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Deen attending the XBIZ Awards at Avalon,Hollywood, California on February 10, 2010

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Shades of Jian, shades of Bill: At least eight women have now come forward to accuse porn star James Deen of sexual assault. Stoya, an adult film performer and vocal defender of sex workers, was the first to speak out on Saturday, alleging Deen raped her during the course of their relationship. Multiple women have since described brutal assaults on and off set, including one alleged incident that resembled waterboarding.

No charges have been laid against Deen, who denied the allegations in a series of tweets on Sunday: "These allegations are both false and defamatory," he wrote. "I respect women and I know and respect limits both professionally and privately."

For those who are vehemently anti-porn, this case handily fits the agenda. As "porn's boy next door," Deen enjoyed the devotion of legions of female fans, including many young women who dubbed themselves "Deenagers," and now still defend the man. Throughout his decade-long career, Deen also managed to score the mantle of feminist, although he was never particularly clear on his own stance. In April, he gave a long interview about the primacy of consent in the porn industry, yet still publicly struggled with the label of feminist a few months later.

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But just as Deen may have been too good to be true for women who enjoy watching porn, it's also overly simplistic to now scan the allegations – many of them involving acts depicted in the most gruesome porn available online – and pronounce, "This is why all porn is terrible." Despite the violence alleged by these women, it does not follow that porn is always oppressive to those women – or that they were primed for assault thanks to the profession they chose.

"Being involved in sex work does not equate to being harmed," said Tori Lux, one of Deen's accusers. "Despite porn being a legal form of sex work … occurring in a controlled environment such as a porn set, this blame-the-victim mentality is still inherent in much of society."

The debate reeks of hypocrisy, of course: many of those who claim to hate porn are also consumers of porn. It is a $97-billion global industry, after all. We've long patronized the porn stars we watch, imagining them as perpetual victims with little free will, then we turn around and blame them for putting themselves in harm's way.

"There is nothing about the porn industry that means this should be allowed to happen there more than in any other industry. It should absolutely not be viewed as an occupational hazard. That is an outrageous perspective," Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn.com, which aims to foster healthy conversation about pornography and sex, said in an interview.

Gallop points out that perpetrators of sexual violence are hardly a phenomenon unique to the porn industry.

"What we're looking at here is an old, old story that has only begun coming to light in the past decade because women are not prepared to put up with this any more, and they are feeling sufficiently supported to come out. Powerful men – anybody who has a certain measure of fame, power and money – in any industry have abused it," she said. "This is something that has to be stopped in every single industry, including porn."

The porn industry has sat up and taken notice: Unlike scores of comedy venues that refused to drop Bill Cosby and his roofie-joke-studded routine after allegations of sexual assault mounted against the comedian late last year, Deen's employers are responding faster. Evil Angel, a major porn studio, swiftly severed ties with Deen, as has Kink.com, a huge producer of BDSM pornography. In a statement issued this week, the company said it would also be revising its Model Bill of Rights to help strengthen the rights of performers offscreen and build supports for victims to come forward. "Our performers deserve not only safe sets, but the ability to work without fear of assault. Rape or sexual assault, with or without a safe-word, off-set or on, should never be accepted as a hazard of adult production," the statement read.

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But this is exceptional, not the norm. So how to guarantee a safe work environment for sex workers?

Plenty of female directors are already working in a genre dubbed "ethical porn": Safe sets where female performers call all the shots, from what acts and which male actors they're comfortable with, right down to riders stating their preferred brand of lubricant. Disclaimers screened before these films set out for viewers that all acts depicted are consensual. Directors in this genre have compared their work to organic food versus factory farmed food: This porn is a guilt-free exercise.

But critics like Gallop think more needs to be done to support adult film actresses. She points to the banks and payment processors that won't do business with legal adult enterprises and porn actors, driving their work underground.

"When you force an entire industry into the shadows, when you refuse that industry to do business in the same way every other industry does, then you make it a lot easier for bad things to happen and a lot more difficult for good things to happen," Gallop said. "The solution to all of this is not to shut down but to open up. If you open up to enabling innovation and disruption in this area, you open up a completely different kind of industry."

A more transparent industry with a healthier ethos on set would help make workplaces safer for porn actresses, but that still doesn't change what happens off screen. Sexual assault victims who happen to work in porn need extra supports to ensure fair treatment and justice because they face extra stigma. Women working in the BDSM genre (as many of the alleged victims did) are often especially unwilling to go to police for fear of being blamed.

"They are not going to take you seriously, like if you were a normal person," Nicki Blue, the seventh accuser said.

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"There are a lot of cons to bringing a rape incident to light. There are even more for a sex worker," the adult film actress Kayden Kross wrote in a blog post supporting Stoya. "Already our industry battles the constant din of claims that the women, simply by showing up to work, are victims. Already we battle the claims that porn is rape, that consent is questionable, that no woman given a fair choice would engage in it. Stoya knew that if she were to name one man who did, in fact, violate consent, then the entire industry would be assumed to be complicit."

Like other victims, adult film actresses who are sexually assaulted deserve to be listened to because they are the ones who have lived through the experiences. They deserve to have bystanders intervene on their behalf. What they don't deserve is blame for the violence inflicted on their bodies, because of the line of work they've taken up.

"This does not represent porn. This represents a specific individual," Joanna Angel, one of Deen's alleged victims and his ex-girlfriend of six years told a Hollywood radio show. "There are bad eggs in every industry."

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