The Meaning of Consent: Beginning

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

In light of the widely reported James Deen/Stoya incident, I decided to investigate the issue of sexual consent in adult film with the understanding that their dustup was largely off camera. Performers with whom I talked agreed that the affair was personal and passing judgment on the couple was not something anyone wanted to do.

Stoya and James Photo courtesy of AVN

Stoya and James
Photo courtesy of AVN

However, everyone has an opinion on how to deal with consent. Here’s what became evident.

The Director

Directors are sensitive about issues on their sets and having performers know what to expect in a shoot is important to them. From the other side of the camera, there is a tacit understanding among talent that porn is a unique business and anyone who is paid for sex acts on film knows (or should know) what they have signed up for.

Performers indicated that directors let them find their own comfort level, though sometimes what they get excited about sexually may exceed what the company is good to go with. In those cases, directors rein in the action to conform to protocol. This is especially true when dealing with BDSM.

On the other hand, no one I interviewed indicated that directors blatantly looked the other way for the sake of getting a scene that will sell. Simply put, good directors adhere to performer limits.

No Means No

All performers, regardless of their time in the business, feel the need to discuss their limits with their co-stars.

Therefore . . .

No means no, period. Performers can’t stress this enough. Boundaries and limits can be pushed, quite often subtly, and veteran models will raise a red flag when situations get dicey.

The sticking point, however, is that boundaries are a matter of interpretation because limits differ from person to person. Nevertheless, performers are on board with the following:

When a model heads for home after a work day, any second thoughts she might have about what went on in front of the camera presents a problem that demands attention. This situation is deeply personal to performers because most have been there before which brings us to another commonality everyone shares.

Easy Targets

Newcomers need to be informed about what to anticipate before ever stripping down for the camera. In particular, girls who enter the business at the earliest possible age should be educated about establishing their boundaries and how to stop the action if they are violated.

This is important because neophytes don’t know what to expect. “Barely legal” girls just out of high school have never had a real job before, especially one in which big bucks are made quickly.  They want work as much as they can, in effect becoming easy targets for excesses.

Fortunately, some experienced performers step in to mentor fresh faces, reinforcing the linchpin of a successful porn career: taking personal responsibility for what happens on a set.

One more point. In the last few years porn talent has organized a self-help group, APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee). Part of its mission is to offer newcomers a road map into the business.

Final Thought

The Deen/Stoya situation has opened a discussion and the blog posts that follow are industry voices who were forthright, painting the consent picture with their own colorful palette. Their perspectives are as diverse as porn itself.

I thank everyone who talked with me and must say I was impressed with their honesty.

Enjoy the posts.

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I’ve tackled this subject in previous posts and encourage checking out the views of Natasha Nice, Ela Darling, and Mercy West. Just type in “consent” in the search box above and the articles will show up.

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