Cover image by Karl Polverino/ZUMA Press. 6 minute read.
According to new reports, four unnamed female performers have filed an official complaint with the California Labor Commissioner against their big-name agent, Derek Hay, and his huge company LA Direct Models. Their most recent update involves a fifth plaintiff corroborating the initial complaint.
According to the latest report, Hay manipulates his clients into “exclusive multi-year agency agreements” and then “uses his power to coerce them into improper business arrangements and improper, unwanted and in some cases unlawful sexual relations with himself and others.”
Hay allegedly directs an illegal under-the-table escort service in which he sells “personal sexual encounters” with his LA Direct clients—he forces these clients to participate by threatening to publicly condemn them as illegal sex workers if they refuse.
The women are also charged numerous “kill fees,” short notice cancellation fees, and other fees and penalties not disclosed in their binding employment contracts. The clients must then pay off such fees out of pocket or “work” them off through mandated sexual acts performed on Hay himself.
Related: How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking
As if that wasn’t concerning enough, Jezebel Magazine also highlights LA Direct’s alarming punishment method which involves ignoring clients’ “No Lists”—the “standard industry practice by which performers indicate their sexual boundaries for adult shoots.” The Jane Does’ complaint states that Hay booked at least one client with scenes or actors clearly stated on her No List and then charged her a “kill fee” when she protested.
If a client pushes back against any of these fraudulent measures or does not fully “comply with his wishes, he intentionally destroys their careers by refusing to book them for work.” This, by definition, is force and coercion—clear characteristics of commercial sex trafficking, as defined by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
On top of these claims, the four Jane Doe performers accuse Hay of charging film producers excess fees to book the actresses (on top of his agreed-upon 15% commission), then pocketing the extra cash while refusing any cut to the women.
Hay refused multiple requests for comment by Adult Video News (AVN, the porn industry’s “reporting” arm) and Jezebel until finally issuing a stubbornly unapologetic statement published on AVN a couple weeks ago in which he states that “the complaint will be vigorously defended.”
More reports of industry abuse are coming out
These claims against Hay and LA Direct are definitely troubling, to say the least. As Charlotte Cross, the one original Jane Doe who gave AVN consent to use her real name, said in a statement: “When a predatory agency takes advantage of adult performers, they need to be held accountable. I’m saddened it has taken over 15 years to reach the Labor Board but I’m incredibly proud of the performers that have decided to speak up, knowing the retaliation they will face.”
LA Direct has been functioning with these inhumane tactics for way too long by threatening women into silence and submission. These Jane Does gave the formal complaint anonymously out of “fear of a substantial risk of retaliatory physical and/or mental harm.”
That should give you a glimpse into the difficulties of reporting unethical or illegal behavior in many corners of the adult industry.
We wish we could say that this case is an isolated incident and so represents a sweeping victory. But we can’t.
One of the reasons we do what we do here at Fight the New Drug is because human rights abuses and traumatic personal stories are revealed over and over again in an industry that largely claims no wrongdoing.
Just a couple months ago, porn performer Nikki Benz sued several male performers as well as the production company Brazzers, claiming that she was violently abused on set, even as she yelled “cut” to deaf ears. She was then intimidated into stating that the scene was consensual or else have all pay withheld.
Another highly successful female performer opened up to the Guardian in 2017 about how rampant industry violence and abuse is only growing in prevalence and popularity as “extreme” genres become more mainstream.
This exposé from The Daily Beast entitled “The Sexual Coercion Epidemic in Porn” reveals one disturbing account after another of women who entered this line of work naively, only to find themselves raped, controlled, or stuck in abusive power-play dynamics that made it a nightmare to speak up or get free.
Derek Hay himself was the subject of another Daily Beast article this past May that exposed performer Adria Rae’s tale of being treated like “livestock” under his authority—upon hearing of her unexpected pregnancy and her grief over the suicide of a fellow performer, Hay angrily booked her for hardcore scenes, ignored her requests for a break, and charged her a “kill fee” for being “a wreck” and unable to shoot. It’s worth noting that Hay’s agency represented two performers who recently committed suicide.
What if this abuse were happening elsewhere?
These stories are just the beginning. Countless men and women stay silent out of fear and control.
The question is this—why do we allow these accounts to float right by us as a society as we continue to celebrate porn, when we would never tolerate such behavior in any other industry?
The world has stood in solidarity this past year against mainstream movie producer Harvey Weinstein for allegations of his sexual exploitation and harassment. The most prominent news sources constantly update us on the situation, and we look at Weinstein’s case with collective concern for others like it, crying out for justice. Why, then, has The Rolling Stone been the only widely-read site to cover the numerous horrifying allegations against Derek Hay?
If you learned that the CEO of your company forced female employees into “pay-off” sexual encounters as punishment for workplace errors, how would you react? Chances are, you would speak up and rally to have such a leader removed. The community would fight to right those wrongs and counter injustice.
The porn industry is our culture’s terrifyingly large blind spot.
And the most difficult part of it is that consumers are not exactly passive players. When people consume porn, they fund agencies like LA Direct and leaders like Derek Hay to continue manipulating, exploiting and harming men and women.
In light of this Derek Hay and LA Direct reveal, porn’s tight link with sex trafficking, exploitation, and abuse should be enough to awaken our sense of justice and lead us to fight with the same fury that comes out against wrongdoers in every other industry.
Issues like this are exactly why we fight for the psychological, neurological, and sociological harms of porn to be understood all over the world by consumers who deserve to make an educated decision about it.
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