Porn King: the rise and fall of Ron Jeremy review – a terrifying tale of rape accusations in the sex industry | Television

For all the second-wave feminism I read at university, nothing brought the systemic disadvantage to women and the embedded power structures of the patriarchy home to me like my first sight of Ron Jeremy.

This would have been in the late 80s, the beginning of the porn star’s heyday, and he already looked revolting. That was kind of the point of him, I understood. He was there so that every man, no matter how unprepossessing, could inch his erection a little closer to the dream of being able to shag all the desirable women that came into his orbit. He was there to assure them all that there was no standard too low.

The two-part Channel 4 documentary Porn King: The Rise and Fall of Ron Jeremy gives a voice to some of the women who have been the subject of his attentions, on and off set, including some of those whom – according to their vivid testimony – he raped. Jeremy is in jail awaiting, if found medically competent by experts, trial on 34 charges. They include 12 of rape, including of a 15-year-old girl in 2004, forcible oral sex, penetration with a foreign object and sodomy, the last allegedly taking place in 2020. Jeremy denies the charges.

The documentary follows the distressing, depressing pattern that has become familiar to us through the likes of Surviving R Kelly, Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story, innumerable programmes about Jeffrey Epstein and most of Netflix’s true-crime output. A predatory man uses his charm/wealth/power/a combination thereof to abuse the women around him, either ignored or enabled by those in his employ, or otherwise benefiting from his position. He goes unchallenged for decades while the women look for the safety to speak up, and then must fight to be heard and taken seriously. The problems women face in such situations are, of course, multiplied immeasurably when they are women in the porn industry. The idea that if somebody consents to sex once, she has effectively consented to it for ever and with anyone dies particularly hard when the woman has sex for a living. It doesn’t hold up under the slightest scrutiny, but even the slightest scrutiny of endemic prejudice is always in short supply.

The former adult film star Ginger Lynn says Jeremy raped her in 1983, after she and her then boyfriend refused to let him join in a sex scene they had been filming earlier that day. The next day, on her 21st birthday, he was used as a last-minute substitute for another sex scene with her, although he had always been on her “‘No’ list”. “I didn’t want to fuck Ron – he was old, hairy, smelly,” she remembers. “And he thought he was funny.”

Bristol-born and bred Lianne Young moved to the US in her early 20s at the turn of the millennium to work in the porn industry. “I knew I would never do a scene with Ron Jeremy,” she says. “The man is grotesque.” She describes chatting to people at an industry party when he came up behind her, pushed her over a table and shoved his penis inside her. It all took about four or five seconds. He has lived, she says, rent-free in her head ever since. The silence of the onlookers remains deafening.

There are accounts of other assaults too. The podcaster Siouxsie Q describes a particularly violent one from which she escaped with bloodied underwear after he suggested they go somewhere quieter for an interview she had asked for.

His defenders, including unsettlingly vulpine “porn pastor” Craig Gross, adduce mitigating evidence. There are “blurred lines” in an industry where touching and being touched by the fans you meet is expected. There are the years of adulation clouding Jeremy’s judgment. Or they simply insist that the “goofball” they know just isn’t capable of any untoward behaviour.

Several of them query why Lynn worked with Jeremy on more than one occasion after the alleged rape. She “did a dumb thing” when “trying to get closure”, she says – an impulse that anyone who has tried desperately to normalise a terrible thing will recognise.

The documentary gives fair time and weight to each side and leaves it up to the viewer to decide which they find the more convincing. The women who are part of the case against him oscillate between rage and weariness. Rage of a different sort bubbles away underneath most of the interviews with the others – occasionally, as with the pastor when he snarls “Let me fucking finish talking” at the interviewer, breaking the surface.

Depressing and distressing, yes. But terrifying, too. And on we go.

Leave a Comment