ETHICAL PORN - WHAT IS IT?
"Feminist porn takes a cultural form that has historically been seen as the purview of men. It reworks sexual images and conventions to explore new and more diverse kinds of desires." - Madison Young (pornographic actress, director, bondage model, published writer, sexual educator and founder of Femina Potens Art Gallery
It’s Tuesday night and you’re sooooo ready for it to be Friday. You’re sick of your boss telling you what to do, customers telling you what to do, social media telling you what to do, so you decide to treat yourself to a bit of “me time.” But a few moments into your tube site prowling, you feel like you’re watching yourself back at work, doing things purely for other people. That position couldn’t possibly be making her cum…In fact, it looks painful, and you’re used to some pretty acrobatic sex acts. You’re well aware that porn is acting, but she doesn’t even look like she’s enjoying herself, and suddenly, neither are you.
So now what? Well, just like you eat free range eggs, or drink fair trade coffee, you can still watch porn and feel good about it; you just have to make it a little more ethical.
For a long time there has been a lot of criticism about mainstream porn, and often, rightly so. It’s one thing to call out something that’s wrong, but as we all know, downright removing that thing isn’t going to solve any problems, and so often makes things worse. Instead, we need to offer an alternative, and this is where ethical porn comes in.
The theory behind ethical porn is similar to that of other ethical products – good working conditions, fairness for everyone involved, and most importantly in my opinion, making sure everyone is happy. That includes performers, producers, and also you – the viewer. To do this, if porn creators are treated fairly, they perform better, and a better performance means more money for the creators, and also means for pleasure for the viewer.
Let’s first talk about the people directly involved in the making of ethical porn. I believe ethical porn is not defined by the content (I’ll talk about that more later) as much as it is defined by two key conditions – treating your performers with kindness and respect, and paying them enough. Ethical porn aims to place the performers safety and preference first, and like all good sex, consent is key.
Treating performers ethically is easy. Just like any other job or situation, we treat them like humans, not circus animals. Performers are aware of exactly what’s expected of them, and aren’t made to feel bad for saying no. They’re paid an appropriate amount for their time, and genuinely enjoy themselves. It’s also important to be as communicative as possible before, during, and after the shoot, and answer any and all questions they might have, making sure everyone is informed about everything that is planned during the shoot, as well as the plans for what happens with the final product.
And now for the content of ethical porn. I really love how ethical porn began – marginalised groups saw a gap in the market of porn featuring people like themselves, so they decided to fill it. Nowadays, there’s all sorts of ethical porn, but those featuring marginalised groups and concepts are still definitely at the forefront.
Ethical porn promotes intersectionality, which is important for both the performers and viewers alike. People want to see themselves represented in the media they consume, but not as one-dimensional stereotypes or fetishised versions of themselves. This is why there is so much ethical porn featuring queer performers, people of colour, real sex, real orgasms, real pleasure, and one that I love – a female protagonist. Unlike mainstream porn, many ethical porn creators are female, making porn for women by women, without objectifying women or prioritising male pleasure. Ethical porn prioritises performers safety, preference, and pleasure, and this leads to an illustration of real sex and real pleasure, where the viewer can honestly feel the pleasure of the performers, exciting their mind and body simultaneously.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying that porn shouldn’t be used to explore fantasies and more extreme sex acts, we just need to be educated that the majority of mainstream porn – even the vanilla kind – is fantasy. A lot of us watch porn and get the idea in our head that that is what sex is like, or should be like. I’m all for teaching people that sex doesn’t have to end when the guy cums.
I could go on and on about the ins and outs of ethical porn, but at the end of the day, the best way to ensure the future of ethical porn is to pay for it. Buy videos from your favourite models, subscribe to your favourite sites and search for ethical alternatives. Consuming products ethically usually doesn’t coincide with consuming products for free. The same goes for ethical pornography. If you gravitate toward ethical porn because you care that the models are getting paid and treated fairly, then you should probably resign yourself to paying a little money for your pleasure. But there’s also lots of ways to support your favourite performers if you’re a little tight on cash. One of the best things we can do for them is to watch their films over and over, as well as liking, commenting and sharing their posts on social media. Find interviews with performers, and listen to what they're saying about their work. Treat them as real people, treat them with respect, and support the change they’re trying to make in the world.