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.
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