An Open Letter To James Deen In The Wake Of Stoya’s Rape Accusation
Last night, world-famous porn star Stoya told her 200,000 Twitter followers that you, James Deen, world-famous porn star and Stoya’s ex-boyfriend, raped her. She says you held her down and raped her, over her protests, ignoring her safeword. (Not surprisingly, you have since denied these claims on Twitter.) And she kept silent about it for years, only disclosing what happened when she couldn’t stand to see people idolizing you as a paragon of consent, of respect for women, for one more second.
I am writing this in a white hot fury that I have not felt since I learned that CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi was a serial rapist. Like Ghomeshi, you have been known to be a dangerous man in your industry for years. But until now, Stoya and the other women you’ve likely violated have publicly kept silent about you, because rape and assault victims don’t get believed in any part of society, and because you’re an adult industry megastar, and speaking up about you could easily damage their own careers in porn. As Cliff Pervocracy put it so well in the Pervocracy blog, you’re a “missing stair” — a dangerous problem that people might be warned about, but that nobody will risk fixing. With Stoya leading the way, they’re speaking up now. You’re another Cosby; another Ghomeshi.
Although you’ve actually said “I’m not a feminist because I have a penis,” many feminists have supported you and your work, particularly the way that your videos seem to show the enthusiastic consent of the women you have sex with on camera. In 2012, one mom said the following in a blog post about why she would love for her daughter to have a crush on you one day:
“When James Deen is ‘working’ he is the physical embodiment of consent culture. He is the most attentive partner a teenage girl is likely to see in this world. In most of his videos this is visible in his continuing to do whatever fabulous thing he’s doing at his lady’s enthusiastic-consent-eyes/breathing/nod/whatever, but you always get the feeling that if she winced for just a moment he would stop the action no matter what the director said.”
She said that she would much rather her pre-teen daughter grow up to have a crush on you than on known abusers like Cosby. I bet she’s horrified now — but I don’t blame her, or any feminist watching you from a distance, for having liked you. I’ve liked you. I’ve found your scenes hot. At a remove, none of us could see the double life you were leading.
What you, Cosby, and Ghomeshi did is made possible by rape culture, which pervades every industry, every walk of life. I have a special rage for you, though, James Deen, because now all of the people who hate sex workers, porn and women, from the radical right to second-wave feminists, are using your rapist behavior to justify their anti-porn and anti-sex work viewpoints. In one breath, the sex-work-hating Meghan Murphy says she believes Stoya, and in another she says that your disgusting abuse is inherent in porn itself. Sarah Ditum posted, and later removed, a tweet claiming that porn can’t be distinguished from rape.
Your behavior gives ammunition to scumbags like MMA fighter War Machine’s lawyers, who claim that Christy Mack, his former partner whom he beat nearly to death, must have consented to the beating because of her work in porn. It strengthens the voices of those who would criminalize every form of sex work, including porn. Although nobody called for the end of broadcasting because Ghomeshi and Cosby were discovered to be rapists, you and I know that people can and do call for an end to the porn industry and all kinds of sex work. Given your fame and public pronouncements about consent, your behavior could unleash a conservative backlash that might place the safety and livelihoods of thousands of porn performers at risk.
People are talking about believing women, which at least reflects reality; almost nobody lies about rape, particularly when the accuser is high profile. People are also beginning to talk about enacting various, uninformed ways to make porn safer, launching feminist porn companies (and supporting existing ones), and developing new systems of accountability for abusers. Nobody is talking yet about what really needs to happen, which is that men in every industry need to stop raping people and lying about it, and other men need to drop rapists from their social and economic circles when they find out about it.
That’s what should happen to you, James Deen. Nobody should work with you again. Porn companies should take your videos off their websites and disavow you, just as The Frisky disavowed your sex advice column the instant they found out that you were a rapist. You should struggle for money. Your phone should stop ringing and your friends and family members should drop you. Rape should destroy your life as much as it destroys the lives of the victims of rape. But it probably won’t. Unlike Ghomeshi, you have no boss to give you the sack, and some producers and performers will continue to work with you because they need the money — or because they don’t care that you are a rapist.
You’ve been silent on this so far, James Deen, although you’ve taken the time to promote your latest video on Twitter. I hope that it’s out of shame, not because you are scrambling to find a lawyer and a crisis publicist. If you truly think you’re a good man, a man who believes in consent, you have one more chance to show it. Step down. Don’t film another minute of porn. Admit what you did, apologize to your victims publicly, and then delete everything else from your social media. Turn yourself in to the authorities. If you’re not cleaned out by a series of well-justified lawsuits, give your profits and your royalties to Planned Parenthood and rape crisis centers. If you care about the women you’ve hurt, about the parents who raised you, about the adult industry that you champion, about the kink community whose buzzwords you used as a cloak as you raped women under the guise of rough sex, then this is what you will do.
Lead image: Wikimedia Commons