Adult film star James Deen gave the keynote speech of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Sexual Health Fest at Sterling Hall Thursday night in an event sponsored by student organization Sex Out Loud.

Deen, who described himself as “introverted” and “socially awkward,” answered questions from the audience and a panel of Sex Out Loud members about topics ranging from his own experience learning about sex at age five to his advocacy for safer sex and condom use.

Deen entered the adult film industry when he was 18 and said he has since starred in over 4,000 pornographic films. He has also directed and produced pornography since he was 19. He said he has dreamed of being a porn star for as long as he can remember and wants to have a meaningful career, one that can “de-shame sexuality” and “push borders.”

“The world is constantly evolving, so I think that when people have open sexuality, that scares them… they see that as a bad thing,” Deen said.

People frequently refer to Deen as a “female-friendly porn star” because his films are considered more romantic or sensual than typical porn, but he said he disagrees with this description. According to him, the idea of women having their own genre is sexist.

“The notion of ‘this is porn for women’ bothers me,” Deen said. “It feels counterproductive, it feels like you’re saying, ‘It’s okay for you to have a sexuality, ladies, but only if you like this type of stuff that we’re making for women.’ And it’s very possible that women might like a different type of film. The idea that there’s something specific is isolating them as a gender and being sexist.”

Additionally, Deen said many stereotypes about the adult film industry are unfounded, such as heavy drug use among performers. He also spoke against people who shame women for participating in porn.

“If somebody wants to do porn it doesn’t mean that they’re a whore or a bad person,” Deen said. “I don’t see any reason for someone to be insulted because they make a choice to do something with their own body.”

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