Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage/GettyImages.
It’s been one month since the news about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abuse and harassment broke, and the effects are still felt by many of us. The count is up to more than 75 women who have shared their experiences involving the Hollywood executive producer’s alleged exploitative actions, but there’s worry this outing of abuse will stay in Hollywood—that society won’t carry over the accountability into other industries, let alone our every day lives.
But now, we’re seeing just how far the ripples of change are reaching into regular society, and even into the porn world.
In response to the tidal wave of allegations, the #MeToo campaign sprung up as a mass of victims finally felt empowered to speak out on their own abuse experiences. This viral social campaign has shown how incredibly widespread sexual harassment and assault are and proven how it’s more important than ever for culture to change and keep abusers accountable.
This brings us to the porn industry. It’s similar to Hollywood in the sense that the actors behind the screen are separate from our everyday lives, and yet a lot of people watch porn as part of their daily habits. In 2016, Pornhub tracked 23 billion visits. That’s 729 people a second or 64 million a day—nearly the population of the United Kingdom.
But while they’re both a part of our culture, one glaring difference between porn productions and a Hollywood film set is the attitude that women can expect to be assaulted in porn—and that’s not acceptable.
When female performers have tried to speak out against assault and mistreatment by their male colleagues in the past, they are asked, “What did you expect?”
But now, in the wake of Weinstein, the allegations that have been happening for years against some of the porn industry’s most (in)famous performers are finally being taken seriously.
Ron Jeremy, “The Porn King”
It all started when, in June of this year, webcam model Ginger Banks drew attention to stories of sexual assault by one of porn’s legendary and notorious actors Ron Jeremy, nicknamed “the Porn King.” She shared her disgust at the complacency of harassment within the industry, given the frequency and gravity of his actions despite him starring in over 1,400 porn titles and winning numerous Adult Film Association of America awards.
Banks compiled and shared years of accusations against Ron Jeremy, which included multiple accounts of rape and groping. His most cited crime is groping and sexually harassing women at porn conventions. And if that wasn’t sick enough, there’s actually someone who would follow Ron Jeremy around at porn conventions to film him serially groping women.
“I started posting on industry-only forums, and producers and industry people were telling me to get used to it. That’s just what happens in porn,” Banks said. “When people are telling me I should expect to be sexually assaulted at my job, that’s something I’m not going to stand for. The normalization of it is what disgusts me.”
Because of these recently re-surfaced accusations, Jeremy has now been banned from one of the biggest adult entertainment expos. The Twitter account of Exxxotica posted, “As of right now and moving forward, Ron Jeremy will no longer be appearing at any of our events.” That tweet was quickly followed by another one: “He will not be at our events or host hotels in any capacity. Period.”
In response to the allegations, Ron Jeremy said, “If I did something against someone’s will I’d have been punched in the face by now.” In an interview with AVN, he also said, “If I’ve offended anybody, I feel bad. I’m not in great shape. I’m old and I’m chunky but there’s still women who drive great distances to see me at these events and a lot of them or their boyfriends request a booby signing. If I ever made a mistake and misread or misjudged what I was doing, then I apologize.”
But in the porn industry, Ron Jeremy is certainly not the only alleged assailant.
James Deen, “The Boy Next Door”
Also due to the ripple effect of the Weinstein scandal, abuse allegations against the porn industry’s “boy next door” have resurfaced and are now being more closely evaluated.
In 2015, three women publicly shared their stories of alleged assaults by one of porn’s top performers, James Deen. Almost a dozen women have accused him of sexual assault, including his former partners, and well-known female performers. In an essay first published at The Daily Beast, former porn performer Tori Lux claimed she was “ruthlessly attacked and degraded” by Deen, while porn performer Amber Rayne described her horrifying experience shooting a scene with Deen (trigger warning on that link) in graphic detail.
And even while these accusations have been largely ignored, his success has been largely unhindered. One year after the multiple accusations, Deen was nominated for 33 XBIZ nominations, and he continues to make films with maintained popularity. In what other industry would this have been the case?
“I feel like it’s all been swept under the rug and it’s back to normal for James Deen,” performer/director Tanya Tate recently said to Daily Beast. “Although he didn’t go to trial and he’s not being charged, there were numerous allegations, it’s not just one person. There’s no smoke without fire.”
Like Ron Jeremy, Deen maintains his innocence.
“Every attorney I spoke to said it’s the sex workers curse,” James Deen said about assault allegations. “There’s no way to get a jury of your peers or people that will understand.”
Well James, if you’re cursed for being accused, those women carry the heavier burden from being abused and assaulted.
Rape is Rape, Even in Porn
The porn industry isn’t the healthiest aspect of our society for both women and men, consumer or performer, but there’s no excuse for sexual predators to remain unchecked and un-investigated in any environment. Period.
Ginger Banks believes a woman who walks into a sex toy shop or attends a porn convention isn’t asking to be assaulted. If she is, it’s still assault, not something to be brushed off considering where it happened. That lie is too similar to the toxic idea that women who are raped must have encouraged it by wearing a short skirt or tight clothes. Both are victim-blaming, and both are not okay.
While we are not arguing that pornography by itself leads to rape and other behaviors Ron Jeremy and James Deen exhibit—especially since most porn consumers aren’t sexually aggressive—there is no doubt that the porn industry needs to be included in the larger conversation about sexual assault and abuse in our society.
We cannot continue to be complacent in the face of serious abuse allegations in an industry that our society celebrates. We cannot continue to be silent, and victim-blame performers who are abused. We cannot continue to stand by and let abuse be normalized.
We’re here to say that normalizing assault, abuse, rape, exploitation, harassment, and any other misbehavior that’s often shown as sexual fantasy and entertainment in porn videos is not normal. Nor is it normal to normalize these unacceptable behaviors in any industry, even if it’s at a porn convention or on a porn set. We can do better than that, and victims deserve better than that.
Our hope is that these men, regardless of their status in the porn world, will be thoroughly investigated for their alleged crimes. We hope you’ll join us in fighting against exploitation everywhere.
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