James Deen was promoting sexual violence & rape culture long before recent allegations

Image from James Deen's sex advice column at The Frisky.
Image from James Deen’s sex advice column at The Frisky.

On Sunday, porn actress and writer, Stoya, posted on twitter that her ex-boyfriend and fellow porn performer, James Deen, had raped her.

Feminists across the board came out in support, applauding her bravery in coming forward. Undoubtedly, as many women do, she will face consequences for speaking out against a powerful man, particularly one who works in the same industry she does — an incredibly misogynist one at that.

Stoya’s point, that to hear people hold up your abuser or rapist as some kind of feminist hero can feel particularly upsetting, is one many of us understand firsthand. It compounds that sense of betrayal already present from the rape.

I’m glad she’s getting so much support right now, and hope it continues.

Deen is losing gigs because of these allegations (more women have come forward since Stoya made her statement), which is a good sign, but I have to wonder: What were liberals lauding him as a feminist hero thinking to begin with?

Deen was no feminist porn star (whether such a thing exists within the context of patriarchy is, of course, debatable). He specialized in violent sex, particularly the “rape fantasy” genre. At The Daily Beast, Aurora Snow, a porn performer herself, writes: “James Deen gets paid to have rough sex. And by his own admission he’s good at it, maybe even enjoys it. It’s incentivized and celebrated.” In an interview for the Observer, he says he’s “been into rough sex pretty much [his] whole sexual life” and claims that many women are afraid to work with him, worried he’ll “slap them in the face or something.”

Unsurprisingly, as Snow points out, Deen is also a fan of rape jokes:

Are we really, truly surprised that a man whose career is based on his abuse of women, which he very publicly admits to enjoying, who thinks rape is both sexy and a hilarious joke, is, “in real life,” not a man who respects women??

None of this was secret information, but countless liberal sites (including ones that claim to be feminist) bought into and pushed this representation of Deen as somehow “pro-woman,” calling him the “good guy” of porn, “female-friendly,”  — even a feminist. Women’s site, The Frisky, went so far as to hire him on as a sex columnist.

Since the allegations came out, The Frisky ended Deen’s column, but has yet to offer any justification for providing a paid platform to a violent, misogynist male porn producer to give sex advice to women. Editor, Amelia McDonnell-Parry, quickly published a statement, hoping to position herself as the type who supports victims of male violence, but the whole charade seems transparent considering that she was the one who initiated the column in the first place, knowing full-well about Deen’s active and ongoing promotion of violence against women. Knowing full-well that Deen “has long been an outspoken activist against condom laws” and mandatory STD-testing in the porn industry, on the grounds that it infringes on “freedom of speech” and violates “civil rights.” Knowing that he consistently dehumanizes women, referring to them as “sluts” (and much worse). Knowing his fondness for rape jokes

Surely there are better sex advice columnists out there for a women’s site? Ones who don’t make videos called “James Deen Fucks Slut Into Submission,” “James Deen Tortures Slutty Babysitter” — videos that featureextremely violent gangbangs, facial abuse, “teen” fantasies, women tied to tables and abused and penetrated by multiple men, and on and on (needless to say, I am done Googling this shit).

Considering all this, McDonnell-Parry’s statement seems opportunistic rather than sincere, an opportunity for her to jump onto the right side of this debate in a way that will shine a positive light on her and The Frisky before people catch on.

But Deen should never have been brought on in the first place… For obvious reasons — certainly to anyone who would claim concern for women’s rights, safety, and humanity.

It wasn’t even Deen himself who tried to sell himself as feminist — telling Emily Heist Moss in 2011, “I hate feminism!” — it was the liberal media and women who call themselves “sex-positive” who pushed the angle. Why?? Are we so desperate to prove that pornography is “good for women,” that we’ll sell women misogyny and call it feminism? Are we so afraid of naming male violence for what it is?

Apparently so.

While Deen’s behaviour is his responsibility and I do hope that he will be held to account for these rape allegations, the liberal media are not innocent in all this. Selling misogyny, sexualized violence, and rape culture to women and calling it “feminism” is reprehensible. It’s easy, now, to say “Oh, him, we want nothing to do with him!” but explaining these desperate efforts to force his misogyny onto women, all the while claiming to abhor whatever you believe “rape culture” is (hint: it looks just like James Deen’s career) is much harder to do. Picking and choosing which violent misogynists are acceptable based on their “cool-factor” doesn’t protect women from violence and, in fact, it makes it much harder for women to speak out against said violence.

At some point, liberals are going to have to contend with the fact that the lines they keep trying to draw are blurry at best, and that their efforts to normalize sexualized violence do demonstrable harm.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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