Sisterhood Blog

My First (Jewish) Porno

By Emily Shire

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Porn star James Deen

Up until a month ago, I had a pretty killer personal fact to whip out during games of “Never Have I Ever.” Time after time, without fail, fingers and jaws would drop as I announced that I had never watched pornography. According to my friends, it’s fairly shocking to have reached 22 years old — in the Internet age, no less — and not once seen a single skin flick. What’s far less shocking to them is that it was a 5’8”, 145 pound, witty and curly-haired Jewish porn star that led me down the path of pornographic depravity.

James Deen, a 26-year-old Jew from Pasadena, has made a career out of having sex on camera for the past eight years. I hadn’t heard of him until I Googled the cute guy in all the photos with Lindsay Lohan on the set of “The Canyons”. When I discovered said guy was both Jewish and a porn star, a proud smile crossed my face. Jews find it oddly exciting and rewarding when they realize there’s a member of the tribe in an atypical field for our people. To put it lightly, we’re known more for producing Supreme Court justices than porn stars. By his profession alone, Deen breaks the Jewish mold … except that he also doesn’t.

Deen’s popularity with women has been attributed to the attainable and non-threatening quality of his boyish looks and slim physique. But for me, there was something familiar about his self-deprecation and sarcasm. It’s not just that his physical appearance reminds me of that hot Hebrew School teacher I had a crush on. Evident in his personal Twitter feed, blog posts and interviews are his humor, honesty and wit; they’re all the things I find irresistible — and associate with Jewish culture. He even cleverly mocks porn tropes and ethnic stereotypes, tweeting “i have decided that since i have played a doctor so many times in porno’s and because i am a jew, i now have a honorary medical degree.” So the grammar could use some work, but there’s no denying that he’s funny.

James Deen has often been referred to as the guy next door who happens to be in porn; I’d say he’s the guy you’d meet during an implausibly good evening in Murray Hill who happens to be a sex worker. After obsessively reading his blog and exhausting all PG-13 images and interviews with him, I decided I was ready to cross the bridge into XXX.

For me, porn was something foreign, taboo, even a little frightening. I don’t want to speak for the female experience of watching pornography, and I don’t want to suggest that all women like a certain kind of erotica. Because they don’t. I am admittedly “Pollyannaish,” and after accidentally flipping through “Cathouse,” I couldn’t imagine deriving any pleasure from watching pornos.

Which is why I decided to make it more of a social event and deemed my first viewing “James Deen Shabbat.” I sent emails, coordinated schedules and ran to the supermarket for hummus and pita chips (my go-to Shabbat contribution). I envisioned Friday night at Hillel meets “Sex and the City” female bonding. All my planning was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but in reality, my efforts were a way to make porn seem more familiar, not unlike the appeal of Deen himself.

Alas, my friends and I never made it through a full movie. We stopped and started a few of them that night. Usually, we lasted through one early sexual appetizer before graphic displays of bodily fluids commenced, which is when one of us would shut the laptop. I feel pretty confident speaking for my friends when I say that none of us was especially turned on. I was a little frustrated and disappointed that I wasn’t. At first, I worried that I was too prudish or immature to enjoy the scenes, but I realized that my infatuation with Deen had been just that, a fairly innocent crush rather than a gateway into some adult world of pornography.

However, while Deen didn’t exactly expand my sexual horizons, he did make me comfortable acknowledging that they at least existed. There’s something good about evoking the squeamishness and silliness you felt all those years ago when you first learned about sex. I’m not sure if I’ve ever left that phase, but porn reminds me that you can’t wholly romanticize love and sex. You may swoon over Deen’s blue eyes and wry humor, but he’s a sexual being who’s into BDSM, with which you may or may not be okay. It’s all about deciding for yourself, and porn is a good way to test your boundaries.

I don’t think I’ll organize another James Deen Shabbat, but I still read Deen’s blog religiously. I’ve accepted that I prefer him clothed and tweeting than naked and banging a MILF with too much makeup. And I’m comfortable with that.


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