Creating Ethical Porn in an Unethical Industry – The Problem with Porn Today and How It’s Changing

If you’ve ever been curious about the way porn is made, Rashida Jones’s Hot Girls Wanted documentaries are an essential watch. They delve into the porn industry to discover the lack of safeguards in place to protect actors from exploitation: it’s a male-dominated industry, with men taking the roles as agents, directors, and production company CEOs. Women are most frequently placed in roles as performers alongside (you guessed it) more men. However, their point isn’t to slander pornography. Jones looks into how erotic film director Erika Lust creates a more ethical, female-driven working environment, and how she aims to change the approach to making adult films through her production company, Lust Cinema. Porn performers interviewed in the documentaries voice their discomfort with the demeaning content of the films they’re pushed to produce – particularly so the frequency of requests for images that depict sexual violence. The need for change is made obvious by Jones, but the first step in creating this change is the hardest: getting porn consumers to be more ethically conscious of what they wank to.

First thing to do to achieve this: ruin free porn sites for everyone by talking endlessly about the layers of dubiousness littering their pages.

hot girls wanted rashida jone unethical porn exploitation

To start, go on any popular porn tube site right now – for purposes of simplicity, I’m going to refer to PornHub. Go onto the categories page and browse the names of the genres: lesbian, gay, babysitter, toys, parody, Asian, Ebony, Arab, Latina, Interracial. You get the idea, so that’s enough of that; now click the red ‘X’ button in the top left corner of the screen. Do it. Click it. We’re done there now. Stop it.

Those last five categories – what did you notice? No points for guessing correctly (sorry) that they’re all racialised. What do you get with racialised porn categories? Again, no points for the correct answer (this isn’t University Challenge) of racial stereotypes within porn. Typical examples: in Asian porn, the women are typically portrayed as docile; in Ebony, there’s a ‘animalistic’ representation of sex; in Arab, you get women having sex in hijabs; with Latina, you have fiery women being humiliated; in Interracial porn, they play off the ‘taboo’ of sex between a dominant black man and a submissive white woman. This, of course, isn’t an exhaustive list of racial fetishisation found within porn. What’s the issue with it, though?

hot girls wanted turned on racial porn fetishisation

Having these stereotypes portrayed in porn worsens the issue of racial discrimination through objectifying people of colour, whilst at the same time making money off of them. It’s a huge middle finger to minority groups who have spent so of history fighting to be seen as equal.

Rashida Jones talks to actors in the industry performing interracial scenes in her documentary series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On. In the episode “Money Shot”, African American adult performer Tyler Knight explains his issues with the genre:

“We literally get reduced to our lowest common denominator, to appear the lowest common denominator. ‘I want to see a ripped black guy with, y’know, an innocent little cheerleader.’ Porn is the last bastion of American industry where it is okay to not be hired for something specifically because of your race or your outward appearance”.

The episode also focuses on a white female actress, Kylie Quinn, and another black male actor, Jaxx Slayher, filming an interracial scene. They express their discomfort with the racial stereotypes – Quinn expresses how the term ‘Big Black Cock’ sounds unnatural to her, and who can blame her? Racial fetishisation mixed with half-assed alliteration? Who thought of this shit? Slayher is encouraged to act aggressively towards Quinn during the scene, despite the fact that he’s uncomfortable this behaviour in real life sexual situations.

hot girls wanted riley reynolds ethics porn agent

Both men and women in the industry, of all races, are feeling degraded by this fetishisation. Why on earth is this type of ethnic porn so common, then?

Simple answer: producers claim it’s popular, and if it’s popular it makes good money. This is what Riley Reynolds – founder of Hussie Models and one of the creators involved in the production Slayher and Quinn’s scene – claims is his main motivation for promoting this content. He explains how if he doesn’t produce these films, someone else will. The questionable ethics of this logic don’t appear to keep him up at night.

Unsurprisingly, these shitty ethics have driven workers in the industry away from it. Paige Jennings, formerly known as performer Veronica Vain, describes her reasons for leaving her job on her YouTube channel:

“I was on this set once in Florida […] I’m getting makeup and stuff, the girls get there and literally they weren’t just eighteen, […] they had both just turned eighteen in the past couple weeks. […] These girls should have been in high school at this time […] ‘why aren’t you in high school?’ ‘Oh, we dropped out, we dropped out.’ They dropped out of school to do porn. […] What left me struggling not to cry constantly this day is they dressed them up in little girl clothes from Target. Like you know how you go to Target, the clothes, and then there’s just women, and juniors, and little girls? The clothes were from there, from the little girls’ section. […] They both were so tiny, if they were walking in an elementary school line in front of me, like I would assume they were sixth graders.”

The production of this scene raises some disturbing questions: 1) who is getting off to this paedophilic fantasy, and 2) what kind of people are comfortable supplying this material? As well as this, talent agents care very little for the wellbeing of their clients – one of the girls mentioned in the above anecdote was found at a house party by an agent whilst still underage and encouraged to be in porn once she turned eighteen. Jennings argues that these agents are essentially glorified pimps that care far more about raking in the cash for themselves than safeguarding their performers. Another story she tells: once when on set for a ‘squirting’ scene, a male actor attempted to coerce Jennings into taking prescription drugs, claiming they would make her ejaculate easier on camera. Later on, on that same set, she discovers this male actor has tested positive for syphilis – when she suggests using condoms for her comfort when shooting the scene, she’s laughed at by the men around her. The cherry on top of the cake? She had to pay $500 in damages to everyone working that day for refusing to shoot. Because obviously, money is more important than sexual health.

For some peculiar reason, the details of what to expect when entering the industry are not properly disclosed by agencies towards the talent they hire – actors, particularly young women, are instead told about the amount of money and fame they can achieve from having sex on camera. They learn too late that the reality of money and fame doesn’t equal respect and empowerment, and if they want to leave their job and find a new one, their options as a former porn star are now limited.

So how on earth are you meant get off to a porno without feeling guilty about it now?

hot girls wanted paige jennings veronica vain bad porn ethics

Second thing to do in achieving a more ethically conscious porn consumer: educate them on the alternatives.

Here’s an option: use your imagination. “Haha!” you cry, “I have no imagination – not in this day and age! I only have porn, and you’ve ruined that for me! Thanks a lot!”

Calm down. For those out there with nothing in their heads to work from, there is another option. Erotic filmmakers becoming increasingly tired of seeing morally questionable scenes made by the porn industry have begun creating ethical porn. Ethical porn acknowledges the exploitation in the industry and combats it by producing films that show everyone being respected in the sexiest way possible. There’s less focus on male ejaculation being the finish line for sex, and more emphasis on everyone’s pleasure – meaning more communication, less dubious sexual aggression.

Who are the people making ethical porn? Creators include Stoya, Kayden Kross, and Erika Lust. Stoya and Kross are/have been actors as well as directors in their films, so they may take a more hands-on approach; Lust is a director who approaches her films as a piece of erotic art. She’s also set up the streaming site EroticFilms.com that features ethical, diverse, inclusive and sex positive adult cinema on demand. Sex positivity is the most important value in the making of ethical porn – it involves having an open mind towards sex, respecting sexual partners’ boundaries, and educating people on how to be safe and happy whilst doing it. Taking this approach whilst making adult films means communicating effectively with everyone involved in the production of the scene, with particular focus on the comfort of those in front of the camera. If the position they’re filming in is awkward, they can have the time to take a break; if they want to use condoms with a particular performer, they have the option to do so without judgement; if they have a suggestion for how a scene should go, their opinion is listened to. They’re not performers acting out sex, they’re people actually having sex and enjoying it.

Lust describes her work as “crowd-sourced erotica”. Her project XConfessions turns fantasies sent to her by real people into short films. She considers how the films work visually, and not just as background noise for a daily wank. She acknowledges how common it is for young people to use erotica as a source for their sex education; so, she depicts the intercourse in her films as an activity that’s exciting everyone involved, and not just the men.

Stoya and Kayden Kross also focus heavily on their audience’s sexual enjoyment: together they founded the site TrenchcoatX, which offers a feature to its subscribers called “squicks and squees”. Users can choose their turn-offs (“squicks”) and their turn-ons (“squees”), and filter search results based on videos that feature things they like, and either set a warning or block content that has things they don’t like. Hot. What’s even hotter is that all the scenes on their site are ethically made.

stoya kayden kross trenchcoatx ethical porn squicks and squees.jpg

Having more women as porn producers moves them from the position of sexual object to sexual subject, giving a wider perspective of sexuality through their adult films to their audiences. The illusion of empowerment is given by the mainstream porn industries that cater to what they believe is a male audience craving more extreme and unusual acts. Porn stars may claim they love their job and they love the sex they have on camera, but in reality, they can feel uncomfortable and coerced into doing it. Empowerment is more of a reality in ethical porn when a more diverse range of voices are included in the production of a scene.

There is still a question as to exactly how much of an impact ethical porn can have changing the mainstream industry. In order to consume adult content ethically, you have to pay for it – the popularity of free tube sites brings into question how many people would be willing to do that. On top of this, many ethical porn creators upload some of their content onto free sites to promote their work, or have their content stolen and re-uploaded onto them; if people can already see this content for free, even if it isn’t ethical to do so, they will still take the easier route rather than having to go through the extra effort of a payment process. The work of these directors and producers is admirable, and these values should continue to be pushed into greater awareness, but at this current stage sites such as PornHub are difficult to change. The ugly truth of pornography may be rising to the surface, but it now all depends on how willing consumers are to pay to attention to it and take responsibility for what they watch online.

Published by rachel gambling

20-year-old english literature and creative writing student writer and radio show host of peek show on RAW mixcloud.com/peekshow/ radio.warwick.ac.uk/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: