go to content
TVAndMovies

The Porn Industry Is Split On Whether Things Have Changed Since The James Deen Allegations

At the AVN Awards this past weekend, people who work in the industry disagreed on what's changed and what hasn't since the assault allegations against James Deen, who was conspicuously among them.

Posted on

Two months after a series of women began publicly alleging that James Deen had assaulted, sexually abused, or raped them, Deen was smiling on the Las Vegas red carpet at the AVN Awards, "the Oscars of porn." Late last year, in the wake of allegations that began with a tweet from his ex-girlfriend and fellow performer Stoya, it seemed as if the swift backlash against Deen would end his career. Major studios Kink and Evil Angel vowed never to hire him again.

But at the AVN Awards, his pariah status had clearly faded.

The ceremony on Jan. 23 was the second of two high-profile events Deen has attended since the allegations began: The first, the XBIZ Awards on Jan. 15, was hosted by Stoya, while the AVN Awards were co-hosted by another ex-girlfriend and accuser of Deen, Joanna Angel. Stoya, whose tweet in late November would inspire many more women to come forward with allegations against Deen, avoided controversy at the XBIZ Awards, while Angel — who alleged Deen was an abusive boyfriend and described one incident in which he held her head under water for so long during sex that she thought she was going to drown — never alluded to his presence during the show.

In early December, Deen denied Stoya's account and said that Angel had exaggerated her story in an email interview with The Daily Beast.

Several of the nearly dozen women who spoke up alleged incidents took place at or near their workplace, and, whether one believes the women's allegations or Deen's denial, even Deen himself said in the same interview, "I do believe there is pressure on sets for people to perform in certain ways that they may later regret. I do believe the adult industry needs a better structure for preventing and reporting on set misconduct."

The industry began publicly wrestling with these issues two months ago, and they remain unresolved.

BuzzFeed News asked porn insiders at the AVN Awards whether the industry had changed since the allegations first came to light. (Deen's handler steered him away on the red carpet after apparently being informed by a publicist for the AVN Awards the kind of questions BuzzFeed News was asking.) Their answers ranged from Ela Darling's affirmation that more consent discussions were happening on set to Ron Jeremy's belief that an assault on set was impossible in the first place. The only consensus was in discomfort.

Tanya Tate

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor/Director

“Honestly? It feels to me like everyone's forgotten. It just feels like it's business as usual, surprisingly. … Here's the thing. Something happened. Definitely, something happened. By his admittance, things did happen, although he said they were exaggerated. If that had happened, say, in an office situation, the person would've been taken aside, there would have been a full investigation, and what have you. But in our industry, I don't know. People listened, people said, ‘Oh,’ and people carried on.”

Vicki Chase

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor

“I think we're a very forgiving group, and we tend to easily forget, and if somebody is wrongfully accused, that's one thing — that's a good thing that we are that way. And if they're not, and they're really at fault, I think that's not really cool. I think we should remember some things.

Kayden Kross

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor/Director (left)

“I feel like there was a pause of a lot of people not knowing what to do next, and then the thing that always happens when shocking things happen, happened, which is that life went on. ... I think there will be a sharper eye out for issues of possibly interactions that look like one performer abusing his right to another person's body on set — not right, but his access. And I don't think that will easily happen again, just because it really shook a lot of people up. But I don't know, it's also kind of too soon to tell.”

Mercedes Carrera

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor (right)

“I think that allegations should always be brought forth in a court of law, and until then, it's really impossible for any of us to judge this, because as of right now, they are allegations. So I hope that we find out more data soon, because certainly if there's somebody who's abusive, then we need to know that, and we need to bring that forth.”

Aiden Ashley

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor

“Because it just happened so recently, there hasn't been much time to give it change yet. ... Every company that I've ever shot for that is more of a BDSM company or a harder thing, there's always conversations before. I've never run into an issue myself as a performer. ... When I feel like something's going too far, I immediately stop the scene, break character, and then everything completely stops, and everyone's [waits] 'til I'm OK with something again. But I've never once had a situation on set where I've felt uncomfortable and been put in that position. That's something good to be said. But I also make sure the companies I shoot for are legit companies. A lot of pop-up companies are new. I think that's where a lot of the girls get in trouble with that [when it’s] someone that just, like, started a company randomly because he wants to do POV, with himself being the performer type of thing. I don't shoot for those type of companies, so I don't get in those situations.”

Romi Rain

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor

“I think there's maybe more of an outward discussion [of consent]. But in all honesty, it was always a bit of a discussion. In my opinion, there's always been a lot of talk behind the scenes about what's OK and what's not OK. The professional people that I've worked with have always had a very open dialogue about boundaries and what they're OK with. I work with very professional people. I'm actually somebody in the industry who's actually very specific on who I work with. I care about reputation and chemistry. ... I think the dialogue was always there, but I think it's just, honestly, the latest scandal. ... Not all of us are being beaten and raped on set, I promise. I've had very little issue with anything like that in my career, but I'm also a very strong personality. I think you need to be a bit more of a strong personality to be in this industry at all. I think you need to be able to say what you need to say. If anything happens, you need to be able to say so.

"I think it needs to be said more outright that nobody should be afraid of saying what they want or don't want. ... That's just somebody's prerogative. And I think sometimes girls do feel a little bit of pressure, because they want to be stars. They want to feel like they're doing what they need to do to be popular, but you don't need to do anything to be a good performer. ... You can very well say, 'I only want to have sex with boys my entire career, and nothing kinky at all,’ and that's OK. I just think it needs to be more told, especially to new girls. That's a new girl thing, is what I'm saying. The dialogue needs to be more for the new girls in the industry. I do agree that maybe there needs to be more of a porn star handbook, in that sense. It needs to be a list to check. That may be something to change, in the industry. There should be more of an introduction.”

Shy Love

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor/Director/Agent (left)

“As an agent, I kind of see it a little bit different. There are some girls that like him, and they refuse to shoot with him, and there are some girls that say they don't care, and they say they love him. So I allow the talent to make the decision, not us.”

Ela Darling

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor

“I think that there's been a lot more discussion about boundaries and consent, and I think that's a great thing. I think that people have really paid a little bit more attention to how they present themselves on set, how they interact before scenes and during scenes. I've personally seen more communication in terms of what's OK and what's not, which is typically mostly something that happens on bondage sets. I've seen that start to spread to traditional sets also. ... I mean, I always have the discussion because I don't want to violate someone's consent in any way, but it's becoming part of the typical scheme of things. Do you understand the paperwork in porn? There's a 2257, there's a model release. I would love to see a third form introduced that the industry just does on their own, that is just a list of possible acts on camera and boundaries. Just, Here are all the things that happen in porn. What is OK? What is not OK? What merits more discussion? Just have a really easy resource, basically.”

Adriana Chechik

Gabe Ginsberg / FilmMagic

Actor

"I actually think James Deen has put on a great face, and that it's a 'he said, she said.' But I think, honestly, people should go with the law. Until he's legally proven guilty, then they should let him keep working, because I know a couple other male performers that have actually been found guilty for beating up women and have been hired. So in my personal opinion, he's been nothing but nice. And the girls that claim that he almost raped them is crazy. How do you almost get raped by someone when you say no?

"I'm more of a hardcore performer. So nobody ever asks anything. They just fuck me the way they think they're gonna fuck me. [laughs] If I wanted a nice scene, it's not gonna happen, because people are like, 'Oh shit, this is Adriana Chechik. Oh shit, bam.' And they just go right in. Even if I expect, like, a nice sex scene, it's never that way. But I love it either way, so it's always fun."

Derrick Pierce

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor/Director

“Do I think it's changed? Kind of a double-edged sword, right? Because the knee-jerk response is like, ‘Well, yeah, everybody's more aware of consent on set,’ but I think that the truth is, is that although things like that incident probably happen, my personal opinion is it's few and far between. And I think that they are addressed kind of as they come up. ... But do I think the industry all of a sudden is going to make a big change? No. It's pretty apparent that for the most part, you can't get fired from porn. You have to do some pretty outlandish stuff to get fired from porn.

"I think the females in the business should be encouraged to speak up when they're not comfortable. Because at the end of the day, this is a job, and sometimes on different jobs, we do things that we don't necessarily want to do, and sometimes we don't feel comfortable doing them. The difference is, our job happens to be our bodies, so if we're not comfortable doing something, it's a lot more impact than a boss telling you, ‘I want you to stay an hour late so you can file papers even though that's not in your job description.’ The impact is different. But I think outside of that… we're a pretty tight-knit community. At least on my side, I feel that we look out for each other.”

Heather Vahn

Instagram: @vivalavahn

Actor

"I feel personally nervous about it. OK, there. That's how I honestly feel. I feel honestly, personally, a little bit nervous about my safety, I suppose, on the set a little bit. But it's not like I feel like I would be in danger from anybody I've worked with prior, but I guess with new people... but there's no way of screening talent like that. It's not like James Deen is a bad person — I've worked with him before. He's actually very nice. He's very intelligent. ... I don't know really what to make of it. It makes me feel unsafe on the set if I'm saying a code word, or, 'red' is my word, and someone doesn't stop for me. That makes me feel, like I said, a little bit nervous. Am I safe here? But I mean, I feel safe. I feel like if you have intuition, or something, you'll know if it's gonna be OK or not. ... It has never happened to me, no. No. Most definitely not. ... Everybody's got this weird back-burner buzzing thing about this, and nobody wants to talk about it. I'm over here like, I'm not sure if I should talk about it! [laughs] I'm not sure. But things feel different. Has there been changes? Maybe, maybe not, but it feels a little funny around here. [laughs]"

Ryan Mclane

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor

“I don't think it's changed. I think that it's not something that's been ignored, but it was brought to light, and people kind of have just made their own conclusion on how they feel about it. I think that there's no ‘win’ situation for anybody in that. ... I think if it brings any type of awareness... almost a reinforcement, that when we get on set, it is a professional atmosphere, and you do need to make sure that everybody's OK with everything we're doing. If that incident helped to reinforce that, that we need to make sure we're doing that, then that's a positive. For sure. It has. … When something like that comes to light, you just make sure, Is everybody OK with everything you're doing. ... I wouldn't say it's affected me, I would just say, it's like, if you're told not to do something by your parents, and then it's three years later, and you almost forgot, ‘Hey, don't do that,’ it kind of reinforces it, brings it back to the light.

John Stagliano

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Studio Head/Director/Actor

“I don't feel the industry's changed, no. Those particular incidents, where James Deen was involved with the allegations, are a tiny, tiny percentage of what goes on in the industry, and people are doing the same things. ... What people have to understand is that James Deen didn't have much influence as an actor in the business. Nobody would have tolerated the activity that was reported by these women if it was happening on their sets — certainly not me, and certainly not anyone at Evil Angel, and my producers. There are some bad actors and some bad producers in the porn business, but those people have now been shamed. ... I know some of the people personally, and I know James Deen personally. So, I had to make the judgement of who I was gonna believe. I believe the girls more than James Deen, based on my personal experience with working with them.”

Cassidy Klein

Your girl Cass on the red carpet Saturday night for the 2016 @avnawards @nexxxtlevel

Actor

"There's some girls who know him personally — I've never even met him before. Actually I was supposed to have a scene with him when the first allegations arose. I was supposed to have a scene with him three days after [Stoya's tweet]. It had been scheduled on my calendar for a month. To be honest, I canceled that scene. I'm just not sure how I feel about all of it. ... But I am definitely not OK with rape or disrespecting women in any way, whether he did it or not."

Jessy Dubai

Albert L. Ortega / Getty Images

Actor

"It's been evolving throughout time, and I feel like it's gonna get better to the point that no person should feel afraid to be in the industry because someone else is going to rape you, or just touch your nose in a weird way that you're not OK with."

(Dubai is pictured at the XBIZ Awards.)

Ron Jeremy

Gabe Ginsberg / FilmMagic

Actor/Director

"People are still careful. It's a very confusing situation. Whatever he did at home, playing S&M games and not honoring the word 'mercy,' or being a bit brutish. ... I can accept maybe there were some problems at home. What I find strange though, when you're on a film set, and the girl says 'mercy' or whatever the code word is, there's a gaffer, electrician, a cameraman, caterer, lighting man. These companies spend pretty good money. The ones that he was working for have higher budgets than some of the other films made in L.A. Why wouldn't someone on the set stop him? When they say safety on set, it's always been — I've seen situations for the last 33 years I've been in business, where a cameraman said, 'Oh, I think she's not liking this, so back away, guys. Separate.' Maybe the girl didn't say anything because she was too shy. He'll say, 'Listen, honey, don't do what you don't wanna do.' And then they broke it up, and everybody went home. So I don't know how he could've — again, maybe I'm wrong. ... But why didn't someone on the set say something? How can violations be committed in a room full of people? It's not like you're shooting an S&M scene with the two of us in a log cabin in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. See what I'm saying? So I don't think it changes anything. We're not acting any different. ... If anybody is shooting a movie, or anywhere near a film, and they see some violation taking place, they'd all be held accountable. Logic tells you that you've gotta do something about it."

Jessica Drake

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Actor/Director

“I feel like there has been a shift of sorts, but no resolution. I think that people are still thinking about it, and talking about it, but no one's really doing anything because they don't know what to do. From a producer and director standpoint, I will, as I always have before, make sure that everybody on my set is always on the same page. It's very important to me to just really make sure that that is always the case. And I think that talent needs to be reminded that they have the final say in what they do. They're the boss of their bodies. I don't know when that kind of started to fall away, but talent needs to be reminded of that. I do it every chance I get. I do the new girl speech. It's part of the new girl speech. ‘You always have the right to do exactly what you want to do with your body.’"

Evan Stone

Gabe Ginsberg / FilmMagic

Actor

"Rape is something that should always be taken very seriously. Here's what happened, in real life: James Deen is accused by a female actress of doing a felony crime, and his company of doing a felony crime. He does nothing, he files no counter-suit, no defamation suit. Another girl comes forward; he does nothing. Another girl comes forward; he does nothing. Another girl comes forward; does nothing. Continues, continues, nothing's done. Right? We just had another awards show, one of the accusation girls was on the stage presenting an award, and he's sitting in the front row. What happened? Absolutely nothing happened. Rape should always be taken very seriously, but nothing was done at any level [including pursuing criminal charges], so how does this make us look? It makes them look like people that don't take care of their business or care about what's going on, because for the rest of us, it all looks like we're assholes. And that we condone this type of behavior, whether it happened or didn't. It made us all look bad."

Ariane Lange is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Ariane Lange at ariane.lange@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.