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What Media Coverage of James Deen’s Assaults Means For Sex Workers

Stoya in 2012 at the AVN awards. (Photo by Michael Dorausch via Flickr)
Stoya in 2012 at the AVN awards. (Photo by Michael Dorausch via Flickr)

Content warning: this piece contains general discussion of rape.

I got a call from a reporter from Mother Jones the other day, her voice nervous. She was one of the many journalists who called the sex worker health clinic I work at, St. James Infirmary, looking for comments about the public sexual assault accusations made against James Deen over the past week.

She told me, “I’m learning about this world from this story, let me know if I say something wrong.” We tried in stops and starts to lay a groundwork of understanding about what Stoya’s tweets meant. It seems hard for people outside the industry to digest this story. This time around, most journalists seem to want to be survivor centered, and they want to be clear that they know a sex worker can be raped. But their understanding of the environment of porn is always one with contracts which, once signed, mean that anything can happen to you. Where all men on set are lurid in their gaze, and the sadistic domination they demonstrate is heartfelt and misogynist. It’s a world view in which porn shoots are a battle field where women try to keep as many of their boundaries up as possible.

For the survivors of James Deen whose stories are told and untold; for the sex workers whose perpetrators used the stigmatized environment of the profession to prey on their vulnerabilities; for the sex workers who have been assaulted and then continued to work, sometimes with the same person who assaulted them, because at that moment that was what they had to do to survive; this news cycle has been hell. The only thing more unrelenting than the new stories of James Deen’s violent misogyny cropping up every day is the understanding that these reports are only the tip of the iceberg, that there will be more stories of his attempts to “break women.”

There is a way in which these revelations are also exhilarating. I’ve never seen such public furor around the assaults of sex workers. It’s left everyone I know drained thinking, talking, or reading about it. Waiting to see what direction the narrative will take—will the news coverage continue to slant in favor of the survivors? What will the consequences be for Deen after the scandal of this story is dusted over by another? Will any long term systems be created to ensure worker safety, and will those be driven by performers themselves or placed on top by an outside enforcement agency?

These questions will take a long time to answer, but what is clear is the deep breath many took after Stoya’s two tweets were posted. It spread across my Twitter feed and it felt like witnessing a spell break. Arabelle Raphael said in an interview with Melissa Gira Grant that, “It was a big relief. Finally, someone had put it out there.”

The Full Chuck: “Everything is Pornography to Someone”

Blogger dude and mover/shaker Chuck McCarthy (of Ideas By Chuck and History of Chuck fame) answers a few questions about his nude modeling debut for Pinups Magazine.

.XXX Domain Ads: “Can You Afford Not To?”

Last month The Fearless Group released some video spots advertising the .XXX domains now available. They feature Vice Magazine founder Gavin McInnes and this spot has him making it rain with, I guess, the money he saved? It’s sort of like a porny Geico ad.

 Here’s the message at the end of the ad (and the two other spots):

Spoiler Alert: Girlvert by Oriana Small AKA Ashley Blue (2011)

This is the first book I’ve read that I had to set down because it caused me to have a heaving fit (on two separate occasions, actually). As in, certain muscle groups in my body involuntarily contracted in a desperate attempt to push something that I had read out of my throat. Those were just about the only times I was able to set the book down. Oriana Small really puts it all out there: the good, the bad, and the cheese dick*, letting readers do what they might with the information presented. It’s dark and it’s honest and you’ll never once hear Small refer to any part of her own anatomy as a “ding-ding.”

It seems that Oriana Small can’t really tell the story of her career as Ashley Blue without also sharing the story of her first love, which she can’t properly include without the cocaine. There’s plenty of coke-fueled drama, so it’s surprising that I enjoyed this book as much as I did; I don’t especially want to read about cokeheads any more than I want to be cornered by them at parties. And yet, I found myself engrossed enough that I opened a rental account at the local porn store. I started with a video from the Girlvert series, the namesake of the book. They’re sort of the XXX equivalent of The Bad Seed.

TRENCHCOATx.com: Beyond Naughty Words Mad Libs

Current offerings on TRENCHCOATx
Current offerings on TRENCHCOATx

In March, Kayden Kross and Stoya launched TRENCHCOATx.com, a pay-per-scene porn site they describe as “curated smut.” The performer-run and owned site is powered by the vision of its two partners and stands in stark opposition to the search-optimized tube sites that are closing in on monopolizing porn distribution. As Stoya wrote about tube sites, “I believe the worst sorts of capitalists would consider Manwin’s behavior a win of the highest order.” She spoke to us last month shortly after the launch about the origins and intent of TRENCHCOATx and about workers seizing the means.

Stoya: For years, because we were both under contract together at the same company, on set or when we were signing stuff together or just like sitting at a coffee shop, we would do a lot of complaining about, “This is how it should be done, this is what I think would be the right process for having barrier-optional performance choices with regards to safer sex procedures like condoms and dental dams, how adult material should be described,” and our shared distaste for the way it was moving more and more to tags. Kayden described it best as “kindergarten Mad Libs of naughty words.” For years we’ve been both sitting there saying “This is how it should be and it would be perfect and magical!”