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Ethical Porn

Over the last number of years there has been a rise in production companies that pride themselves on producing ‘free trade’ or ‘ethical porn’. With such an ease of accessibility to mainstream porn, often free and catering to the wider consumer mass, we want to find out what exactly is ‘ethical’ porn and what sets it aside from regular free porn sites?

What is Ethical Porn? ‘Free Trade’, independent, or most commonly referred to as ‘ethical’ porn, seeks to hold performers’ bodily autonomy and agency at its core. This means actors have a say and a choice in the acts they do and do not partake in, as opposed to the often strong and overbearing nature of some mainstream porn. Ethical porn provides a diversity that is very rarely, if ever, found in the mainstream adult industry, featuring performers of varying genders, sexualities, shapes, colours, sizes and abilities.

‘Ethical’ porn steers clear of the ‘male gaze’ usually featured in ‘traditional’ porn, avoiding the often harmful scenarios and expectations placed on women. In ensuring production is driven by the performers and their boundaries, ethical porn also avoids falling down the rabbit whole of fetishization or demonization of certain minority groups or individuals, including members of the transgender and queer community, body diversity or diversity of ability all often at a loss for representation when it comes to mainstream adult film. Instead, many directors within the genre embrace creating adult film as an art form, paying attention to story and cinematography that add to the experience of watching erotic film.

Many of these ethical porn productions are small and independent ventures, often charging users small subscription fees to access content. Large porn websites cater to the wider masses and are more profitable for doing so. This makes being able to sustain the creation of ethical porn more difficult, as most productions cater to represent those not traditionally featured in mainstream content, hence the cost to ensure the continuation of the creation of ethical erotic film and the artists behind it.

One erotic film creator, who has become widely known for spearheading the indie genre, is Swedish erotic film director, Erika Lust. Within the last number of years Lust has produced and directed hundreds of erotic films, written five books exploring porn and sexuality, and garnered many awards for her work. Lust launched XConfessions in 2013. The crowd funded production asked viewers to submit their own sexual fantasies for Lust to then turn into creative erotic film.

Lust’s work centres around four core points – women’s pleasure matters, adult cinema can be cinematic, film must feature a diversity in ages, body types and races and that the production process must be ethical.

On deciding to create erotic art through film, Lust recalls being unable to relate to what she saw in mainstream porn, finding the overall experience unsatisfying; “The women did not look like they were enjoying themselves, and the sexual situations were totally ridiculous.”

Lust wanted to challenge this, to create art that depicts women and other minorities as complex beings that are more than just a 2-D role catered to the male gaze, but actual individuals with needs, diverse sexualities and values.

‘‘We’re modern women! Not slutty Sharon’s, horny teens, desperate housewives, hot nurses, and nymphomaniac hookers, always looking to service pimps, multi-millionaires or macho sex machines. Not always looking to please rather than be pleased. I wanted to know: where was my lifestyle, my values, my sexuality?’

Criticisms

Although ethical porn boasts a safe space of representation, artistic license and inclusion which is often virtually inaccessible through mainstream porn services, some question it’s value or the value or porn in general. While some feminists and activists believe porn is something that should be liberating and promote sexual freedom others believe that porn contributes to a culture of misogyny and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes portraying, in particular, female sexuality as something that is submissive. Leading anti-porn academic Gail Dines, debuted their film ‘Pornland’, in 2015 to a large amount of controversy amid accusations of the films anti-porn leanings. The film aims to “show how commercial porn operates as an industry, how the images impact on us and help shape our gender and sexual identity, and the extent of violence and cruelty in mainstream porn”.

Where Can I Find Ethical Porn?

Ethical porn may sound like an elusive unicorn of diversity and representation for those who aren’t quite sure of where to start. Thankfully, Google is your best friend! Take some time to research when you’re not in ‘the mood’, just a quick type into google will find you surrounded by articles from mainstream courses such as The Daily Dot giving you a run down on the genre. The Feminist Porn Awards site is a great resource in giving you the opportunity to explore the work of 100’s of different directors and performers at the top of their game.

Although mainstream porn is easy to get your hands on, it can be incredibly narrow in its content and reproduce harmful stereotypes and attitudes around sex. Ethical porn seeks to change this. This being said, there are some dissenting voices who argue that porn, in any form, is harmful and only perpetuates antiquated social norms. At least, through creating and facilitating the growth of a scene where performers are put first, where autonomy is taken into account and the diversity of experiences is represented in the creative process, ethical porn is making considerations that are very rarely taken into account in the mainstream porn.