In June of 2017, a woman named Ginger Banks posted a YouTube video asserting that well-known adult film performer Ron Jeremy was known to have committed multiple acts of sexual assault against a number of women. In November of that year, EJ Dickson published a piece in Rolling Stone Magazine that recounted numerous other rumors and allegations against Jeremy. In that article adult performer Jessica Drake alleged that, while she herself was never assaulted by him, it was widely whispered that Jeremy was a sexual predator and that, because of his legendary everyman status, his predation was widely tolerated by adult film producers.
In June of this year, Charity Larson-Hawke went to the Los Angeles police and alleged that Jeremy attempted to rape her a few weeks earlier.
On June 26, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office indicted Jeremy on three counts of forcible rape and one count of forcible oral sexual battery. Since that date, Jeremy has been held in the Los Angeles County Jail apparently unable to post the $6.6 million bond that would be required for his release.
And in recent months, prosecutors have added numerous other charges against Jeremy, and by the time of this past Monday’s hearing in Jeremy’s case, he found himself charged with 35 counts of various sexual offences by 23 alleged victims including 11 counts of forcible rape. The age range of Jeremy’s accusers is 15 to 54 years old, and, if he is convicted on all counts, he faces a sentence of 330 years to life in prison.
Last month, we published a piece by Chasey Ridgley looking at the sexual assault charges against actor Danny Masterson in the context of the recent phenomenon of journalists, attorneys, advocates and victims shining a spotlight on how powerful corporations, universities, religious organizations, political parties and other institutions have protected powerful men from credible accusations of sexual assault. Chasey’s piece examined the challenges to victims and law enforcement as they seek to pursue civil and criminal action against the protected alleged perpetrators. The adult film industry, for all of its efforts to empower female performers, appears to be as susceptible to this phenomenon as any other industry.
And, in the recent highly contentious race for Los Angeles District Attorney, one of the few areas on which incumbent Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascon appeared to agree was on the aggressive pursuit of charges against perpetrators of sexual assault.
I was on Court TV this week, discussing the Jeremy case, as I have in the past appeared there to discuss the Masterson case. And as I prepared for this week’s appearance, I found myself thinking about the complex perspective that Ayelet Waldman offered to Amanda Knox in reflecting on why she wrote the essay: Should I Help Incarcerate the Man Who Tried to Sexually Assault Me? Waldaman captured the essence of her view on these matters as follows:
My goal in writing that piece was to help illuminate the complexity of police, reimagining the police in the context of what is the most frightening to women. There’s this notion that somehow we need the police to protect us from sexual assault, particularly to white women, and I wanted to dig into the idea that somehow the police are a bulwark against the threat of sexual assault for women. I knew even before I started writing that there were going to be Trump talking points and ads that were going to try to prey on white women’s fears of sexual assault, and on urban legends of sexual assault by black men. And I really wanted to interrogate that and talk about why we need to reimagine community safety, not despite the ubiquity of sexual assault, but because of it.
Waldman offers some profound and hard-won wisdom here. And yet, I believe it is possible to acknowledge the deep insight of Waldman’s perspective and also assert that there will remain a tension between the restorative ideal that she espouses and the punitive impulse of carceral feminism so long as powerful institutions protect men who are unrepentant sexual predators.