The Atlantic

Porn Star James Deen's Crisis of Conscience

The most famous male adult film actor—and porn website proprietor—of his generation frets that his industry doesn’t protect children from exposure to hardcore content on the internet.
Source: Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

Boys who became teenagers in 1953, the year that Hugh Hefner founded Playboy, and 40 years later in 1993, when I turned 13, were exposed to pornography in much the same way. A classmate pilfered a magazine from a father’s stash or an inattentive store clerk, secreted it away from adult eyes, and shared it with his peers. Most were fascinated and titillated by their first real glimpse at a naked woman. But in hindsight, the centerfold in the first Playboy I saw wasn’t so different from the swimsuit model spreads featured once a year in Sports Illustrated. As for sex, I didn’t see my first R-rated love scene for another couple of years. And more graphic fare, like what Cinemax aired late at night, was always scrambled on our cable box.  

All that changed for subsequent generations. People raised in an era when schools banned Bart Simpson T-shirts are now parents themselves. And many will give their teens, or even pre-teens, smartphones that give them access to the entire internet. Laments of what that might mean for affected generations is a familiar, if muted, part of America’s ongoing cultural conversation. It is hardly news that many parents are worried about the forces shaping how young people today think of sexuality.

It is news that this concern is now shared by an unlikely figure: James Deen, a childless 31-year-old who happens to be the most famous male adult-film star of his generation. (Be forewarned that graphic descriptions of sex are inescapable

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