As you might imagine, a porn star takes her lingerie drawer very seriously. “This is the working lingerie desk,” says Stoya, gesturing to a vintage-looking writing desk in her Brooklyn apartment. “It’s for sets that are special for me but haven’t been shot, things I haven’t worn on-camera. They live here.” Up the staircase in her loft bedroom there is a similar setup, organized by color, style, and texture. “You should see it when I’ve had time to go through and redo it,” she says, gazing at what appear to be immaculate rows of multicolored lace and tulle and mesh. “I’ve just had a lot going on.”
Stoya’s is one of the most well-known and in-demand names, faces, and bodies in porn. She got her start during the mid-aughts alt-porn boom — when sites like Suicide Girls and its competitors marketed arguably feminist, certainly subcultural porn to the Vice generation — and soon had a contract with one of the most prominent porn studios in America. Over the past ten years, her unusual blend of sexual candor, intellectualism (she speaks with equal eloquence on Foucault and anal play), and what most people would consider an unconventional look (she’s whippet-thin, small-breasted, and very pale) has made Stoya, who turned 30 this month, a pop-cultural force.
She became even more well known when, in 2012 (according to the social-media trail), she began dating fellow porn star James Deen, who, with his sensitive good-guy image, also represented a deviation from the porn norm. In part owing to a campaign waged by Bret Easton Ellis (Deen starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the Ellis-penned, Paul Schrader-directed erotic drama The Canyons), Deen’s name was tossed around on Twitter as a possibility to play the lead in Fifty Shades of Grey. At a time when, thanks to the success of the book of the same name, the basics of BDSM were topics of mainstream conversation, Stoya and Deen became porn’s power couple. “The New York Post called them the Brangelina of porn, which fit,” recalls Amelia McDonell-Parry, former editor-in-chief of the Frisky, for whom Deen wrote a sex column. “Their relationship was highly romanticized by their fans. I mean, it was porn’s version of romantic — he would say things in the press like ‘Her asshole belongs to me’ — where it’s like, well, I wouldn’t put that on a card! But something about it really appealed to the public.” Even well after the couple ended their two-year-plus relationship and stopped filming scenes together, you’d still see heartbroken fans posting old photos of the pair and calling for a reunion.
Then, this past November, while on location in Serbia shooting her first big role in a non-pornographic film (Ederlezi Rising, a science-fiction romance in the spirit of Her), Stoya sent out two tweets accusing Deen of rape, and it became a global news story. In the weeks and months that followed, 12 other women came forward (it was later proven that several lied) with accusations of assault, abuse, or threatening behavior, and multiple porn studios cut ties with Deen (who has maintained his innocence and has not been charged with any crimes). After the tweets, Stoya attempted to go back to business as usual. But as the press requests mounted and the slut-shaming by some threatened to drown out the support of others, Stoya began to unravel. She tweeted that she was not going to attend the Adult Video News Awards and that she wished she could get out of hosting XBiz, one of porn’s biggest awards shows. She also announced that she was turning over her stake in TrenchcoatX, the progressive-porn start-up she had launched in 2015, to her co-founder, Kayden Kross. Then she began musing (again, on Twitter) about whether she even wanted to be this person known as Stoya anymore.
Stoya stands at the breakfast bar in her kitchen, lights a Parliament, and grinds beans for coffee. She has on black leggings so well worn they’re almost sheer and a thin gray tank top. A tuft of dark hair demurely pokes out from her armpit as she opens the fridge in search of dulce-de-leche-flavor Coffee-mate, her favorite. “What I’m doing right now is lying fallow, like a field, or hibernating like a bear — existing in a rest state,” she tells me of her self-imposed exile. “But also trying to figure out how much of myself as a human I am willing to risk. Do I want to keep investing my own time and effort in Stoya as the person in the world that other people put things onto? Because the weight of that could conceivably pass the limit of what I’m willing to go through with the resources I have at my command.”