Last week, several women accused a well-known man of raping them, including an ex-girlfriend and former co-workers. Witnesses to some of these assaults stepped forward and confirmed the accounts. Some of the assaults may even have been captured on camera. Yet many questioned whether these women could even be raped. Why? Because all of the accusers and the alleged perpetrator are adult film stars, leading many to conclude that these women could not have been raped. The accused is well known porn star James Deen, a man many have lauded as a feminist, and the victims are all adult film actress. While the adult film industry has been swift to cut ties with Deen, some have questioned whether someone who has sex for money could even be raped. The answer is simple: yes.
We won’t get into the details of the assaults, or the issue of whether this type of work exploits women. Instead, we will focus on the claim that a sex worker cannot be raped. This is patently false. A person does not give up their right to bodily autonomy by having sex for money. This applies to porn stars, prostitutes, and anyone else engaged in any form of sex work (legal or otherwise). That person is still a person, and still has every right to say no to any type sexual contact. No still means no. When someone questions whether a sex worker can be raped, they are taking away their fundamental humanity and viewing them simply as a product or a business. And as with all forms of victim blaming, claims like these make it harder for victims to report their assault, allowing alleged serial predators like Deen to continue to assault others.
Consent is the most fundamental, basic requirement of any sexual encounter. Every person has the right to say no, regardless of how many partners they have had in the past, whether they have had sex with this person before, or what they do for a living. No matter what our personal opinions are on pornography, these women have said that they were sexually assaulted. We must believe victims. It’s as simple as that.
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