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James Deen: Porn’s Missing Stair?

Who's got two thumbs and is allegedly a serial sexual assaulter?
Who’s got two thumbs and is allegedly a serial sexual assaulter?

Three women, so far, have come forward to accuse porn star James Deen of sexual assault. It seems exceedingly likely there will be more.

After porn actress Stoya tweeted on Saturday that Deen had forcibly raped her, other women in the porn industry made clear that they’d been warning fellow performers about Deen’s allegedly predatory actions for years.

Indeed, porn actress Sydney Leathers told the Daily Beast that another porn performer “told me when I first got into the business that I should avoid him — that he has boundary issues, basically that he tries to break women.”

In other words, Deen seems to be a perfect example what kink blogger Cliff Pervocracy once called a “missing stair” — that is, a dangerous person that women warn one another about, but whose power in the community shields him from public accusations.

As Cliff wrote in a now-famous post, some people are the equivalent of a missing stair,

[s]omething massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house …. [is] used to it? “Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings. But it’s okay because we all just remember to jump over it.”

Cliff came up with this striking metaphor after posting publicly “about a rapist in a community I belonged to,” noting that even without giving a name or details of the rapist’s actions,

I immediately got several emails from other members of that community saying “oh, you must mean X.” Everyone knew who he was! … The reaction wasn’t “there’s a rapist among us!?!” but “oh hey, I bet you’re talking about our local rapist.” Several of them expressed regret that I hadn’t been warned about him beforehand, because they tried to discreetly tell new people about this guy. Others talked about how they tried to make sure there was someone keeping an eye on him at parties, because he was fine so long as someone remembered to assign him a Rape Babysitter.

Just as Bill Cosby’s status as a beloved father figure of the comedy world made it terrifyingly difficult for women to go public with their rape accusations against him, Deen’s status in the porn world, and his public reputation as an enlightened, even feminist, porn performer made it similarly terrifying for women to come forward with their accusations against him.

But it wasn’t just Deen’s power in the porn world that kept his alleged victims silent. There is also a strange but widespread belief that porn performers (and sex workers more generally) can’t really be raped.

Tori Lux, one of the three women who say they’ve been assaulted by Deen, explained that she hadn’t gone to the police or gone public earlier because

people (including the police) tend to operate from the assumption that sex workers have put themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted – which is incorrect, as being involved in sex work does not equate being harmed. …

[S]ex workers are silenced and our negative experiences are swept under the rug in simply trying to protect ourselves from judgement of others, or worse, a variety of problems ranging from further physical attacks to professional problems such as slander and blacklisting. To put it simply, I was afraid.

Her fear is certainly understandable. The “porn performers can’t be raped” argument, despite its obvious absurdity, is one that actually makes it into rape trials. Indeed, only a couple of days before Stoya came forward with her accusations, the lawyer for the MMA fighter known as War Machine, who is currently on trial for sexual assault and attempted murder, suggested that his accuser’s history as a porn actress known for rough sex somehow means that she can’t be raped. As the Daily Beast writes,

War Machine’s attorney … said that even when she wasn’t acting as on-screen seductress Christy Mack, the accuser showed the “desire, the preference, to acceptability towards a particular form of sex activities that were outside of the norm.”

If Deen is prosecuted for his alleged sexual assaults, will we hear a similar argument from his lawyers?

For now, Deen is flatly denying all of the allegations leveled against him:

https://twitter.com/JamesDeen/status/671131915773022209

https://twitter.com/JamesDeen/status/671131998535090176?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

But a couple of years ago, Deen took the issue of consent a good deal less seriously than he says he does now. joking about it on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/JamesDeen/status/39057114148245504

He liked that joke so much that he used it again later:

https://twitter.com/JamesDeen/status/189541701751287812

Then again, maybe these Tweets weren’t meant as jokes at all. Maybe this is what Deen actually believes.

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lightcastle
lightcastle
4 years ago

@msexceptiontotherule
“Yep, I’m that PITA bitch who messes things up for the people with bad intentions. This hasn’t happened in recent years for me though. I don’t care if I flip the fucking boat over, and have no problems with rocking the damn thing when it’s needed.

I also seem to have ever more fields empty of the fucks I do not give that are being collected as I get older.”

And all blessings to you, then. There needs to be more of that.

lightcastle
lightcastle
4 years ago

@VirtuallyOutOfTouch
“Why the hell does the community allow it?!”

Same as any community, really, the people doing it are “important” or “powerful”, and/or disrupting the community by admitting it is going on is more troublesome than just pretending it didn’t happen and having the less central person quietly leave.

Bryce
Bryce
4 years ago

@orion

“I don’t see any reason to think this is true. Some men who have “vanilla” sex are comitted to their partners’ pleasure, either out of decency or because it turns them on. Many don’t care if their partner enjoys it. Simply being turned on by other activities shouldn’t change the calculus. Some men will care, many won’t.”

I’m not sure if this is meant to imply that a majority of men see their partners as non-human receptacles, or just “many” as in “too many”. (Knowing absolutely nothing about BDSM and assuming “vanilla” means ‘normal’ penetration.)

Orion
Orion
4 years ago

Bryce,

You can see earlier in the thread for a discussion of “vanilla.” It means, roughly, “not kinky.” There are some problems with it, but not currently a better one. One problem is that everything is, arguably, somebody’s kink. Another is that some people feel it’s a disparaging term. (Although as others have noted, vanilla, the actual food flavor, is awesome, and popular for a reason). It’s also kind of ambiguous whether it means “genital sex” (as opposed to non-genital kink play) or “sex in the absence of kinky dynamics.” Or “tender or romantic or gentle sex.”

I’m not sure if this is meant to imply that a majority of men…or just “many” as in “too many”.

I have no idea what the numbers are, not any idea how one could go about studying them.

see their partners as non-human receptacles,

One of the odd things about discussing sexuality is that almost no one judges sexual activity by the same ethical standards they use in daily life. On the misogynistic side, you had the predator crowd who think that normal constraints don’t apply, and the patriarchs who don’t think that normal freedoms obtain. On the feminist side, you have the idea that partners should be authentically invested in the reciprocal pursuit of joy, and rhetorical figures like “enthusiastic consent”. I won’t say that we shouldn’t strive for such things, but it’s important to note that this is a level of benevolence which is rarely seen or demanded in other spheres.

The minimum standard of moral decency is to ensure that you are not causing misery to those around you. To show no concern for the suffering of others is, indeed to regard them as less-than-fully-human. I believe that most people are basically decent. However, decent people often stop short of committing themselves to fostering joy and vigilantly nurturing the lives around them. How does this play out in group activities? Well, most of us wouldn’t coerce or intimidate someone into playing sportball, or grabbing coffee, or giving us a lift to IKEA, or do anything else with us. But if we’re honest, I think most of us would admit that at times we don’t worry too much whether our activity partners are deeply enjoying the thing they’ve consented to do with us. In fact, sometimes we know for a fact that they aren’t. And most of us can remember being on the other side. We’ve all sat through a boring movie or a boring party with a friend because it we had bailed on the last 2 invitations, or we thought it might be cool (but it wasn’t), or just because they really wanted to share it with us. And while we might hope that they’d notice our tepid response and adjust course, we aren’t morally appalled if they don’t.

I don’t think these situations call for us to break out the “sub-human” rhetoric. I think there’s a substantial population of straight men who domake sure the women they partner with are consenting throughout and aren’t leaving traumatized, but aren’t greatly bothered if she remembers it as a boring or uncomfortable affair. This attitude is selfish, and sexist, but it doesn’t mean they see women as “subhuman.”

Rem
Rem
4 years ago
Reply to  theluckyfrog

I found that article. I always remember it because it was written by Wells Tower, an author with an absurdly bad author picture but some pretty great stories.

http://www.gq.com/story/james-deen-porn-star-gq-june-2012-interview

I’m disturbed how he dismissed one of his co-stars talking about being persuaded into sex for favors when they were nine “as long as you were cool with it,” but in hindsight the whole thing is of an assuming man who had enormous entitlement, but knew how to hide his actions.

Why didn’t we see it? Because he put on a face we identified with? Or maybe it was because the people who saw the “Good” side were the most vocal, while those who witnessed his sadism were discouraged from letting anyone know.

But reading how he left is actually a really disturbing sign, especially since I think the scenes people most remember were from kink where they had whole aftermath talks that showed compassion and “empathy”. People like to say judge us by our actions, but when someone’s action are both good, and troubling, I think we’re raised to forgive them. And I have a feeling that for ordinary entitled assholes like Deen, this does not go unnoticed…

nparker
nparker
4 years ago

Now apparently its at least 8 women who’ve come forward. Sickening.

Virtually Out of Touch
Virtually Out of Touch
4 years ago

“I think I mentioned I participate in a large BDSM online forum/offline community, in which some prominent users and “well respected” members of the community are also notorious MRAs, which upsets very little people but meh.”

– MRAs that have been covered here? Like who?

“Why the hell does the community allow it?!”

“Same as any community, really, the people doing it are “important” or “powerful”, and/or disrupting the community by admitting it is going on is more troublesome than just pretending it didn’t happen and having the less central person quietly leave.”

– These important and powerful men are the ones the Manosphere says “don’t need to rape” because supposedly popular guys just don’t do that sort of thing. And if they’re good looking there is absolutely no chance of them at all raping.

MsMockingbird
MsMockingbird
4 years ago
Reply to  nparker

The most telling stories are from

http://jezebel.com/even-more-sex-industry-performers-accuse-james-deen-of-1746108988

Especially the quote from an anonymous female performer

“Most performers, if it looks like they’re being very aggressive, what you don’t see is their hand positioned in a place to make sure you don’t hit your head or that you’re comfortable. Most male performers do that. James is the opposite. He’s the one who will make it look like it’s this romantic scene to the camera and what you don’t see is that he’s twisting your nipple or pinching you or jabbing you in some way.”