James Deen, Mitch Daniels, and Some Thoughts About Rape Culture

Earlier this week adult film star Stoya accused follow adult actor and former boyfriend James Deen of raping her. Seven other women have followed suit alleging that Deen raped them. Deen has declined comment to any of the news agencies that have reached out to him but has decried the accusations on Twitter.

I’ve been following this story closely. Being a virginity researcher means that I have to know a lot about porn because the virgin-whore dichotomy is still, sadly, very much a thing.

Like virginity, porn can be a very positive and empowering experience for women. One of the many things that virginity and porn have in common is that both exist in structures that are overwhelmingly created by and for men. Some women may find empowerment and enjoyment in the roles as adult film actor or virgin. Unfortunately, many women find that they are systematically exploited and abused by “the system” whether that system be the  adult film industry or regulations on women’s health in their state of residence.

Several of the women who have come forward have, rightly, criticized the porn industry for allowing Deen’s abuse of women to flourish. According to accounts like this and this Deen’s cruelty seems to have been an open secret in the industry. While some women had enough clout to put Deen on their “no list” many women did not have that ability, as Bonnie Rotten notes in her interview with BuzzFeed. I don’t know if I’m more full of rage or sorrow at the idea that so many people– directors, co-stars, production hands–knew about Deen’s rape and other abuse of women and allowed him to keep working.

I will say that I am heartened that, since the allegations have been made, Deen has suffered several consequences that are likely to effect his career long-term. The Frisky has issued a statement of why they are cutting ties with Deen and no longer publishing his weekly column. Kink.com has cut ties with Deen and he resigned from the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. Sadly, it remains doubtful whether or not Deen will suffer any legal consequences for his actions.

Many commentators have drawn parallels between the allegations against Deen and allegations against Bill Cosby. There are some parallels. Both Deen and Cosby were immensely popular performers whose abuse of women was an open secret in their industries. In both cases women hesitated to come forward because the public, and especially the legal system, are always-already suspicious of women who report rape. A woman who reports a rape risks having her entire sexual history brought up for public scrutiny and faces threats of physical harm. In addition, the way in which rapes are tried, if they ever go to trial, means that the victim has to see his or her abuser multiple times in court only to watch him/her get off with a slap on the wrist. It often doesn’t seem worth it in cases between everyday people. I can only imagine how impossible it must feel to accuse a high-earning and well-liked individual in one’s professional field.

However, the accusations against Deen don’t make me think about Bill Cosby as much as they make me think about Mitch Daniels.

That’s right.

I said Mitch Daniels.

You know, former Governor of Indiana, current President of Purdue University (which, by the by, does NOT yet have a rape crisis center) and one time possible GOP presidential candidate.

To be very clear: I am not accusing or implying that Mitch Daniels has ever raped or otherwise assaulted a woman.

What I’m thinking of is this little gem (the fuckery starts at the beginning of the video and concludes around the 1:11 mark).

Yup. That’s a real thing. Former governor and, at the time, university president-elect dodged the question and otherwise refused to condemn a GOP candidate who had called a pregnancy from rape a gift from God. Is it even worth mentioning that the man who said this will never have to carry a pregnancy from rape to term? It’s probably also unreasonable to ask that a university’s president-elect denounce a political candidate that says the results of rape could be a gift from God. After all, it’s not as if sexual assault is a problem on college campuses, right?

I don’t mean to imply that this is all, or primarily, Mitch Daniels’ problem. I think he’s just fallen in with a bad crowd. The Republican Rape Advisory Chart keeps track of things that Republican pundits, candidates and legislators have said about rape. Murdock’s statement was from 2012 which means we could, potentially, be hopeful that things have improved.

No such luck. Ben Carson, as is his wont, has said some batshit things about abortion even in cases or rape or incest. Mike Huckabee came under fire for suggesting that a ten year old rape victim carry her pregnancy to term.

These are just a few excerpts that are relatively recent. If you have a strong stomach you can check out the link and scroll through.

The allegations against James Deen are horrific. Personally, I find it even harder to imagine that there were so many incidents in which other people on set didn’t intervene.

As sickening as that is I don’t know that I have a right to expect any better when  high-profile figures for a major political party passionately argue that women should not have the right to control their bodies after rape rather than passionately argue that rape is a blight on our society which needs to be eradicated or we can no longer claim to be a moral nation.

I haven’t read the Bible in a while but I think Jesus said something about judging a tree by its fruit. At this point, I think we would all do well to ask which tree has the less rotten fruit when it comes to rape: the porn industry or the GOP.

I’m not sure I like either tree very much tonight. It may be time to prune.

 

 

 

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