Bret Easton Ellis on James Deen Rape Claims: "A Ridiculous Witch Hunt" (Exclusive)

Bret Easton Ellis James Deen Split - H 2012
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Bret Easton Ellis James Deen Split - H 2012

The outspoken author and podcast host says his friend Deen — who starred in Ellis' 2013 film 'The Canyons' — is the victim of a jealous and "unstable" ex-girlfriend.

They now number 10.

Ten women, all of whom make a living in the adult film industry, all of whom have come out against James Deen, whose wholesome good looks and feminist-friendly persona transformed him from a skinny Pasadena teen into an unlikely porn superstar. But a career that took a decade to build has been all but destroyed in a matter of weeks.

Their stories range from flat-out rape accusations (the first came from ex-girlfriend Stoya, who tweeted on Nov. 28 that Deen "held me down and f—ed me while I said no, stop, used my safeword") to allegations of psychological and physical abuse (Joanna Angel, another ex-girlfriend, described waking up to Deen "choking me in his sleep" and said he once nearly drowned her in a sink) to tales of casual sexual violations on porn sets (Ashley Fires said Deen pushed his erect penis "into my butt" between takes during a shoot for Kink, a company that specializes in BDSM, or rough sex, porn — a Deen specialty). 

The fallout was swift and harsh. As a Twitter hashtag emerged — #solidaritywithstoya — Kink severed all ties with the 29-year-old porn star and The Frisky, a women's website, canceled his sex advice column. ("That he has been accused of violating Stoya's consent ... makes it impossible for me to work with him any further," an editor wrote.) Deen resigned from the board of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, a porn workers' rights group, before they "could tell him to," according to its vice president. California's occupational safety agency is investigating his production company. Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reported Fires' story under a headline that dubbed Deen "the Bill Cosby of porn," a label picked up by Huffington Post

Only one voice came out in defense of Deen — and that was his own. In an exchange with The Daily Beast, he claimed to be "completely baffled" by the accusations, which were all "from either ex-girlfriends or events that happened on set." He dismissed most of the allegations as rough sex that may have gotten out of hand. Fires' story, he said, was not out of the ordinary for a Kink production, which is less a porn set than it is an immersive "nonstop sexual environment." He accused Angel of telling "exaggerations and inaccuracies." As for Stoya's accusations, Deen dismissed them as lies potentially motivated by the fact he and his "current girlfriend ... are moving in together."

Now someone else is breaking a silence to defend James Deen. Author and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis is a good friend, having worked closely with Deen on The Canyons, the 2013 film that marked Deen's crossover debut. The two had met virtually on Twitter and later in person at Soho House in West Hollywood. At Ellis' insistence, director Paul Schrader later cast the porn actor opposite Lindsay Lohan in the part of Christian — a violent sociopath who enjoys degrading and raping women. (The part, in fact, had always been written with Deen in mind.)

But that is a movie. Speaking exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter, Ellis insists the person being portrayed in countless articles and blog posts written since Nov. 28 — James Deen the rapist, James Deen the misogynist, James Deen the narcissistic sociopath — is nothing like the person he has gotten to know over the years.

What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

What do you make of the allegations of rape and abuse being leveled against James Deen?

This whole thing is a ridiculous witch hunt. Most of the people in James’ close circle know that this is a wild distortion, a lie on Stoya’s part. And when this evidence comes out with texts and emails, it’s going to prove everyone who is #solidaritywithstoya to be ashamed of themselves. So I think that’s part of the problem.

What evidence?

Evidence that James has in terms of texts. Threats. This has been going on with Stoya for a while. I’ve known James before Stoya, I’ve known him during Stoya. I traveled to Europe with them. I have seen firsthand what was going on in that relationship — and this is a very unstable person. And the threats in texts and emails that James has is part of the reason why he’s remaining kind of cool about this. Because this is all going to come out — that she has threatened rape claims against him at other times in the relationship.

The fact that these tweets are posted on the day that James and his new girlfriend buy a house is not a coincidence. That alone — that Stoya was not happy that the relationship ended but James felt that he had to get out of it. And she has been very vocal about how much she was in love with him and has called him her "heroin" at one point. The very fact that on the day that James buys a house with his girlfriend, she tweets this, what do you think? Is that enough? 

I don’t know. It’s certainly a heavy accusation to make of someone in the space of two tweets. But then it did open the floodgates to other accusations of, if not of rape, some dangerously abusive behavior.

In the porn world! And BDSM invite-only parties! What are we talking about? Is everyone nuts? Is everyone so hungry for a witch hunt — does James arouse such complicated feelings in people — that this is the endgame? I don’t know, what do you think? Does [MTV's Teen Mom star and Deen screen partner] Farrah Abraham coming along and saying, "Yeah, I guess I was raped too" — doesn’t that kind of invalidate everything? I don’t know! I’m asking you this.

You know him personally, so you could probably better assess how realistic the claims are.

But what are the claims? Overly rough sex in a porn BDSM scene? "Pressing his penis against me while we were taking showers on a porn set?" Where are we going with this? Most people I know who know James are not taking these claims seriously. And, of course, if they say anything supporting him they are immediately labeled "rape apologists" on Twitter and social media, which you can either give a shit about or not in this particular case.

Have you spoken to him since this has begun?

I’ve not spoken with him. I’ve texted with him and that’s about it.

What were his feeling about what’s going on right now?

That this was expected from an unstable person that he was involved with and this was the outcome of her rage and jealousy. Now, I don’t know that 100 percent. I’m gleaning that from all the information that I had during their relationship, knowing her pretty well and taking my evidence from there.

Normally I wouldn’t talk to anybody about this, but it is kind of enraging to see how this thing blows up. And how an accusation can actually tarnish someone without them being proven guilty. That really was the shocking thing. "I can no longer work with James Deen because of this accusation." That is scary. Like I tweeted. Let that sink in. Let’s live in a society and let that sink in. That’s a problem, you know?

Did you ever meet Joanna Angel?

Never met Joanna Angel. I know about the relationship. But I think there was a similar problem going on with him and Joanna as well. I know that it was a problematic relationship. However, I don’t know the full extent. I’ve never met Joanna Angel. Let me put that on the record.

And did he express concerns to you the way he did about Stoya that she might turn against him in public?

I never heard that about Joanna Angel.

What's your opinion, then, regarding these other women who have come forward? What is their motive?

I don’t know. I mean, have you ever been in love with someone and you’re so angry that they don’t love you back and that the relationship has ended — and there’s this kind of rage that’s inherent to that? I mean, to me, that doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. She just took her revenge in a very public and dangerous way. That is what’s happening. And for those of us who know James and for those of us who know Stoya and what was going on in that relationship, this wasn't shocking.

What’s ultimately going to happen is that it’s going to be revealed that this is an untruth on Stoya’s part. I think once James decides to do that, to show the emails and texts where she has threatened this before in their relationship, and with all the coincidences surrounding the timing of these two tweets and the purchase of the house, it might not make #solidarityforstoya people happy, but it’s a truth.

But it’s now up to 10 people who have come forward with accusations of rape and abuse. Why would nine others come forward?

Why did The Crucible happen? That’s the big question Arthur Miller raised in The Crucible. Why does this happen? You would have to write a sociological book about why people get drawn into these witch hunts. I don’t know. That is just a complex psychological thing. I have no idea.

I mean everyone’s saying, "It doesn’t matter if you’re in the porn world. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the porn industry." Well I think it does. I think when we’re talking about porn sets and BDSM parties, I don’t know. Are there any of these allegations — and I was looking at them closely to see, "Am I wrong about James? Am I wrong?" — but to me there is a sliding scale of offenses. I’m sorry, but there is a sliding scale of offenses. It just seems so distorted, let’s put it that way. The allegations seem so distorted. And because they are on porn sets and stuff, I don’t know, out of the 6,000 women James has been with, ten people come forward with this and are complaining. 

What do you make of the comparisons to Bill Cosby?

Clickbait. Nothing. I see that as part of the language of the Internet. Nothing more than that.

Do you see this Deen situation as a product of a current larger appetite for — I know you have strong opinions about this — "outrage culture?"

Of course it is! It’s, "Look at me, how do I feel? I’ve been victimized! I’m a victim too! Oh, she said she’s a victim? I’m also a victim." It’s a domino effect. And I don’t know where it will stop with James. Maybe it will be 80. Maybe 80 women in porn are going to start saying, "Well, looking back on it, that was pretty rough sex and he did go further than he probably should have in that scene." It seems to me to be all a kind of joke.

Do you think at this point James can salvage his career?

That’s a terrible question! I don’t know. I guess he could move everything over to an independent, DIY culture that everyone is finding themselves moving toward, where he’s doing it himself and he’s selling his stuff on his own website. But I do think that just by the nature of an unstable girlfriend accusing you and then having this rush of kind of semi-accusations following it and being able to lose your job for it is a real low point — a real low point in where we are as an outrage culture and a victim culture.

Twitter: @SethAbramovitch