from his grasp.”

Deen has officially denied the rape allegations levied against him, calling them “false and defamatory,” and while some in the industry have expressed shock at the allegations, that hasn’t stopped the man formerly known as Bryan Sevilla’s career from going up in flames.

On Sunday, gossip blog The Frisky announced their decision to no longer publish Deen’s sex advice column WWJDD. “I very much liked James Deen. I enjoyed working with him on WWJDD. I asked him to do an advice column because I liked his directness and his confidence, but most of all, I liked his emphasis on communication, honesty and, most of all, CONSENT,” wrote Frisky editor Amelia McDonell-Parry. “That he has been accused of violating Stoya’s consent, that women I respect have since contacted me directly to say that they know of others to whom he has done the same thing? Well, I’m fucking heartsick over it.”

The following day, Deen resigned as chairperson of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee’s board of directors.

“APAC recognizes the seriousness of the statements made by performers in the community and that they indicate a major conflict between a board member and other members of the organization,” APAC announced in a statement Monday. “The APAC Board wants to state unequivocally that we stand with performers and other sex workers who are victims of any sort of sexual assault. APAC is committed to being a safe space for performers, and to creating a safer and healthier industry.”

Others in the industry have followed suit. On Monday afternoon, shortly after Deen’s resignation—and Fires’s claim that she was assaulted at their studio—one of his most frequent employers, Kink.com, released a statement acknowledging that they will “cease all ties with James Deen, both as a performer and a producer.” Deen had starred in over 200 racy films for the company.

The recent allegations by Fires have caused the company to rethink its current policies in order to find “more effective ways to protect performers” both on and off set.

“When the cameras stop, we need to make sure that performer is safe no matter where she or he is—the shower, the locker room, the bathroom,” a Kink spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “And more importantly, that if something happens we’re able to address it, and that they feel safe reporting it.”

“Sexual assault allegations are notoriously tough to prove, especially after years have passed. So I think our default position is to stand with the women who have come forward, and respect the stories they’re telling,” they added.

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Shortly after Kink’s announcement to terminate any future business with Deen, another major porn company, Evil Angel, followed suit.

“In light of the recent accusations against James Deen, Evil Angel today has decided not to sell any newly created scenes featuring Deen,” said John Stagliano, president and founder of Evil Angel, in a distributed press release. “While our company presents what is consensual and exploratory about aggressive and rough sex, these accusations are of a nature so contrary to our company values that we feel it necessary to suspend the sales until more information is available.”

Adult film director Mike Quasar, on the other hand, finds the public and the industry’s quickness to incriminate someone without the facts disturbing. “I have no idea if the allegations against him are true or not. I do however find it rather chilling that a person can be tried and convicted on social media instead of a court of law,” Quasar said.

Unfortunately, sex crimes are notoriously hard to prove, and sexual assault continues to be one of the most underreported crimes in the country with 68 percent of all sexual assault claims going unreported, according to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

As a survivor of rape herself, adult film star Alana Evans cannot stress enough the importance of filing a police report. “You can’t make allegations like that, that are so damaging to someone, without backing it up,” said Evans. “When it happened to me, I went to the police and I didn’t get justice because I am a sex worker. They said, ‘How can you rape a porn star?’ I sought justice. I didn’t get it, but at least I tried.” It wasn’t until many months later that Evans took to social media to out her rapist. “When the police decided not to press charges against my rapist that’s when I went public.”

Evans has known Deen for most of his career and finds the accusations against him shocking and disheartening. “He’s always been one of my favorites to work with because he was always so respectful of my rules,” said Evans. “When you’re a porn star, whether you’re an aggressor or a victim, you’re not given the benefit of the doubt.” Evans isn’t ready to pass judgment before knowing the facts and says that until she learns more, “it’s not going to stop me from working with James.” 

But according to several porn companies and stars contacted by The Daily Beast, Evans appears to be in the minority.

After handpicking the men she’d be co-starring with, adult actress Tasha Reign lamented to The Daily Beast about the difficult choice she made to replace Deen in her upcoming movie. “I’ve done tons of scenes with him, I’ve hung out with him, and I really like him… but I am a feminist before I am a model or pornographer,” said Reign. “When a women says that’s happened to her, that’s something we have to take seriously. In my heart I wanted so badly for it to not be real but there are so many accounts.”

Indeed, following her reveal, the hashtag #SolidarityWithStoya began trending on Twitter this past weekend, with many in the adult industry siding with the alleged victim—including industry veteran Joanna Angel, who dated Deen from 2004-2010, and tweeted that he was “the worst person I have ever met,” Sydney Leathers, and Stoya’s business partner Kayden Kross.

Adult actors exist in a reality that many would find difficult to fathom. They can stroke an erection with one hand and eat a bag of chips with the other—while discussing current events—in between takes. Greeting co-workers on set may involve a certain degree of fondling, especially if you’ve performed with one another, and displaying an aggressively physical sexual desire for fellow performers is the norm. In these situations consent may feel implied or assumed, even when it isn’t.

“Recent events should engage the porn community in a new dialogue about consent,” said adult actress and grad student Katja Kassin. “Just because someone has done similar scenes, just because they are known for certain types of performances, just because they have agreed to a certain sex act, that does not imply consent for the current situation.”

Consent should always be clear for everyone—including sex workers.