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Jen Yuk writes on www.watoday.com.au/ – JAMES Deen sure has that X-factor. You need only to watch the moody three-minute trailer for the low-budget art-house film The Canyons, in which the 25-year-old stars, to see that the guy with the matinee-idol looks to go with the name has got what it takes.
There he is brooding in the half light and the next moment he’s launching menacingly at his co-star, Lindsay Lohan. He’s terribly convincing and has, notes director Paul Schrader, the ”correct malevolence”.
Lohan has good reason to worry that Deen may well outshine her on screen. As Stephen Rodrick wrote in a raucous piece in The New York Times, they’re both at a turning point in their film careers. But while Lohan’s continues to spectacularly nosedive, Deen’s may be on the rise.
If you haven’t heard of Deen, chances are you aren’t a female in your 20s (or, more worryingly, in your teens, but more on that later) who counts online porn as a pastime.
This blue-eyed, curly-haired ”Jewish boy-next-door” (real name Bryan Sevilla) has amassed a formidable body of work (more than 3000 blue films and counting) in which not only his enthusiasm, but God-given charms are on full frontal display.
Deen is one of the few male porn stars to boast a genuine female following. He’s certainly a marketer’s dream comes true, but his recasting as romantic hero in the least romantic of formats is not only problematic; it’s pure fantasy.
Deen’s foray into porn reads as a cautionary tale. By the time he was 15, he was living on the streets and dabbling with drugs. His saving grace, he says, was that he was a bit of a show-off. ”As soon as James Deen turned 18 he knew he was destined to have sex with girls on camera,” goes the story at his inventively titled blog, Boobs, buttholes and burritos: ”Ever since he was in high school he enjoyed having sex with girls in front of his friends at different parties all over Los Angeles.”
His ascendancy in adult entertainment reads like a page ripped out of a Hollywood script. Despite being told his ”skinny, boyish looks were not fit for porn”, Deen threw himself into his work and before long ”excelled to be the top performer in the industry”. According to headline-grabbing reports in the US, his young female fan base just can’t get enough of him, following his every move on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and, of course, his blog. ”They’re drawn to Deen because he is different,” gushed America’s ABC, ”a porn star who holds hands with his leading ladies, who gazes into their eyes and is quick to be romantic”.
Really? When I Googled Deen it wasn’t his romantic side that popped up, but something called the ”Lemon-stealing Whore” skit. How to explain it? Let’s just say that for close to 30 minutes (although I barely lasted five) Deen’s character deals with the ”thief” in a manner that’s neither illuminating nor edifying.
With a spate of hard-core films favouring anal sex and a blog that makes more than a passing reference to S&M and women being ”bound and publicly f—ed and humiliated”, it’s probably safe to say that the degradation of women – hammed up or otherwise – doesn’t end there.
Keep this in mind when reading the advice Deen has for his youthful ”loyalists”, some as young as 15: ”I would like to think that I’m, you know, opening up their sexual experience. They’ll be able to take their boyfriends and say, ‘Hey, I saw this in a porno, I want to try this’.”
The critical issue here isn’t morality, it’s mental health. As The Guardian reported back in 2011, ”women who become regular users can suffer depression and low self-esteem because it can be hard to reconcile their enjoyment of porn with their intellectual dislike of seeing women used as sex objects”.
With about one in three visitors to adult entertainment websites female, it’s time to dismantle the rhetoric around Deen being a ”sex-positive feminist”. As Deen himself says, he’s just a ”worker bee”. Yes, but one with a serious sting in the tail.