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Let’s talk about sex. An activity that is both the subject of praise and criticism, sex is one of the biggest components of our humanity. It’s been a source of power, of controversy, of misunderstanding; sex has toppled governments and simultaneously created a booming global population. Perhaps it is the innate power that lies within sex that makes it so threatening.

However, sex is also innately positive. Bodies are sexy. Consent is sexy. And sex can be entirely, 100 percent sexy if we do away with the negative stigmas and embrace it’s positivity.
Arthur had the pleasure of speaking with the adult-film star James Deen about sex and how to make it positive. As an actor who has starred in thousands of adult-films, Deen knows a thing or two about embracing sex and all of its positive qualities.

How would you define sex positivity?

Sex positivity, I would just say, is the idea that sex is a good thing and it doesn’t need to be this dirty secret that people need to have a negative stigma attached to. It can be something that can be embraced, and loved and utilized to further your knowledge of yourself and others. I believe sex can be great as long as it’s done in a respectful way. As long as everyone is communicating properly and having all their wishes and desires respected, then I see no reason to put any negativity towards it. It seems pretty self-explanatory. It’s two words, “sex positive;” you’re positive about sex.

Aside from religious reasons, why do you think some people find sex so threatening?

I guess ignorance. We’re an advanced species as far as humans go, but at the same time we’re kind of not. I mean, how long ago did women become people? It wasn’t long ago that women weren’t allowed to vote. Or work!

It’s not a surprise to me that there’s still a lot of negative stigma and ideas around sex because it’s one of the things that separates us from the animals and gives us our humanity. But it’s still kind of dirty and kind of, well, people don’t understand it. It’s new and different and exciting, and taboo, and people are still experimenting and getting to know themselves.

It’s not talked about; sexual studies are rarely done and with more advancement in our society there’s more human sexuality classes and more open discussions. While the older generations are more sexually repressed, it’s still a new concept as far as… for instance, how long ago was it that we thought the female orgasm was a myth?

There’s just a lot of stuff around sex that people fear, like the unknown or things they can’t explain. There’s a lot of stuff around sex that’s difficult to explain. People put all this stock in sexuality when I feel like everyone just needs to be reminded that everyone is different and that’s okay.

How do you combat criticism levied at you for being a porn star?

I try not to put too much stock in it. People have their own opinions and are entitled to their own opinions.

I’m a big believer in freedom of speech and of expression. One of my favorite quotes is, “Free speech is not about protecting your rights to say and do whatever you want, it’s about protecting the right of whoever is saying the most offensive thing to you and looking them in the eyes and saying, you have the right to say and do and express yourself however you want even though I disagree with you.”

I’m a big believer in “treat others how you want to be treated.” I want my opinions, and my desires, and everything I have respected. Even if others aren’t going to give me the same courtesy, I can give them the courtesy that I would like.

So, if somebody says something on some message board about “oh, he’s a dumb porn star” or “oh, sex is evil” or whatever it may be, that’s their opinion and they have the right to have it; there’s no reason why anybody should be told that their opinion is wrong, because it’s not wrong, it’s an opinion. While I disagree with it I absolutely respect it and encourage everyone to have their own.

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Considering that, what do you think the problems are with laws regarding sex? For example, Measure B, the condom mandate that was passed in L.A. that requires porn actors to wear condoms. You said it was a violation of your rights. Do you think when it transfers over to the legal system it directly impacts peoples rights?

I do. There are a lot of problems with the political system in the United States. In the pledge of allegiance we mention God; it’s really hypocritical to me. In our constitution it says separation of Church and State – there shouldn’t be a connection between the two.

There’s so much stock put into religious beliefs and ideals. It’d be nice if people could put that out of their minds and objectively look at actual laws and not put so much personal feeling behind their desires to create laws.

But, you know, society as a whole forgets. People get wrapped up in ideas and it doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but it’s just their ideas. It’s difficult for people to look at a situation and say, “While I may disagree with this, it is technically not my business to tell people what they can or can’t do or can or can’t feel.”

Measure B is a great example. When you have something that’s being pitched as safer sex, I try to look at the good and I embrace the fact that it passed because it means that the L.A. population is conscious of safe sex and wants to have a safer community. It’s not a bad thing, but the majority of the world doesn’t understand how safe the porn industry actually is.

So, when you’re looking at a situation that you don’t understand, you just go off of, for lack of a better word, an ignorant standpoint. It’s great that people are conscious and aware of sex and how to protect themselves. The issue is just that you can’t dictate to people on how to create their artistic content and it’s the whole political side of it.

It’s the same thing that happened in the 70s when porn was illegal and it got taken to court and in court it wins every single time because we’re constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.

What do you think the problems are when the government implements laws regarding sexuality?

Sex is a personal thing. You can’t tell people how to live their lives – what to like, and what not to like, and how to feel. You can tell people, I don’t know, there’s a lot of weird political things that have occurred in my life alone, let alone in the life of the world. I feel like nothing really makes sense anymore.

There’s just all these weird issues that occur when governments try to govern people’s feelings and beliefs and there’s a difference between people like Jeffrey Dahmer, who was running around killing people, and somebody who is running around having sex with people.

When you’re not hurting anybody else, there doesn’t need to be a law in order to protect society. Like sodomy laws; if somebody likes it in the butt, they should be allowed to get fucked in the butt.

I’m baffled as to why it’s even possible that any sort of laws have been passed and then been prosecuted and taken to a federal level when the Supreme Court has always ruled that you can’t own what people can or cannot do with their own bodies.

If it’s a consensual, respectful act and if everybody involved is cool with everything, then you’re good to go.

Do you think laws in regards to sexuality are therefore a form of oppression and violation of citizens rights?

It’s a violation of citizens’ rights, I would definitely say that, but I don’t think the motivation is to oppress anybody.

As a porn actor who engages in BDSM, degradation, etcetera, do you have advice for people who want to explore these fetishes while still coming off as respectful?

Finding somebody who also wants to explore those fetishes is key, and then also remember that the person who is in the truly dominant position is the person who’s being submissive, because they’re allowing you to be dominant.

Everything’s a game; it’s not real. When you try to apply games to real life is when things get messy.

You have to communicate with your partner and make sure that you’re not just being selfish. It goes for everything, not just BDSM or something like that.

You want to have a good communication technique; you need to be able to be honest and open and talk to people about how they feel and listen to how they feel and then react appropriately.

You obviously know a lot of women in the porn industry. How do you think, or how have you seen them, combat sex negativity and how do they maintain being positive about sex?

I don’t know. There’s a bunch of different reactions. Everybody is different. Some girls get really pissed off about it, some ignore it, some girls argue it in logical ways.

Everybody has their own philosophy and their own theory and that’s what they do. It’s difficult when you feel strongly about something and somebody else feels strongly in opposition to you. It’s very difficult to combat it.

I personally operate under the pretense that as long as I’m happy then everything is okay, and I respect other people and their beliefs. I don’t find a reason to argue with other people – it’s just their opinion and this is mine; the end.

Do you feel like you have any responsibilities because some people look up to you as a role model?

Yes and no. I think that everybody in life has responsibilities, as far as furthering education and making sure that people are respectful of fellow humans and stuff like that. I feel like I have no further responsibilities to do anything than I would if I was just a guy sitting at my house on a Thursday afternoon.

You’ve mentioned in the past about how people shouldn’t be learning about sex through porn, but we know that they are. So, how do you reconcile knowing that even though you believe it’s the wrong way to learn about sex, there are people who are truly learning how to be sexual from you?

Well, I would do what I’ve been doing my entire life and what I think everyone should be doing their entire lives, which is furthering the education of everyone you meet.

If anyone spoke to me when I was fifteen or speaks to me now I would say the same thing: porn is not education. I think a big issue with society and the reason why we have these predetermined notions about sex and sexual interaction and stuff is the way people are taught things.

And I don’t necessarily think that anyone should look to anybody differently, whether they be a big star like Brad Pitt or just some guy that you know.

Everybody has a social responsibility to teach everyone else around them about their personal boundaries and how they feel in respecting people. I don’t think it makes a difference whether you’re a public figure or not; everyone has the same responsibility.

Do you think that being able to be positive about sex is different for men and women? Do you think it’s more challenging for women or do you think that it’s maybe the same?

It should be different. One of my issues with human sexuality is that part of equality is recognizing differences. To say that men and women should be treated the same is idiotic. Women are different from men, and men are different from women.

Differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing; pretending people are exactly the same is counter-productive. Embracing people’s differences and giving them the same respect regardless of race, creed, or gender is, in my opinion, beneficial.

So, as for women being sex positive versus men being sex positive, the only downfall, as far as I see it, would be the society that surrounds them and the stigma. If a girl you know is like “Hey, yeah, I like sex,” she shouldn’t be shamed as a slut.That’s terrible. If somebody likes sex it should be like, “Okay, you like sex.”