S.EXE: Adult Entertainment & James Deen

Photo Credit: The Canyons

In 2010 stand up comedian Dara O’Briain said, “I love videogames… I enjoy saying that because half of the room are looking at me, going, ‘Ah Jesus, you’re 38.’…It’s less embarrassing if I say ‘I masturbate to hardcore pornography’.”

It wasn’t the first time videogames and pornography were lumped together. In 2008 GamesRadar reported that psychiatrist Dr Jerald Block said that people feel more shame about playing World of Warcraft than having a porn problem. Dr Philip G. Zimbardo, leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, got a slot on CNN in 2011 to say that the ‘demise of guys’ will be video game and porn addiction. “Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety,” he explained.

Why are two intrinsically different mediums like games and pornography so often compared to each other? I decided to ask James Deen [official website], performer in and maker of fine adult entertainment, what he thought about games, and if we have a responsibility to hold off on the ‘constant stimulation’. Disclosure: I have a vested interest in the answer being no, and so does he.

There are biases at play that inform my choice, of course. I am a fan of James Deen’s work: he is cute, unassuming, amiable, smart, a man who looks like he’d be shy if you bought him a drink in a bar, he’s hot and he seems like he knows what he’s doing with a woman’s body. He’s been working in adult entertainment, colloquially known as ‘porn’ since 2004. I am aware of my responsibilities as a feminist, and because of this I know he made a rape joke on Twitter in 2012 that I didn’t personally think was funny, though I am sure he doesn’t need me to, and as far as I know he didn’t apologise. But James Deen first really came to my attention in 2014 when he made an educational video with Stoya and other adult entertainment professionals for the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee: ‘Porn 101’ is about consent and boundaries.

James Deen doesn’t play many video games, I suspect because he is too busy having a lot of sex all day on camera for a decent amount of money. Compounding this obstacle is that I have called him early in the morning on a bad line. I open by asking him if he’s ever played a video game with sex in it.

“The closest thing to something like that I’ve ever got was Dead Or Alive Ultimate,” he says, “Where there’s one girl who runs at people’s face and like, straddles their heads, and then swings them around and then throws them on the floor. But it’s not really sex. …I don’t really find that much sexual about it, at all.”

I ask him if Dead Or Alive gets the boobs correct. “I don’t know if they got boobs correctly… They got cartoon boobs correctly? They’re a caricature of real life. I see no reason for or against this. I don’t see it as a direct copy of real life.”

Part of me wonders whether Dead or Alive’s titillation, for a heterosexual man in adult entertainment who can look at and have sex with a variety of pretty naked woman every single day, is silly and pointless, but I’m aware that even though for five years of my life I was in a stable, satisfying sexual relationship, I still watched Thelma and Louise for Brad Pitt’s corrugated chest.

And besides, what I quickly become aware of is Deen’s wariness of labels. He, like most people in video games, is extremely sensitive about categorisation, and I note early on that he uses ‘adult entertainment’ entirely in place of ‘porn’, which is probably a label he has as much reason to be suspicious of as I have ‘girl gamer’. Depending on who is using the label, it can have edges, and Deen has probably spent much of his life having people attempt to use it to have his work devalued.

Deen is also interestingly prickly about suggesting adult entertainment might have any educational remit. I say Robert Yang’s game Hurt Me Plenty makes a game of trust and consent, but perhaps he misconstrues that as being an educational game rather than something I think is entertainment.

“I think you can create entertaining educational tools, and I think that is fine,” he says, “but creating video games for the sole purpose of entertainment…” He is sure that there is a responsibility for things to be discussed in the right terms, but he concludes, “You wouldn’t learn to drive by watching the Fast and the Furious, and you can go see it with someone who would tell you why it’s not okay to drive like that.”

“Exclusively looking for entertainment for education I think is wrong,” he states flat out, and I agree.

Photo Credit: Steve Prue teamrockstarimages.com

I think we’re coming up against (if you will excuse me) similar things here with regard to games and adult entertainment: there’s not enough good sex education out there, and there’s too much shame and humiliation around approaching sex like it might be important, or even essential to the wellbeing of a majority of humans to discuss it openly. Adult entertainment is consumed often in secret, and there’s a lot of shame around the consumption of it that I don’t think is fair. But Deen’s firm stance prompts the thought: If we are putting sex as play into games that are meant to be entertainment, for example, that’s okay, but how can we know what attitudes to form around it unless we understand the realities of it outside of our entertainment?

“Healthy BDSM, consensual behaviour…” James Deen says, “I think the ability to condition people to behave like that through entertainment is a wonderful thing, so I do think it’s a wonderful idea… Unless it violates the essential narrative of what you are trying to create, you know. …But if that video game was about super rough sex or a forced sex fantasy, that wouldn’t apply: it would ruin the artistic merit of it. It’s the artist’s choice, it’s up to them.”

Unless it violates the essential narrative of what you are trying to create.

So: If the point of the narrative is the rape fantasy, that’s being upfront. From what I can interpret, it seems like Deen believes that’s being honest with your work, your art. But I’m troubled by the thought that if a work isn’t essentially about a rape fantasy, and you just throw one in as a lazy plot device, and it doesn’t actually serve narrative, a fantasy: then that’s what ends up ‘violating the essential narrative’: it breaks what you set out to create by being incongruous.

Grappling with taboos, I suspect, is something that Deen has become an expert on, among other things. “It’s entertainment, it’s not education,” he continues. “We need to understand that just because it is uncomfortable to talk about, doesn’t mean you can just not do it… or you can point people to a different direction to do it for you.” I think again Deen is talking about artistic choice: you can either address the topic you want to, or look to others who might be capable of addressing the topic well for you.

Because it seems that this is the subtext of our conversation, I ask him if he thinks that adult entertainment is unfairly asked to be an educational tool. “I absolutely think that,” he says, plainly. “I think that on a regular basis. Some people look to adult entertainment as sexual education when it is certainly not. It is sexual entertainment. People will give their children adult magazines. …I definitely see the adult industry being looked to for education. Adult entertainment: It’s entertainment made for adults.”

“Do you think that adult entertainment can be art?” I ask him.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he says. “The beauty of art is that no one gets to decide what art is. It’s a completely subjective medium. I can’t decide, you can’t decide. Anyone can’t decide. The artist themselves are the ones able to say whether it is art.”

It’s a completely subjective medium.

Perhaps I’d stay more on the beauty is in the eye of the beholder end of ‘the artist decides’, but I’d say maybe James Deen’s solved games journalism.

Would you make a James Deen video game? I ask. “I’d be cool, I’d be down with it,” he says.

Games And Pornography

I return to the Porn 101 video I embedded above. My personal stance on porn and the consumption of porn is complicated. It is rooted in ideas of safety, respect of personal boundaries, informed choice. Before our call, James’ representative informs me that James Deen does not identify as a feminist, though from reading his interviews he holds some of what what I would count as feminist beliefs. There could be many reasons for not identifying as a feminist, including that some women believe that the term should only belong to women, though men can hold feminist beliefs.

When you consume someone’s creative work you make informed personal choices about what you think might make you feel bad, and what might have been produced in an unethical manner when you partake of everything in the world. This also applies to video games. It applies to everything. You have to constantly revise your world view.

When I watch James Deen fucking a woman who is crying I make a choice to think that if it is okay with the performers it is okay with me, and Porn 101 was part of my realising that. But I make these little choices every day with everything I consume: is it okay with me that James Bond is sexist? Yes, I have made my peace with it, I still like the movies. Is it okay that HBO’s Game of Thrones put a pointless rape scene in? It was a bad narrative choice for me but I am lucky in that it didn’t hurt me or distress me.

But I don’t ever underestimate myself. I keep making the choices, and I respect, support and discuss these issues with others who choose not to consume something because it makes them feel bad. I don’t want to force people to live in a world where they have to constantly see things that make them feel bad in something that is meant to be entertainment, something that is supposed to be for pleasure, and I think part of my job as a critic is to acknowledge when something might make people feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I am aware of the audiences I exclude when I say I like something that embodies toxic attitudes. If you don’t want to watch porn where a woman is crying, I understand. I will try to explore the issue intelligently so that you can make an informed choice about whether to consume it or not. You should be able to make the choice from what I write.

If you feel comfortable when you are playing a video game with violent sexual themes or attitudes in it, and you are an adult, I am happy for you. I am happy for the great number of hours that adult me has spent consuming all the things in the world that thirteen-year-old me would be horrified at. I just want everyone to have a good time.

I feel like James Deen wants everyone to have a good time.

fake gamer boy

When it comes to having a good time, both pornography and video games are entertainment where their popularity depends upon the constant bodily stimulation of the ‘player’ – but part of the reason I think that people are so reluctant to call both ‘art’ is because these stimulations are still seen as base or unnecessary. Porn is supposed to turn you on, to focus your mind so that you can get off. Games are supposed to require input and response, often to on-screen conflicts or puzzles, they are about resolving conflict usually, or completing high-pressure tasks. The constant stimulation that you gain from both media can often have an addictive quality, but interestingly, this Illinois Institute For Addiction Recovery has a video game addiction section and no pornography addiction section (though there is a broad one for ‘internet addiction’. There’s even this quite humorous breakdown on their website of the ‘warning signs’ of ‘video game addiction’ where they have capitalised ‘game’ as if it is some sort of dystopic drug:

What are the warning signs of video game addiction?

– Preoccupation with the Game. (Thoughts about previous on-line activity or anticipation of the next on-line session.)
– Use of the Game in increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction.
– Repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop Game use.
– Feelings of restlessness, moodiness, depression, or irritability when attempting to cut down use of the Game.
– Gaming longer than originally intended.
– Jeopardized or risked loss of significant relationships, job, educational or career opportunities because of Game use.
– Lies to family members, friends, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Game.
– Use of the Game is a way to escape from problems or to relieve a dysphoric mood. (e.g. feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety, depression.)

Use of the Game in increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction is the most interesting symptom: there have been times in my life in which I am sure that I used games as a distraction from my other failings, and I have had many friends who say the same of pornography. But the aforementioned Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan in the ‘Demise of Guys’ claim there are other similarities between porn and games, ‘novelty’:

“Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.”

Aside from the fact they are ignoring that drug users sometimes seek greater highs than the last, I am not sure I see much wrong with seeking novelty? In other arenas this is praised or seen as healthy, for example: thrill seeking hobbies, travelling, trying new foods, switching jobs.

Richard Lemarchard, ex-Naughty Dog designer and now Professor at USC once gave a talk about the psychology of attention in video games, and he noticed that games rely very heavily on attention – Starcraft players call it the “Third Resource” – you can ‘steal’ attention from other players. If the sensory footprint of the new information is small or weak, we stop being vigilant towards what we are looking at or doing. He notices that when your vigilance fatigue kicks in, games are good at countering that with periods of low stress or pastoral scenes like in Skyrim. And this is what movie makers call ‘pacing’.

Pornography, or adult entertainment, has pacing too. You don’t just start the heck out with ass eating or five at once. (Well sometimes you do, but maybe you’re wasting your Third Resource.)

Lemarchand cites Warren Skaaren’s Top Gun (my favourite) ‘intensity graph’ of the movie:

hot

The cycles of ‘intensity’ are very finely tuned to have the viewer pay maximum attention via low stimulation and high stimulation scenes. (I am odd in that the locker room scenes are actually high stim for me.)

So, can you become addicted to movies? If you can become addicted to ‘internet’ like the Illinois Institute For Addiction Recovery says, can’t we become addicted to everything that gives us instant novelty? Really, like Lemarchand seems to imply, all we are doing is using what we know about human psychology to keep attention. This can be done in real life, and in our entertainment. Too much excitement at a party? Go outside for a cigarette, or a walk. Too much sex? Fall asleep. It’s not the ‘Demise Of Guys’. I don’t think it’s gendered at all: people who are not guys are also perfectly susceptible to being distracted by high stimulation things.

However I admit I do find myself conflicted the more that games take influence from adult entertainment: recently my friend Patricia Hernandez investigated the people who make brutal video game porn, and though really the material these people are making is a very extreme fanfiction that makes me feel quite queasy and upset, what is interesting about their work is that they are using characters from video games and television without explicit ‘consent’. Hernandez’s final paragraph also implies (I think) game makers have some responsibility in the objectification of their characters – i.e. ‘Hey, if you’re going to imply this situation of peril is sexy, this is what is going to happen’. In any case, if this extreme stuff is going on in my back yard, I’m glad some investigative journalists are around to tell me about it.

As for what pornography could take from video games, there’s always this. “Jimmyjane, on the other hand, has the opportunity to “evolve more quickly than the penis or the vagina.”

Thank you for your time, Mr Deen. I will try not to drunk call you outside bars to chat about Dead Or Alive.

This is the last S.EXE! I am taking a break from writing about video games to do other things to video games. Thank you so much for all your intelligent discussion, pun runs, and pervy jokes throughout the series. Some of the issues I tackled were very difficult, some of them were about Skyrim dongs, and some of them were merely about Peter Molyneux hugging David Bowie without touching hips. But thank you for coming along with me. You can keep updated on my work here, if you’re interested. I’ve also asked RPS if we can issue an ebook of all the S.EXE columns, so we’ll keep you informed about that. Love to you, RPS. I will miss you.

The previous S.EXE columns are here.

Photo Credit: Flavio Scorsato Instagram: @scorsato

100 Comments

  1. GernauMorat says:

    Interesting article. This is the kind of thing that makes me love RPS

  2. Damn Rookie says:

    Just want to say thanks for the last 15 months of S.EXE articles; I’ve enjoyed reading about a lot of unusual (to me) topics and games. Best of luck with your future “do other things to video games” plans!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gus the Crocodile says:

      Yep, thanks for all the words Cara. They’ve been interesting, they’ve been insightful, they’ve been dong jokes. All the best for whatever comes next :)

    • Synesthesia says:

      +1. This has been a fantastic column. I’ll really miss it. Thanks, Cara!

    • Premium User Badge

      distantlurker says:

      I’ve really enjoyed this column and it’s helped to spur me to learn more.

      Thanks Cara.

  3. Ejia says:

    I was worried that the checklist was exactly how I feel about Game, but then I realized it is also the way I feel about Chocolate and Book. Addictions to all the things.

    This fine gentleman is a handsome fellow, to be sure, but I’m not one for skinny guys. I love that goofy tilted head picture, though.

    • April March says:

      Wait, have you ever actually lied to your family to downplay your addiction to a book? Must’ve been a real page turner.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I’d say he looks fit, maybe he could get 5 more kilograms of either extra fat or muscle but i’m absolutely certain that i wouldn’t mind to be like that.

      • pepperfez says:

        I find it kinda delightful how clearly his exercise regimen shows up on his body: core, hips, that’s it.

  4. The Dark One says:

    Whatever you get up to next, I hope it gives you enough room to stretch. That writer’s cramp didn’t sound very nice at all. Best of luck, Cara.

  5. 9of9 says:

    S.EXE will be missed, it’s undoubtedly been my favourite column here the past fifteen months :)

  6. RedViv says:

    I will miss articles like this. But I am also excited for whatever other things you may DO TO games.

    Most of all, recharge your batteries, oh travelling Carabot.

  7. Chorltonwheelie says:

    There is no such thing as a happy hooker.
    Read the horrific accounts of women who have escaped the porn industry.
    This creep is paid to fuck the abused, desperate and needy.
    Shame on you RPS.

    • Philopoemen says:

      Women who get paid significantly more than him.

      And to be completely fair, any industry where your body is your product – modelling, singing, dancing etc – the performers are usually treated atrociously, and it’s the management and higher-ups who make the cash.

      • Beanbee says:

        It’s that same exploitative structure that tends to bring in the huge revenues. Not many people manage to be high industry earners without a lot of people working to make that happen, especially when a market is a few decades old like the internet porn industry is now. You end up needing the very people who are exploiting you to cut through the noise and make the best living you can.

        Nature of consumption, we only want things we know about.

      • Philomelle says:

        Yeah, that is pretty accurate. There are obviously people who are trying to change that, but pretty much all sections of the entertainment industry suffer from heavy exploitation of actual creators/performers by the investors and managers, and all of them are undergoing a fairly similar struggle of individual creators trying to change that. Adult movie performers obviously have it worse because their physical intimacy is being compromised, but the emotional struggles aren’t very different from, say, the EA Spouse incident.

        The scariest thing is that the American porn industry isn’t even rock bottom. The Japanese pop music industry is about a billion times worse, for example.

    • AngoraFish says:

      This is simply factually incorrect. #FacesOfProstitution

      Shame on you Chorltonwheelie.

      • jrodman says:

        It *is* true that there are very nasty nasty portions of the sex industry. Human trafficing, women with pimps who control their lives and attack anyone trying to help them, etc.

        However, it’s *also* true that there are empowered, self-managed, profitable sex workers of both genders who find it’s a reasonable income.

        When a longtime friend of mine began transitioning from let’s say Alex to Susanne (not real names), and got kicked out of her parent’s house before finishing school with no money, she turned to sex work to stay afloat. I freaked out, because I thought the risk she was in was crazy high. I tried to get her into some other money-earning situations but they either job skills she was ultimately uninterested in or paid far too little. So the next thing I did was to interview all the people I knew who had ever done or still were doing independent sex work, in order to build a list of risk-management suggestions.

        Surprisingly the overall impression I got from these was “It’s another contract job. If you aren’t enjoying it you should stop and take another job.”

        Of course you should understand these are voices from privileged youth who found their way into sex work for various reasons, like expressing their formerly oppressed homosexuality to the hilt, or wanting to escape dull entry positions in other careers. Also the sampling is pretty strongly skewed towards gay sex work which in the US is pretty much all self-selected.

        Eventually she found her way into a fashion/beautician career which she loves. All in all, it’s good to be realistic that sex for pay is not fundamentally a nasty hole, even if it frequently is. This should guide responses to people who select this role, and pressures on lawmaking of same.

        • manny says:

          Sex work is not good. A temporary marriage, Islam style is much more respectable. All a woman needs to do is ask any man if he’s willing to feed and house her in exchange for a certain amount of sex. That’s it. More of a friendship with benefits arrangement in a western culture.

          Instead sex workers prefer to exploit men by pretending to be interested in them when all they want is money.

          • jrodman says:

            You are replying to a post where most of the people implied are men who are having sex with men for money.

            I think that’s just kind of the punctuation at the end of the statement that you’re choosing to ignore the parts of the world that don’t support your preconceived opinion.

          • snugglez says:

            @manny

            Here are some words you appear not to understand:

            “marriage”, “respectable”, “willing”, “friendship”, “benefits”, “prefer, “exploit”, “want”.

            Please grow up and then come back, thanks!

          • Phantom_Renegade says:

            Yes, a relationship where you give up all the power to be a sort of sex slave seems far more respectable and desirable then contract work where you call the shots…

  8. Philopoemen says:

    Farewell Cara, even though S.EXE was not my favourite column, and I disagreed vehemently with some of it, I respect the hell out of you for choosing to write it, and the manner in which you approach it. You made me think, and that’s something I can appreciate, no matter the content. good luck on the next venture.

  9. Ooops says:

    No more Freeware Garden, no more S.EXE… I’m making a sad puppy face right now. Of course this all happens just AFTER I chose to become a supporter… ;-)

    You will be missed. In part because of all the RPS authors who wrote about rape/depiction of minorities/Sex in video games, you were the one who made the most convincing points, in my humble opinion, not least in this very article.

  10. thedosbox says:

    “Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.”

    This could be applied to how I felt reading Cara’s stuff – I never knew what I’d get, but it would invariably be original and interesting.

    Conversely, I’ve found I tend to play certain games for hundreds of hours (Age of Empires and Defense Grid were particularly bad for this). Design them a certain way, and playing them very much feels like returning to a favorite food.

    No idea where I’m going with this, so I’ll stop, wish you good luck, and hope you return to RPS for the occasional guest column.

    • Beanbee says:

      I think you’re getting somewhere.

      The jist, It’s and outside look at gaming that leads to a lot of ink spilled on addiction when as a whole, it’s close to the most varied forms of entertainment both in audience interaction and personal need/response.

      There’s not just kind of satisfaction to be had from games. It’s not simply a matter of feeding the same feeling for everyone, or even the same all the time for yourself.

      You could be looking to enjoy an old memory (nostalgia gaming), get engrossed in a world (escapism gaming), test and improve your skills against others (competitive), try something new (novel), take on a new identity (empathic) etc. etc.

      In some ways it can be similar to film or music, becoming an externalisation of your internal world or vice versa. There are a lot of potential emotional and intellectual impulses, which are blindingly un-obvious unless you have that insight of actually playing games for different reasons. After all, nobody looks good whilst playing again (Dem Monitor-Away Stares), and you we can’t observe a person’s internal responses.

      I do understand Dara’s comedy though. I still harbour a guilt for gaming a lot at times and struggle to find people from the community who share my particular views.

  11. RARARA says:

    I’ll miss your column. Drop by once in a while, though!

  12. hey_tc says:

    This is really a great article, I hope S.EXE isn’t away for too long. Thanks for reminding me about Phillip Zimbardo too, there’s a guy who’s experiments and theories can always make a good story. As for James Deen, as a straight male, I can’t think of another pornstar – hell another man – I’d like to grab a beer with more he’s just a dude.

  13. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    Wait, another great RPS writer off to create media rather than the meta-media that is games journalism? Dammit people, stop being artistically ambitious! ;)

  14. His Divine Shadow says:

    videogames are the neocortex’s porn

  15. honuk says:

    “I wanted someone to tell me video games were good for me, so I asked this guy who works in porn”

    I mean, ok, I guess?

  16. felisc says:

    Nice read. I’ll miss your stuff here.
    Also I do prefer Manuel Ferrara as a performer.

  17. colorlessness says:

    Thanks for the articles, Cara. I enjoyed the S.EXE series a lot, not least this column.

  18. Beanbee says:

    Solid props for ending S.EXE on the moneyshot >:)

    • pepperfez says:

      Right? That’s the attention to detail you expect from a real artisan.

      We’ll miss you and this column, Cara!

  19. fearandloathing says:

    First of all, I’ll really miss S.EXE, it was a wholly different approach, fun and provoking. Yet I feel that this piece was the worst in the series. Especially your apologist attitude towards porn and lack of meaningful criticism bothered me. The bits and pieces where you defend porn seriously resembles what we heard from apologists of sexism in video games, exp:”When I watch James Deen fucking a woman who is crying I make a choice to think that if it is okay with the performers it is okay with me, and Porn 101 was part of my realising that” Really? So many women who are subjected to domestic violence do not actually consider it a problem, and continuation of their relationship with the abuser may be interpreted as explicit consent. So domestic violence is not a problem,huh? When you accept “consent” as such a personal choice, you create a private sphere that cannot be scrutinized and this may- or will- be used for justification of inequalities, or at least to provide them with a cover of privacy by depoliticizing them.
    Further, your criticism of Zimbardo is totally unfounded and I hope I’m not being too rude, but it almost seems like you deliberately twist his arguments. His statements point out to the fact that search for novelty drives people to more and more extreme kinds of porn, which in turn shapes their sexual behaviors. Naturally, in today’s circumstances, this means more and more violent porn, or at best a more “novel” categories of mainstream porn. And if you think the mainstream porn represents a healthy, egalitarian sexuality, I’d strongly advise you to think again. There is a research on how the mainstream porn changed in time, and its findings show that it only got more violent, i.e. yesterday’s hardcore/extreme is today’s mainstream. Also, yes this problem is gendered, because it aims for -hetero,cis- male population. You can read Robert Jensen or other anti-porn feminists about such issues, about how porn is men’s problem. Though they are painful to read, frankfurt school of critical theory really analyzes the entertainment as a concept and industry.
    And, finally, how can a feminist respect the job done by Deen? I’m anti-porn due to practical limitations of creating and spreading egalitarian porn, but still I respect the attempts of Erika Lust and other feminist directors, even though I think they will never have the desired influence to change porn. So tell me, what does Deen do for changing the concept of porn? Do not give me that pr nonsense pls. he is a “feminist” only much as it is profitable for him to be.
    I wrote this wall of text in a hurry, I hope I’ve not offended anyone, looking forward to read your future works.

    I could not find a place for the following in my reply, but here it goes: Video games have attracted lots of criticism, most of which was unfounded nonsense created by conservative media, yet there was fair concerns voiced by others. Instead of engaging them seriously it was a common practice of games journalists to dismiss them with the others, for example on the issue of violence in games. Gamergate apologists employed to same tactics to dismiss claims about sexism in games, and we laugh at them now without internally criticizing ourselves. Proponents of porn have been doing exactly the same and its sad to see how easily they get away with it.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      I feel like throughout this column you must have got some sense that I am not an apologist for sexism at all in any way; part of its remit was to try to address some of the sexist commentary that appeared in video game coverage all through the 90s (that I too indulged in) before we knew better.

      This column is a sex-positive column, and not a second-wave feminist column that believes it is useful to condemn all forms of pornography as oppression, because I recognise women consume porn and women make it. As such I personally feel like porn is a complicated subject, which I hope I put across when I explained my own personal feelings towards it and my back and forths over the years. In particular I have many friends who are sex workers who choose to do sex work not because they are forced to but because they want to. I believe these people should be respected and supported by society and by the full protection of the law. I think James Deen, as I have mentioned, has gone out of his way to help this arena become safer. No one should be looked down upon because they choose to do something they believe in safely, respectfully, and consensually.

      Mainstream porn has treated a great many people badly over the years yes, so have video games. Perhaps we are just getting to a point where we are admitting that. But as far as I know, no one is trying to dox Erika Lust. It seems like people respect what she does and want to give her space to do it. (And yes, I am aware of Erika Lust and I think her work is excellent.) What we really need to work on is the mainstream attitudes to porn: let’s have porn actors’ advocacy, collective bargaining, regulation and openness, so that everyone can be sure that when they consume porn they are watching something that respects people and lets them earn the money they work hard for.

      These are my thoughts. I’m sorry I disappointed you. I am in no way apologising for those who have treated others badly. I condemn any toxic behaviour absolutely, but I won’t sit around simplistically condemning a medium where fellow women are often empowered, where women often enjoy their work or want respect for taking their job seriously.

      • Philomelle says:

        “But as far as I know, no one is trying to dox Erika Lust. It seems like people respect what she does and want to give her space to do it. (And yes, I am aware of Erika Lust and I think her work is excellent.)”

        No one is trying to dox Erika Lust specifically, but here is a tumblr post from a porno actress who has been dealing with months upon months of harassment.

        As sad as it is to say, the video game and porno industry aren’t very different. They are both in a state of transition where the parts of the industry who were traditionally exploited are now trying to make something for themselves. And they both have a severe case of people who claim they deeply care about the integrity of the industry and rights of the people in it, but instead spend their time harassing the very people their quest for integrity is supposed to protect.

        • Karrius says:

          Not to defend all of that, but it’s worth noting some of that “harassment” she’s claiming is people calling out her and her boyfriend for targeted harassment and gaslighting – including totally dismissing the opinions of black game designers and trans women as not mattering, trying to get people to befriend others just to get around social network website blocks, and even gone so far as to proclaim some people they don’t like don’t deserve to be considered human and deserve to die.

          Not to say she wasn’t harassed, but it’s important to acknowledge a lot of the names and stuff there aren’t necessarily harassers, and she absolutely is.

        • pepperfez says:

          The absolutely amazing thing about the Mandy Morbid/Zak S. harassment is that it’s over roleplaying games. So that’s not really a mark against the porn industry vis a vis the gaming industry.

          • jrodman says:

            I think that particular conflict is really over personalities, and not anything else.

          • pepperfez says:

            True, but the conflict played out in the RPG community rather than the sex-work community. During the recent unpleasantness I’ve seen several variations on, “Fans never bothered me when I was doing sex work, but once I got into gaming…” and that says something really troubling about the gaming world.

      • Cara Ellison says:

        “Mainstream porn has treated a great many people badly over the years yes, so have video games. ” I just wanted to apologise fully for this glib and unacceptable comparison. The industries are leagues and apart and this was careless and insensitive. Thank you to everyone who cared enough to point that out. Again, it was silly and flippant of me to do this and I should have known better.

  20. amateurviking says:

    Genuinely thought there was going to be some dong action as I scrolled past the last image. Tease.

  21. wyrm4701 says:

    I’m going to miss this column, it’s been consistently fascinating and excellent. Thanks for writing it, and best of luck!

  22. damian1 says:

    link to destroyzionism.com
    link to forward.com

    Unsubscribed from your RSS, goodbye RPS.

    • Beanbee says:

      Everyone in the world thinks they know their better than everyone else. Who the fuck cares. Literally talked about respecting everyone the sentence before.

    • Philomelle says:

      Oh no, RPS lost a neo-Nazi with a broken sense of sarcasm from their audience. Whatever will they do.

    • airmikee says:

      lolwut?

      What does the stupid opinion of a stupid porn actor have to do with RPS? If interviewing him about video games means that RPS endorses his stupid opinions about culture and religion, doesn’t that make you just as responsible for reading his opinions in the first place?

  23. manny says:

    Can RPS stop bowing to feminist pressure, nobody reads these boring posts AND THEY ARE ABOUT SEX. Can you imagine how bad they must be.

    How about you actually hire writers with half a brain who just don’t vomit on their keyboards and call that an article.

    • sirdavies says:

      woah many go take a walk or something

    • airmikee says:

      I’ll admit I smiled and felt thrilled when I read “This is the last S.EXE!” They’re pointless articles that don’t add to any real discussion and simply seem like the writer is just trying to prove that women like sex as much as men.

      But you’re a fool if you think nobody reads them. Did you really miss the 20+ comments before yours thanking the author and saying they’ll miss the series of articles?

      • Jediben says:

        Definitely. And as for the “I know lots of people in the sex industry” thing: that’s not normal, it doesn’t impress anyone and it doesn’t make your opinion more valid. I genuinely don’t see what anyone can actually say they learned as a result of this article. I want to know about games and yet the only reference was to some 2nd rate volleyball game and some suspect indy rape fantasy. Good ridden and bring in the reviews in its place.

        • Sunjammer says:

          Yeah man, god forbid the culture you compulsively consume be viewed in the context of other contemporary culture people compulsively consume. Let’s have no more questions of this sort, GAME-SERVANT, BRRRING ME THE RRRREVIEWS

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          If this article was about tractors I think it’d be very reassuring to know that the writer knows people who are in the tractor industry. As it is, it’s an article about porn, so she’s obviously just showing off and is probably threatening my masculinity somehow.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        “simply seem like the writer is just trying to prove that women like sex as much as men.”

        In my experience they actually enjoy it more, it’s just that they’ve been taught it’s bad for them to even mention the thing, just like a common western male is taught to be ashamed and feel weird if he never had sex before he hit maturity.

    • manny says:

      Hey here’s an idea. Why don’t theypay me, a sexually frustrated near virgin chauvinist nerd to write about sex, much more representative of the audience that reads RPS and also much more relevant to the culture at large than trust fund/government grant feminists.

      Or gets some perverted japanese guy to speak his mind, their culture is far more open about sex than the west, and unlike feminists they don’t live in a alternative reality nobody cares about.

      • Pantalaimon says:

        If you feel like this is not the sort of thing RPS should be publishing then your options are to stop reading RPS or to start writing yourself.

        Seriously, if you are that bothered that this kind of writing so misrepresents what games writing should be about, do something about it.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      “There could be many reasons for not identifying as a feminist, including that some women believe that the term should only belong to women, though men can hold feminist beliefs.”

      a.) He’s a pornstar, and there is a vocal set of feminists who are basically the second coming of Oliver Cromwell
      b.) He works in an industry where women make significantly more money than men.

      For the record, I believe in and have fought for gender equality and don’t consider myself a feminist either.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        Damn it, that wasn’t meant as a reply to your post, sorry.

      • pepperfez says:

        a.) He’s a pornstar, and there is a vocal set of feminists who are basically the second coming of Oliver Cromwell
        But also an equally vocal set, including many of his colleagues, affirming the value of porn and other sex-friendly media.
        Unless you mean Deen is actually a monarchist, in which case I should have been paying better attention.

  24. cpt_freakout says:

    Ahhh, it’s very sad to read this will be some of your last videogame writing in a while, Cara. I strongly believe you (along with others like Ms. Hernandez herself) have really expanded the way in which we can think about games as part of recent and contemporary culture. We were quite lucky, so thanks for all of it, and hopefully this big step you gave will rub off on the rest of videogame criticism and an audience that, through these very particular objects, seems to produce incredibly interesting knowledge every now and then. Good luck with whatever’s next – (a Princess Leia comic? :P j/k ), and thanks so much once again.

    About the actual article – the point I found really interesting is the limit at which gaming and porn become unspeakable acts: the comedian mentioned might joke about it being easier to admit one’s into hardcore porn, and the joke works because there’s an underlying understanding that often the logic of our taboos is no logic at all but a convention. Both admissions (being into gaming/being into porn), depending on context, have a certain shame attached to them – you either didn’t grow up, or didn’t grow up right (maybe “properly” like you Brits say), and in pairing games and porn together there’s a sense of both kinds of shame coming together into one distorted image. It’s the classic ‘basement-dweller’ stereotype, and we all know the basement’s where something horrible always happens – all the ‘pathologies’ that bubble from below the consciousness of the ideal family home. Sorry, I’m just rambling now, and I don’t really have a point, but I think that was very interesting and I wanted to write something about it, so thanks.

  25. blind_boy_grunt says:

    that lara croft video from the kotaku article looks to me like something James Deen would shoot. I don’t actually know which one i think is worse, using a digital character (knowing it’s not consent) or buying a real persons consent.

    • pepperfez says:

      Best case scenario is that the live-action scene isn’t bought consent. I know some significant number of actors in the James Deen-hardcore space really do it because they get to have totally gonzo sex they couldn’t have safely with non-professionals. And in that (hypothetical) case, I’m much less squicked out by a bunch of people doing something they all think is fun/challenging/interesting than by a dude imposing his will on fake women.
      Of course, that’s fully dependent on the performers being treated well and not coerced in any way, and that depends on robust work-safety regulations and a social safety net to prevent economic coercion, and those things don’t exist.
      So, in conclusion, everything is distressing exploitation and we should all feel awful.

  26. metric day says:

    Cara made some interesting points but wow, I don’t think Deen managed a single sentence of any kind of value.

  27. Radiant says:

    Take James Deen.
    I can show you three different scenes of his that’ll show you three different types of fucking.
    Yet all of them will always have that same base note of emotion.
    Sex in video games never has that foundation of feeling.

    I’ll show you three different sex bits in games from Hunniepop to Witcher 2 and you will feel no type of way about any of it.
    So why is it even there?

    I’ve always felt the way developers put fucking in games, even when it’s the focus of the game has always been almost apologetic in it’s presentation or bashful about actually making the player feel something.
    Like… Here’s some sex devoid of /sex/ or here’s some tits just to show em.
    Worse still: here’s some sex with a different person but the sex is the same as the first.

    It’s like dude just spend a little time on tumblr if that can make you feel something, any reaction, from a 6 second repeating gif the least you can do is understand it and put it in a game.

    As widespread as it is I feel constantly depicting sex without feeling is as detrimental to a person as anything videogames are being called out for.

    Good stuff to the writer for these.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I felt (and I guess still feel) that the sex scenes in the first Mass Effect were really well done, and basically done in the same style as you would expect from television or cinema. Outside of that single example, I can’t think of one that wasn’t completely horrid. Even in the same series, all of the later games had romance scenes that made me laugh out loud at my monitor. I don’t understand what Bioware, specifically, are attempting to add to their games with these incredibly cheesy shots of my PC grinning awkwardly while he grinds against some NPC in their underwear (or in ME2/3, in their spaceship costumes). If a game is going to feature physical intimacy, I’d much rather just have the implied sex via fade-to-black of a game like Alpha Protocol.

      • Pantalaimon says:

        It should probably be noted that “the same style as you would expect from television or cinema” is not really glowing praise. There’s not much filmed sex in mainsteam tv or cinema, or even outside of that, that has any particular style or merit.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          Right, that’s probably not the way I should have described it. I guess what I mean is that there was an attempt at depicting actual passion in a way that’s tasteful enough for mainstream entertainment media. In the sequels (and Dragon Age 1…romance in 2 could be silly, but at least seemed intentionally so) I thought the romance scenes were incredibly cheesy and emotionless by comparison.

      • Radiant says:

        I was going to mention jack from ME1!

      • MikhailG says:

        Its creating buzz and people talk about OMG XES so it sells, its simple as that sorry.

  28. airmikee says:

    This is the first “interview” I’ve ever read by a male porn actor, so it’s nice to see they’re just as vapid, empty-headed, and stupid as their female counterparts.

    • Sunjammer says:

      That’s a shit attitude and you should learn more about the world before you open your ignorant gob at it. Anybody who has the slightest brush with adult entertainment of any production quality, be it written, drawn, filmed, spoken, posed, danced or whatever the hell else, knows the people who are in this for the love are in it in just the same way as any programmer or makeup artist or any other enthusiast.

      No party invites for you.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      Based on which parts of the interview exactly?

  29. chargen says:

    Cara really seemed to be sledgehammering her idea of Deen’s life, her assumptions of his unspoken and contradicted beliefs, and his opinions that weren’t stated into the mold of what she wanted him to be and represent. So this shaky premise didn’t really sell me to any of her ideas that followed.

    • Sunjammer says:

      She does seem to be fawning a bit much. Deen is a rad dude but he’s hardly a philosopher.

  30. Peptidix says:

    A great bow-out for this series. Thank you for all your interesting posts, columns and criticism Cara. All the best, and I hope to encounter your next endeavours in the future.

    • Jediben says:

      Bow out? More like dropping to its knees and celebrating with a spam javelin milkshake.

  31. Sunjammer says:

    I came into this article not liking it very much (despite rather liking Deen and agreeing in general that compulsive consumption of entertainment is a facet of life worth looking seriously at) but man, some of the negative comments on here make me wonder what the age bracket on RPS really is. Like in my mind we’re all late 20s to maybe early 40s, right? Havent we had enough time to consider our lives in terms of multiple facets rather than compartmentalising everything hopelessly?

    • Pantalaimon says:

      There’s always been a lot of positive and progressive posting folllowing these articles, as well. That’s really what is worth noticing.

      The most you can take from the negativity is that people come from vastly different cultures and upbringings and life experiences. They arrive at articles like this and don’t have the tools to handle their emotional response to it. After all, those of us who find discussing these topics interesting and second-nature still had to put in quite a lot of work to get to where this was an okay thing to talk and think about – and even then, it’s still sometimes (okay, a fair amount of the time) uncomfortable and tricky. I remember being squeamish and naive about sex and I remember thinking about it in a fairly ‘received wisdom’ kind of way. I’m lucky that life experiences pushed me to develop my own attitudes, but it doesn’t happen for everyone.

      Maybe some readers will be surprised at themselves and reading things like this will trigger some kind of learning process where they start to think about and discuss sex and porn in a more open and nuanced way.

      I also think the biggest positive is that the knee jerk negative kind of responses are on the down turn. This is very much the raging at the dying of the light, and our generation – the ages you mention – are moving beyond it. It’s a painful teething period but once we get through it, society (and games and porn) will be a lot better for it.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      At 42, I suddenly feel too old to be reading RPS.

  32. Smashbox says:

    Honestly, what a tenuous stretch of a premise.

  33. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I’ve enjoyed the series and your honest perspective on the intersection of sex/desire/gaming – thank for you writing them. Best of luck.

    • Ogun says:

      Aye, will miss this column – best of luck with whatever’s next.

  34. trollomat says:

    Adult entertainment is the silliest term. David Lynch movies are adult entertainment, I’ve never seen a kid enjoy those. Porn is what you’re talking about here, what wrong with that word?

    • jrodman says:

      To be pointlessly pedantic, porn just means it doesn’t have redeeming qualities. Something can be another type of porn besides sex porn.

      That aside, lots of things have many names, many of them euphemistic. This article calls it both.

      Euphemistic names are FULL of silliness though, as you suggest. Why does to “buy the farm” mean to DIE? I don’t know.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        I’m not entirely sure, but I think “buy the farm” was a reference to fighter pilots crashing their planes into farmers’ fields.

      • pepperfez says:

        To be pointlessly pedantic, porn just means it doesn’t have redeeming qualities. Something can be another type of porn besides sex porn.
        I think this is really the crux of it. “Porn” is basically a disparaging term, and you can’t expect people to refer to their work that way.

  35. Mr Coot says:

    Thank you for the columns and best luck for your new endeavours. tbh, I’d rather have a nice cup of tea and a chat with someone than a carnal frolick, but I have always appreciated your well-written and thought-provoking pieces.

  36. DXN says:

    Best of luck in your upcoming endeavours Ms Ellison, S.EXE was radical and I always read it with interest, and usually got some new ideas about things in the process. Bravo!

  37. wrenholme says:

    Thank you Cara for your articles and thoughts.

    You and the others have mentiond some of these already, but I like to add something to the discussion – in regards to my experiences with porn/adult entertainment and gaming. These are just my personal perspectives.

    Both gaming and porn can have addictive qualities, though I feel that they have certain subtle differences. With gaming, there are certain level of skills required to achieve a sense of satisfaction. They can come from such things as completing tasks through one’s skill sets (eg, quick responses/reflexes, strategically/tactically minded, etc).

    Sure, it can depend on the type of game – there can be very simplistic games (for some), but the return of enjoyment probably isn’t very high (again, dependent on the person).

    However, with porn, or more specifically, the consumption of porn – there is no need to have high level of skills to consume and enjoy. It is readily available, very accessible and in great abundance, especially with modern high speed broadband Internet.

    It (sex) is also connected with our very primal biological desires.

    Now, if there is someone who has severe social anxiety issues, awkwardness, shyness, loneliness, lack of social intamacy, depression and various fears – is regularly exposed to porn – further issues may arise. Why would anyone like that turn to porn? To escape – to cope with the things they are going through and to feel, at least momentarily, the pleasures and an illusionary sense of satisfaction.

    These performers display themselves and their acts in full glory. As the consumer, you don’t have to do anything, other than to pleasure yourself – there are no courting processes, no complex rules to follow, no rejection, no competition, no need to look good, no awkward chit chats, no pick up lines and no waiting. You fast forward, rewind, slow down, skip, pause, rinse and repeat.

    Then when the highs are gone, you want more and the desires become more twisted, because whatever gave you the high before no longer does the job at getting you aroused. It sounds almost like a drug, but it is a learnt or conditioned compulsion. Imagine this happening to a person for over five years or even a decade. The perception of what one finds to be attractive may be irrevocably warped.

    I’m not saying sex is bad, nor is masturbation, nor are the performers and this isn’t a “let’s play the blame game” either. – but I think people should be aware and consider the possible consequences, if they may be easily affected and harmed. If anyone’s interested, check out Your Brain on Porn or Youtube Gary Wilson TED talk. No, I don’t work for him/them and I don’t want to force these things on anyone, I’m just a concern individual and giving my opinion.

    Anyway, I wish you the best Cara in whatever you choose to do next.

  38. Dilapinated says:

    Thanks for writing these fantastic articles. I wish you all the best.

  39. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I’ll miss this column. Thanks for writing it, Ms Ellison. I hope you’ll come back to games writing one day.

  40. souroldlemon says:

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Cara’s writing, but one of the most interesting things I’ve learnt is from the comments on her articles, from the pea soup onwards ie before gamergate: that there are incredibly vicious misogynists out there. I don’t know how many, maybe only a few are responsible for all the vitriol, but it goes way beyond sexism. Such hatred and contempt for women is something i didn’t even realise existed. Maybe it’s obvious that I’m not a woman.

  41. Stopsignal says:

    Goodbye, Cara! This column was indeed an interesting, fun and pretty much awesome thing! I hope I get to read a lot more from you later.

  42. Cfoofoo says:

    Maybe this is the wrong place to bring something like this, but why does any article, paper, speech, anything trying to be academic call itself “Something Snappy and Clever: X and Y in Z?”

  43. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Thanks for this column and other writings here. Best of luck and hope to read your words again in future.