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Stoya pens deeply personal letter about James Deen

The actress reveals ins and outs of the violation of consent in her relationship for End Violence Against Sex Workers Day

It’s about a month since pornographic actress Stoya accused ex-partner James Deen of rape. Since then, ten other women have come forward with their own allegations of rape, harassment and sexual assault. Since then Stoya has tweeted “I believe –” naming each of the women who went public. It’s opened up a whole dialogue about the difficulties and intricacies of reporting sexual assault, specifically when working in the sex industry.

For International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers yesterday, Stoya wrote a blog post to raise awareness about the issue. In it she shared intimate details of her own situation.

Speaking of her relationship with Deen, she said: “I lived with the knowledge that James had violated my consent for a long time before coming forward. I felt as if I had no recourse. I didn’t know what to do. So I kept working with him, and we kept dating. I swallowed a lot of Xanax and washed it down with unsettlingly large amounts of alcohol. After we split, I started seeing a therapist who is well versed in the specific complexities of sex workers and people who practice BDSM. They helped.”

Importantly, she speaks about the reasons she found it difficult to come forward – primarily guilt. “I wrestled with guilt,” she admits. “I felt complicit in any future harm he might inflict because I’d spoken so highly of him but neglected to complete the public record. It ate away at me.”

“I didn’t know what to do. So we kept dating. I swallowed a lot of Xanax and washed it down with unsettlingly large amounts of alcohol.”

She didn’t feel that she could file a report with the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee because Deen himself had been on its board since it was founded. When it came to police, “the U.S. court system rarely metes out anything that looks like justice when sex workers are involved”.

This explains why she ‘came out’ on Twitter. “Social media seemed to be the most appropriate and only real option.” Again and again, we see criticism of women who come out about sexual assault on Twitter, particularly with accusations aimed at men in positions of visibility. Stoya’s situation summarises why this can be the most legitimate way to come out. 

What can one do to help improve the current situation that sex workers face in their industry? Stoya says, simply listen. When sex workers speak about their experiences, believe them. She writes: “One thing that everyone can do is listen to sex workers. Today is December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers—all sex workers. Not just pornographers. Not just white cis-women. And not just women who are fortunate enough to get column space in respectable papers. I’ll be doing a lot of listening to others under the red umbrella of sex work. I believe that their safety is important and that it can be improved. I believe that no one is safe and no one is protected unless we’re all safe and protected, sex worker or not.”

Listening is solidarity and gives others strength to come forward.

Read Stoya’s full blog post here.