A male porn star speaks

James Deen sits down with Salon to wax poetic about sex as art -- and beg you not to learn your moves from him

Topics: Pornography, Love and Sex, Sex,

A male porn star speaksPorn actor James Deen in-between takes

It’s a Tuesday afternoon but the windows of this bar in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood are taped over with black plastic to make it look like nighttime. They’re filming a porno inside.

A naked woman is sitting on a bar stool, her legs held open by two real-life customers who casually sip their beers as porn actor James Deen repeatedly slams into her. A couple of men stand next to the action with their iPhones held out at arm’s length, but mostly the crowd seems more interested in the glasses of whiskey being passed around than in the moaning girl. They pour the shots down their throats and someone lets a burp rip.

This is a shoot for one of Kink.com’s many BDSM fetish websites, Public Disgrace, in which “women are bound, stripped, and punished in public.” There are three porn actors and the rest of the 15 or so people at this tiny watering hole — all male save for two women — are fans of the site or just people off the street. My friend who tipped me off about the shoot is one of the latter: He happened to be walking by the bar when he noticed that something was being filmed inside and as a video editor he couldn’t resist checking it out. After a quick background check and some paperwork he was instructed: You can touch her, slap her, spit on her and finger fuck her, you just can’t have sex with her. He instead opted to talk to the crew about nerdy things like lighting techniques and camera equipment.

By the time I arrive, there is liquid dripping from the actress’s chin, which I assume means that the scene is over. I soon realize that her face isn’t glistening from the “money shot” but rather the saliva of all the men at the bar. “She begged each of them to spit on her,” my friend explains, his eyes wide. It feels like he’s trying to secretly communicate with me through his blinks, Morse code style. The message is a mix of repulsion (“They shocked her with cattle prods,” he tells me later) and titillation (“I’d never seen a girl go down on another girl in person”). The scene is building to a climax and a sweaty, red-faced man yells, “Yeah, dig deep!” After some delay, the less experienced performer comes on the actress’s face and James, who has been in over 1,000 porn films, immediately follows. This garners praise from an onlooker who shouts: “Nice work!”



Afterward, James pulls his T-shirt over his head and slides a cigarette into his mouth. This isn’t the first time I’ve watched this man have sex and, if you’ve recently browsed online porn, chances are you’ve seen him before too. At 25, after just seven years in the game, he’s one of the most visible men in the industry. I think of him as a cold, brutish performer — but when he hears that I want to interview him, he comes right up with a warm smile on his face and juts out his hand to introduce himself. As I find when we go back to Kink’s headquarters to chat, he is thoughtful, self-effacing and polite. After a quick shower, he meets me in a conference room barefoot, wearing plaid pajamas and sipping from a bottle of apple juice. He looks more like a kid ready for a bedtime story than the man I watched hock a loogie on a bound, naked woman an hour ago. I notice that his eyes, which are usually upstaged by his aggressive performances, are such a delicate, piercing blue that it just might excuse his choice of pseudonym.

While periodically lifting his shirt to show me the fresh bug bite swelling on his chest, we talk about sex as art, Viagra, fake orgasms and why people should never try to have sex like a porn star.

Can you remember the first porn that you ever saw?

Well, the first time I actually saw porn it was in a magazine. I was in kindergarten or first grade and I was walking along this horse trail behind my school and it looked like somebody had thrown out a bunch of porn. So there were a couple porn magazines there and I opened one of them up and there was a picture of a dude banging a chick and I went: “This! This! I wanna do this! This is awesome!”

Really, at that young age you thought, “I want to do this when I grow up?

Yeah. That’s what it was.

Did you even really know what you were looking at?

Oh yeah. I knew about sex.

Well, how do you like it now that you’ve achieved that childhood dream?

Love it. Everything about it.

What is it exactly, though? You just love sex and get to have it all the time?

I love sex, I get to have sex all the time. Also, I like meeting different people and playing with people’s personalities. As lame as it is to say, it’s quasi artistic. There is art to what we do, there’s a vision, a performance. It’s like acting but you get to come. [Laughs] It’s very fun playing characters and trying to mesh with people and figure out how you and a stranger can create some sort of intense moment where you’re able to express something. I feel like sex is the most real expression. It’s self-expression in its truest form. As holier and on-a-pedestal as that sounds, at the end of the day porn is fun because you get to have awesome sex every day with beautiful women and travel around and get paid.

The idea of seeking connection and self-expression goes against most people’s assumptions about why a guy would get into porn.

Right, and it might be me just trying to justify something that I do. But, yeah, I feel like expressing ourselves sexually is something that is really true and honest. As far as just being able to fuck girls, that never entered my mind as a reason to do porn.

The guys at the shoot were coming up to you and saying, “Oh man, you have the best job in the world,” which is something I’m sure you hear a lot. Is the job really as great as they think?

Mhmm, yeah, it is. Every now and then I’ll work with a girl who is doing this just for the money and doesn’t want to kiss, doesn’t want to talk, doesn’t want to do anything other than get her paycheck. But it’s so rare. For the most part, everybody that is in porn now really genuinely wants to do porn. Nowadays, girls will come out of high school and say, “I’m gonna be the next Jenna Jameson! I’m gonna be a sexual creature of desirability for the world and it’s gonna be amazing!” I think it’s awesome that’s happening. It’s very rare that I meet girls who are like, “I just need to get drunk. I’m just doing this because I have to.”

You have so many men, and women, making assumptions based on your movies about what normal or hot sex looks like. What does it feel like to be influencing the way that people have sex?

That’s way more responsibility than I want. We do stuff for the camera, we are having sex for the people at home, so not necessarily everything that we do feels good. I once did a magazine interview where they asked me for tips on how to have sex like a porn star and one of my biggest pieces of advice was, don’t. The key to sex is that you need to communicate with your partner about what they’re into and what they’re not into. If you’re trying to have sex like a porn star, you’re not — [a guy walks by carrying a giggling, limp girl in a bathrobe up the stairs]. I think somebody made someone come until they couldn’t walk. But, yeah, if you’re going to try to have sex like a porn star you need to make sure that the person you’re having sex with wants to be fucked like a porn star. I really hope I don’t have that responsibility of teaching people how to have sex.

How has the industry changed over the years?

The industry’s changed a lot. It used to be more fun. It’s still fun, it’s just that right now the economy sucks and, you know, piracy. No one is accustomed to paying for any sort of entertainment anymore. I work for burningangel.com which is run by Joanna Angel, and she says that now you have to work twice as hard for half the amount of money, and I think that’s absolutely true. When people are complaining about the old days of porn she’s like, “Did you really think that the days of showing up for three hours and making insane amounts of money was gonna last? It’s a job.” People who worked in porn during the days when it was one big party are always talking about the “good old days.” I saw the old days, they were great, but it’s still great, you just gotta work a little harder.

How do you manage to do as many scenes as you do and work for as long as you do? Male performers have to be turned on, there’s no faking it, right?

Not really. But, I mean, girls are pretty amazing. It’s very rare where I find a girl where I’m like: You are not attractive. I’m pretty much attracted to something with every single girl. As far as stamina and stuff goes, maybe it’s because I’m young. Today I probably only did 30 minutes of actual work, the rest of the time we were setting up, taking breaks.

How common is it for guys to use Viagra?

Nowadays it’s completely standard for guys to show up with their pills and say “gimme a 30 minute warning for the scene.” When I first started, guys were like, “If you can’t do it without it, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.” Me personally, I used Cialis one time because I was doing this scene with a girl and her husband and there was no reason for me to be there. I was like, “She doesn’t even know I’m back here!” For me, if the girl’s not into it, even in [rough] Kink scenes, that kills it for me. I always make this rape joke where I’m like, “Rape does nothing for me unless you’re in on it.” We joke around at Kink about how “frape” [fake rape] is awesome, but rape is serious, not cool.

What I don’t like about a lot of the performers who are pharmaceutically assisted is that a lot of the passion is missing. They kind of have sex like robots. Their scenes will be emotionless and I just don’t like emotionless sex.

What do you think of the pay disparity between male and female performers?

I think I’m overpaid. There are people who buy porn for the guys, they do exist, but the girls get paid what they get paid because at the end of the day most of the audience is buying the movie for the girl. There was talk years ago of starting a union so that guys could get paid as much as the girls and I’m like, dude, if every guy in porn quit tomorrow there would be a whole bunch of new guys lined up out the door with a bottle of Viagra.

How common do you think it is for women to fake orgasms in scenes?

I wouldn’t say that a lot of girls are faking it. I’ve definitely had to tell girls, “Hey, I want you to at least pretend to have an orgasm so that the viewer can go, ‘Oh well that girl’s really enjoying herself and having fun.’”

What did you think of the frat boy types who showed up to this shoot?

They were a little drunk. Those guys were like, “You gotta come hang out with us and party with us.” I’m sure they think I can pull any girl in the world. Most of the time when girls hear you do porn it’s 50-50: Either they want to bang you so they can be like “I banged a porn star” or they wanna not talk to you because they think you’re a creep who’s just gonna try to fuck them.

How does what you do for a living impact your personal life?

I’ve never really had much of a personal life. I have people in my life that I’m friends with but there’s nothing I really like doing so I end up pretty much hanging out at my house and working all day. Before I did porn I was a little gutter punk kid in Pasadena who got drunk in a park with my friends. I’m still friends with those same people. The last time I did something interesting, I hung out with them and we talked in an alley outside of a bar while the world passed by us.

What about your romantic life?

Porn hasn’t really changed my romantic life. People always ask me if it’s hard to have a girlfriend in porn and I always tell them that I don’t think it’s any harder than in real life. I’ve dated girls in porn and I’ve dated girls that aren’t in porn. The same complications I had before I was in porn are the same complications I have now that I’m in porn.

James Deen performs in a scene for Kink.com

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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