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Guest blog: ‘Quite Delightful’, James Deen and me

Today’s guest blog (which includes discussion of rape and sexual assault), was written after something very odd happened. It happened just before Christmas, and thanks to a combination of anxiety and Christmas stress I wasn’t keen to delve too deeply into it at the time. But New Year is a time for Getting On With Stuff, and what better things to be Getting On With than calling out shitty companies who behave badly?

A company called Quite Delightful (who tweet under @QuiteBriefly on Twitter), got into something of a heated debate in December about James Deen. In case you’re not aware, many women have accused Deen of rape or sexual assault, and Deen has denied the allegations. The statements that Quite Delightful made showed what I think is a pretty callous attitude towards people who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

On a personal level, I obviously disagree with QD. On a boring professional level, I’m pretty surprised that this company was happy to alienate a whole bunch of sex writers, customers, and potential customers – not just dismissing them but tweeting in a way that all their followers could see, thus inviting others to come and tell us just how wrong we were. It bothers me because I have seen the company (which publishes an ‘erotic magazine by and for women’) recommended by a number of people I respect in the sex industry, and I figure there are probably quite a few of them who are unaware of the comments @QuiteBriefly made, because they have since deleted their tweets.

So many thanks to @sophable – a customer of theirs, who has kindly offered to explain why this left a very bad impression.

‘Quite Delightful’, James Deen and me

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a James Deen film. Nor one starring Stoya. I’ve taken an interest in the story in the same way that I do anything pertaining to feminism, women’s voices, rape culture and sex. All areas of deep interest to me as a right thinking human being. I am unceasingly dismayed at how pervasive rape culture is. Victim blaming is endemic: even the nicest people, the nicest women, do it without even knowing it. It’s fucking depressing. Some of my best friends…

For female porn industry workers to come forward and make claims of sexual assault and rape is particularly brave. In a world where what a women wears is deemed not just relevant but causative in terms of her assault by a man you have to have a shit load of guts to say that mid rough sex scene consent left the building and you were raped. I believe the women who have come forward to accuse James Deen. I believe them because I tend to believe women. I believe them because the numbers of actual assaults and rapes dwarf cases of false allegation to an enormous extent and so the numbers are with me. I believe them because misogyny, assault, casual sexism and male entitlement to female bodies are so commonplace as to be (horrifically) mundane.

But my believing them or not isn’t really the point. The point is that I do not expect the kind of misogyny that carelessly uses phrases such as ‘cry rape’ to reside in an organisation that purports to be for and by women.

QuiteBriefly said: If the allegations are founded then send him down. But if these women cry rape they must see it through

I came across Quite Delightful earlier this year, based on a recommendation on Erika Lust (the feminist pornographer’s) site. Given that I am a feminist and obsessed with sex I am always pleased to find sources of non-exploitative, woman friendly dirty smut. I proceeded to purchase with gusto. It’s not cheap. Quite Delightful is less a magazine more a coffee table book sized quarterly. The filthiest thing about it is the quality of the paper and binding which is highest of high end. It definitely belongs more on the coffee table than in the bedroom (not that you can’t do it on a coffee table etc). It’s an aesthetic rather than erotic thing. Gorgeous arty pics of nude men and women and their various appendages are great to look at but not what get me going.

That said QD really is a beautiful thing and I was pleased to find another corner of the erotica world populated by women doing their thing with women for women. Excellent news all round. So seeing the QD twitter feed defending Deen until proven guilty in a court of law and using the phrase ‘cry rape’ was a bit of a jaw/floor moment. I expect it in some, even most quarters. I do not expect it from an organisation that makes its money claiming to be about female sexuality and woman friendly. At all.

Several voices including mine pointed out that not believing a woman unless she brings charges completely ignores the fact that the judicial system in this country and the states is at best useless to rape victims and at worst re-assaults them through the horrendous trial of victims’ lifestyles, that ensues. It’s a horrible truth that faced with pressing charges, the majority of victims choose not to because the law is an ass in this area.

(Additional note from GOTN: At no point has James Deen been put on ‘trial by social media.’ Twitter’s a pretty useful tool but as yet Twitter on its own has never sent anyone to jail: you don’t get arrested when an accusation hits a retweet threshold. What’s happened is women have come forward and made allegations. James Deen has denied them. He has not been imprisoned, arrested or punished by the state.

What has happened is that he’s lost a number of jobs. I think for very good reason: sexual consent is not just ‘important’ in the role of porn actor – it is a fundamental part of your job. Would you hire an accountant who’d been ten times accused of embezzlement?)

What’s more, when @QuiteBriefly said this:

QuiteBriefly said: Really I wish that @JamesDeen would force this into court so that he could prove his protestations of innocence... or not

They may not have been aware that fear of being ‘forced into court’ (or sued) is yet another fear for sexual assault victims who come forward. In fact, it’s one which became very real for some of Bill Cosby’s accusers.

How is it possible that a woman friendly company, within the arena of sex and erotica doesn’t understand the issue here? Impossible I would argue. And so how on earth can these tweets be justified? I’ve gone round and round this in my head: what on earth can have been going on?

It makes me want to chuck the issues of QD that I have in a drawer under my bed away. Not only because of an apparent attitude that believes a self confessed arrogant jerk over the queue of women risking their professional reputations to come forward, but using the kind of misogynist language that is the opposite of their self professed ‘woman friendly’ brand.

My overriding feeling is of disgust. Not at the erotica. At the misogyny and ignorance of the organisation that makes it.

(Note from GOTN: I’ve asked @QuiteBriefly if these are the opinions of the company or an individual. I asked again, and again, and again for them to respond. They haven’t. What’s more, after a chat with a couple of other sex bloggers about the company ‘Quite Delightful’, this isn’t the only area in which they’ve shown a total lack of awareness over social issues. If I were you I would not support them.)


  • RB says:

    This is a fantastic read – I hope the comments to this prove respectful. (How depressing is it that that’s my first thought?)

    It makes me so angry that the excuse ‘well, if he really did it she would take him through the courts’ is thrown around because, as you’ve said, there’s such a fundamental misunderstanding about the lack of conviction rates, evidence-gathering techniques and traumatic cross-examination that occur in court. It’s never happened to me but I often think if it did I’d be at a disadvantage; I do stand-up comedy about S&M and am very open about having a D/S-oriented sex life and the thought of having to be interrogated on the witness stand if I was raped is horrifying, even theoretically speaking. Could you imagine how the privately hired attorney of a millionaire would treat a porn performer in a rape trial?! Stoya must know that as well; I could hardly blame her for not taking that up as an option.

    It’s a vicious circle. When publications use phrases like ‘cry rape’, they give further stigma to reporting sex crimes, which means accusation and conviction rates go down and victims continue to be given far more scrutiny than support. It’s disgusting.


    • Girl on the net says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, RB. I agree – it’s a vicious cycle, and it’s so frustrating that someone can say they’re ‘for women’ and yet have no idea of the complex issues surrounding reporting of sexual assault.

  • Zak Jane Keir says:

    I’ve never heard of this company either, but I have known, in the past, that companies/organisations which shout a lot about how ‘woman-friendly’ they are can turn out to be actually run by ‘feminist’ men (who are all for ‘feminism’ when it means more sex, less keen when it involves actually listening to women…)
    Very good piece.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you ZJK! I’ve seen similar things before, although I think in this instance the company is run mostly (or possibly even wholly) by women, which is what surprises me even more. I asked them on twitter if it was the opinion of an individual, because I feel in that situation I could go ‘ok they’re wrong’ and hope to change their mind. If it’s effectively a public statement by the company, though? Argh. Definitely no intention of ever supporting them.

  • adriana says:

    The first I’ve heard of them, and I wouldn’t be sad if it was also the last!

    • Girl on the net says:

      Me neither. At least, if I hear of them again I’d like to think it’s in a capacity where they go ‘we’ve had a think and we were wrong.’ Thank you for your support adriana.

  • Notajamesdeensympathiser says:

    There is no doubt that this whole issue and the wider picture of institutionalised misogyny makes for a very difficult debate and the ability of a company to deal with its complexities is rather foolish especially on short form social media.

    The difficulties of convicting rape and sexual assault charges is notorious and it’s tempting to leap on that and treat all accusations a little less impartially than for other crimes especially given the emotivness of the subject. That said we cannot give up on the rule of law and the idea of innocent until proven guilty or make acceptions for certain crimes. A court of law remains the best place to both convict the guilty, prove innocence and improve the law for future generations.

    There is no doubt that we need to improve the services for cases such as these. Any case where a victim must face their assailant in court is hard, but giving up on the judicial process won’t make things better, and relying on outrage generated by social media as the most effective safeguard is unsafe, unscientific and unjust.

    If we want things to be better we really should be arguing for improving legal services regarding this issue, calling on governments to invest money in to sexual violence education, helping to desigmatise those who suffer so people feel empowered to come foreword at the earliest opportunity. If we give up on the effectiveness of the law and tell people that “the law is an ass” without attempting to improve things, victims will be increasingly reluctant to come forward in the fear they won’t be taken seriously. Let’s look at what the authorities can do to make things better so that when cases like this arise things actually happen.

    • Girl on the net says:

      No one is giving up on the rule of law, and in fact everyone in this discussion *except the company using phrases like ‘cry rape’* pointed out specific ways in which the process for reporting was failing.

      “Let’s look at what the authorities can do to make things better so that when cases like this arise things actually happen.”

      I agree. But in the meantime let’s treat people who discuss their rapes and sexual assaults with dignity, and not use ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as a way to dismiss their experiences. As mentioned in the post, James Deen is not in prison or under any immediate threat of it, so using ‘innocent until proven guilty’ sounds quite like ‘let’s not discuss this’, when placed in the context of many women who have spoken out.

  • Jubi says:

    You know it is shocking to see a magazine which caters to women to speak like this. Yes, they are entitled to their opinion on defending James Deen but I thought they could be empathetic to the situation. In fact, this actually proves right what many people think when an adult star is raped. I read this amazing article in The Guardian which says, “Because we don’t want to talk about it. Everybody thinks this is already happening, because we’re doing sex work. And we don’t want to talk about having been assaulted, because of the stereotypes that all sex workers are assaulted.” It is actually a great article.

  • Oh boy, this is difficult. It sounds as if anecdotal evidence against Deen is mounting up, but how can he defend himself? He is in the business of fucking other porn stars. It is his job. We all expect it to be consentual, but how can it be proven whether or not it is? It is also impossible to see how these women can bring a case against him to court because they are actually being paid to have sex with him. It would be impossible to prove they permitted X, but not Y and juries would find it difficult not to victim blame if they do not understand the porn industry. Many would think that, for goodness sake, if you let him do X, what is so bad about Y. I don’t see how the average jury made up of average men and women could ever make a sensible verdict unless there is concrete evidence on film.

    Sorry, I don’t know QD so can’t comment on their normal attitudes to sex, but it is disappointing that they have not answered GOTN’s questions.

    It seems to me this is a total minefield as regards the legal system. How can you ensure a jury will not be tempted to victim blame in a case between porn stars – they victim blame in far less controversial cases?

    Will watch this thread and the news to see how it develops.

    • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

      (Apologies for the excessively lengthy comment here. I get wordy when it’s late and I can’t sleep.)

      A personal bugbear: I see a lot of people talking about ‘proving’ an allegation as though it’s something that can be done conclusively and objectively, but really, ‘proof’ is something of a legal fiction. In a court, all ‘proof’ means is that a judge or jury has been convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that something is true (or in some cases, convinced on the balance of probabilities that it’s more likely true than not).

      There are indeed practical difficulties with proving charges of rape, though not insurmountable ones; despite the low conviction rate, thousands of people are still convicted of rape every year. And it’s true that a rape case involving porn stars or sex workers might be more difficult due to social prejudices, but I’m sure people have still been convicted in such circumstances. The questions you ask – ‘if you let him do X, what is so bad about Y?’ – are the sort of questions that are dealt with in rape cases all the time. A victim may well have consented to one sex act, but not another; but to do something they haven’t done is still illegal, and people get convicted for it. Even the lack of decisive evidence one way or another – the issue of it being ‘his word against hers’ – doesn’t stop people getting convicted. Juries are smarter than you think, and good lawyers and judges are able to deal with the complexities of a difficult case and help the jury to reach the right answer.

      Fortunately, outside of the courtroom in the real world, we need not be so concerned with such tricky nuances. The legal process is necessarily thorough because of the severe consequences of being convicted of rape; but we don’t need to go through all that just to have an opinion about Deen. You don’t need to wait for the allegations against him to be ‘proved’ by a court beyond reasonable doubt (which may never happen) to come to a conclusion about him. Just read the women’s accounts and go with what your instincts tell you. Even a company employing him doesn’t need to wait for a legal judgment if they decide he’s not the kind of person they want working for them; they can just fire him, and several porn companies have indeed done that.

      (Personally, what convinces me is the fact that there are strong social pressures against porn performers like Stoya speaking out against rape – they were literally putting their careers at risk by doing so. There’s no reason for them to lie and say Deen raped them when he didn’t; but if he did, there are strong incentives for them *not* to report it. The fact that they did so, despite the risks, strongly suggests that the allegations are true.)

      And as for ‘what about Deen?’, I wouldn’t worry too much about him. He’s not currently facing any criminal charges. His career has suffered serious damage (and rightly so!), but he’ll probably always have some fans and will always be able to make money from his videos. He can afford to employ PR people to defend him and try to improve his image if he wants. But really, what he should do is what he should have done in the first place: not rape women, and ensure that in future he gets explicit consent before engaging in any sex act. And if he finds that no one is willing to work with him anymore and his porn career really is over, well, I can’t say I’ll cry too many tears.

  • I Just Wanna Be God says:

    Some of the goings on in a recent case with Christy Mack have shown just how much porn stars have the court stacked against them on top of everything else. I would take some issue with the idea of innocent until being proven guilty being treated solely as applying to imprisonment; obviously that’s where it’s most crucial, but I think people should try to also apply it socially, whether on Twitter or in a job interview. Yet at the same time they are absolutely right in the potential backlash against the victims here; they stand to lose far more than anything they’d gain from a false accusation. I believe them. But I’m not sure I’m comfortable condemning him, even in my own head.

  • Metastopheles says:

    What has happened is that he’s lost a number of jobs. I think for very good reason: sexual consent is not just ‘important’ in the role of porn actor – it is a fundamental part of your job. Would you hire an accountant who’d been ten times accused of embezzlement?)

    Yes, and just like people accusing an accountant of embezzlement but never making the matter a legal investigation, the accusations have just tarred a person with allegations. That’s it.

    If you accuse someone of a crime, especially one that will haunt their career, you should damn well take it into the legal system. Not the court of public opinion – a court that is unreliable and fickle. Prove your accusations in the court of law, that’s what its there for.

    • Girl on the net says:

      See, here’s what I don’t get – you seem totally unconcerned about taking someone who has been accused of rape and sexual assault (by at least ten different people) and continuing to hire them in a job where sexual consent is key. This isn’t a ‘court of public opinion’ issue at this point, it’s a business decision. If you ran a porn company and you made the decision to continue to hire Deen, as is your right, then I suspect your business would tank. Ignoring your – and my – opinion on what Deen did or didn’t do, it’s pretty clear that this would be a stupid thing to do. But, again, it’s your right, because *no one has sent him to jail.* The point that ‘it’s what [a court of law] is there for’ is laughably naive, given how few cases even make it to trial.

      I’m surprised, whenever things like this are discussed, at the ease with which people dismiss the experiences of those who speak out against rape and sexual assault (the fact that many of them are likely to lose jobs and be ostracised in the industry as well as put up with any manner of horiffic abuse). Yet simultaneously express outrage that Deen might, god forbid, lose some work? I don’t get it.

      All that’s a bit of a side note, though, and sorry for going off on a tangent. The actual point of this article is to discuss this company – one which prides itself on being ‘by and for’ women, and their swift dismissal of the experiences of the women who have spoken out against Deen. Regardless of whether you and I agree on Deen himself, I hope you can agree that a company like this shouldn’t really be making statements that are so callous in their attitude towards people who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted.

      • Metastopheles says:

        Just because someone has been accused of something doesn’t make them guilty. Certainly it’s probably not wise to hire the accountant accused of embezzling – but at the same time the consideration is this: What if the accountant is innocent?

        You’re suggesting that at the merest suggestion or an accusation, none of which has ever gone through a legal investigation, that an individual accused by any party, be immediately deprived of work. That makes accusations the most powerful social tool because it doesn’t require verification or evidence, it doesn’t require an independent and neutral party to investigate the accusation, the accusation alone damns the individual.

        That’s wrong. Bring James Deen to trial. Have a rigorous investigation by the police into the claims made, and if he’s found guilty – then justice will have been served along with all the consequences. Until then using twitter to make claims and encouraging people to form mobs boycotting his work and his business partners is wrong, and nothing is more wrong than handing out mob justice to an accused individual – lynch mob style.

        • Girl on the net says:

          Do you understand the difference between ‘the merest suggestion or an accusation, none of which has ever gone through a legal investigation’ and ‘the accounts of numerous women, which have been corroborated by others’? Do you also understand the difference between ‘not being hired for a particular job’ and ‘lynching’?

          If you are right then no one would be able (allowed?) to make decisions or judgments about who to work with. You’re essentially saying that you would compel people to continue to hire and work with porn stars who they have been told are potentially abusive, on the grounds that it’s ‘not fair’ for a company/other performer to exercise individual judgment.

          What’s more, you have completely ignored the point I’m making, which is that although you and I might disagree on Deen, any company which purports to be ‘for women’ should probably have a strong enough grasp of these issues to understand why bringing a rape conviction is difficult and traumatic.

  • AV says:

    In the hope that this adds something constructive to the above discussion…

    Those that reserve their judgement of Deen until he is proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt are missing the point that that is a legal standard required to convict someone of a criminal offence. It is not fair to use that standard here because that standard does not apply outside the criminal courts – the standard of evidence required to sack someone is considerably lower by way of example.

    Nor has Deen been subject to the so called “court of public opinion” or to “trial by social media”. A number of women have made accusations and it is based on those accusations that a number of companies have chosen to sever their relationship with Deen. It is comparable to an employer sacking an employee following a credible claim of sexual assault.

    Stoya has decided to use social media rather than the criminal justice system to accuse Deen for reasons she describes in her blog (17 Dec 2015 post). Unlike the accountant accused of embezzlement example, there is no statutory regulatory body that Deen is subject to who Stoya could have complained to. Perhaps porn should become a regulated industry with a proper regulatory body that robustly investigates all complaints against its members. Until such time as that happens the example of the accountant is not comparable with the current situation.

    Finally, to those that say that it is not fair that Deen’s reputation has been tarnished by as yet unproven accusations, it is worth pointing out that Deen could sue his accusers for libel or he could choose to respond to the accusations on social media. He has not chosen to do either of those. To date he has denied the accusations but not actually given any detail or told his side of the story.

    And to those who argue that rape of a pornstar is merely “theft of services” or even question whether a pornstar can be raped, please stop wasting everyone else’s oxygen.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you AV, and I agree. To your point about regulation – there are some organisations which advocate on behalf of performers and aim to lay down ethical guidelines for producers to follow – APAC in the US: and the (relatively) new Ethical Porn Partnership in the UK: Neither of these, as far as I’m aware, is a regulatory body though – I see what you mean about the difference between that and the accountant example. I’m just adding them here in case they’re helpful and anyone wants to find out more.

      • AV says:

        Because they’re voluntary those bodies aren’t anywhere near as useful as a proper regulatory body in my opinion. To be effective a proper regulatory body needs to be compulsory, be recognised in law, be independent (i.e. not managed by anyone subject to its regulation), have the power to strike off members (subject to safeguards such as a thorough investigation and some form of disciplinary hearing) and be obliged to investigate any complaints. Only such a body would have the clout to stamp out the kind of behaviour Deen is accused of.

        Of course that would require political appetite to properly acknowledge and openly talk about the porn industry…

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