Wells Tower, the famous short story author and essayist, was sent to Los Angeles to hang out with porn-star James Deen for a week for a feature in this month’s GQ. What a week it was. Wells left the experience with some truly interesting insights and reveals some unpleasant truths about the adult film industry. Mostly his essay highlights just how weird and truly terrifying the job really is.
1. Porn star parents aren’t necessarily scum.
James Deen, whose real name is Bryan Sevilla, grew up in Pasadena, California. His parents are both, after a fashion, rocket scientists. His father is a mechanical engineer for NASA. His mother does data analysis for the space agency. Deen, contrary to our notion of p*rn stars as survivors of sexual trauma, does not recall any sexual abuse or destructive misadventures, other than a teacher who Deen says tried to molest him when he was 8 or 9, but Deen “punched his testicles a lot” and made good his escape.
2. He’s in the business because he looks like a 12 year old.
It’s true—no rippling sinews are visible on James Deen’s body. There are probably 12-year-old girls who could take him in a fight. And this, Deen tells me, is partly thesecret of his success. He is not the traditional p*rno man, no overbulked squat-thruster spray-broasted from the Darque Tan booth. He is sort of wimpy-looking. With luminous blue eyes and well-structured, stubble-flocked cheekbones, he is handsome, but in an everyday, non-Hollywood way. “Not horrible to look at” is how Deen describes his appearance. “I’m like a guy a chick might actually meet in a bar.”
3. Porn sets are bizarre places.
Deen brakes his truck at the bottom of a steep gated driveway, which leads to a sprawling mansion that looks made of nougat. Its dominant interior materials are faux gilt, beveled glass, and plastic flora. The game room, which is as big as my house, contains dartboards, a pool table, and a saloon area with a neon sign reading ICE CREAM fixed above the mirrored back bar. The house’s real-life owner, one supposes, is a fabulously well-to-do 14-year-old.
Losing Kayden is the working title of today’s film. Its centerpiece is an actress by the name of Kayden Kross, a wholly winning and improbably bookish young woman who reads the short fiction of David Foster Wallace between takes. The crew is far more substantial, congenial, and pro-seeming than one expected. There’s no more ambient prurience than you’d find at an ad shoot for Windex.
4. You probably couldn’t do his job.
“I wish I got to stick my dick in some chick’s fuckin’ pussy,” one of the crew members reflects bitterly. This attitude is perhaps shared by readers at home. But it soon becomes clear why neither the cameraman nor you nor I will ever get to have our trousers off near Miss Kross.
After several frictive minutes, the action stops. The still photographer comes in and for fifteen minutes or so arranges James and Kayden into assorted tableaux, and all the while James’s gizmo stands as steadfast as the Chrysler Building. Then the action resumes, only this time it’s for a soft-core version (inside factoid: The blue movies you see on late-night cable? The actors are actually having sex), followed by another ten minutes or so of intimate strife and moanery, before they at last go back to the full and flagrant penetrative churn. Finally Robby calls, “Okay, let’s bring it home. BJ, then pop.”
5. It was his childhood dream.
Q: So when did you decide to do porn?
A: Kindergarten. I remember I was walking home one day, and I found this magazine, I don’t know, a Hustler or something, with people banging in it. I was enamored by it. I was like, I want to do this. I actually got in trouble in third or fourth grade. They were asking everybody what they wanted to be when they grew up, and I said I wanted to be a porn star. They didn’t like that. They thought I was being a dick. I was like, “I’m not being a dick, it’s just what I want to be.
5. Porn actors don’t have a normal sex life and that’s not a good thing.
Deen’s boyfriend-girlfriend-type arrangements, therefore, have generally been with other sex-industry professionals. In theory, says Deen, “when you’re in a relationship with someone in the industry, all of the jealousy and everything should fall away.” But of course, when you and your significant other are having sex with third, fourth, fifth, etc., parties for money every day, other complexities crop up. I promised Deen I would not get into the interpersonal specifics he disclosed on our many hours road-tripping together, but I will say that his relationships have been plagued by complications that have never troubled the marriage of Ann and Mitt Romney. Lately, having sex off-camera has been sort of fraught. “Personal private sex is almost too intimate now,” he says, citing a recent threesome when he was “like almost hyperemotional, because it was personal sex without any cameras.”
5. The job is highly overrated.
A nut brown young actress named Lizz Tayler scampers in. “Oh, my God, oh, my God. Is it really you? Can I see your c*ck?” Why certainly.
“Will you f*ck me like a porn star?”
After the foregoing days, any normal man would view the prospect of more tungsten-lit sex with strangers the way you might view a sixty-ounce steak after a hot-dog-eating contest. But we are beginning to learn that Deen, despite his bankable Everyman persona, is by no means a normal man. He alights from the stool with a grin.
So what happens next? Oh, some oralness, some conjugal tusslings, some other things, dear reader, that after a week mooching around on p*rnography sets I no longer find astonishing enough to set down in print. The soul is weary. The pen is weary. I am a little abashed, a little ashamed, for having described so much in the preceding paragraphs, to have made myself your Vic Lagina, your Robby D., your personal pornographer.
At this point, in answer to the query I posed at the start of our voyage, I can sincerely say that I would rather drink a mugful of live ticks than switch places with James Deen.
Go read the entire article here, it’s definitely worth a read.