In our exclusive, Jaxton Wheeler issues his statement on the death of August Ames and categorically refutes the claims he caused her suicide.
Last Sunday, December 3, August Ames, born Mercedes Grabowski, posted the tweet below.
The backlash was immediate and quickly escalated. Some defended her while many crossover, gay and straight performers, and the gay community painted her as ill-informed and homophobic for amplifying the outdated belief that gay and bisexual men are threats to public health and safety. This also exposed the ugly fissure that this same prejudice still looms within the adult industry at large.
August Ames had been scheduled to do a shoot with a crossover model. She informed the studio she would not film the scene unless the model was replaced. Rather than the other model, they replaced Ames. That was the original impetus behind her tweet.
On Wednesday, December 6, the news that August Ames was dead at the age of 23 was published in mainstream and adult publications around the globe. Many of them made an immediate correlation between her death and the “homophobia scandal” immediately preceding it. Then we learned how she died, “asphyxia due to hanging, Sierra Plush of Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office told AVN.”
Many contrarian voices had taken August Ames to task immediately after her tweet including crossover performer Jaxton Wheeler. Following the news of her death, many supporters of August Ames and news outlets as well laid the blame squarely on Wheeler’s tweet.
In an exclusive to The Sword, Jaxton Wheeler has issued his statement of the passing of August Ames, explored why he became engaged in the first place, and how his own life has been profoundly impacted by her death.
Statement from Jaxton Wheeler on August Ames’ Death:
I am saddened a fellow model is gone. My intention was to bring about a conversation about the stigmas and issues talent like myself deal with every day. I acknowledge that I responded with emotions and an unfortunate choice of words. None of my aggression was directed at August nor her ability to consent to who she decides to work with. My issue was with the misinformation that exists within the adult industry on crossover talent. There is a false presumption about the heightened risk & the quality of testing standards for crossover talent. As a professional adult performer, I go through the same rigorous, regular testing all talent does.
As a matter of public record, my comment was posted after August had chosen to take her life. I am disappointed my comments have been used to distract from my original issues and devastated they have inappropriately been attributed as the reason August chose to take her life.
My heart goes out to her friends and loved ones, and to all affected by this. Hopefully, this allows us to reflect on the choices we make on social media. It may be anonymous, but real harm can be done.
I am pleading with people on both sides to put to an end to the verbal abuse and threats made so freely every day, and in particular, those directed at me right now. This serves neither her memory or any of others we have lost this year.
I will continue to work for the rights and ethical treatment of crossover models, and I am hoping to end the unfair stigma attached to our entire industry.
The Sword: Initially, what triggered your tweet was that you felt she was spreading false information about the general health of gay and crossover performers?
Jaxton Wheeler: Exactly. All adult professionals have the same screening and testing protocols. As a performer, she knew that, but she put it out there to her half-million Twitter followers who didn’t. Now they believed it. It struck a huge nerve. What she was saying about gay men was equivalent to the “dirty skanks” and “diseased hoes” female performers are often called.
If her decision is not to work with crossover performers, that is her decision. However, it is not OK to spread false information about us on social media or anywhere. There’s plenty of stigma to go around about anything adult without us adding to it.
Once she said she was not homophobic and spoke of her own attraction other girls, why did that enrage you even more?
I wasn’t digging into that thread initially, then I saw how things had gotten so off track. I was talking about the stigma against gay and crossover performers within our own industry. I was trying to get a conversation going where we could address that once and for all. I also wanted to her correct the record and it seemed to me she dug in deeper instead.
The same way you don’t have to be racist to say some racist shit, same for being homophobic. But you learn, you evolve, and apologize, and move on. I just wanted her to correct or delete her tweet.
It’s been reported that August struggled with bipolar disorder and had a history of depression. The backlash she received on social media for her tweet rose to a level some are characterizing as cyberbullying. It did affect her deeply. But, do you feel people are overlooking all of that and rather are blaming you?
There are not the words to explain what a loss her death is. However, the idea that I played any role in her decision is erroneous, as is the idea I demanded her death. What is not well known is that her agency dropped her in response to her original tweet. I am sure the flack on Twitter was depressing, but I think being dropped by the number one adult agency had a much bigger impact on her life than a bunch of angry gay guys from Twitter thinking she’s a homophobe.
The country is having a national conversation right now about sexual harassment. Do you think it made people feel more comfortable and virulent about calling you out?
Absolutely. Before they knew she had hung herself and didn’t take a cyanide pill, both our tweets were posted, and I was blamed as the de facto cause. I do understand everyone wants a villain to hang in the public square for the tragic death of this sweet, beautiful girl. While she is indeed the victim here, I am not the villain.
What kind of backlash have you received?
It’s been overwhelming, and not just online. Newsweek ran a story and put me as the sole bad guy right in the headline. Newsweek! I have received so many threats of death and violence I had to call the FBI – the fucking FBI. My mother’s and my son’s personal information has been doxed. I had two gay shoots set up for next week and I was fired from them. I was also fired from Evil Angel, but that is expected as August also worked for them. Like I said, she is the victim here, but it doesn’t mean that I too haven’t been victimized.
To her husband, friends, family, and those who hold you personally responsible, what would you like to say to them?
I am devastated by the news. This happens far too often in our industry. I have my own battles of depression, but the idea of any harm, or anyone harming themselves, never ever crossed my brain. My focus was her original tweet and getting that corrected.
Look at Alexander Gustavo. I found him in my bed with his half his head blown off. I called 911. I told his fiancée. Suicide has more than just casually touched my life. I don’t want it to touch anyone else’s ever.
Given that, what did you mean when you said, “take a cyanide pill?”
To me, it was a forceful way to say, “suck a bag of dicks.” I regret expressing it that way. That will haunt me the rest of my life, but it was never, ever, in any way meant to be an actual course of action.
Jaxton, thank you for your time. What do you want people to take away from this?
That August Ames taking her own life is a tragedy, an epic tragedy for all who knew her. I am part of her story, but I am not the reason for her death.
It does make me also realize that while social media has eliminated the walls that used to separate performers not just from the public, but also from each other. Its anonymity allows everyone to say things they would not be said otherwise. Whenever that is the case, that means it should not have been said in the first place, especially when we have so many other important things to be talking about.