Your Go-To Guide On Ethical Porn

Being a 21st-century citizen, chances are that you have already stumbled upon porn of
some sort. The ability to easily access pornographic videos and images has probably
changed how an entire generation relates to sex. It is usually free, fun, and caters to every
imaginable fantasy and kink under the sun.
So why all this talk about ethical porn?
What’s wrong with regular porn? After all, it is just another way to get off, right? Well, it is not
that simple. As sleek and sexy as porn might appear on the surface, the porn industry has a
dark side. Famous porn streaming giants like Pornhub have come under fire for hosting child
porn and refusing to take it down. Well-known porn actresses have come out in the post

MeToo era with horrifying stories of consent violations and abuse on set.

Revenge porn is an unfortunately common phenomenon, as is the fact that videos of rape
and molestation get circulated on porn sites.
Victims of human trafficking have spoken out about how they were trafficked into the
industry, and how videos of them being exploited exist on the internet to this very day. If you
have half a conscience, knowing that the porn you enjoy is the result of abuse or exploitation
of a vulnerable human being would probably put a knot in your stomach. Any woman
entering a mainstream porn site is aware of the ‘female friendly’ section, which possibly
suggests that the other porn on the website isn’t ‘female-friendly.’ Porn sites are also
infamous for reducing people to racial kinks, stereotypes, and degrading storylines.
So, you enjoy watching porn, but you don’t want to subscribe to the exploitation that goes
into making it? This is where ethical porn comes in!
You may be wondering: what is ethical porn? It’s important to note that there isn’t anyone’s
definition. But this description by sex therapist David Ley summarizes things nicely:
“I talk about ethical porn in two ways, regarding its production, and its use: In terms of
production, ethical porn is a media where the performers are paid a fair wage for their work,
treated with dignity and respect, not expected to engage in acts against their will, and where
sexuality is recognized as a diverse, individual experience. I equate it to fair-trade
coffee—when I buy coffee knowing that the farmers weren’t slaves, I enjoy it without guilt
and shame. Ethical porn also represents the wide diversity of sexual experiences and
desires, from LGBT porn to feminist-focused porn, to porn involving a wide mix of body
types. Ethical porn can be as hot and hard-core as any other material, but you can watch
knowing the performers are engaging in behaviors they enjoy, from a place of consent.”
The comparison to fair-trade coffee is a great one because just like with ethical food
production, ethical porn is supposed to implement fair and conscious practices at every level
of porn production. This means an emphasis on consent and pleasure for all, and prioritizing
the safety of the performers. It also has to do with how sex is portrayed. For instance, the
website ‘Bright Desire’ describes their films as a ‘celebration of sex’ which suggests that
part of making porn ethical, is to relate to sex as a beautiful human experience, one to be
cherished and celebrated. To celebrate sex, we also need to celebrate its diversity of it. This
means a wider range of performers, more realistic bodies, and a variety of sex acts.

Fair business practices are also crucial: making sure the performers are paid well, have
insurance, fair leave policies, and more agency in who they choose to work and perform
with. Ethical production practices are a must for independent, ethical porn. But directors may
diverge on what these ethical practices look like. Some directors of ‘ethical’ porn may choose
to focus more on the romantic and intimate side of sex. Others may still direct videos that
depict rougher, or more aggressive sex, while still making sure that the porn they are
directing is ethical.


The key is balance.


At the production level, this means that the performers were completely willing to have
rougher sex and that their safety was taken into account. At a reception level, it could mean
that the viewers see as much variety as possible in the sex acts. For instance, it mustn’t be
only women who are shown as being submissive, and that diversity in types of sex is
available to the viewer. This way, the ethics of porn has to be empathetic to everyone
involved: from the writers to the performers to the viewer.


Erika Lust’s ‘XConfessions’ was a breakthrough moment in creating feminist, ethical porn:
Lust asked her viewers to submit their fantasies to her anonymously, in as much detail as
possible, and then turned these fantasies into artistic, explicit videos. In this way, porn can
be a collaborative and creative process between the director, the performer, and the viewer,
making sure that everyone has something to gain.


The word ‘ethical’ is broad and subjective. And when it comes to porn, it encompasses
pleasure, diversity, body-positivity, sex-positivity, consent, labor practices and policies, and
fair pay.


While definitions may vary, most so-called ‘ethical’ porn has one thing in common: it has to
be paid for, usually on a subscription basis. This makes the gap between ethical porn
and mainstream porn even wider. Mainstream porn is free, easy to access and there is an
abundance of it on larger hosting networks. This gap is then widened by the ‘feedback loop’
of search engine optimization. With a great demand for porn that features the abuse and
degradation of women, large porn sites put out exactly that. SEO drives it, and then porn
sites provide it. Someone looking for porn the first time is more likely to see a video of
revenge porn, rape, or porn that simulates the abuse of women, rather than an ethically
produced porn video. With skewed SEO practices and subscription paid models, ethical porn
becomes harder to find and access.


But don’t let this discourage you! While no one person is responsible for the problematic
trends in mainstream porn, individual viewers can choose to break the patterns and be
more intentional with what they’re watching. SEO practices and mainstream porn may seem
inescapable, but you still have a choice. If you’re only seeing a certain type of body, with a
certain type of sexual behavior — we begin to expect it. And before we know it, it may
become the only way we can relate to sex. It is important to get exposed to various bodies,
sexual identities, and sexual behaviors, to learn new things, and be as open-minded as
possible. If you are interested in watching porn ethically, here are some things to look out for
next time you log onto a porn website:

  1. Try to find the performer consent policy. A truly ethical porn site will include its policy
    around the consent, safety, and well-being of its performers. Read through the policy and
    see if it aligns with everything you believe ethical porn should include! Some websites even
    include videos of their performers giving consent, and later talking about how the filming
    went down. This will give you a better picture of the set-conditions.
  2. Pay for your porn. Ethically made porn will never be free: this is because the performers
    and everyone involved on set have to be compensated for fairly. And if you don’t pay for this
    content, then who will?
  3. Do your research: Find out how the performers are talking about their set experiences on
    social media. Do your research, find out which directors and websites are making and
    hosting ethical porn. Websites like Bright Desire, ElseCinema, Four Chambers,
    XConfessions & PinkLabel TV are great places to start.
  4. Be aware of the performer’s age if possible. An ethical porn site should ideally be up-
    front about the age of the performers so that the viewers know that the performers aren’t
    underage or barely legal. If you know it’s unethical to sleep with someone underage or
    barely-legal in real life, the same ethics should apply to your porn-viewing experience too!
  5. Widen your definition of porn: A lot of ethically produced sexy content may not be porn
    in the traditional sense. It could be audio-porn, erotica, sexual ASMR, or pictures and videos
    sold independently by sex workers on websites like OnlyFans. See how a wider array of
    online sexual content can fit into your life!
    So yes, mainstream porn isn’t going away any time soon, but it is still possible to be a more
    ethical, conscious porn consumer! This could be as simple as paying for your porn, or as
    large as working to decriminalize sex work and advocating for better sex education. Because
    at the end of the day, to truly be an ethical porn consumer, we have to live an ethical sexual
    culture.
    Comprehensive sex education is essential for this; one that discusses body positivity,
    consent, safety, pleasure, and different sexual identities. Porn cannot be a replacement for
    sex education. Good sex education will make not only our porn-viewing experience better
    but also our general quality of life. And it’s a long way ahead to a world that is truly sex-
    positive and defined by a positive, equal, sexual culture. But we can start somewhere. And
    changing how you view porn is a great place to begin at.

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