Yes, Sex Workers Can Be Raped, And Here's The Danger In Thinking Otherwise
Porn star James Deen was accused of rape and sexual assault by several women this past week, which he denied on Twitter and Instagram. These accusations have sparked debate on Deen's popularity in the porn industry, the consequences of victims and alleged victims speaking out, and the awful stigmas surrounding sex workers — including the harmful idea that porn stars can't be raped. Both Tori Lux and Nicki Blue, porn stars who claim they were sexually assaulted by Deen, have defended their decision to not come forward about their allegations sooner because of a glaring yet painful reality: Sex workers are rarely taken seriously when it comes to claims of rape. This is a serious problem.
Nicki Blue alleges that Deen violently assaulted her during a blow job scene in an adult film. Although the oral sex started off “nice,” she said, she claims that Deen got rough, began choking her with his penis, then eventually urinated in her mouth. While she says she considered going to the police, the fear that her claims would be dismissed simply because of her profession were at the forefront of her mind. She told Daily Mail Online:
"When you're an adult actress, especially in BDSM, and you go to a cop and say 'Oh I've been raped by this guy after doing a scene', they are not going to take you seriously, like if you were a normal person," she said.
Blue is like any other person deserving of autonomy and respect; she just happens to work in the sex industry. Her profession doesn’t exclude her from being raped or sexually assaulted, just because she has sex on camera and gets paid for it.
Before Blue came forward, Tori Lux, who also claims that Deen assaulted her, wrote a piece for The Daily Beast about her own allegations towards him. Along with detailing the alleged abuse, an incident in which she claims Deen forced her to “sniff his testicles” after hitting her in the face several times, she went on to explain that she chose not to report what she claims happened because, “people — including the police — tend to believe that sex workers have placed themselves in harm’s way, and therefore can’t be assaulted.”
Just last week, the lawyer for cage fighter War Machine (Jonathan Koppenhaver), who’s on trial for assault and attempted murder after he allegedly viciously attacked his ex-girlfriend, porn star Christy Mack (Christine Mackinday), actually said that porn stars can’t be raped. According to War Machine’s attorney, Brandon Sua, Mack’s “work in pornography pointed to consent and that Koppenhaver and Mackinday often engaged in rough sex.” Not only is this mentality completely off base, but it's insulting and dehumanizing.
ANYONE can be raped. Women can be raped by their partners. Men can be raped. Strippers can be raped. Prostitutes can be raped. And, yes, porn stars can be raped. Just because someone consents to a sexual act one time, either in their private or professional life, it doesn’t give anyone license to assume that they’re consenting to any subsequent sexual activities in the future. You can have sex with your partner 500 times, but that doesn’t mean that if you don’t want it on the 501st time and they disregard your "no," it’s not rape.
But Sua's problematic statement hits the nail on the head with his thinking: Far too often those who work in the sex industry, women especially, are seen as less than human. A study from earlier this year out of the UK found that many people view those in the sex industry with a severely warped perception, adhering to archaic stereotypes that “women are sexual objects and men are sexual subjects.” Women are not objects.
When people dare to suggest that sex workers can’t be raped, they’re taking victim-blaming to a whole new low. It’s not just the mentality of “she was asking for it,” but a deeper, more gruesome thinking that those who work in the sex industry are not human, that they're just sexual objects to be used and degraded, as if their profession allows men to violate them as they choose to simply because they’re not “normal” people, to use Nicki Blue's word. But to reiterate, Blue is “normal,” as is every other sex worker out there. Every single one of them is human — and human beings can be raped.
As many people brace to see if more women will come forward to accuse James Deen of rape and/or sexual assault, it’s important to see the reality of the situation clearly. Sex workers do not get lumped into their own category when it comes to sexual assault, making them somehow bulletproof to such things. No matter how rough they may like sex in their personal life or how many rape fantasies they may act out on screen for their job, if there’s no consent, it’s rape. Plain and simple.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.