Cover image screenshot from Nikki Hearts’ YouTube. 12 minute read.
TRIGGER WARNING
The following post contains porn performer names and information, graphic descriptions of porn videos, and graphic descriptions of abusive situations.

If you’re ever wondering why porn performers never publicly speak out about abuse or violence they experience on set while still in the industry, read on. This is the real account of two (and more) performers who have endured non-consensual violence at the hands of a male performer and director. The following details are graphic and triggering to those who have experienced abuse and/or struggled with porn.

This year, two up-and-coming porn performers released an hour-long YouTube confessional video (link trigger warning) graphically describing their mistreatment and alleged abuse on two different professional, mainstream porn sets. The performers, Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon, shared their raw and shocking experiences, which had many similarities—even the same people, director Just Dave and male performer Rico Strong—and complex questions about consent in porn.

In the confessional video, Raven told her story first. The shoot in question took place in March, just a few days before the video was released. She described knowing Rico Strong prior to the shoot and even said they were friends. He asked her to fill in for a no-show and described the scene as “rough sex” with some “racial play.” In her video, Raven states she never would engage in racial slurs to people of color, but in this scene, the comments were to be directed at her. She agreed.

Over the course of the next six hours until the shoot ended, what Raven endured was unlike anything else she had experienced before in her career. Her first clue was near the beginning when Strong said something about “black payback,” entered the scene, and smacked her hard across the face.

A violent scene gone extremely wrong

It should be noted that the following descriptions of abuse on the porn set are triggering, and graphic. We won’t include everything that happened to Raven here, but if you’d like to know the full account, check out Jezebel’s coverage (link trigger warning) of the situation as well as her confessional video embedded in their article. Of course, both of these links are extremely triggering.

After the initial face hit, Strong and Raven moved into an extremely rough oral sex scene that almost suffocated her, despite repeated attempts to communicate her inability to breathe. Raven alleged that if she tried to pull back she was hit and called names, while Just Dave was increasingly frustrated that she wasn’t vomiting from the force of the act—a genre in porn called “facial abuse” that used to be more niche but is becoming more mainstream.

Related: Would Taking Away The Issue Of Performer Exploitation Make Porn More Acceptable?

“Rico was then sticking his d— in my mouth as far as he could while I was giving him, you know, leg squeezes, leg nudges, to ease up, but he wasn’t easing up,” Raven said in the video. “He actually acknowledged the fact that I wanted his d— out of my mouth so I could breathe, because it was becoming unbearable at this point, because…essentially, I’m choking [on my own vomit].”

All of this occurred before the intercourse scene. When it came time for that portion of filming, Raven was slapped by Strong on various parts of her body, she was forced to perform a position she had previously notified her director she could not do, she was injured during penetration, and choked to near unconsciousness.

In her account, her taps and signals to ease up were ignored. Just Dave had promised to call cut if there were any signs of discomfort, and yet with tears running down her face, Raven says he did not call cut.

The following day Raven filed a police report and was encouraged to undergo a medical evaluation which discovered a vaginal tear and a bruised cervix.

But she wasn’t the only professional performer who had this kind of experience with this performer and director.

Raven isn’t the only victim

In the second half of the confessional video, Riley Nixon shared her account. In January, she was also on a set with Just Dave as director and Rico Strong as the male performer. Nixon admitted that she has done many rough sex scenes and enjoys them, but this experience was different.

She too was slapped in the face, endured forcible oral sex, and choked in a way she said cut off her breathing and ability to talk.

During intercourse, she said she was again slapped and remembered being in pain and crying throughout the duration of the shoot. Yet she felt like she had to do whatever she could just to finish the job and get paid—as many performers do.

Related: Why Shaming And Victim-Blaming Porn Performers Adds To Their Mistreatment

Oddly, neither female performers were told which production company their scenes were for even after repeatedly asking. Nikki Hearts, Raven’s wife and also a porn performer, not only filmed the confessional video but also took a moment to explain that she discovered more extreme sites had commissioned Raven’s and Nixon’s videos without their knowledge. Hearts described these kinds of productions as “scum of the earth porn,” generally not accepted by the rest of the professional industry.

There are suggestions that only new performers are targeted for these videos, as they are more likely to be tricked into filming hardcore content without maintaining discussed boundaries. Raven and Nixon may not have decades of experience to their names, but they are anything but new to porn.

So why did they agree to the scenes?

The issue of true consent

One argument we regularly hear in defense of porn is that it’s consensual, and the performers love their jobs. But how can a consumer truly know if something is consensual, especially when performers are forced to lie?

The industry’s way of trying to prove consensuality and avoiding liability if anything happens on set is by filming interviews with performers right before and after a job in “consent interviews” and “exit interviews.”

In her confessional video, Raven explains that the first interview on porn sets is basically saying their “dos and don’ts,” and the shoot described above was no different—she and Strong discussed and established their boundaries in their interview. For example, in that interview she agreed to being slapped within normal limits, but in her confessional YouTube video, she said her boundaries were majorly taken advantage of and went way beyond what was discussed.

Related: Five Female Performers Accuse Top Porn Industry Agent Derek Hay Of Sex Abuse And Trafficking

A shoot is not complete and performers not paid until the exit interview, in which performers confirm the acts were consensual. Often, the director who just filmed the scene will interview the performer, asking questions like, “Did you have a good time?” and “Were you raped or abused?” and “Would you shoot with us again?” A performer’s paycheck is held hostage unless they answer “correctly.”

This seems like a great way to ensure all performers are happy and videos are consensual, but it’s common for performers to lie in these interviews. Why? Think about it.

If a performer is honest about the abuse they endured on set, they will not be paid for the day’s work—many live paycheck to paycheck, so this isn’t an option—and the entire day’s shoot will be rendered wasted and unusable. This costs the production companies serious money, which in turn means they won’t hire these performers in the future, and will essentially mark them as difficult to work with.

Just read this response to Raven and Nixon from a fellow porn performer:

In the tight-knit porn industry where many producers know and communicate with each other, this means that performers’ reputations will be damaged through their honesty, and other production companies will follow-suit in not hiring them for fear of having a similar situation that results in the waste of expensive shooting days.

After their confessional video went viral in the porn world, and Raven and Nixon both bravely confirmed they lied during their exit interviews, other porn performers spoke out on social media and admitted that they regularly lie in exit interviews, too.

In situations like these, most people want to ask why? Why didn’t they say stop, fight back, or run away? Why did they say it was okay when it wasn’t? But besides these questions ignoring the why these performers were being treated that way in the first place, it’s not so simple. Here’s why.

Porn performers may fear for their physical safety, career prospects, and as we discussed above, their financial security. In Raven’s case, she trusted Strong, didn’t want to spoil her reputation as a professional, and feared what would happen if she said no or told the truth about what happened while in the room with her abuser. She was the only woman at the shoot with men physically larger than she, and no car to make a getaway if she decided to run. For Nixon, it came down to her needing the paycheck to survive. In the video, she said:

“I know I have the power to say no, but I don’t want to make people angry—and I need to pay rent.”

By definition, this is coercion. And coercion to produce or participate in a commercial sex act is a very serious issue, seeing as it fits with the definition of sex trafficking.

In an article about the rising genre of facial abuse, Associate Professor Bronwyn Naylor (link trigger warning) said consent would not exist when a person submits to a sex act through force, fear of force, or fear of harm, which may include loss of income. She suggested crying or tapping out could be signs of a lack of consent.

Related: This Porn Performer’s Online Confession About The Industry Is Going Viral (Must Read)

Also, both performers are under the pressure of being in the same room as their abusers as they tell the camera no, they were not raped. Notice as well how performers don’t receive their check until after the exit interview is a success. If they were to answer in the affirmative to that kind of question, the entire footage would be scrapped and the shoot considered a waste of money by the production company.

In her confessional, Raven put it this way:

“We are performers, and we are human, and we agree to things when we are terrified.”

For all of these reasons, these women kept quiet. They originally consented to sex acts, but then experienced brutality. Consent can be lost at any minute. It is up to both parties to communicate continuously, but when that communication is ignored, it’s no longer consensual.

Related: Hall Of Fame Porn Performer Sues Production Company After Violent Abuse On Porn Set

The reality is, consumers can never know if what they are watching is truly consensual. These stories are just a few of many examples of how scenes can quickly spiral into abuse.

The fallout for speaking out

In response to the confessional video, all three women, including Hearts who filmed and published the video on her YouTube account, were immediately blacklisted and struggled to get work.

Recently it was reported that more than six months after the accusations came to light, footage from the shoots in question was published by a porn site specifically featuring sexual revenge acts for racism on white women.

The footage includes mocking commentary about the women’s video interspersed with Raven’s scene with Strong including her disturbing facial abuse. Ironically, this proves her side of the story even after Just Dave released edited footage of the shoot in an attempt to disprove the women’s allegations.

Related: 5 Ex-Male Porn Performers Share Their Real Experiences Doing Porn

Unfortunately, this response and the wider criticism Raven and Nixon received as a result of speaking out shows how abuse survivors have no real, safe, or repercussion-free way of reporting abuse within the porn industry. Performers are punished, the accused perpetrators walk free, and the cycle continues.

In acts of solidarity, many performers are starting to speak out on this deeply embedded issue as a result of Raven and Nixon speaking out:

Most performers living paycheck to paycheck or even those with established careers wouldn’t risk their livelihood by speaking out. That is a loss for everyone, including consumers.

Why this matters

Porn often paints the fantasy that women enjoy whatever sexual act a man wants to do, and men are portrayed as violent monsters who only take what they want. In reality, the men and women in these videos are paid for their work, and in some cases like Raven’s and Nixon’s experiences, it’s degrading in a way they never anticipated or agreed to.

There is a myth that still persists that porn performers cannot be sexually assaulted because they perform sexual acts for pay, and if they accept payment for abusive acts, it wasn’t actually abuse.

We’d like to set the record straight: Even if performers accept pay for work that abused them, it’s still unacceptable abuse. And no matter a person’s work, this kind of abuse should never be tolerated and is never deserved.

For each of us, this is a reminder that consent is tricky in porn. It’s elusive, maybe near impossible to confirm. Performers face a variety of pressures to smile and tell the camera everything is okay—financial pressure, career pressure, survival mode pressure, to name a few—but that’s clearly not always the case.

Related: The Disturbing Irony Behind Pornhub’s “Anti-Domestic Violence” Campaign

This story and countless others not in the spotlight, remind us of the true nature of the porn industry. Of course, not every video is produced in such a disrespectful and violent way, and not every single performer is always abused like Raven and Nixon. But their stories are the start of what is visible and known to us, above a world of hidden abuse and coercion.

So, is porn always a harmless personal fantasy? Or is it an edited abusive nightmare? The trouble is, if you’re on the other side of the screen, there’s no way to tell. This is why we are exposing the industry for what it is: a facilitator of abuse and the epicenter of exploitation.

Whenever these types of videos are viewed, it drives demand for more hardcore content. It’s like directly requesting abusive behavior for an individual consumer’s personal entertainment. What you watch matters.

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Join us in exposing the porn industry for what it is. SHARE this post and spread the word that abuse and lack of consent are not rare on porn sets.

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