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What is Ethical Porn?

What is Ethical Porn?

There are many types of pornography, and not all of it has been created equally. In recent years there has been more interest in ethical porn. Unfortunately there’s no single definition of ethical pornography and it can mean something different to everyone.  

Just like trying to buy organic food, or shop from ethical clothes stores, finding ethical porn is about finding companies whose values align with your own that you want to support. 

But what is ethical pornography?

There are a few components that are generally considered to make porn ethical. Most of these parts take place behind the scenes, before consumers ever see the final product on a screen. This means it’s important to do your research and not judge something as ethical or not just based on what you see on the screen. 

Ethical porn is… consent 

Consent is a crucial part of ethical porn, and performers’ safety, both physical and emotional, should be prioritized at every stage of production. 

This means that performers do not feel pressured to do things that they do not want to do. Everything should be created with enthusiastic consent from everyone involved and there should be no sense of coercion. 

Performers should be given the opportunity to state what sexual activities they do and do not want to engage in before the shooting day. These boundaries should be addressed again on set, where they have the opportunity to change their mind on anything they don’t feel comfortable with at any time. 

Performers should feel comfortable and relaxed on set, and able to voice any concerns or worries that they have. Performers should also have agency in who they want to work with and are able to choose their co-stars. 

It should go without saying, but all performers in ethical porn are old enough to consent to sex. 

Ethical porn is… fair pay & labor conditions 

Just as with any other industry, porn performers and crew should work under fair working conditions with adequate breaks, access to food and water, and reasonable hours. All crew and performers should be paid fairly for their work. 

Performers should also be given adequate time to prepare physically and emotionally before filming. Productions should also adhere to medical safety standards with STI testing, access to safer sex protection, bondage best practices. 

Want to know what an ethical porn set looks like?  

Behind-the-scenes of ethical porn afterglow original, 'Lip Service'

Behind-the-scenes of afterglow original ‘Lip Service

Watch our behind-the-scenes footage

 

What does ethical porn look like on screen?

Ethical porn does not look like one thing on screen and it certainly doesn’t equate to soft or vanilla porn. If it is made under ethical working conditions and with performer’s consent, then ethical porn can theoretically look like anything. 

There may be porn genres or subtypes that you personally don’t like (maybe MILF tropes or choking), but that doesn’t make them any less ethical. Ethical porn can encompass a wide spectrum of things.

What is unethical porn?

Unethical porn can be many things. It can be made or shared in a way that is disrespectful to the performers. There may have been boundary violations on set or performers may have earned less than their worth. 

As Vex Ashley, founder of Four Chambers, explains to GQ, “A lot of the time it’s more just like: a really fucking long day; the money you’re getting isn’t worth that; the guy you’re working with isn’t very nice; they’re keen on anal and you’ve kind of said you don’t want to do anal but they’re really keen for this in the scene; and you feel like you have to say yes, even though you don’t really want to.”

How to make sure you’re consuming ethical porn

OK so we’ve covered the components that make up ethical porn, but what steps can you take as a consumer to make sure you’re consuming it? Here are our top tips on how to know if you’re watching ethical porn. 

Pay for your porn 

Nothing in life is free and paying for your porn is the best shortcut to ethical porn. Remember that performers mostly do porn to pay the bills, just like any other job. And they deserve to be paid just like the rest of us do for our work.

Buy content from sites that require verification and have rules on what types of porn can be uploaded. When you (or a distributor) pirate a performer’s video, they don’t earn what they’re worth.

By using paywalls and charging for consumption of their content, porn production companies are able to pay fair wages to performers and crew. The money can also be used for STI testing, travel and accommodation for performers, and ensuring laws and regulations are enforced. 

If you choose not to pay for it, then people have to cut corners and make more with less money. Just like any other industry, when you devalue something, it’s harder for the people making it to make it well, with good working conditions and ethical standards.   

We pay to go to the cinema or for our Netflix account so that those actors and directors can be paid for their work. So why wouldn’t we pay for our porn too? Adult performers and directors deserve the same recognition for their work.

a fim still from 'U Up?' on afterglow, porn for women

Film still from afterglow original ‘U Up?’

Do your research 

If you’re buying from a porn production company, read up on their philosophy and standards. 

Read their interviews and reviews in mainstream media. Watch their behind-the-scenes content. Find out who exactly is behind the name of the company. Get a sense of what the performers who work for them are saying about them. Basically, try to get a thorough understanding of their philosophies or their mission. 

Go to the source

Whenever possible, buy from the person making the porn. Most performers advertise on social media platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram. Subscription services like OnlyFans, JustForFans, and SextPanther make it easy to buy content directly from the people making it.

Read interviews with porn performers in mainstream media. Watch them on Youtube or in behind-the-scenes footage talk about their work. Get a sense of these people and listen to what they say about their work and their involvement in their industry. 

Tip: Follow your favorite performers on Instagram and Twitter to get a sense of who they are and what they say about their work. If you want to support performers with good wages, pay for your porn.

Consume porn mindfully 

Think about your ethical standards and your relationship to porn, and respect those who make it. If the porn you support and how you consume it is aligned with your values, you can enjoy it without feeling any guilt or shame. 

For some people, consuming porn thoughtfully simply means paying for their porn. For other people, thoughtful porn consumption means intentionally seeking out porn made by marginalized creators, developing self-care rituals centered around pleasure, or having a conversation with a partner about ways to incorporate porn into a shared sex life. 

Thoughtful consumption of porn is called Porn Literacy. Check out Erika Lust’s “The Porn Conversation” for more porn literacy resources.

Film still from ethical porn film afterglow original 'Cravings'

Film still from afterglow original ‘Cravings

Support diverse casting

Sexuality and sexual desire is beautifully diverse and porn should be too. Support films and production companies that feature performers with varying genders, races, body types, ages, disabilities, and sexual orientations. Representation matters.

Pay attention to the language used to describe the performers and the themes. Watch out for anything that is racist, homophobic, transphobic or fatphobic when describing a movie or a particular performer. This is a clear indication of whether the performers are being treated with respect, or not. 

Support sex workers rights

Sex workers deserve the same legal protections as any other people. Sex Workers Outreach Program (SWOP) has great educational information on what it means to support sex worker communities.

Remember that you have the power to change porn

As a viewer you can directly influence the production of ethical porn. By choosing to break patterns, be intentional with what you’re watching, and pay for what you want to see more of you can ensure that more porn is made in an ethical manner. 

Want to know more? Read our Guide to Ethical Porn.


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