Two Porn Companies Cut Ties With James Deen, Industry Star And Alleged Rapist

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVID AZIA
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVID AZIA

What happens when America’s most popular porn star gets accused of rape?

James Deen is possibly the most in-demand man in the adult film industry. On Saturday, Stoya, an adult film star who is also Deen’s ex-girlfriend and former scene partner, publicly accused Deen of rape.

https://twitter.com/stoya/status/670685987601825792

https://twitter.com/stoya/status/670689154498449413

For the uninitiated, James Deen occupies — or, perhaps, occupied — prime real estate in porn. He’s the closest thing porn has to a household name, assuming you’re in the kind of chill household where families have casual conversations about porn. He’s achieved crossover success, starring in the (famously disastrous) 2013 Lindsay Lohan flick, The Canyons and giving interviews in mainstream media about consent and diversity in porn. He had also earned a reputation as the adult film world’s “feminist sweetheart.” Instead of oozing the kind of NSFW vibe one might expect from a dude in porn, Deen has cultivated a nice-guy-next-door persona. You probably wouldn’t think to bring a porn star home to meet your mom, but if that were your thing, Deen would be the top contender.

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It didn’t take long before the hashtag #SolidaritywithStoya started to spread. Other prominent female porn stars came forward to support Stoya; some revealed that Deen had assaulted them, too. But perhaps the most striking response of all came from the porn industry itself. So far, two major adult film companies have cut ties with Deen, opting to avoid the typical “we can never really know what happened” line that would allow them to continue minting money off the lucrative male star and choosing, instead, to affirm their commitment to consent.

Less than three hours after Stoya tweeted her story, Joanna Angel, industry veteran and a former girlfriend of Deen’s, tweeted back to her, “You have my support. I’m here for you.” Later, she followed up with this:

Deen denied the allegations on Twitter without naming Stoya directly: “There have been some egregious claims made against me on social media. I want to assure my friends, fans and colleagues that these allegations are both false and defamatory. I respect women and I know and respect limits both professionally and privately.”

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Within a day, two more women came forward to accuse Deen of sexual misconduct. Tori Lux, a former adult performer, wrote an essay for The Daily Beast in which she described how Deen assaulted her on set at a major porn studio in June 2011.

“James Deen ruthlessly attacked and degraded me, leaving me with mental wounds that took years to heal,” she wrote. At the time, he was present on set though he wasn’t shooting with her that day. After verbally harassing her, Deen allegedly grabbed Lux “by the throat” and pushed her onto a mattress on the ground.

He proceeded to straddle my chest, pinning down my arms with his knees. Then, he raised his hand high above his head, swinging it down and hitting me in the face and head with an open palm. He did this five or six times — hard — before finally getting off of me.

Disoriented and nursing a sore jaw, I stood up — but before I could collect myself, 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. I was completely stunned, having no idea how to react. I felt pressured to maintain a professional demeanor as this was a major porn set, with other people present and failing to intervene.

Lux went on to say that she didn’t call the police or speak up at the time because she was afraid she would not be believed, or worse, that law enforcement would dismiss her report because of a victim-blaming mentality that presumes “sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted.”

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Adult actress Ashley Fires told The Daily Beast that Deen was the only actor she refused to work with “because he almost raped me.” The headline of that story brought about a maybe-inevitable comparison, asking if Deen was “the Bill Cosby of porn.”

Fires related that she’d seen Deen grab another performer by the hair “like a caveman” before carrying her out of the green room at Kink. That same night, she said, “I was getting out of the shower of the communal bathroom at Kink, I reach for my towel to dry off, and he comes up from behind me and pushes himself and his erection into my butt. 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, and says, ‘You know, later if you want to fuck around I’m in room whatever-it-was. I was like, ‘Fuck you.’ I didn’t even know this guy, he was so out of line and entitled with my body.”

Fires said that Deen later told her to stop talking about the incident, which she would share with other porn professionals to justify her unwillingness to work with Deen. He allegedly told Fires to say “that I remind you of your brother” instead.

This is usually an obnoxious, clickbait-y thing to say, but really, you might not believe what happened next. Instead of closing ranks around Deen, who is about as close as a guy can get to a household name in pornography, porn companies are distancing themselves from him.

First, The Frisky, a feminist, sex-positive website that had run a sex advice column by Deen, announced that it would be pulling Deen’s column, effective immediately. Ads to James Deen’s website were removed the following day. His previous columns will remain on the site, with a disclaimer explaining the allegations against him and making the case for his advice — demonstrating as it does such a tremendous disconnect between what he claimed to believe and what he allegedly practiced — as a vital part of the public record.

In her post about terminating “WWJDD,” Deen’s column, Frisky editor Amelia McDonnell-Parry wrote:

The court of public opinion is not a court of law , and I don’t need Stoya or any woman to ‘prove’ that she has been raped for me to believe her. Women who come out as rape victims are far, far, far too often not believed. This is especially true of women who work in the sex industry, with people actually wondering aloud if porn stars can be raped.

It’s not too shocking to see a feminist website take that stance. It is surprising, though, that major porn sites would do the same.

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Kink.com, a prominent adult film company that specializes in BDSM videos, was the first porn company to formally blacklist the star in the wake of the allegations. Deen had appeared in hundreds of Kink films. Kink CEO Peter Acworth released a statement to Vocativ, saying, “For the Kink.com community, as well as the larger BDSM community, consent is sacrosanct. Effective immediately, Kink.com will cease all ties with James Deen, both as a performer and a producer.”

Soon after Kink’s announcement, porn company Evil Angel told Vocativ that it, too, would stop selling new videos starring Deen. (Evil Angel had distributed almost 100 Deen-starring films.) The statement, from Evil Angel president John Stagliano, said that “in light of the recent accusations against James Deen, Evil Angel today has decided not to sell any newly created scenes featuring Deen. 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.”

What’s interesting about both Kink and Evil Angel’s statements is that they don’t actually address Deen’s accusers. In a way, they sidestep the he said/she said debate; it’s not about who they stand for, but what they stand for: consent.