REVISED STATEMENT: After some consideration, Project Consent has decided to reupload our interview with James Deen because we felt it was important for the public to know that Deen was thoroughly educated on the topic of sexual assault. These are his own statements on consent and we have not modified the original article. Project Consent stands firmly behind all victims of sexual assault and does not in any shape or form endorse the alledged actions of porn actor James Deen. This article was originally posted on April 11th, 2015.
Since breaking ground in the adult film industry at the age of eighteen, James Deen has been somewhat of a walking phenomenon within the porn community. With a rapidly growing fanbase and a charming persona, it’s easy to understand why so many people are smitten with the man. But what might often be overlooked is just how truly insightful Deen is. In an exclusive interview with Project Consent, Deen incorporates blunt honesty and humor as we got together to discuss sexual assault and the porn industry - a statement often given without full context or representation. While Deen does not speak for the entire industry, a fact that he conceded easily, he opens up about his own thoughts regarding the stigma around porn and assault.
Q: If you click on any random article or watch any sort of media coverage over the porn industry, you’re bound to find some sort of negative connotation. When you put the phrases ‘porn’ and ‘sexual assault’ within the same sentence, there is this idea that the adult film industry lacks consent and perpetuates sexual assault. What do you make of that standpoint?
James Deen: That sounds like a very ignorant standpoint, considering that the adult film industry is definitely not non-consensual. In fact, it is probably one of the most respectful and consensual environments that I have ever been in. I would say that standpoint comes from a place of ignorance. Let’s look at entertainment versus education. For example, you don’t learn to drive from the Fast and Furious movies. The actors and stunts people are trained professionals in a controlled environment, just like we are. But we live in a society where it is more comfortable talking about driving skills than sexual boundaries. It’s a lot easier to tell people ‘Don’t drive like that.’ than to talk about sex. It’s no different for me because when I engage in sexual activity, whether it be a fantasy scheme or whatever, it’s still fake. It’s consensual and it’s in a controlled environment with consenting adults who are, in all intents and purposes, trained professionals that are operating in the same type of activity that people should not do without the same kind of training and education.
Q: Why do you believe the porn industry shoulders so much of the burden when it comes to outside influences on sexual assault?
James Deen: I think it’s just easy to blame something, anything. It’s easier to blame and create a scapegoat than it is to admit that there’s a bigger issue than the adult industry. It’s much more complicated but I’m not going to say that the adult industry doesn’t do that because we do create products that can be perceived in a certain way. But people need to be educated. You can’t just say this is just the adult filming industry’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s responsibility to learn the proper boundaries for themselves and others. Society needs to understand that you can’t just watch an adult film and, in this metaphor, drive a car like its Fast and Furious. This is not what you do with entertainment.
Q: What do you make of the people who excuse their assault by equating it to something that they’ve seen in a porn movie?
James Deen: Sexual assault is sexual assault. If I sexually assault someone and go, “Well, the thing is…” That doesn’t change the fact that this other person was sexually assaulted. It’s not a defense to say ‘Oh, it was just a bad idea.’ You can’t just go to court after stabbing a guy and be like, ‘Oh, I got that from a movie.’ Like, you still killed a guy. You’re going to have to deal with the consequences and creating a scapegoat and trying to shift blame doesn’t make it any more acceptable. It’s about taking responsibility. You don’t apologize to someone and be like ‘I’m sorry you got sexually assaulted.’ You say, ‘I’m sorry for sexually assaulting you and violating your boundaries.’ Everything in life is about actions and consequences. If you’re going to make the action of sexually assaulting someone, regardless of the inspiration, you still have to take some personal responsibility that what you did was not okay and you’re going to have to deal with the consequences, which should be pretty hefty.
Q: Do you think it would be helpful to have a slide before pornography that’s something along the lines of “Don’t try this at home. No actual person was harmed in the making of this. Please do not try.” or would that be redundant?
James Deen: Yes and no. I think that yes, we shouldn’t have to, but I understand the need to. I think it’s asinine but I understand the need because people are stupid and education isn’t the best thing in this country so I understand why its a necessity. I have no dispute with making it mandatory on all adult films. I’m actually putting this down on a list of things to do for my company because I’d promote the shit out of that. *
Q: Let’s a fairly lack of education how the porn industry actually works. You are, in all senses of the word, a professional but there seems to be a lot of misconception on how business in the industry actually goes. Can you elaborate on the process and how consent ties in with the profession?
James Deen: So, basically, the standard adult film is booked through agencies. Like, we’re pretty legit with how we do shit. So let’s say a female performer enters the industry and gets an agent, which is usually the standard for the most part. She and this agent will discuss what she is and isn’t comfortable with and this entire gambit. They will make a list of what she’s comfortable performing and that list will be posted on the agency’s website. And if you’re a director, looking to book a scene, you can go through these agencies and you will get a list of all the women available for that activity. 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.
Q: Let’s talk about the stigma revolving around the porn industry and porn stars. We have two very opposite extremes: you have people who think that all porn stars are monsters for advocating sexual assault and you have people who think that all porn stars need to be rescued from their work. Can you walk us through what it means to be a member of the business?
James Deen: It’s really insulting that the outside perspective is that we’re being manipulated because it basically implies that we’re all children we can’t make our own decisions. Hell, APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee) is something that exists because performers are like, ‘Hey! We’re sick of you telling us that we’re not consenting. We know what we’re doing and we can make our own choices. If you want to talk to us, just talk to us. Quit projecting your own negative opinions about the porn industry on us and telling everyone that we’re being taken advantage of when we’re not. We know what we’re doing. We enjoy what we’re doing.’
And, look, there are different reasons why people do porn. Some people just want to make money but that’s fine. People work at McDonald’s to make money. Sex work is work, whether that be for money or pleasure. There’s a myriad of reasons but everyone is an consenting adult that are knowledgeable and know what they’re getting into.
Q: As a whole, how do you feel about consent being the default? Do think that society will ever reach a point where we understand that someone is entitled to their own agency and proper sex shouldn’t be shameful to discuss?
James Deen: You can’t just expect society to just realize overnight that what they’re doing is wrong. Society as a whole need to adjust and teach from a young age to make the world a more accepting place. My example is that when a child goes up and grabs someone’s genitals, the common default is to scream at them. But that’s creating a negative programming as opposed to correct sexual education, which, yes, I understand that you can’t give a full sex talk to a toddler. Correcting society is not just a flip of a switch. It’s a whole cultural reset where we need to promote correct and proper sexual education.
Q: Have you faced any particular kind of discomfort from your profession?
James Deen: It’s not uncomfortable for me because I don’t care much about stuff like that. I get asked all the time to participate in these comedy sketches that are supposed to be funny but are just degrading to my work. I just politely decline like, ‘Hey, I’d rather not because it’s actually kind of insulting.’ You can’t blame someone for ignorance. You can only educate them. There’s no sense in getting mad if they just don’t know.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
James Deen: It’s not that hard to not be an asshole. Just respect other people and their action to common human rights. It just seems kind of simple to me.
Author's Note: We are pleased to announce that James Deen Productions has indeed added a slide in front of their work to discourage acting out scenes without consent. The official message that will appear before the films will be: The performance you are about to watch is meant for entertainment purposes only. It should not be seen as a model for real-life sexual encounters. We recommend honest, clear, and ongoing communication with your partner(s) to ensure that all sex is consensual. All actors in this film have consented to participate in the acts you see. Have fun, respect each other, and practice safer sex.