On Nov. 28, adult actress Stoya accused fellow porn star and ex-boyfriend James Deen of rape. Stoya's accusations prompted a string of similar allegations from a series of women, leading some to question whether Deen, arguably the most famous contemporary male adult performer, was the "Bill Cosby of porn." Here's a guide to the allegations against Deen and the ensuing aftermath.
Who is James Deen?
James Deen, whose real name is Bryan Sevilla, has been a porn performer since 2004 (and yes, his stage name is a reference to the famous actor). Though he’s appeared in a variety of porn, he’s best known for “rough,” bondage and S&M (sadomasochism) scenes.
His purported good looks and “nonthreatening” dude-next-door persona helped him rise to fame among women, particularly young fans who dubbed themselves “Deenagers.” Deen also became strongly associated with feminism -- even though he openly denied being a feminist and unapologetically made off-color rape jokes. Slate’s Amanda Hess’ speculates that his feminist credentials actually belong to his fans -- she feels that Deen’s mainstream popularity helped make it more acceptable for young women to openly discuss porn and own their sexuality.
Why Are All These Allegations Coming Out Now?
Stoya, a porn star, director and writer, tweeted on Nov. 28 that Deen had once raped her. It’s unclear if any particular event prompted Stoya, who is also Deen’s ex-girlfriend, to speak out. She wrote that it “sucks” to keep hearing Deen praised as a feminist and that she could no longer “nod and smile” when people brought him up.
Stoya’s statement led to an outpouring of accusations from other women -- many of whom are porn stars who worked with Deen -- who also say that Deen assaulted them.
Who Has Made Allegations Against Deen, And What Are They Saying?
Adult actress and director Stoya accused him in a tweet of raping her, stating that he “held me down and fucked me while I said no, stop, used my safe word.” She later told The Guardian that she and Deen were not at work when it happened, and that she spoke out because "I couldn’t bear the thought any more that there might be something terrible happening to yet another woman at his hands, or more likely, at his cock, that she didn’t want, because I kept quiet."
Adult actress Tori Lux wrote an essay for The Daily Beast saying Deen sexually assaulted her on a “major porn set” in 2011. Lux said Deen approached her and asked her to “sniff his testicles.” When she said no, he allegedly pinned her down and hit her in the face multiple times before forcing her face into his groin. Lux noted that other people were around but did nothing to stop Deen.
Adult actress Ashley Fires said in an interview with the Daily Beast that Deen “almost raped” her while on a porn set. Fires said Deen came up to her while she was getting out of the shower and pushed his erection into her. He then allegedly shoved her into the sink and grabbed at her before finally giving in to her pleas of “no.” She added that he later told her to stop telling people about what had happened.
T.M., an unidentified woman only known by her initials, told LAist that Deen forced her to have oral sex in front of a group of people at a party in Las Vegas in 2009. The author of the LAist story noted that she knew the source personally, and that T.M. had talked about the event in the past, but only decided to go public after seeing other women speak out.
Adult actress Amber Rayne told the Daily Beast that she and Deen were filming an anal sex scene when Deen suddenly became violent, apparently triggered by her calling him a “son of a bitch” while in character. She wrote that he started penetrated her so violently she “bled everywhere” and ultimately had to go to the hospital. Ryan didn’t specify the year, but noted that the scene was actually released in 2006 by now-deceased director Chico Wang.
Adult actress Kora Peters told The Daily Beast that while filming a scene, Deen kept trying to have anal sex with her against her wishes. When she pushed him away, she said he choked her, slammed her face into the couch and “forced himself in [her] ass anyway.” Peters added that the crew “high-fived” Deen and told him he did “a great job.” When she called her agent in distress, she says he told her she should feel “honored that James wanted [her] so badly.”
Adult actress Nicki Blue told the Daily Mail that she met Deen in 2011 at porn studio Kink when she was first starting her career. She liked Deen and chose to have him appear in her first film, but afterwards, she said, Deen assaulted her at a bar. Blue said she was giving Deen oral sex, and when she tried to tell him it was too rough, Deen just pushed her head down and forced her to choke.
Deen allegedly said, “Oh my God, I have to go to the bathroom" before urinating in her mouth. Blue added, “after that, he had the idea of putting the beer bottle up my ass. So that was done.” She said she tried to complain about Deen in Kink’s online forum, but her post was deleted and she was barred from the site.
Adult actress Lily LaBeau told Vocativ that “the most traumatic thing that’s happened in my career” was Deen once hitting her in the face, while filming a scene, so hard it made her jaw lock. “He’s a fucking psychopath,” she told BuzzFeed, adding that Deen would often intentionally upset his co-stars. Porn actor Derrick Pierce, as well as a female porn star who spoke anonymously, corroborated LaBeau’s story to Vocativ.
Joanna Angel, adult actress, director and founder of altporn site Burning Angel, spoke about her allegedly abusive relationship with Deen in a Dec. 2 interview on The Jason Ellis Show. Angel dated Deen from 2005 to 2011. She emphasized that she was not accusing Deen of a crime, just of being a “horrible boyfriend.” However, she described one incident in which Deen allegedly held her head underwater against her will during sex until she thought she was going to die.
Adult actress Bonnie Rotten told BuzzFeed that while Deen had never assaulted her, he went out of his way to make her uncomfortable and provoke her on the two occasions they worked together. “He doesn’t like to be an equal,” she said.
Retired adult actress Bree Olson said via Periscope that when she was in the porn business, she put Deen on her "no" list because he had been excessively, unnecessarily violent on camera when they worked together. She also described an incident when he roughly pinched her multiple times off-camera for no reason other than to hurt her. Olson noted that she later took Deen off her "no" list after an unnamed porn company insisted that they work together.
Former reality star Farrah Abraham told The Daily Mail that Deen drugged and raped her "for his benefit of fame." Abraham, who dated Deen for a few months in 2013, the year she co-starred with him in an adult film, had previously told InTouch Magazine that she was "drugged and raped more than once" during her time in the adult industry. Her interview with The Daily Mail named Deen as her alleged attacker. "I'm thankful that I have separated myself and gotten beyond how horrible, evil, abusive and a rapist James Deen is," she said.
How Has Deen Responded To The Allegations?
Shortly after Stoya spoke out, Deen denied the allegations in a series of tweets, saying I respect women and I know and respect limits both professionally and privately.”
After nine women had publicly accused him of assault, The Daily Beast published an exclusive interview with Deen, in which he said he was “shocked” and “baffled” by the allegations. All of the allegations, he said, were either totally false, or misrepresentations of real events.
How Have Others Responded?
Porn studios Kink and Evil Angel cut ties with Deen shortly after allegations started coming out, and Women’s website The Frisky dropped Deen’s sex column from their site.
Deen also resigned as chairman of the board of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, an advocacy group for people in the porn industry. APAC's president, Chanel Preston, is currently dating Deen and released a statement to the Daily Beast:
James and I are involved. It was never a secret but we don’t talk much about it publicly. Obviously, this situation has presented me with complicated feelings, and I’m navigating them as best I can. The porn community is small and many performers have had some sort of relationship with Stoya and/or James, and are experiencing this situation in a personal way. James is no longer involved in APAC decision-making, direction, or duties. APAC has issued a statement of solidarity with all sex workers who have been violated or assaulted, and the revised board’s members, which consists of Conner Habib, Ela Darling, Veruca James, and I, will continue our commitment to serve our community and provide a safe and supportive environment for performers.
Stoya's initial tweets prompted an outpouring of support from the porn community and the general public, some of which took the form of a hashtag #SolidarityWithStoya. Some people, however, questioned why she had never publicly discussed the incident or reported it to law enforcement. People have asked similar questions as each new accusation comes to light. Which brings us to...
Why Didn’t Anyone Report This Stuff Earlier?
It’s no secret that rape and sexual assault are highly underreported. Law enforcement is notorious for not taking rape seriously, and authorities often wind up blaming them for their own attacks. Even if a case goes to trial, rape is hard to prosecute -- both because of a frequent lack of physical evidence and because the general public just doesn’t understand rape very well.
Getting cops to take sexual assault seriously is even more difficult for a victim who is also a sex worker, as Tori Lux explained in her essay about Deen:
A few people with whom I’ve shared this story over the years have asked me why I didn’t call the police as soon as it happened, or publicly speak up about it shortly thereafter. The reason for that is because people—including the police—tend to believe that sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted. Of course, this claim couldn’t be further from the truth, as being involved in sex work does not equate to being harmed.
Nicki Blue made similar comments. “'When you're an adult actress, especially in BDSM, and you go to a cop and say 'Oh I've been raped by this guy after doing a scene', they are not going to take you seriously, like if you were a normal person,’” she told The Daily Mail. “I would have said something a lot sooner if I felt people would have taken me seriously but they don’t.”
Additionally, the public is historically very forgiving of male celebrities who abuse women, and it’s not hard to imagine that a performer may have fear the career consequences of making accusations against porn’s beloved “golden boy.” Lily LaBeau explained to BuzzFeed that she continued to work with with Deen even after he hit her, “because what do you do?”
Stoya also noted that though there were rumors about Deen in the porn industry for years, stigma surrounding the porn industry made publicly speaking out daunting.
"Nobody was saying anything [about Deen publicly],” she told The Guardian. And I didn’t feel like I could say anything. But from what I hear -- because I am not looking at my Twitter mentions -- the way the public conversation is going is shockingly good in some ways. 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 f**king agenda, and that’s why I was scared to say something.”
Other porn insiders added performers often avoid bringing attention to assaults out of fear that anti-porn, or anti-sex work, activists will use them to wrongly vilify the entire industry. As Sydney Leathers told The Guardian: “The industry is so marginalized that people get fearful of talking about its problems, because we already feel so attacked in so many different ways."
This story will be updated as it develops.
Contact the author at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com
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