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James Deen Talks Sex, College and 'The Canyons'
Porn performer James Deen has recently become one of mainstream film's newest crossover sweethearts. Leading up to the release of the Bret Easton Ellis-penned movie "The Canyons" in which he stars, he's been profiled by major media outlets, and even shown that he could handle bad publicity about his co-star, Lindsay Lohan, like a champ.
But Deen hasn't forgone his roots; not by any stretch. He's still performing in adult movies, and next Wednesday, he'll speak at a class called "Navigating Pornography" at Pasadena City College - his alma mater - on the topics of porn and healthy human sexuality. Here, Deen talks to us about his upcoming lecture, the role of porn stars in educating America and what’s next for him in the movie world.
LAist: What are you going to be talking about at Pasadena City College?
James Deen: Every time I’ve done anything like this it all equates to the same thing - it’s feminism and porn, which is really sexual equality and human sexuality beyond the basic mechanics of sex.
We really fall short on that in this country. As a society we really do not promote multiple types of safe sexuality, even while we do promote safe sex. There’s all types of things that are very important - like that you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do, but also you should explore your sexuality and do things you do want to do.
This [talk] is mainly about pornography and how can it be used to either hurt or help. It’s an advancement in human sexuality, and the best forum for that is starting with education, whether it be children or adults. The only way to better ourselves as society is to advance ourselves in an educational way.
Human sexuality is not a bad thing. It can be used as a bad thing like anything else - water can be used as a torture device - but it’s not a dirty thing that they should be ashamed of.
How difficult is it to get that message across? Are college kids more open to it than other age groups?
I think college kids are more open to it because they are making their own decisions and learning about different things and giving a big fuck you to society. It’s not necessarily that people are going to agree with me - I’m not trying to preach any sort of position - I’m trying to give information and allow people to make their own decisions.
I feel like college kids are great for that because it’s that time of human development in the brain; learning about different ideals and trying to figure out where you stand on everything.
What do you say to people who believe that a porn performer isn’t the right person to get that message across?
For the most part I have a feeling that anybody that would prejudge me as a porn performer, that’s an ignorant idea. That’s the type of person that will not listen to anything I say. They are not gonna be a sex positive individual, and there’s not any reason for me to be offended by it.
Have you spoken in college classes before? How do the students react
Usually there’s a mix. Some people are just really excited that there’s a porn star in class and they’re like, “yeah, porn, awesome, this is great!” Then there are some that are interested to find out that porn stars are saying things they can relate to.
At the end of the day I don’t think I’m doing anything special or different, I just think that the reason it’s good to have porn stars [talk about sex] is that we have the experience. You don’t want to talk to someone who’s had sex with two people. There are a lot of people calling themselves sex experts and they haven’t had a lot of it.
Anal sex is a great example. Experts will tell you how everyone can enjoy anal sex every now and then, but basically what they’re saying is, “I like it in the butt this way.”
Everyone isn’t going to like it. You have to decide for yourself. Adult performers are for letting people make up their own minds.
How do you feel about people who think that porn stars shouldn’t be in the classroom?
People need to stop thinking of porn as this [bad] thing. We are a small community of like-minded individuals who are being discriminated against. If you don’t want your children associating with that sort of environment, if that’s how you want to raise your kids, that’s your choice. But it’s not like we’re going off and waving our penises at five-year-olds. We are having a conversation with adults.
I think people need to be open to the idea that sex is not a bad thing. Sex is not hurting anyone. If there are troubled people that have problems, adult films aren’t perpetuating their troubles.
If you could leave students with one message, what would it be?
Think for yourself, and communicate. It’s no different than anything else. You should be willing to have an open mind and enter it in a controlled, safe way, and be able to communicate. Whether it’s racquetball - for example - or sex, you want to practice in a controlled safe environment with people that you trust. Make your own opinions about sex and don’t let people push you around and tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. If something sounds fun you should experiment with it.
You have the movie “The Canyons” coming out in theaters soon. Do you think you’ll do more mainstream films?
I don’t know. I had a lot of fun with it and I would like to do more but I don’t know how many people are really going to be offering me starring roles in movies. It was a great time and I would definitely consider doing another one if the right thing came along.