Relativists Love-Hate Sex-Violence and Embattled Porn Star James Deen

You know things are bad when one of the most logically consistent voices coming from the left is an alleged serial rapist and pornographer. James Deen, who has starred in over 2,000 pornographic films, recently responded to allegations that he had raped a growing list of ex-girlfriends and co-stars.

I’m not writing about this story because it is salacious or sensational. It certainly is those things, but I think the compelling and revealing aspect of both this story and Deen’s response to his critics involves the grand hypocrisy of leftist ideology, especially as it concerns women, rape, consent, and moral boundaries.

You see, in addition to the more “run of the mill” scenes of heterosexual fornication, James Deen also performed in a number of what he calls “frape” scenes. Yes, that’s fantasy or fake rape. These scenes, as you might expect, often involved violence and a simulated lack of consent. Apparently, a mixture of sex and violence is all that does it for certain people. And apparently, on set as well as off set, the lines could get a little blurry.

But Deen insists that he honored “safe words” and always acted in a “respectful” and “professional” way. And since all of these interactions were filmed, there is quite a bit of evidence supporting Deen’s claims. The women who are accusing him of rape may very well regret their past actions, but as Deen points out, “if people don’t communicate things when they’re happening then it is not possible to honor retroactive boundaries.” Though I have no idea how punching a woman in the face, choking her, or any of the other degrading things that regularly occur in porn could be considered “respectful,” Deen apparently adhered to the very strictest of porn’s on-the-spot codes of conduct, for what that’s worth.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Porn already bends and oftentimes breaks moral boundaries (at the behest of its consumers, I might add), and leftists are okay with that. It’s rather arbitrary of them to draw a line in the sand here. It’s one thing to appeal to an absolute morality to condemn Deen’s actions. Having a fixed moral standard is the reason I don’t have to figure out when simulated resistance crosses the boundary into rape, or whether the great possibility of future regret should play some part in determining present rules. I don’t have to figure any of that out because I think pornography is demeaning to women and immoral from the outset. I have a fixed standard that says so, even if no one seems to be getting hurt in the moment.

But what is quite telling about this scandal is that leftists are outraged over Deen’s behavior even though it is the rather obvious upshot of their own ideology. They claim that pornography is empowering to women, yet refuse to see how pornography is feeding a rape culture that is profoundly demeaning to women. Deen shows them. They act appalled and surprised. They want to blame James Deen for his “violent” sexual acts because they just can’t pluck up enough courage to blame themselves.

Deen has been in the porn industry since he was 18. For twelve very active  years, he has been at the shameful heart of an American obsession that knows nearly no demographic boundaries. He is the prototypical contemporary American male. Mainstream outrage against him strikes me as bitterly ironic, pot-calling-the-kettle-black hypocrisy.

Deen completely understands this disconnect. It was an odd experience reading his self-defense, published in an interview with The Daily Beast. On the one hand, I completely disagree with his chosen profession and his moral framework. On the other hand, I found myself surprised by his straightforward and logical approach to the situation. I may not agree with his morals, but at least he is honest and consistent. For that reason, many of his comments are worth unpacking:

. . . At a certain point I feel like people have to step back and analyze this stuff in context. Most of these [rape allegations] are descriptions of things on BDSM or rough sex sets. When I am on set I am under instruction of the company who is paying me. I could describe the events of the scene I was in the other day and it could be just as dramatic. I have no desire to blame people who consider themselves victims or throw stones. I will just say this: my job as a performer for rough sex companies is to engage in certain acts. If at any point I pushed boundaries past the point of comfort, I am sorry. I have always tried to respect peoples’ limits and safe words and operated within that space. If someone expressed anything to me I honored the request with the fullest care.

Here is another telling response from Deen to the question, “What sexual situations have you been involved in where the word ‘no’ is used in a manner that means you should not stop?”

Almost every . . . rough sex scene involving safe words. If there is a frape (fake rape/fantasy rape) scene there are pre-discussed safe words that mean stop. They are communication tools and we always try to encourage people to use them to express when things are too rough or if their arm is uncomfortable or they have an itch on their nose and anything in between. If the premise of the scene is a forced sex fantasy then it is important to have established limits and safe words in order to maintain the integrity of the project while still honoring peoples’ boundaries.

All told, these allegations of rape and the media frenzy that have ensued have exposed both the violent heart of pornography (and porn’s older cousin, prostitution), the arbitrary current foundation for civil rights, and  the moral bankruptcy of American society.

Just think about it. When asked what constitutes the bedrock of modern morality, most people today (including James Deen, by the way) give this kind of answer: “As long as you’re not hurting anyone else and there is consent, your behavior is okay.” It sounds great. Right up until the point where it is tested by actual circumstances. Take, for instance, the present discussion of BDSM and fake rape porn. Obviously the whole point is for people to be hurt—up to an agreed upon point … or perhaps an agreed upon point beyond an agreed upon point. After all, some people derive pleasure from pain, or are at least willing to be hurt in exchange for money. As Deen points out in his defense, violent porn and football are not all that different in that sense:

I think the best thing I can do to help people understand is a football analogy. If you are on the field you need to expect there to be people running at you trying to tackle you. There is a warm-up period. There is practice. There is horseplay in the locker room. But if someone takes off their helmet and starts to hit someone in the head with it in a violent manner, it is unacceptable.

It’s odd that two things defining American masculinity today, football and pornography, should both have roots in carefully regulated consensual violence for pay. The issue is not whether or not contemporary morality sanctions violence and violent sex. The question is only how far the sex-violence is allowed to be taken before it has crossed the daily updated moral norms du jour. If there is consent and people are abiding by the rules they both agreed to, most everything is permissible in our society. Is it possible that even death is permissible if there is consent?

Even that extreme has been tested in the liberal vanguard of Germany, and German lawyers don’t know what to do about it. Here’s the real case.

A German man put out an ad saying he wanted to kill and eat another person. Someone responded saying he wanted very much to be killed and eaten. So they met up, consent was recorded on video, and the aspiring human butcher killed and ate his guest. The German authorities didn’t know what to do about it. Assisted suicide is now legal there. And cannibalism is not illegal apparently. And though you might not want people going around killing and eating each other, what do you do about a voluntary death contract between two consenting adults?

The unprecedented case has proved problematic for German lawyers who discovered that cannibalism is not illegal in Germany.

Instead, they have charged Meiwes with murder for the purposes of sexual pleasure and with “disturbing the peace of the dead”.

The accused, however, has a unique defence: that his victim actually agreed to be killed and eaten.

This is shaky ground for moral relativists. Just how much pain and suffering is a person allowed to consent to before someone else needs to step in for the self-destructive one’s own good? The laws in the US are not at all consistent on this. You will not be fined for driving around by yourself smoking cigarettes. But if you do it without a seat belt on, you’re just asking for a citation. More to our point, consider the laws against prostitution even in areas where it is legal to film and distribute pornography. Does that make any sense? No, it doesn’t. “You may not get paid to have sex. Unless someone is filming it. Then it’s okay.” That’s absurd. Why is prostitution illegal? Here’s one solid reason from our very own federal government:

The United States government takes a firm stance against proposals to legalize prostitution because prostitution directly contributes to the modern-day slave trade and is inherently demeaning.

The same exact argument could be made against pornography and for the exact same reason. The sex in pornography is nearly always unwanted sex. Most of these women would not be having this sex for free, which means that pornography is already demeaning to these women and, in many cases, “forced” upon them by their own financial straits. Aside from this, even if you were able to make the case that fake rape pornography and simulated sex-violence were permissible in themselves (and I don’t think you can), one can’t deny that these kinds of pornography feed an appetite for the real thing. There is nary a single “john” soliciting underage sex that didn’t get started with pornography first.

So I’m fine with leftists and moral relativists being outraged over Deen’s actions if only they would be consistent about it. But they’re not. They actually cannot be. They want to believe that their ideas don’t have consequences. And when those consequences slap them right in the face, they attempt to disown them. James Deen took his pseudonym in a nod to America’s favorite sanitized rebel. But he apparently took that rebellion too far. Leftists wanted Deen to bend the rules, be a rebel, and dabble in some taboos, but only up to a point. Deen’s comments on the “impoliteness” of his profession are helpful here:

Like I said, I have never claimed to be a feminist or a nice guy, or the boy next door or anything like that. I am a pornographer. It’s all I ever wanted to be. I believe in respect and equality and doing unto others but that does not make me anything more than a pornographer who believes in these values. . . . I’m in porn, and when you take porn activity into polite society it sounds really twisted.

Yeah, it does sound twisted in polite society. Because it is twisted. I will not allow moral relativists to have their politeness and pervert it too. Reality will not allow them to have their sanitized rebellion, their compartmentalized perversion, and their consequence-defying ideology. So, ultimately, either condemn pornography as immoral from the outset and adhere to fixed standards of moral behavior drawn from an unchanging code, or be content with arbitrary, blurry, and ever-changing moral boundaries that regularly result in normalized self-destructive behaviors and the degradation of society.

It is not logically tenable or morally consistent to condemn rape and defend “frape” or to condemn child sex-trafficking and defend “barely legal” porn. In a similar vein, outrage over  gun violence rings false in the face of abortion, and normalized pedophilia and bestiality are just the next frontier of moral acclimation for our currently homo-intoxicated society. You can call it a slippery slope fallacy, but it’s only a fallacy when there’s no slippery slope. Moral relativism has always generated increasing tolerances for moral turpitude because perversion has always been aggressively incremental. Wherever it is endorsed even in small measure, perversion grows.

In other words, if your moral boundaries are not absolutely and unflinchingly fixed in a standard with which you won’t tamper, then I don’t want to hear your moral outrage over James Deen, or anything else for that matter. The fruit of moral relativism is bitter indeed, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking we don’t have to eat it.