In late 2015, news broke over Twitter that James Deen, a porn star who had staked his fame on his “feminist sweetheart” persona in countless adult films, was accused of rape by his ex-girlfriend and frequent costar, Stoya. Stoya’s accusation came out via a tweet, and was followed by two other women who came forward with sexual and physical assault claims against Deen.
Eventually, nine women came forward to say that Deen had harassed, abused, assaulted, or raped them. Despite his denial of all accusations, Deen lost his partnership with a few major porn studios, such as Kink and Evil Angel, his sex advice column at The Frisky, and voluntarily resigned from The Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, according to ABC News.
According to Jezebel, the women who spoke out ended up suffering many more monetary, professional, and social consequences than the accused. One accuser, Ashley Fires, said it led to the “devastating” fallout of her career. Former porn actress Tori Lux, detailed for The Daily Beast in 2015 some of the social and professional hindrances she had to consider when making her accusation against Deen:
“Despite porn being a legal form of sex work, and it occurring in a controlled environment such as a porn set, this blame-the-victim mentality is still inherent in much of society. In turn, sex workers are silenced and our negative experiences are swept under the rug as we try to protect ourselves from the judgment of others -- or worse, a variety of problems ranging from further physical attacks to professional issues such as slander and/or blacklisting.
"Simply put: I was afraid."
Skipping forward to 2019, Evil Angel is working on a new film titled Consent, which will include explicit sex scenes alongside behind-the-scenes documentary footage. When one of the film’s stars, Casey Calvert, asked to work with Deen on a sex scene, the owner of Evil Angel, John Stagliano, rethought the studio’s ban on the actor. Stagliano, who was recently accused in the New York Post of violating performers’ consent himself, decided to end the studio’s ban. “I figured three years was enough time,” he told Jezebel. Among his other reasons for deciding to work with Deen again, he listed, “I didn’t know how long the sentence should be, seriously, number one. Number two, I didn’t have all the information. Number three, all my competitors are shooting him anyway. Number four, he’s admitted that he did some bad stuff.”
Beyond the notion of an accused rapist and abuser being in a film called Consent, which sounds like a bit of Juvenalian satire, Stagliano’s reasoning brings up another pressing issue in the porn industry: How can a studio that does the right thing (in this case, banning Deen) be rewarded when other studios continue to work with/profit off of him? How can the industry ensure there are no monetary, professional, and/or social consequences for accusers? The #MeToo movement and Time’s Up have made waves in the mainstream film industry and are expanding their reach into music, but abusers and industries that aren’t so much in the public eye still aren’t being held accountable.
Top Image: James Deen via WikiMedia Commons
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Casey is an editorial intern at BUST. She lives in New York City by way of Nebraska and enjoys petting dogs on the street, going to movies alone, and quoting comedy specials from Netflix.