Wrestler. Pornstar. Chyna.

Chyna, the former WWE wrestler, actress, reality television personality, and adult performer born Joanie Laurer in 1970, died at her Redondo Beach home last Wednesday at age 46.

chyna

Upon the 2004 release of 1 Night in China, a sex tape starring Chyna and her then partner, fellow wrestler Sean Waltman (through Red Light District), professional adult interest in seeing Chyna perform heated up until she well and truly seemed to find a new post-wrestling career path. Soon given a string of feature releases to star in – Another Night in China, Backdoor to Chyna, and Chyna is Queen of the Ring – as well as doing such a great job as She-Hulk in Axel Braun’s Avengers parodies that she got her own spin-off movie, Chyna was well and truly a porno phenomenon, shooting her way from homemade anal attempts to five-wrestler in-ring gangbang battles, earning a herself legion of devoted fans and admirers along the way.

With news coming to light that Chyna’s death may have been the result of an accidental overdose of Valium and Ambien, her noted (and televised) struggles with substances again come to the fore. Her legacy, however, will surely center on her instrumental role in increasing the stature of women in one of the most machismo-afflicted sports and entertainment industries of all.

In a tribute to Chyna, WWE assembled a video compiling some of her finest moments in the ring. May I suggest a viewing quickly followed by the entirety of Chyna is Queen of the Ring, tissues by your side for tears (or whatever) should they well up and overflow in fond memory of the one and only Chyna, the Ninth Wonder of the World.

Remembering Amber Rayne

AVN-nominated adult performer, animal lover and avid horsewoman, self-proclaimed nerd, and noted “genuine, cool person,” Amber Rayne passed away Saturday from what is being termed “a possible accident or overdose” at her home in the Stonehurst District area of Los Angeles’s Sun Valley. She was 31 and a veteran of ten years and more than 500 screen credits.

Amber Rayne

Rayne had made a brief return to the screen after retiring in 2015 to star in Stormy Daniels’s western epic, Wanted, fulfilling a promise made to Daniels six years prior. Putting her lifelong passion for horses to great use in the saddle-sore-saddled Adam & Eve production ushered Rayne to her sixteenth AVN nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actress. Having won AVN’s Unsung Starlet of the Year trophy in 2009, Rayne held an enviable position in the industry, respected and well-liked by peers and colleagues, revered by fans for her unrepentant carnality, and well-spoken, clear-minded, and mature in interviews while being lauded for partaking of 50 Guy Creampies and double-anal-fisting sessions.

Rayne’s notable contributions to numerous adult studios deserves special mention. In Jay Sin’s Anal Acrobats #4 and Bonnie Rotten’s B For Bonnie, paired with Hillary Scott and both Rotten and Vicki Chase respectively, she expanded her horizons both hetero and lesbian for Evil Angel, and in Open Ended #2 even took a baseball bat inside her ass for Jonni Darkko. Kink.com welcomed the avowedly deviant Detroiter, booking her for more than sixty scenes including a handful of incredibly powerful all-female wrestling bouts at Ultimate Surrender.

Having survived uterine cancer in 2013 but worn down by what she called “relentless” chemotherapy, Rayne’s attention shifted away from performing and became even more focused on raising her horses, her love of whom was noted by many who knew her and shared remembrances. The recent passing of her beloved Luuk, clearly had a profound effect on Rayne, as shown by her numerous Twitter declarations of grief.

Reactions to the star’s death were initially warm but soon developed a defensive side in response to some media outlets describing Rayne as “porn performer” yet ascribing her alleged rapist (and, surprisingly enough, subsequent friend) James Deen the title of “adult performer.” Fans and friends took to Twitter to ensure Amber Rayne would be remembered with respect, touting her battle with cancer, her proud role as aunt, and her devotion to equestrianism.

Rayne’s friend and collaborator, Stormy Daniels, spoke to AVN about the loss, calling her “a really good friend, and one of the best actresses and performers that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to work with her and call her a friend.”

Watch Amber Rayne discuss Wanted, retirement, saddle-sore, bondage-bruising, over-affectionate fans, porno professionalism, and the industry in general with Dick Chibbles of Adult News Flash in this January interview from the floor of the 2016 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo.

On James Deen and Company

James Deen

In the wake of accusations of sexual assault and rape leveled at the world’s most famous adult performer, James Deen, by a growing number of his female colleagues, the performer has found himself not only the newest most-hated man in porn, but persona non grata at Evil Angel and Kink.com, two companies that once championed him, for years distributing his distinct brand of rough sex to all corners of the World Wide Web, and aiding his ascension to mainstream stardom.

Numerous voices have been raised since Stoya first dropped her 55-word Twitter bombshell, accusing Deen of rape, including those of Tori Lux, Ashley Fires, Nicki Blue, Kora Peters, Lily LaBeau, and Amber Rayne very few of them with a complimentary word about to the disgraced cocksman. Although obviously reluctant to go into too many specifics, Deen’s former girlfriend Joanna Angel was arguably the most damning, not only telling reporters that she considered Deen “dead inside” and “dead to me” but also that his domineering treatment of her left Angel fearing for her life, a whimpering wounded dog of a person.

While no charges have been pressed and Deen has largely remained silent of the matter aside from an interview with The Daily Beast explaining his position to Aurora Snow, it’s been largely left to others in the industry to shed some light on how the crimes (if indeed perpetrated by Deen as alleged) were ignored, dismissed, or swept under the proverbial rug. And these other voices aren’t necessarily coming from the usual places. Retired dick-thruster Voodoo took to Twitter to point out that Deen and, really, anyone else who doesn’t know when they’re crossing someone’s personal sexual boundaries and potentially committing assault should not be in the adult entertainment industry. Period. Hard to disagree with that!

Arabelle Raphael, an underrated performer seen at Burning Angel and Kink.com, spoke to The Guardian about the controversy surrounding Deen and placed the burden on the culture of the industry itself, as well as society at large. So, an easily solved problem then? Perhaps on an individual level – Raphael heard disquieting warnings about Deen and thusly put him on her “no” list – but when victims are remaining silent of fear of dismissal, unemployment, or public ridicule, it’s no leap to look at the industry in a slightly different way. Aside from obvious measures that could be taken or improved to ensure the on-set safety of all performers, there’s also the issue of subtle coercion and manipulation that encourages those experiencing or witnessing an assault or dangerous, threatening behavior to keep their traps shut lest they destroy any chance of their burgeoning career taking off. Opening discussion of what has until now been viewed largely as an in-house problem to greater society (even if only via hashtags and soundbites) can only serve to increase the public understanding of how sex work can and does fit into the lives of those who choose it as a career path, and the responsibilities of those who consume it.

In the end, business is business, and it’s not exactly surprising that everyone from assaulted performers to immensely powerful studio owners and super-agents are out to protect their earning power and potential profits by at least partially ignoring harmful on-set behavior and conditions, but it’s at least a relief to see that rape and sexual assault is considered in porn to be bad business. With Joanna Angel and Phoenix Marie among those insisting that, even with its faults, the adult industry isn’t inherently unsafe – “I do not want the public to blame porn for anything. I think he is a bad egg. There are bad eggs in every industry.”

Perhaps if less public and media attention was being corralled onto the issue of mandatory condom use and instead towards creating a safe environment for porn workers socially and psychologically, as well as physically, one where performers with histories of abusive behavior are vetted, the groups seeking to exploit the Deen situation to hasten the shutting down or restricting of porn’s relative freedom might actually produce something that does what they always say they want to do: help victims, ensure safety.