The XX Factor

James Deen’s Alleged Assaults Were Ignored, Laughed Off by Casts and Crews

James Deen at the Venice Film Festival on Aug. 30, 2013. 

Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Since Saturday, when porn actress and writer Stoya tweeted that she was raped by porn hero James Deen, four more adult film performers have come out against him with allegations of sexual assault. Ashley Fires and Tori Lux detailed Deen’s violent sexual advances behind the scenes at porn studios in two Daily Beast posts on Monday. Today, Amber Rayne and Kora Peters tell their stories: two thoroughly disturbing accounts of Deen crossing the line from consensual, professional sex into rape while filming on set.

During an anal sex scene Rayne filmed with Deen in the mid-aughts, she says, he punched her twice in the face and used such force on her anus that she bled and needed stitches. She finished the scene with a blow job instead. Peters says she specifically told Deen and the director that she wouldn’t have anal sex, but Deen tried anyway. When she pushed him away, Peters alleges, Deen choked her and anally raped her while the camera was rolling.

Nearly as sickening as Deen’s alleged acts are Rayne’s and Peters’ tellings of the indifference they encountered on set, where the rest of the casts and crews ignored or dismissed their protests that they’d been violated. Chico Wang, who directed Rayne’s scene, wrote that it seemed Deen “went a bit overboard” when Rayne couldn’t finish the scene due to “backdoor problems.” “Fortunately she wanted the loads in a very special place. Her choice,” he wrote, positioning Rayne’s alleged rape as a kinky fetish. (Wang died in an apparent suicide in 2007 after police implicated him in the murder of his then-wife.) After Deen allegedly forced anal sex on Peters, she says, “The crew all high-fived him and told him what a great job he did getting an anal scene for the price of a [non-anal] scene.” She called her agent to tell him what happened. “He said I should feel honored that James wanted me so badly because he was one of the best male performers.”

Rayne and Peters are not alone in their experiences with an unsympathetic crowd of bystanders: Aurora Snow, the former porn actress who’s been covering the Deen allegations for the Daily Beast, recounts seeing a porn director, actor, and crew going ahead with a scene after the starring woman passed out cold: They propped her up with her face in a pile of pillows and raped her, Snow says.

It’s likely that the nature of the business makes it more difficult for participants and outsiders to identify rape and call it out. Snow concludes that Deen’s years of acting out scenes of rape and rough sex have blurred the lines between his scripted professional life and his real-world interactions with women:

James Deen gets paid to have rough sex. And by his own admission he’s good at it, maybe even enjoys it. … [In porn,] on-set behaviors and attitudes that would be shocking to most and sometimes even criminal are normalized, and after years of performing, it can be hard to separate the work from reality. … When your job regularly consists of roughing a woman up, ignoring her pleas, and choking her out, do you start to bring some of that behavior home with you? 

Here, though, Snow conflates rough sex or rape fantasies and actual rape. There is nothing wrong or rape-like about enjoying rough sex and being good at it. There is nothing wrong or suspicious about acting out a consensual rape fantasy. But, as in offscreen/noncommercial sex, the entire validity of porn as an industry hinges on consent. Perversely, that may be one reason why a porn actress might feel compelled to stay silent about these kinds of violations: Women who act in adult films are often portrayed as victims with little agency or know-how, who must resort to a demeaning and dangerous career because they have no other options. Stories like the ones Fires, Lux, Rayne, and Peters tell—important as they are—don’t exactly contradict that myth.

But neither porn nor rough sex subjected these women to sexual assault, and they didn’t turn James Deen into a rapist. The allegations against Deen are full of references to ways porn actresses control their own careers: through lists of acts they won’t perform, lists of people they won’t perform with, and contracts that specify exactly what will happen in a scene. Deviating from the agreed-upon variety, timing, and manner of sex is just as wrong as any other kind of assault. The women who’ve told their horrifying stories about Deen know that. Deen and the bystanders who looked on and laughed did, too.