James Deen’s Female Fandom Phenomenon

This is serious.

A few interested commentors and Tweeters have mentioned to me that what they find remarkable about James Deen isn’t, as I had hinted last week, that he’s being treated differently by the media than female stars who want to “cross over” to “mainstream” entertainment, but that he’s gotten to where he is because of his gigantic, and predominantly female, fan base. And I’m glad they pointed that out. Deen’s case really is remarkable, and it may be the first of its kind, ever. James Deen isn’t just a successful male porn star who’s getting roles in mainstream movies and taking over the mainstream media… he’s a successful male porn star who got that way because: 1) he works constantly and loves his work, and 2) women adore him  and they buy his movies. He’s a media darling because he’s a darling to women who watch porn, a demographic that has been noted over and over again (yes, yes, we know a third of internet porn watchers are female! enough already!) but the existence of which is still often accompanied by words like, “surprisingly,” “interestingly,” “incredibly,” and so on. In other words, the female segment of the porn consuming population is still pretty newly recognized, and everyone is largely at a loss as to how to treat it.

We’ve been getting different forms of “porn for women” for ages now, but nothing has seemed to take off for the same reason that female sexuality is so under-studied by science: female sexuality is complicated and therefore hard to know how to sell to. Porn and other portions of the sex industry have been trying to figure out the mystical formula that will tap into female purchasing power for ages. Romance novels, erotica, softcore porn, “couples” porn, feature porn, and even parody porn all seem to have worked out pretty well, but there’s no solid gold standard in the “what gets women off” area. And, sadly, though more and more women are tuning in and speaking up about what they like to see, much of the big-time porn industry seems to be holding its fingers in its ears and screaming “La la la la I can’t hear you” as women vociferate that they don’t need soft lighting, quiet music, and lingering romantic kisses more than they need hot action that gets them off but doesn’t leave them feeling achey in all their holes and deeply sad afterward. Truth is, there are as many types of porn desired by women as there are women. It’s a tough balance to find.

Enter James Deen: a smart, down-to-earth, guy-next-door type. No bulging muscles, fake tan, or neck tattoos.  No shticky routine (a la Nick Manning’s “droppin’ loads” refrain at every orgasm, or Ron Jeremy’s utter grossness, or Evan Stone’s overacting). No weird, “Is she enjoying this? Really?” feeling. For the most part, James seems to love what he does, and most of his female costars seem to genuinely like him. There’s usually kissing and an identifiable exchange of energy, if not overt chemistry, and there’s also hot sex. James Deen might look into his costar’s eyes and kiss her lots, but he’s not afraid to smack her ass or fuck her ass, either, and the result is a performer that women feel they can relate to, get into as a human being on some level, and see as a guy they might like to fuck rather than a plasticky automaton. James Deen is sexy. He’s not too big or too small, not too hairy or too waxed; he’s just right.

And the fact that a pretty normal (if above-average in the crotch area) guy can be popular with women may not be all that mind-blowing. But the fact that this pretty-average dude can command a role in a major Hollywood movie and make all kinds of headlines over it (albeit prejudiced ones about how he’s adamantly not sleeping with its female star, because obviously a porn star must have sex with everything he sees if it has boobs), get featured on prime time network TV, and so on and so forth… all because women like him… Jenna Jameson becoming a household name due to  her own hard work and the admiration of legions of male fans? That’s been done. But James Deen getting popular because women like to watch him fucking? That’s new. That’s absolutely novel. And it’s not just that they like him–it’s that they’re being vocal about liking him. They’re talking about it, and in so doing they’re voicing their desires. They’re talking about porn! Oh, happy day! That is something that makes me get all excited and hopeful about the way we see sex and porn.

So what I’m saying is that this is a whole new world of female sexual empowerment through porn viewing that we’re getting into. It may come with its downside of women not knowing the difference between porn sex and real-world sex. It may result in all kinds of unforeseen weirdness. But it will also, I hope, lead to women having a say in what kind of porn they like, and not being afraid to say it. A whole new conversation about pornography is starting up, one that isn’t as unilateral as it’s been for so long. The old assumptions made by pornographers that they’re making porn for men only (and, historically, for one type of very easily predictable, very unflattering, stereotype of male sexuality–but that’s another blog post) will have to start to fall away. A whole new conversation may open up. One that includes women, and maybe people of color and different genders and orientations and ability levels and…  Squee!  Maybe we’ll see a new breed of male porn star and even a new breed of porn–it’s already being born and raised with loving care by many pornographers, but I hope it will grow to a ripe and raw and raunchy maturity. Maybe we’ll see a whole new world of hot sex for everybody.

Actually, what I’m really saying is: GO JAMES DEEN. Keep up your very hard work and your unending enthusiasm for making women cum (both on screen and off). You deserve it. And GO, GO, GO all his female fans who show their appreciation!

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