If anybody can make condoms sexy, it's James Deen.
Well, okay. Nobody can make condoms sexy. They can only kind of be less unsexy. It's a bag you put on a penis to trap ghost babies and germs. But James Deen is, after all, "The Tom Hanks of Porn," and so intensely likeable and good at what he does that he'd probably look good getting blown in an oxygen tent by a lady in a hazmat suit.
That "Contagion"-y scenario is actually where some people in porn are worried we're headed, thanks to new legislation passed on Tuesday in LA County. On the surface, Measure B seems like a safety issue -- it requires adult film performers to wear condoms during penetration scenes, and employs a kind of restaurant-y system of inspections by the health department.
But there may be more to it than that. James Deen and other members of the industry argue that adult film actors are already rigorously and routinely tested, and that Measure B is less about safety than it is about bullying and censorship. This is intriguing to me, because a lot of us think penises are great and I don't want to live in a world where we bully or censor them.
I got to talk to James about Measure B and penises last night, which as you can imagine was very special for me. We chatted about porn, art and the first amendment. He's pretty great and, yes, he does sound very dreamy when he's getting all riled up about the Bill of Rights.
XOJANE: Hi. It's Julieanne from XOJane.
JAMES DEEN: Hi! I was expecting you.
(Ed. note: This was sounding porny already!)
How are you?
I'm okay. I'm about to cough.
Please, go ahead and cough.
Okay. I feel better now.
(Even less porny, bordering on British)
I'm so glad you coughed and are feeling better.
How are YOU?
I'm great. I'm excited to talk to you, mostly. We're huge fans over at HQ.
Okay, I'll stop. Let's talk about some issues. Measure B! Why are we still talking about it if it passed?
Well, right now, the adult film industry needs to figure out what it's going to do. We pretty much have two options as far as I can tell. Well, three. One is, you know, not good. That's if we follow these protocols, which are going to make our industry LESS safe, which we can go into.
Yeah, let's go into that. How could condoms make things less safe?
We have very regimented and very specific safety protocols and measures that we abide by. Adding a condom to them sounds, on the surface, like a wonderful idea. I fully support condoms, I fully support safe sex. I fully support the idea of making sex as safe as possible.
The only totally safe sex you can have is to not have sex. So what we're doing is safe-ER sex. The safer you can make your sexual experience, the better. However, when you're dealing with a small community of regularly tested individuals who are all engaging in sex with one another -- so [the adult film community] is essentially in a fluid-bonded relationship. It's less safe because condoms are only about 87% successful as far as disease safety rates. They don't protect from herpes, they don't protect from HPV or syphillis.
So not having sex with somebody who isn't clean is the safest thing to do. Okay.
In addition to that, porn is entertainment. It's not just a bunch of random people having orgies. And because it's entertainment, people are not just engaging in normal sexual intercourse. They're having -- I'm sorry to be crude.
Go for it.
Abnormally large penises. Banging at vaginas. You know, crazy sex party adventures.
Yes. I do.
You know, it's overzealous. Anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours.
For the sake of entertainment. Again, larger than natural penises...
…in not-standard pounding types of situations.
"Not standard types of pounding situations."
And it's done for the viewer's enjoyment. And because of this, when you add a condom to the situation, it makes things worse for them. Friction burns, latex issues.
Urinary tract infections!
Well, they can't do as many scenes because you actually get hurt from the condoms. You've got friction in a sensitive area, and you add that to the 87% success rate. And we all know that kind of friction is often going to result in the condom breaking.
We have all been there.
Yeah, and then you're actually causing open wounds.
You know, I understand that it's important to have safety protocols in place in the industry. But this is a third party coming in and saying we're children. Which means we're making child porn, and that is gross.
We're a community. And the community around us has decided that we're "unfit" to regulate ourselves, but we're the only professional one that, in almost the last 10 years, has a ZERO percent HIV transmission rate. We're very safe, we pride ourselves on our safety. There's this issue of coming in and saying, "We need to patrol these people." Why not consider taking the input of people who are in the industry and coming together in a democratic way to create the safest environment possible? But that's not what this is. This is just saying, "Oh, let's put condoms on these people because condoms are safe." Condoms ARE safe to use, when you're having sex with a stranger you met at a bar.
But not doing anything extreme, like you guys.
Well, the analogy I always use is "stunt men." YOU have to wear a helmet when you're wearing a motorcycle. If you're a stunman -- or woman, or stunt… person, and the movie calls for you to not wear a helmet while riding your motorcycle -- you're a trained professional and in a controlled environment. You're an individual who's operating under the standards and practices of your job that's been made as safe as possible for you. And that's what we are.
OK, so there's the aesthetic thing. Let's talk about that. You've said before that this is a first amendment issue. Do you think that like, having a bare dick is part of free speech?
I absolutely do.
Wait. I'm sorry for saying "bare dick." Okay. Keep going.
No, bare dick. Okay, but first, two points about the health part. If the whole thing is fluid transfer, does that include kissing? Kissing is fluid transfer. Does that mean no kissing in adult films? Or do we have to put something over our mouths in order to kiss? There are all these vague little things on the books. Where's the line?
Yeah, it seems like a bad precedent to start regulating stuff without a good reason.
It's fantasy-based entertainment. People want to see their fantasy. If Los Angeles isn't the place for the industry, then we'll leave. We'll take our million-dollar industry and millions of tax dollars that we pay, and we'll go. We've been invited by Nevada, Arizona, Florida. They said, "Please, come to us, give us your tax money."
Well, yeah, but, then you live in Florida, though.
Well, the other option is to appeal. You know, we take the bare dicks --
PRETEND I NEVER SAID THAT.
No, it's awesome, it makes it so much easier. Now I don't have to think about being all correct.
Oh, let it fly. We're a site of godless raunches. Bare dick is just awful though.
When you said it, it was a weight off my shoulders.
No, because you try to talk to people and use terms like "unnatural sex" which sounds bad when you mean, "Girls are getting fucked good and hard by big dicks and that's not normal for people." It's not "normal" sex! It's entertainment. Nobody at home is doing "piledriver!"
Maybe YOU aren't.
Yeah, you can never say never.
So are you guys going to appeal?
Various industry producers and directors are talking about it, you know, and to verify it's a free speech issue. This a first amendment issue.
Well, but I think what some people are unclear on is HOW it's a first amendment issue?
The reason why a "bare dick" is covered under free speech is because, hypothetically, I'm an artist. I mean, on a technical level, I'm Andy Warhol.
No, I totally agree. I am with you on that point.
Two people in an Andy Warhol film having unprotected sex with crazy lights and stuff. We buy that's art, right?
Well, is it protected under freedom of speech?
Or let's say you have a movie, and in the movie the guy is running from a bad guy and he's driving on staircases and he's shooting a gun backward and he's being so unsafe! He's on the phone while driving! He's not watching where he's going, and we're all just eating popcorn. We buy this as entertainment, right? He can do unsafe stuff because it's a film, a free speech.
That movie sounds great.
Well, and because a lot of us don't call ourselves quote-unquote artists…
Although a lot of them are! Joanna Angel I think, should be a considered an artist. Kimberly Kane. Belladonna. John Stagliano is probably one of the most artistic people ever. I mean, whatever. There are some really artistic people in the industry, there are some that are just businessmen and women who are just creating something they think is hot. You're creating a piece of material to gain a response from an audience. It's not a factory.
True. I guess that it's difficult to explain that to people who think of it as like, an OSHA regulation.
I was in an art film called "Rebel" that they wanted hardcore sex in, because they thought it would be like a shock art thing. I don't know if you're familiar with Paul McCarthy but he's awesome and talented. That was shot exactly the way they would have shot a porno. It ended up looking differently and they edited it together differently, and it was at MOCA so it was categorized as art. So where's the line?
Right. So it's kind of paternalistic or nanny-state or whatever.
You should have the right to create content as long as you're not doing anything illegal.
Do you think that continuing to serve a population that doesn't want to see condoms in porn reinforces the idea that safe sex is unsexy?
Porn is a personal thing. Everybody is going to be aroused by different things. Me personally? I think condoms are hot. I like 'em. When I watch porn I have no problem with condoms in my porn. But I have the conversation all the time of, "How do you define porn?" I say it's any sort of thing, doesn't matter if it's media or imagery, it's anything that elicits an arousing response for the specific individual.
Like those people who have sex with things that aren't people.
Or seeing a cheeseburger. There are people who are sexually aroused by cheeseburgers. Cheeseburgers are their pornography.
Those are my people.
You can be turned on by anything from two people getting it on with a condom to a cheeseburger. And everything in between. So it's a personal thing, you have to remember that there's a wide market of people who don't care whether or not there are condoms, but then also a percentage of people who absolutely do not want to see condoms in porn.
Yeah, I don't know that I care but that's never a particularly erotic moment for people in sex, the putting the condom on.
Well, sex is dirty. Sex is gross. Sex is dangerous. People aren't always interested in being remind of the fact that chlamydia exists. For some people -- and I can't speak for all people -- some people go there when they think of condoms. People don't usually see a guy in a scene pick up a girl and fuck her in the shower and think, "He could get hepatitis."
People are just trying to enjoy themselves. One of the safest sexual experiences is masturbation.
True. I don't know why it's suddenly a thing if there aren't a ton of actors running around giving eachother stuff.
I've posted my test results on my blog. We use the best technology and the highest-quality medical equipment. You can't fake the tests, they're all cross referenced. You basically show up for sex with a doctor's note.
So the idea that people are going to spread disease through porn doesn't hold water.
No, and I think once people know that, they start thinking about the real issue. Do I want to pay someone's government salary to watch and regulate porn? Do I want to pay somebody to watch porn?
That's a good point.
And I feel safer having sex with a girl in the adult film industry off-camera than I do with a girl I met in a bar and using a condom. I know this girl is getting tested, and I know who she's having sex with.
Yeah, it would be nice to have everybody feel that way. It's strange to me that people felt strongly enough about it to vote that a stranger has to wear a condom.
I don't care about having to wear them. It's not that. I mean, I'm not the one with a vagina getting torn up. I'm a boy. For me, this is a free speech thing. I'm patriotic. And I don't wanna move.