James Deen, The World's Favorite Porn Star, Talks About Sex

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james3Photo: Courtesy of James Deen Blog.
There is a joke floating around the internet: James Deen is the Ryan Gosling of porn. What this speaks to, of course, is Deen's approachability, the fact that he isn't just an adult film actor who likes to have sex on screen for money. He provides a complete fantasy; a guy who wants to both ravage the woman he is currently performing with and also snuggle with her. For instance, a huge part of Deen's performance involves kissing, which is a little different for the average porn star. In Deen's approach to porn, sex isn't just positions and orgasms (though, there is a lot of that), but an exploration of sexuality, too.

Perhaps this is what makes him the porn star du jour, the first male actor since Ron Jeremy to become a household name. (For the record, Deen is, like, the diametric opposite of Jeremy.) That, and some brushes with Hollywood, most notably in the Bret Easton Ellis movie The Canyons, where he stars alongside tabloid-fodder Lindsay Lohan. (He demurely passes on discussing her. "There was all that stuff everywhere after the New York Times article came out that said 'James Deen Defends His Costar', and another saying, 'James Deen Slams His Costar'. Between those two, I was pretty frustrated, and didn’t want to participate in something that was going to get blown out of proportion," he explains.) Ellis petitioned hard for Deen to come aboard because he is a part of a zeitgeist in sex, with a diehard audience of straight, young women on Tumblr/Twitter who eroticize him. Deen isn't just a porn star. He is an internet star, and one who isn't just appealing to the typical male porn consumer.

Bret Easton Ellis told us that he reached out to Deen for The Canyons because a friend of his asked if he had heard of him. "When I said, 'no,' he said, 'You are kidding me.' The backstory was fascinating. He has this huge fan base of adolescent girls and it kind of blew my mind," Ellis said. When we asked Deen whether or not he had any hard evidence about his demographic, he laughed. "I’ve never really done any real market research. The closest to market research is Tumblr, Twitter, and the Internet." According to Tumblr, Twitter, and the Internet, however, it seems like a pretty serious divide, with DeenGirl and hundreds (and we mean hundreds) of feminine-named Tumblrs showing both funny and X-rated .GIFs and pics of Deen.
james1Photo: Courtesy of James Deen Blog.
So what makes Deen special? And does this obsession over a straight male star by loads of ladies (not porn's intended target, generally) mean anything different in the hetero-normative world of popular adult film? More importantly, perhaps Deen's presence in the Tumblr/Web-enabled world isn't just something that speaks to a tiny corner of the web, but indicates what women want in their mass-produced fantasy. Because it isn't just Deen's specific, um, "package" that women are responding to — it's the entire James Deen package (no quotes needed).

"I show up to the set with the intention of doing the best scene I possibly can," Deen explains. "I want to have the most fun sex I can. I want the girl to have the most fun sex she possibly can, and make the best thing someone watching will respond to." It is this authenticity Deen thinks his fans are responding to — an authenticity that is further cemented by Deen actually dating one of his frequent costars, the pro-sex advocate (and generally awesome lady) Stoya. Internet fan-fiction about the couple abounds, because people aren't just watching two porn stars act when they see Deen and Stoya have sex: They are watching a real couple interact. "What I do naturally gets incorporated into the third party, but it creates this connection."

"I’m not a prostitute — I may be a sex worker, but I’m not someone going in and having sex for money, or just some horny dude trying to bang it out as much as I can. I love sex, and embracing human sexuality. I love exploring it." This may be another way that Deen is the porn-equivalent of RyGos. While no "Hey Girl" memes have launched with the porn star, his thinking-person's approach to the genre makes the sex industry feel, for lack of a better word, more thoughtful. "What I’m doing as a performer is — this is going to sound weird — trying to incorporate artistic integrity to adult filmmaking. What I’m doing as a performer is trying to create the best erotic film content for the viewer."

james2Photo: Courtesy of James Deen Blog.
And that viewership is, by and large, female. But when pressed to answer whether or not he makes porn for women — or, perhaps even "feminist porn" — Deen was quick to set the record straight. "Every individual likes a different thing. If market research was done that revealed that most women viewing porn like this type of thing, then yeah, I’d take that and put it in a movie. But from what I can tell, it runs the gamut, like it does with men. Some men like tattoos, long hair, and piercings, and there’s men who like everything in between. Some people like plots and dialogue, slow disrobing, and then there’s people who don’t care, who want them naked and sexed up right off the bat."

Deen clearly lays it out: "My theory on porn for women is it’s just porn. Why is there porn explicitly only for women? By saying there needs to be porn for women, you’re basically isolating women as a gender, and saying, 'This is how women should think. This is how their sexuality should be.' It’s counterproductive (from what I understand) to the equality movement. Who says that one woman's take on sexuality is the right way to think? One woman might like to watch a film with high production value and beautiful sex. Another might like some BDSM things with beating, degradation — and it doesn’t mean either is right or wrong. Pornography is made for individuals to find what they enjoy, and what turns them on. There’s no market research on this because sexuality is always developing, growing, and evolving. You could talk to a million people about what they like in porn, and you’re going to get a million answers of what a million people like in porn at that moment.”

Yet, the production of porn is one thing, and the consumption of porn is completely different. So much discussion has recently occurred about the way the immediacy of the internet changes the way that individuals hope to be turned on and gratified. Yet, Deen has a pretty no-nonsense approach to the negative effects of porn, suggesting that, like any type of film, porn is fantasy. “Well, adult entertainment is just that. It’s entertainment. It’s not a curriculum. It’s not educational. Did Justin Timberlake give me unrealistic expectations of dancing abilities and singing abilities? It's like saying, I watched the Bourne Identity and thought I could drive a Mini Cooper everywhere. It gave me unrealistic expectations of what it means to drive."

"My theory is: If you’re not into porn, you don’t need to watch it. It’s fine. I don’t like mayonnaise. I don’t eat it. If someone is eating mayonnaise near me, I won’t vomit and run away. Of course, porn is different. If you’re sitting on the bus and someone is masturbating next to you, it’s unacceptable. My point is the idea that if people don’t like adult films, then they shouldn’t partake in them. If you want to preach that you’re right, fine. There's nothing in adult film's that's exploitative — everything is consensual. As an entertainment factor, adult stars are creating a movie for people to enjoy. The entertaining factor is to arouse and stimulate. It’s an individual choice. We’re not trying to make movies that people live their lives by. The purpose is just that; entertainment. You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not does porn do this, it’s what do you get from porn? I look at it as a piece of erotic entertainment to curb my sexual desires. Are you looking at it as something beyond entertainment? Do you think you can drive your car down the stairs like in The Bourne Identity?"

Pornography isn't The Bourne Identity — but for some reason, the public has a much easier time understanding that the action you see on screen in a mainstream movie is mediated by a director and actors, while that disconnect between what is real and fantasy still goes strong in adult film. In fact, that disconnect is something that Deen embraces in his own personal sex life, too.
james4Photo: Courtesy of James Deen Blog.
When an individual has sex on-screen for thousands, even millions of people, it would be probable to think that their own personal sex life has become warped. But Deen maintains a healthy distance between work and personal — even though his personal life is with a work partner. "Of course there’s a difference between playing basketball in a movie and playing basketball in real life. You’re still trying to make your basketball character as natural and lifelike as humanly possible." Which is what makes Deen so likable...for lack of a better description. It is easy for someone who doesn't view porn on a regular basis to relate to his scenes. They seem authentic. "For the most part, I still do the exact same things I do on camera as I’d do in real life. The difference is the fact that it’s unidentifiable for me, personally. When I’m at home, and I’m having sex, the reason I’m having sex is because me and whomever want to have sex with each other. When I’m having sex on camera and performing, it’s a performance and a production. It’s not the same. There’s a third party involved, the viewer, the creative."

Deen uses the example of rough, more visceral sex to illustrate his point. "I do a bit of rough sex scenes. On camera, they look really rough and insane. In actuality, they’re not. They just look that way. It’s a performance for the enjoyment of others. When you’re doing a sex scene, you’re doing a sex scene with you, your partner, and the viewer. You do certain things in order to make things appealing to the person at home. The rough sex I have at home doesn’t seem as rough even though it’s more brutal. There’s certain ways people talk in real life that they don’t carry though to the camera.” He gives the example of pushing up someone's nose into the "pig" shape, which is a very graphic (and distorted) way of looking at someone, which is a move he uses to visually show control. In real life, he says, it's silly and more likely to get laughs when the camera is off.

One of the anecdotes reporters like to tell about Deen is that he knew he wanted to do porn from a very young age, and that he knew it was his calling because of his interest in sexuality. According to the star, however, that isn't quite how it panned out. "I can remember very vividly walking down a horse trail, and I remember finding porn and looking at pictures thinking it was cool. But there is sex everywhere, and living in a sexual culture in California, it got to my head. All I know is that I’ve wanted to be an adult performer my whole life." Which got a young Deen in trouble as a kid. "When I was in third grade, I got suspended for saying that I wanted to have sex." Perhaps that's what is really engaging about Deen: He seems to really love pleasing women, and does so in a goofy, off-putting and un-Fabio-like way. Like a boyfriend, he goes from playing video games to teasing to having a sexually voracious appetite. It's relatable.

"There is that personal connection between me and the viewer that extends into blogs and social media. I don’t try to do anything but be myself. All I wanted to do was do porn. I never set out to get into GQ and Esquire, and get interviewed. If people lose interest, they lose interest. I don’t know why people like me. It’s pretty awesome that they do, I’m pretty stoked by it, but it’s just me being me. I’ve got some cats, and they like me.”

Cats, you say? No wonder he drives the ladies wild.

The Canyons is currently out and on VOD now.