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The porn star has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women.
In the wake of allegations by porn performer Stoya that her ex-boyfriend, fellow porn performer James Deen, raped her, as well as allegations of sexual assault by porn performers Tori Lux and Ashley Fires, we can look to a multitude of Deen’s on-the-record statements about consent. Will his past remarks tell us what actually happened with the women accusing him of assault? No, but they do give us clues to how Deen thinks about the topic of consent.
Deen, who is nominated for Best Actor and other awards at the 2016 Adult Video News (AVN) Awards (aka, the “Oscars of porn”), told the UK’s Telegraph in 2014 that there is a difference between how consent is treated on porn sets and elsewhere in the film industry. “In adult [movies], there’s such a high standard, especially as far as consent is concerned,” he explained. “People’s wellbeing is really cared for. If someone says ‘I’m uncomfortable,’ everyone and everything just stops. In the mainstream world, it would be a matter of ‘OK, you’re uncomfortable? Whatever. Deal with it.'”
Deen also spoke about consent with the site Project Consent, which has since removed the interview from their site in light of Stoya’s tweets. However, a cached version of it shows Deen implying that porn performers give one-time consent via signing their contracts before their shoots:
“The consent is already given before shooting because it’s already been discussed with the agent. All of this communication is already given before the shot. All of these levels are consent are done and in addition, there is a conversation on set about what’s okay and what’s not okay. And with the BDSM community, there are entire contracts that are like 3 or 4 pages. The level of consent is so overtly covered.”
(Deen’s statement about contracts in the BDSM community is technically true in some cases. Some readers may recognize the reference in 50 Shades Of Grey, for example. However, it is also common for consent to BDSM activity to be verbalized, rather than contractual.)
Deen is most well-known in the porn community for his embrace of rough sex and in fact, has been critical with the way BDSM is depicted onscreen. In an interview with The Good Men Project, Deen said said that he stopped working for one site because the way it approached BDSM play made him feel gross. He said in that interview about the unnamed site, “Girls acted like they did something ‘bad,” like step on my shoe, and then I’d have rough sex to punish them. It made me feel icky.”
Instead, Deen continued, he chose to work with sites like the BDSM porn site Kink.com, because it emphasized the fantasy element of rough sex. “At Kink, this girl and I are having awesome sex and she likes to get slapped in the face,” Deen explained. “The sex isn’t punishment. It’s [part of the] BDSM lifestyle, and they make it super clear it’s the girl’s fantasy.”
Elsewhere in interviews, examples abound of Deen expressly discussing consent and its role in sex and BDSM. He told the Trent University independent student newspaper Arthur that BDSM is all about what the submissive partner wants. Here’s how Deen phrased it:
“Finding somebody who also wants to explore those fetishes is key, and then also remember that the person who is in the truly dominant position is the person who’s being submissive, because they’re allowing you to be dominant. Everything’s a game; it’s not real. When you try to apply games to real life is when things get messy. You have to communicate with your partner and make sure that you’re not just being selfish. It goes for everything, not just BDSM or something like that.”
When Cosmopolitan Australia asked Deen whether the secret to good sex was being yourself, he made similar remarks. “Being yourself is definitely important, but I always think that communication is a little more important,” he said. “Being able to communicate to other people about what you’re into and find out what they’re into is going to help your sexual experience. Sex isn’t something you do to someone, it’s something you do with someone.”
It’s tough to read a statement like that and compare it to Stoya’s claim in her tweets on Saturday that she used her safeword and he ignored her. Or what Lux wrote in the Daily Beast happened to her: Deen asked twice whether she’d like to sniff his testicles: “I replied with a firm ‘No,’ in order to establish my boundary—which James then disregarded by grabbing me by the throat and shoving me down onto a mattress on the floor.”
It also doesn’t in any way conform to porn performer Ashley Fires’ claim that Deen “almost” raped her. “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,” she told the Daily Beast. “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.”
In a November 2014 piece in The Daily Beast, Deen spoke out against laws regarding affirmative consent on college campuses and made inappropriate comments to the reporter, Emily Shire, by telling her the completely unsolicited statement, “You’re pretty and nice, but I wouldn’t have sex with you.” He then “teases” her by asking if their interview is “secretly a date?”
In that same interview, Deen argued against “yes means yes” laws, like the the one which was signed into law in California in September 2014, stating: “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” Deen told Shire:
“That is the dumbest fucking law I’ve ever heard of. We already have a law against rape. Just don’t fucking rape people. My mom tried to persuade me on it and told me about the coverups on college campuses. We can’t throw a law at it and think it’s going to solve it.”
To be clear, Deen’s past statements neither prove nor disprove any past behavior. Taken in aggregate, however, they do paint a picture of the mindset of a man who has been accused of sexual assault by three women so far.
The Daily Dot has not received a response for repeated requests for comment by Deen’s representative.
Screengrab via Instagram.com/therealjamesdeen
Rachel Kramer Bussel has written about sex, feminism, and dating for Elle, the Daily Beast, the Frisky, the Hairpin, the New York Times, Slate, xoJane, and many others. She also edits erotica anthologies and has contributed to erotic writing conferences. She studied political science and women's studies at the University of California at Berkeley.