Adult film star James Deen has now been accused of rape by three different women. Deen has appeared on film outside of the adult industry as well, something that is becoming more common as the adult film industry enters the more mainstream public eye. His higher profile will likely mean that this story will receive a lot of attention in the media.
There shouldn’t be a lot to say about this story. While James Deen is entitled to the same presumption of innocence afforded anyone in this country, it looks very bad for him that three separate women have made these allegations. Despite what people may assume or read in the media, false allegations of rape are very rare. This is largely due to the stigma associated with coming forward as a survivor of sexual assault. Unfortunately, the bravery of his accuser in coming forward may be overlooked in the ensuing media storm. Perhaps her tough decision will be another step towards easing the stigma that survivors face.
As someone who has worked with Rape Crisis Center in the past, I am familiar with this stigma, and it is something that many dedicated mental health professionals are working to erase/
A question that this story is likely to provoke is whether these women were somehow “asking for it” due to the industry in which they work. The answer is very simple: NO. While some may assume that workers in the pornography industry have poor boundaries or automatically engage in sex with co-stars off camera, this has no bearing on the accusations against Deen. Adult film actress Stoya (pictured above), perhaps Deen's most high profile accuser, noted in retelling her story that she used her “safeword” with Deen, and that he ignored it. This is an important aspect of the story. Adults have the right to engage in consensual sexual activity that includes aspects of “roughness,” S&M and so forth, as long as it is consensual. This is where a “safeword” comes in. The partners agree to engage in whatever sort of play, but once one of them utters the safeword (which should be something not normally uttered during intercourse, such as “llama,” for example) the sex stops until the partners agree to resume the activity. Published reports have stated that Deen appears in “rough sex” pornography, which is, of course, legal to produce when the actors are consenting adults. However, don’t let this fool you. Anyone who defends his alleged actions based on this fact is throwing up a dangerous smoke screen. An actress can appear in numerous scenes of this nature (or engage in the activity in her personal life) and still invoke the safeword or say no at any time, despite what may have occurred in the past.
As a society, I believe we have a responsibility to be clear on matters of consent: no means no. Period. End of discussion. As a father of a daughter, this matter has personal relevance to me and I hope we can all agree that consent for sexual activity is important. No means no.
In San Antonio, support for survivors of sexual violence is available through the Rape Crisis Center.
I’ve been told “the only books you like are long and boring.” Ha! Well…it’s somewhat true. I like a fast, zippy read as much as the next guy. But I also like 1000+ page Civil War histories, endless Ulysses-style literary fiction, and epic fantasy. I enjoy a challenging read. Plot doesn't get going for 400 pages? Sign me up! I’ve even referred to myself as a “book masochist.” And I’m only kinda kidding!
Sometimes people will say “how do you do it?” I hate to invoke a cliché, but the answer is pretty simple: one page at a time. I like to be fully absorbed in the world that I am reading about, and a long book allows an author to fully explore the subject matter, whether it is North vs. South or orcs against goblins. The story can unfold gradually, a bit like therapy. And if I read a little (or a lot) each day, eventually the end of the book will come. Even if it takes a while.
When people come to therapy, they have often reached a point where they are at the point where change is needed NOW and they want to turn things around immediately and move on from whatever challenges they are facing. I understand this, and want to help them get there. But in order to enact lasting change, the change must be sustainable and often the way to make this happen is the same way I read a long book: a page at a time.
Consider the person who wants to get in shape and maybe lose a few pounds. Many of us have been there. We get out of bed that first day and run our hearts out. We’re feeling the pain! It’s great! Maybe we do it a second day, too. But by that third day, your muscles are crying out in agony and you can barely move. Then we lose our momentum and BOOM! that’s the end of our new exercise regimen.
For change to be long-lasting and sustainable, you have to change your thought patterns a day, an hour, a minute at a time. As a therapist, I find myself asking “what is the smallest change you can make that will be a step towards your goal?” Sometimes clients get impatient and they want to run their hearts out. I think slow and steady is the way to go here, for the reasons outlined above. Make that enthusiasm for change last. After all, a page a day is a page a day, and eventually that last page arrives along with that happy ending you’re waiting for.
Now go read a long book!
I ran across this article today, as it was shared on Facebook by no less an authority than the American Psychological Association. Regular readers of this blog already know that I rely on metaphors frequently in therapy, and I have used video games (such as Minecraft) to engage young adults into the therapeutic process and to help them think of systematic approaches to problem. But it turns out that there is a neurological component as well. I would caution that no one is recommending 24/7 gaming for any number of reasons, but the article certainly opens some possibilities.
Some readers might be thinking “I thought this was a psychotherapy blog. What’s with all the Freddy Krueger and Inside Out stuff?” That’s actually a great question, and the answer encompasses much of what I’m trying to achieve in my private practice.
The first answer to the above question lies in a statistic. Studies have shown that 80-85% of success in psychotherapy boils down to two things: the client’s willingness to change and the strength of the rapport between therapist and client. If you read this blog, it is immediately apparent that I am enthusiastic about reading, listening and watching all sorts of media. The client’s willingness to change is around 40-45% of the success rate mentioned above. As I am currently in private practice, many of my clients have already reached this threshold of deeply wanting change in their lives. If they haven’t, they aren’t likely seeking therapy in private practice. This is not always the case, however. Sometimes young people attend therapy at the insistence of parents or adults attend at the behest of a spouse. In this case, they may be less willing to change. The level of change a client wishes to embrace when they walk through the door is not something I can control. But the strength of the rapport (which also accounts for 40-45% of success) is well within an area I can control. When I first started as a therapist, I realized through experience that when I could engage clients through music, movies or books, they tended to thrive in therapy. I attribute this phenomenon partly to the statistic mentioned above. People enjoy talking about pop culture and media they enjoy—for example, see Facebook, which has become a national watercooler. Your news feed was likely clogged with euphoric nerds (like Yours Truly) exploding with enthusiasm when the recent Star Wars trailer hit the net. It seems almost self-explanatory at this point, but talking about people with things they like tends to increase my rapport with them, which gives them a higher chance of achieving personal goals via psychotherapy.
The second answer to “what’s with the pop culture stuff?” lies in the theoretical orientation that underlies my psychotherapeutic approach. That’s a fancy way of saying “it’s what I do.” Both theories that I primarily work from (Narrative Therapy and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy) fall under the umbrella of postmodern therapies. One of the tenets of postmodernism is that language defines our reality. Beyond that is the idea that we tend to group information into stories or narratives. This idea has been widely embraced, and can be seen in the way we talk about politics and politician’s efforts to “shape the narrative.” Consider the following example: Two friends from San Antonio take an afternoon road trip to Austin for BBQ. You speak to each of them alone when they return. The first says “the trip was terrible. We had a flat tire, there was a lot of traffic and it was really hot and the A/C in the car was not working very well.” The second friend say “the trip was great. The BBQ was so good and I loved getting away for the afternoon. The drive gave me a chance to really talk and catch up with my friend. It’s been forever since we did that.” Who is telling the truth? Postmodern theory argues that the answer is both: they simply chose different elements to make up their narrative.
This story serves as a simplistic illustration of what I do. As people, we can sometimes become locked in a negative or undesirable narrative, and as a therapist I work to create something that more accurately highlights positive or more desirable elements. Together, in collaboration with my clients, I look at the stories they enjoy and what elements really strike a chord with them. Then I look at their personal stories and, in collaboration, determine what might be missing or left out. Characters in stories have goals (get the treasure, kill the dragon, fall in love with a significant other and so forth), and so do clients in psychotherapy. Together, my clients and I look at how they can identify admirable traits in characters and in themselves and how these traits can be used to shape their narrative for their desired outcome.
So you tell me: what’s your story?
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture