James Deen Rape Accusations Could Spell Legal Trouble for Porn Companies

“It sounds like he had something of a reputation, so it may be hard for them to argue that they’d never heard about this,” USC law professor tells TheWrap

The mounting sexual assault accusations against porn superstar James Deen could have a dire impact on his  career — and they could also land the adult entertainment companies he’s worked for in legal hot water.

To date, Deen has been accused of assault by nine women. Three of those accusers said the alleged assaults took place on the set of a porn film: Tori Lux, who claimed that Deen attacked her on a shoot in 2011; Amber Rayne, who claimed Deen punched her twice in the face and “brutally” sodomized her during a 2006 shoot; and Kora Peters, who said Deen ignored her refusal to perform anal sex and did so forcibly, after which the crew “all high-fived him.”

If those allegations are true, there could be serious civil liabilities for the companies producing those films, University of Southern California law professor Jody Armour told TheWrap.

“If I were a tort attorney, one of the parties that I would be seriously considering bringing an action against would be the studio itself, on negligence grounds and perhaps some other grounds,” Armour said.

Armour explained that a porn studio could be open for liability particularly if it was aware of any reputation Deen might have for inappropriate behavior — a possibility, given the range of the allegations against him.

“I would say, ‘Did you know that James Deen had other complaints against him? If you had any way of knowing that he had these complaints against him, then you knew he posed a heightened risk, that he was a danger to other workers,'” Armour explained.

Porn studios would likely be grilled about whether they exercised reasonable care to prevent assaults on set, such as talking to Deen about inappropriate behavior, reporting possible assaults to authorities, and making sure that other people were around Deen and the actresses at all times to monitor the situation.

“It sounds like he had something of a reputation, so it may be hard for them to argue that they’d never heard about this, and therefore that it wasn’t foreseeable that he might do something like this,” Armour said.

Armour added that, even without prior knowledge of any misbehavior, the porn studios still have a duty to exercise reasonable care.

“You could still say, even if you didn’t hear any particular reports about James Deen, certainly you know that you have a lot of very aggressive, lustful men on a movie set around a lot of attractive and vulnerable women,” Armour said.

But grounds for civil action notwithstanding, Armour cautioned that Deen’s accusers could face an uphill battle in court. Like other sex workers, porn actresses must overcome the perception held by some, that because they perform sex acts for a living, they are incapable of denying consent.

“Under a lot of people’s way of thinking about sex workers, a prostitute or someone who sells sex is essentially rape-proof. There’s no legal support for that, but it’s a tragic common belief by many people,” Armour explained.

Even among law enforcement, the bias against sex workers often prevents victims from getting justice, Kate D’Adamo, national policy advocate for the Sex Workers Project, told TheWrap.

“It is not uncommon in the slightest for those [rape] reports not to be taken. And then if someone engages in sex work, that is already a strike against them in the eyes of a lot of people who work in law enforcement,” D’Adamo said. “It is disturbing how frequently reports like that are ignored or, if they’re taken, not investigated. “

Armour and D’Adamo made it clear, though — misconceptions aside, the law is not ambivalent about consent, even if the victim has agreed to engage in sex acts for money.

“Just because someone agrees to have sex on camera, that doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to everything. They’re still allowed to declare their boundaries, they’re still allowed to consent or withdraw their consent at any given moment,” D’Adamo explained. “If you agree to A and then something else happens, if you say no, you still are entitled to consent for your actions.”

“If they do withdraw consent, if their partner continues to touch them in a sexual way, continues to have sexual intercourse with them, that partner is at that point having non-consensual intercourse and is committing rape,” Armour said.

In recent weeks, Deen has been accused of sexual assault by a growing number of adult-entertainment actresses, including his ex-girlfriend Stoya, who was the first woman to publicly level accusations against him.

“That thing where you log in to the Internet for a second and see people idolizing the guy who raped you as a feminist. That thing sucks,” Stoya tweeted, adding, “James Deen held me down and fu–ed me while I said no, stop, used my safe word. I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

Deen has adamantly denied the accusations on his Twitter account, and has previously said he is “completely baffled” by them.

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