James Deen is being paid to indulge in life's greatest carnal pleasures—food and sex. On his cooking show, James Deen Loves Food, he grins widely and cracks goofy jokes while making Sriracha doughnuts and eating burritos. He’s also a 28-year-old porn star who’s managed to penetrate pop culture with his approachable handsomeness and, yes, his role alongside Lindsay Lohan in Brett Easton Ellis’ The Canyons. Deen also happens to date a very well-known star in the adult industry, Stoya, a delicate beauty that is the opposite of who you’d envision a porn star dating, let alone being a porn star herself.
But long before Deen’s boyish visage appeared on celluloid, he’d been on the radar of women everywhere. In an industry ostensibly driven by male desires, Deen’s scenes have a discernible tenderness that appeals to women on a visceral level. He makes prolonged eye contact, kisses them often, and gives enthusiastic oral sex. He makes porn feel intimate, a trait that translates—even while he’s choking his scene mate and whispering unsavory things into her ear. But, if Deen brings a certain humanity to his many S&M scenes, it’s not by design. His very democratic view of sex can be boiled down to seven words: to each, his or her own... kink.
Deen spoke to us about his cooking show, what it's like to have sex with his fans, and even sexual politics. Want pornography to do better? Don't stress—Deen has some ideas on how to make it happen.
Let’s talk about JamesDeenLovesFood.com. How did you go from porn to food videos and cooking?
I’ve always loved food. When I was a kid, I went to a guidance counselor and we were talking about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said that I want to eat, sleep, watch TV, and have sex. So, one of her recommendations was to be a food critic. I said, well I don’t like to write, I like to eat. So, that was the the whole point of contention. I don’t wanna be a critic, I wanna just eat. At this point of my life, I’ve managed to turn everything that I enjoy doing as a hobby into a profession.
I was trying to imagine what a porn-loving foodie looks like, and I had no idea. Who are you appealing to?
Me! I’m literally doing it for myself. I think it’s funny to make the world’s most expensive burrito and or do a deep fried turducken dog. I make videos for me to look at and laugh.
So earlier this year, a guy boned a hot pocket. Have you ever put your penis in any food items?
I have not. Just no. One time I was driving and I had a bottle of tea that I was drinking, and I almost got in a car accident and I freaked out. Not because I could have died, but I would have been wet and sticky. I don’t wanna be wet and sticky.
So you haven't done any 9 ½ Weeks-style scenes involving food in sex?
Actually, I played the Mickey Rourke character in a 9 ½ Weeks porn parody and we had to do that scene. We recreated that one and it was l fine because luckily it’s mainly Kim Bassinger’s character who’s getting gross with food, not Mickey Rourke. So I had the luxury of just smearing food on the lady’s face.
What’s your favorite thing that you’ve cooked on James Deen Loves Food?
The world’s most expensive burrito was really fun.
When I was a kid, I went to a guidance counselor and we were talking about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said that I want to eat, sleep, watch TV, and have sex.
On the show, didn’t you say that it was disgusting?
It was really good once you took the caviar out of it. We made the first one where I put the whole jar of beluga caviar in it and it was really strong, so that was a little much. But once we took that out, we just had the lobster and steak, and it was delicious.
Does food and the experience of eating share any similarities with sex in your mind? I know this sounds like a set up for a Lil Wayne sort of pun here.
Yeah, I could see them having things in common. Definitely in America. I’d imagine if you’re starving in Africa and you get a bowl of rice, just eating the rice is pretty awesome. But in America, we have this decadence and ability to utilize food for the pleasurable aspects as opposed to just the basic life necessity aspects of it.
What do you think is the sexiest thing a guy could cook for a woman?
I cook, but I don’t really cook like in a sexy way. I kinda get hungry and I make tacos.
Tacos can be sexy. Don’t discriminate.
I’m not discriminating against tacos. It’s not really a matter of what the dish is; if someone’s cooking for me, I don’t really care what they’re cooking. It’s more the gesture.
Aside from baking donuts for your readers, you also offer them the chance to have sex with you.
Oh yeah, on JamesDeen.com [Ed. Note: Definitely not safe for work—at all] we do that.
How is having sex with a fan different from having sex with colleagues who are professionals?
There’s a whole process to it. I have a model coordinator. It’s not just like, “Hey, come over to my house and fuck me.” I get 150 new applications and out of the 150, 50-75 are like, “Take my virginity!” or “Can we do a scene with no camera?” or “How much does it cost for him to just come over and fuck me?” Those don’t even get responded to; those just get deleted.
After that, there’s like 75-100 legitimate emails and they get categorized by location and different physical aesthetics. If there’s an older lady movie in California, I can go, "Here’s the California women between the ages of 35-50, we’re gonna contact them." Out of those responses there’s 25, maybe 50 people that respond. Usually once they get the email saying, “Hey, if you’re actually interested, let’s talk about setting it up,” they back out and say, “Hold on, I don’t know if I really want to do this.”
There’s correspondence back and forth talking about all the things to think about: your parents, your future, or if you want to be a politician, a school teacher, or have any sort of public persona. We live in an advanced society of sexual acceptance, but we’re still pretty fucking repressed. Chase Bank will shut down your bank account.
So you really want them to enter into a scene with a lot of awareness of what the situation entails and the possible repercussions?
Exactly. So, now that 25 is down to like five, [there are] safety and regulation standards and practices. You need to be tested within a two-week time period. We go over all of these things, but it’s said again because there’s no reason to not hear it more than once.
Out of those five that get tested, maybe there’s three that actually come through and that’s where I step in. I’m like “Hey what’s up, I heard that you want to shoot a scene. When do you wanna shoot? Where do you wanna shoot? What do you wanna shoot? And we start talking about it and then we make sure that each scene is kind of a collaboration between me and the other performer. It’s not so much like “Hey, come over my house and suck my dick.” It’s more like, “Do you want me to come over to you and we can go get coffee and we can talk and just film us getting to know each other and see if we end up having sex? Do you want me to hire a crew and have a big to-do about this or do you just wanna come over to my house and suck my dick?”
Is it about fulfilling their fantasy versus doing something that you have specifically in mind for a scene?
The best way that these have been described has been by one of my editors. She called them dogma films, which I guess is a format from a director in the ‘70s who made these art films where he basically turned the camera on and let the world happen in front of the camera. That’s what I try to do with these. I try to let the everyone just try to be themselves, not really put any rules and requirements into the scene and just let it happen. I’ve had them before where we’ve been hanging out and talking and the girl’s like, “Yeah, I’ve never fucked two guys at the same time. Can we can do that?” So, I’ll call up a friend and all of the sudden there’s another male performer of their choosing showing up and it’s now a threesome. On one hand I try to let everything just happen; on the other hand, I do really wanna make sure that whatever it is that performer wants to have happen, happens.
It kind of sounds like you’re running some type of Make-A-Wish Foundation.
[Laughs.] I wouldn’t say all that. Porn is fun and awesome and can be a very great experience and I try to make sure that happens.
In terms of the actual sex, is it exciting to have sex with someone who’s an amateur who probably hasn’t done some of the things that you have before?
Most people haven’t done a lot of the things that I have done, so it’s basically the same as having sex with most people.
I read your Reddit and I saw all of the guys seemed in awe of you. It seems men are exalted for doing porn, while women face a lot of scrutiny and are often scorned. Why do you think that dichotomy exists and how do you think that the porn industry can overcome it?
It’s more of a societal double standard than an adult film double standard. I don’t think that the adult film industry actually does anything to perpetuate that or support it. There are a couple companies nowadays that are not run very ethically and they’re perpetuating that adult films are crap and people aren’t worth anything. I feel like we got to a really good place a few years ago and now it’s evolved to people going from, “Wow, this is so cool” and being comfortable with saying, “I’m a big fan of yours” to turning into, “Yeah, I’d fuck her if it was cheap enough” and fucked up shit like that. And it’s really just because of one big, specific company that owns half the industry.
No naming names?
Their name changes every like 40 days. It’s always a great sign when a company changes its name regularly. Totally a check mark in the ethical and good business practices book.
Yeah, that’s not sketchy at all...
That’s the downfall of the adult film industry at the moment. If there’s a scene I have with a lady on JamesDeen.com and we’re talking about what’s making her apprehensive about doing the scene, she talks about how there’s slut-shaming and this double standard. If you’re a dude, you’re awesome. Women still have these negative connotations to being sexually explorative. But when dudes are hoebags, it’s like, yeah, you fucking love chicks. But when girls are hoebags, it’s like, you’re a fucking hoebag. And, there’s nothing wrong with being a hoebag.
But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not like, “Hey, baby you’re there, you can vote.” Women just became people. Black people just became people. There’s been advancement but by no means is the struggle over.
I don’t get off on degrading people unless they’re interested in being degraded.
Feminist porn has been getting a lot of ink lately. What are your thoughts on the genre?
That’s the stupidest, most ridiculous, asinine, insulting, and in my opinion, counterproductive concept ever because what it does is it specifically segregates a movement, that as far as I understand, is based on equality. Porn for women, feminist porn—porn is porn. A scene of a man and a woman having sex is not made for men, it is not made for a woman, it is not made for feminists, it is not made for transwomen, transmen, queers, or anyone. It is just porn.
You don’t think a director has an intended audience in mind?
I don’t think a good director does, no. A good director acknowledges the fact that sexuality is an individual experience, an individual taste, and being able to cater to a specific audience is going to create bad product. I create stuff for myself and I hope there is enough people with a similar sensual taste that will support or find something interesting about my product. Categorizing things is counterproductive.
So you're saying there's no real difference in what men and women are looking for when they watch porn?
That’s not necessarily what I was saying. A lot of times I’ve been on sets where they are making porn for “women” and the most misogynistic dude is the one who’s directing it. When people talk about "feminist porn” and porn for men, porn for couples, porn for this—most of the time the actual director has no interest in what they are actually shooting. There are some that do cater to their audience. One of the greatest female directors of all time directs movies called Slut Woman. Then there’s bound gangbangs at Kink and that’s directed by a fantastic female director. Or, if you looked up any of Bella Donna’s product. I consider that feminist porn because it’s made for that specific woman who is shooting what they wanna see. That, hands down, is porn for a woman. Not necessarily all women, but a woman.
So, a female director making porn they’re interested in is feminist porn, in your opinion?
Yes. I would consider that way more feminist porn than your status quo of feminist porn. There’s plenty of women who wanna see the very pretty, soft, X-Art style stuff. And there’s plenty of women that wanna see the crazy gangbang, or the BDSM, or the hardcore bondage stuff, just like there are plenty of men like that. Different women are gonna like different things. Everybody is an individual and should be treated and thought of as such, in my opinion.
I think most women’s discomfort with porn stems from the assumption that the woman on screen is being degraded. But I don’t get the sense that’s what’s going on in your films. It seems like you’ve made a particular effort to be depict healthy, consensual sex and to make porn feel less “icky,” for lack of a better word.
I am happy that it translates, but there’s absolutely no conscious desire or goal to do that. Like, on my site, I’m working on setting up categories, but I kinda don’t want to. I think it’s really gross and I’m debating on what to do with it. One of the reasons I don’t have a BBW or an interracial category is because I just don’t see a point.
Because it seems unnatural to categorize a person’s kinks or inclinations generally?
Yeah, exactly. And as far as creating a non-degrading type of scene, I don’t get off on degrading people unless they’re interested in being degraded.
And to clarify, when you say degraded, you mean a woman who wants to be degraded, like a fetish.
Yeah, a consensual, mutual, sexual act. If a woman is like, "I really love when I get held down and told that I’m a disgusting fuck pig and made piggy noises while being pissed on and then walked around in the street covered in piss making a piggy noise naked with something in my ass while everyone points and laughs at me a throws garbage at me"—if that’s something that a woman enjoys, then that’s an activity I wanna participate in. You don’t do sex to someone, you have sex with someone. I think because that is how I have sex, it translates because that’s what it actually is. It’s not fake.
So, along the lines of you saying that you do what your partner wants and their pleasure informs the sex...how often do women you have sex with on screen actually orgasm? Is that a priority to you?
Well, I would hope a lot. [Laughs.] I obviously want the person I’m having sex with to feel good and I believe that the best scenes are when you have two people that are really into each other and making each other feel really good and really enjoying each other’s bodies. So, yes, it is a priority. But as far as the entertainment aspect of it, you have to remember that more importantly than anything, the sex that two people have on camera isn’t necessarily for each other. The viewer is also there. We’re having sex in an entertaining fashion for the folks at home.
By virtue of having a ton of sex, you’re something of an expert. What should we all be doing to have better sex?
Communicate. Remember the whole thing I said about sex with people instead of to people? Do that. Make sure you are communicating with your partner. Not everybody enjoys having sex the same way. Just because you did it to your ex or to this one person that you took home drunk from the bar and they told you they liked a certain thing, doesn’t mean that the person you are currently having sex with likes that. People change over time, and sometimes they’re into really intense, crazy, rough sex and sometimes they’re not. Pay attention, and try to not just have sex on top of them, but have sex with them.
So, let’s talk about your new series, Seven Sins. It kinda has an Eyes Wide Shut feel. I like how dark they are.
Thank you. They’re definitely on the creepier side, definitely a little more dark, and there’s a lot of, like twisted, fucked up, things that happened in them them. I have done Greed, Gluttony, Pride, Envy, Sloth, and Lust, and then Wrath I’m gonna hopefully be shooting this month. I wanted to shoot a scene where I put women in masks of my own face and they gangbang a girl using the mold of my penis. Then I came in and I have sex with all of them. In the scene for Gluttony, there’s this food fight orgy with the camera rotating around this orgy, the 360 degree the entire time; it worked really well.
How is this project different from other things you’ve done?
I focused a lot on making sure to not compromise “art” for financial reasons. I don’t think there’s many people in adult films these days that are just creating movies because they want to create them. There’s a lot of people doing what sells, so you have like these companies that are like, “Oh, we have to shoot five big tit scenes where MILFs are fucking paper boys” or something like that. There’s a lot of formula. And none of these movies are like that. Envy is the closest one to something that is actually a porno. Envy is Snow White, but with anal sex.
If Bret Easton Ellis called me again and said, 'Hey, I’m working on this new project and it’s amazing, here’s the script'...I would do it in a heartbeat.
Wow, that’s a tagline. In terms of talking about you as an artist, do you have any plans to do any mainstream films again? Or was The Canyons just a one-time thing?
I’m down to do more. I’ve gotten a lot of really horrible scripts. I don’t want to do bad shit. I really like acting. I’m not trying to be famous. I would love to do more, but I don’t have an agent. I don’t have a manager. I don’t even know how to start doing that shit.
But if a good script ended up in your inbox, you wouldn’t be against it?
Absolutely. If Bret Easton Ellis called me again and said, “Hey, I’m working on this new project and it’s amazing, here’s the script” or if Paul Schrader called me, I would do it in a heartbeat. I just don’t think most people are going to be looking to hire a porn guy. I saw The Canyons and I didn’t think I did that great in it. I thought I did OK.
What’s your ultimate ambition for your career? What’s your end game?
I want to be able to provide a place where people can comfortably expand their sexual horizons and have intellectual debates about things like feminist porn and why is it good or not good. To be able to actually create some sort of statistics on what does make feminist porn. Because, who knows, it’s possible that the majority of women are into nothing but like furious anal stretching, but there’s no way to actually discern this is because there’s no data on it. I would love to actually be able to have a real environment where I could distribute good quality adult content, whether I think it’s hot or not, where the masses could come and actually be able to really learn a thing or two.
So, that’s what porn should be aspiring to? A learning experience?
That’s what I’m aspiring to. Porn should be aspiring to whatever the individual director wants it to be. If the director wants to shoot girls getting jerked off on, than that’s what that porn should be. And if somebody, like me, has a grandiose idea of being able to push these boundaries of sexual acceptance and they way the world views human sexuality, so it’s not such a “in the closet” scary thing, then that’s what I should be working on which…baby steps.
Shanté Cosme is a deputy editor at Complex. She tweets here.