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Porn star James Deen's response to rape allegations was bafflingly awful.

So far nine women have said porn star James Deen abused them.

Deen is calling for “context” in the face of the accusations, which come from ex-partners and fellow performers in the porn industry.

Previously lauded as a “feminist”, the industry’s “boy next door” has vehemently denied the allegations of rape and sexual assault, first on Twitter and now in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, in which he labelled them “baffling”.

“I have spent this past week terrified and confused so I can’t help but run through the details of our relationship in my head,” Deen said referring to his relationship with ex-girlfriend Stoya, who late last month was the first woman to publicly condemn him for rape.

She did so, unambiguously, in 55 words posted on her Twitter account.

“James Deen held me down and f**ked me while I said no, stop, used my safe word,” wrote the porn actress, writer and activist, “I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

Deen says he can’t “speak to her motivations” but speculated that they could be “as simple as [Stoya] finding out that my current girlfriend and I are moving in together.”

“All of the accusations are from either ex-girlfriends or events that happened on set,” Deen said, calling for people to “step back and analyse this stuff in context.”

The context being, his job “as a performer for rough sex companies”, which requires him to engage in “certain acts”.

“If at any point I pushed boundaries past the point of comfort, I am sorry.

“I have always tried to respect peoples’ limits and safe words and operated within that space. If someone expressed anything to me I honoured the request with the fullest care.”

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Stoya and James Deen. Image: Getty
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On a typical porn set there are third parties and supervision. There are safe words. If someone expresses discomfort, shooting stops.

There is consent.

Tori Lux, who claims Deed assualted her, describes an incident in which she says Deen straddled her chest, pinned her down with his knees and then struck her repeatedly across the face — after she had said “no”.

“He raised his hand high above his head, swinging it down and hitting me in the face and head with an open palm. He did this five or six times—hard—before finally getting off of me,” Lux wrote in a statement, also published in The Daily Beast.

Ashley Fires, Amber Rayne, Kora Peter, Nicki Blue and another, unnamed woman have also accused Deen of sexual assault.

Another of his exes, Joanna Angel, detailed a cycle of abusive behaviour. A ninth woman, reality TV star Farrah Abraham, alleges that Deen drugged, raped and abused while the pair were dating.

“Defamatory”, “egregarious, “false”, these are all words that get thrown at women who accuse men of abuse. These are all words used by Deen to describe the claims levelled at him.

“Innocent until proven guilty,” we say again and again, wilfully blind to the fact that allegations of rape are notoriously difficult to prove because there is rarely an outside witness and our understanding of the boundaries of consent are dangerously blurred.

And so, too often — more often than not — women stay silent.

But Stoya refused. A decision she explained in an interview with The Guardian:

“I couldn’t bear the thought any more,” she said, “that there might be something terrible happening to yet another woman at his hands, or more likely, at his cock, that she didn’t want, because I kept quiet. I just … I couldn’t, I couldn’t.”

Stoya’s decision to identify herself as as a victim of abuse, not only as a woman in the public eye, but as a woman working in the porn industry is especially brave.

Porn performers, like sex workers, are often doubly discriminated against because of the fallacious assumption that because they enjoy sex or are paid for it, somehow they forfeit their right to say ‘no’ or in Stoya’s case ‘stop’

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An photo of Stoya from her Instagram. (@stoya)
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“It was a big relief. Finally, someone had put it out there,” porn performer Arabelle Raphael said of Stoya’s actions.

“People knew. A lot of people knew. I don’t think everyone knew. And some people had really good experiences with him, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

We’re constantly told that an accusation of rape can ruin a man’s career, his reputation, his livelihood. Indeed, all the major porn studios have now dropped Deen from their books.

But an act of sexual abuse can ruin a victim’s life.

As a woman, reading Stoya’s story gave me an all-too-familiar sense of recognition, but it also gave me hope. Because she has been heard and she has been supported.

Soon after she posted the accusatory tweet, the hashtag #solidaritywithstoya trended around the world, even before others corroborated her account.

“It’s not just a porn problem,” Stoya said. “It’s not just an entertainment problem. It’s easy to look at Bill Cosby and think, oh, he had access. No. It happens fucking everywhere.”

This is not just a problem for the sex industry or for Hollywood, in politics, among footballers.

Each time it is revealed that a woman I know is being or has been abused, in almost every case she will know someone who has experienced the same thing, whether at the hands of the same abuser or another.

Maybe it was a series of inappropriate comments that made you feel uncomfortable, someone sitting too close to you at the club or touching you without permission.

Or maybe you were followed, cat-called, threatened or had your silence interpreted as consent — not explicitly saying ‘no’ is not saying ‘yes’.

A man does not have to touch you to violate your personal space or make you feel unsafe, he does not have to rape you to be abusive, we know this.

Whatever the “context” was, if it made you feel uneasy — momentarily or for weeks, months or even years later — whether you have the exact terms of reference to label it or not, you did not imagine it.

Stoya found the solidarity she needed on social media, but sometimes just articulating what has happened to you, even if only to a friend, is enough to make your realise, it’s not just you.

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