Actress and adult film entrepreneur Stoya caused a stir in the porn industry this weekend, after accusing former co-star and ex-boyfriend Bryan Sevilla, better known by the stage name James Deen, of rape. On Nov. 28, she shared graphic details of the alleged assault on Twitter, writing: ”I said no, stop, used my safeword.”
That tweet followed another, in which—without naming him—Stoya had referred to the actor’s renown as a woman-friendly porn star.
Deen, who has publicly denied the allegations, is known as ‘feminist’ porn star, a reputation earned over the years with his guy-next-door attitude, appearance and public statements. According to an April 2012 article in Good Magazine: ”Deen stopped working for one site because he found the plots ‘a little rapey.'”
“I think our society in this day and age should admit, agree, and accept that females have sexuality,” Deen told Elle magazine in Aug. 2015, adding, “I don’t know, maybe I am a fucking feminist!”
Deen also wrote for gossip site The Frisky, but his column has since been discontinued. ”I liked his emphasis on communication, honesty and, most of all, CONSENT,” wrote editor Amelia Magritte in a Nov. 29 article about the decision to end Deen’s contribution.
Magritte clarified that her decision did not turn on conclusive proof that the allegations were true, but on a choice to believe Stoya:
”I imagine there will be some who will say, ‘But what about James Deen’s side to this story? What about evidence?'” Magritte wrote, continuing that “Like so many rape cases, this will very likely be a “he said/she said” situation. And as I tweeted last night, today and every day, I BELIEVE WOMEN.”
Magritte also noted that she texted Deen for an explanation, but did not receive a reply.
Shortly after Stoya’s allegation, former adult performer Tori Lux wrote that she too, had been assaulted by Deen in a Nov. 30 article in The Daily Beast: ”In June of 2011, while shooting at a major porn studio, I was assaulted by James Deen.” After describing the episode in detail, she added, “I felt pressured to maintain a professional demeanor as this was a major porn set, with other people present and failing to intervene.”
A third accuser has also come forward. Adult film actress Ashley Fires told The Daily Beast on Nov. 30 that “the reason I put [Deen] on my ‘no list’ was because he almost raped me.”
Deen denied all allegations on Twitter. “I know and respect limits,” he tweeted on Nov. 29:
It is important to note that none of the accusations against Deen have been verified. Quartz has contacted Deen for comment and will update this article with any response. Writing about these allegations in the Daily Beast, actress Aurora Snow says, ”as a former adult actress who has worked with Deen on many occasions, I must admit that I’ve never witnessed this side of him.”
However, Snow notes that the high-profile accusations may serve as an important reminder within the industry to prioritize safe working conditions for actors and actresses, and that “no means no—even when a porn star says it.”
With an estimated $10 to $12 billion revenue in the US alone, adult entertainment is a high stakes industry. The financial incentive alone can cause disturbing choices: in a separate anecdote, Snow describes a director’s decision to carry on filming a sex scene with an unconscious actress, in order not to lose the money invested in that day’s shoot.
Incidents may also go unreported due to fear that complaints from sex workers will not be taken seriously. “People—including the police—tend to believe that sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted,” wrote Lux. The same problem can undermine claims of sexual abuse between partners.