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Adult expo scraps seminar on consensual rights of porn stars

It isn’t often that the producers of the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo back away from controversy.

The adult industry, which wrapped up its four-day trade show with its awards presentations for pornographic films on Saturday, prides itself on being on the cutting edge of technology and leaders in advocacy positions involving the sex trade.

But earlier this month, show promoters abruptly canceled a planned seminar on the consent rights of porn stars titled, “Consent Degrees: Yes, No and Everything in Between.”

The panel was scheduled as a discussion of an actor’s right to say no to certain sex acts and the pressures faced by young, new-to-the-industry performers to do things with which they’d be uncomfortable. Panelists were expected to explore some of the cloudy boundaries between filming a rough fantasy and rape.

The event was scratched from the agenda before the show opened, but promotional materials and the AVN website promoted the panel up until Friday.

Participants in the show have mixed feelings about the cancellation, some viewing it as a missed opportunity to cast light on an industry problem while others see the issue as more of a societal issue that could have been unfairly linked strictly to the porn industry.

“I don’t know if this forum is the right and perfect place to air this,” said Brian Gross, president of California-based BSG Public Relations, one of the publicists who organized this year’s show. “But it’s an issue that needs to be addressed appropriately and immediately.”

The reason the consent issue is dead center within the porn industry is that one of its brightest stars, Bryan Sevilla — who uses the stage name James Deen — was accused in November of raping one of his co-stars, an actress whose stage name is Stoya.

The actress made the accusations on social media.

Sevilla called the allegations “false,” “egregious” and “defamatory,” and he’s never been charged. Industry watchers are calling it a case that closely parallels the troubles of actor Bill Cosby.

Sevilla could not be reached for further comment.

Gross said Stoya was the only panelist who confirmed participation on the panel and earlier in January, she canceled. With no one available as replacements, he said the show was forced to cancel the panel.

Gross said after Stoya made her allegations, the industry waited to hear both sides of the story and Sevilla, who developed an industry following with his fresh boy-next-door look, had followers who believed he had done nothing wrong.

But within weeks, more actresses made similar claims about Sevilla and today, the actor who was one of the biggest hits of the 2015 AVN show is sitting on the sidelines and is having trouble getting work.

John Stagliano, founder and owner of the Evil Angel pornographic film studio, is one of Sevilla’s detractors, calling him “a dishonest abuser.”

“He always treated me with respect,” Stagliano said. “But he treated other employees badly. I’m glad that the truth is finally coming out. ‘No’ didn’t mean no to him.”

Actress Farrah Abraham, who appeared in the “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” reality television shows, said she viewed the panel’s cancellation as a missed opportunity to air the issue.

Educating people about consent and bringing abusers to justice is important to make the workplace safer and more fun, said Abraham, who appeared in a sex tape with Sevilla that was released in 2013.

She said she believed industry workers should be screened to look for signs of potential abuse.

The cancellation of the panel didn’t put a damper on the show, which was projecting attendance of 25,000 over its four-day run.

The AVN Adult Industry Expo is a rare trade show in that it opens its floors to the general public. Members of the public paid at least $80 for single-day passes to get access to actors, actresses and film executives.

Gross said 600 actresses and between 50 and 100 actors were on hand to sign autographs and pose for pictures during the show.

Also on hand were technologists who have helped the adult industry take the lead in content delivery, a factor that hasn’t been ignored by mainstream film companies.

Gross said today mainstream companies have caught up with the adult industry in technological advancements.

The AVN show is also growing, getting closer to its glory days when it was a sideshow of CES. The two shows parted ways in the late 1990s, resulting in attendance plummeting without the curious CES delegates getting a peek at what was going on in the “other” trade show hall.

Now, AVN is growing again, having found a new home at the Hard Rock, which has played host to the show over the last few years. Most of the trade show was set up in the property’s convention area and at The Joint entertainment venue.

AVN officials are hoping an expansion of hotel amenities will translate into bigger shows in the future.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. 

 

 

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