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Contents
Intro
What is Ethical Porn
Is Porn Bad For You?
History of Porn
The Current State of Porn
What Makes Porn Ethical
Where To Find Ethical Porn

What is Ethical Porn?
The Ultimate Guide

The ethical porn industry is growing, and that's a good thing, because porn is correlated with more orgasms. Watching porn can be a great way to explore fantasies, learn about what turns us on, and prioritizes our pleasure. It can even make us better partners, depending on how we consume it.

The industry is worth a whopping $97 billion dollars globally, and 85% of people have watched porn in the past six months. Still, this source of mainstream entertainment is a touchy topic in our society. Even as we move toward more open-mindedness, porn is a topic of debate and controversy.

Porn helps some people tap into their bodies and explore sexual pleasure in a way that is fun, empowering, and safe.

So how can consumers make better decisions when sourcing porn? Scroll through to learn more about ethical porn (sometimes called feminist porn or fair trade porn), why it matters, and how to find it.

What do people mean by ethical porn?

There's no one definition

“Ethical porn” means something different to every person. When it comes to evaluating the porn you consume, here are a few things to consider:

  • · Are performers paid fairly and promptly?
  • · Do performers have bodily autonomy?
  • · Is it made with consent?
  • · What physical and emotional safety practices are being taken?
  • · Does it show both fantasy and realistic pleasure?
  • · Does it represent diversity – including race, gender, body types, disabilities, and sexual orientation?

At the end of the day, there’s no one definition when it comes to ethical porn. Only you can decide what kind of porn you’re comfortable supporting.

It's a spectrum!

There are many types of porn – and not all of it is created equal. Just because your porn is made by a small producer doesn’t mean it’s ethical. It’s also not automatically ethical because it features high quality cinematography. There are many components of ethics that take place behind the scenes, before consumers ever see the final product on a screen. Some porn producers prioritize diverse casting choices and inclusive film sets, while others don’t. There also may be porn genres or subtypes 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.

Paying for your porn is the best
shortcut to ethical porn.

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.

Is porn bad for you?

Common belief: Women are frequently exploited and trafficked

Reality: Legal porn is not the same as image-based sexual abuse, and sex work is not the same thing as trafficking. Conflating sex work (including porn) with abuse hurts sex workers and other people in the porn industry, many of whom are women. Legal porn sites filter for legal content and require supporting consent documents. Platforms are also getting better at responding to takedown notices.

person tired of explaining consent
person tired of explaining consent

Common belief: Aggressive scenes lead to violence

Reality: There’s little evidence that watching porn leads to sexual violence. One review of more than 80 studies concluded a causal link between porn use and violence is unlikely, and any findings proving a connection are often distorted by the media and lawmakers.

person watching porn
person watching porn

Common belief: Porn promotes body image issues

Reality: Mainstream porn often features women who look one type of way and that image doesn't represent all women. Ethical porn often does aim to portray a diversity of bodies, real sex, and drop dead sexy aesthetics. If you’re looking for body-positive porn where legit female pleasure is the center point, it does exist.

diverse bodies
diverse bodies
friends in bikini
friends in bikini

Common belief: It's problematic to watch porn

Reality: Research shows no evidence that porn use leads to significant hikes in risky, addictive, unhealthy or compulsive behaviors. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to watching porn. It can rekindle your sex life, help you discover and share kinks or fantasies with trusted partners, and even reduce stress.

horny couple
horny couple

Common belief: Racism and fetishization is prevalent in porn

Reality: It’s true – racism and fetishization is prevalent in many genres of porn. That’s why it’s important to recognize racist and fetishist tropes, reject them, and intentionally consume porn created by and with BIPOC performers. The porn industry as a whole needs to retire ethnic stereotypes and give marginalized performers roles that are safe, empowering, and sexy.

diverse couple
diverse couple

Common belief: Porn is created with the male gaze in mind

Reality: Some porn is created with the male gaze in mind. But ethical porn producers, many of whom are women, are making it a point to highlight real sexual pleasure on the big screen, male gaze be damned (though, to be fair, men love it).

Bree Mills
Bree Mills

Common belief: Porn lacks consent and negotiation

A lot of on-set consent and negotiations take place between performers well before cameras start rolling. But those dialogues about what types of sex feel safe, consensual, and good aren’t often displayed on the big screen. Think discussing boundaries and sex acts, asking for lube, and taking breaks to clean up. Ethical porn producers take extra steps in making sure everybody on set feels safe and comfortable.

professional porn film set
professional porn film set

How did we get here?

  • 1920s: With the dawn of motion pictures came the dawn of pornographic films.
  • 1970s: Porn peaked in the swinging ‘70s with the release of the cultural phenomenon, “Deep Throat.” Even Jackie Kennedy Onassis went to see it in theaters. Prosecution of obscenity laws becomes less strict.
  • 1980s: Porn made its mark on the home video industry. It was around this time, Candida Royalle fought for women’s rights and elevated porn into an art form.
  • 1988s: Larry Flynt, Jr., publisher of Hustler and free speech champion, made headlines with his 1988 court battle with Jerry Falwell, founder of the right-wing group Moral Majority.
  • 1990s: Third-wave feminists became a megaphone for change, suggesting that porn and sex work needn't be oppressive to women and might actually be enjoyable.
  • 2007s: Canadian-owned internet pornography site, Pornhub, launched and quickly became one of the most visited adult sites on the web.
  • Today:: In more recent social acceptance, sexual wellness brand, Dame Products, won a three-year legal battle to promote its products on New York’s public transit system.

So, what does this mean for the current state of ethics in porn?

The adult industry has seen a huge shift the past 20 years. Old industry vets are retiring or selling their companies and being replaced by young up-and-comers — many of whom are women and people committed to ethical standards. Porn and sex work is here to stay, so it’s up to adult film producers to offer adequate pay and fair working conditions. This encompasses everything from sets free of assault and harassment to labor rights. Sex work is work, and sex workers deserve the same legal protections as any other people.

Your porn is more likely to be ethical if you…

...pay for it.

Mainstream porn isn’t always made or shared in a way that's fair or respectful to the performers. From boundary violation to performers not earning what they’re worth, porn doesn’t always benefit sex workers in the best way possible. The best way to consume ethically is to pay for your porn. 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.

....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.

...consume it thoughtfully.

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.

...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.

...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.

Where to find ethical porn

afterglow, (this website!) an erotic sexual wellness platform combining ethical porn with guided masturbations, partner exercises, and educational content to inspire the unabashed enjoyment of sex.

Bright Desire features smart, sensual sex created by Ms. Naughty, filmaker and webmistress.

Adult Time, the master brand and subscription service for high-budget adult videos from porn director, Bree Mills.

CrashPadSeries.com, queer porn filmmaker Shine Louise Houston casts 'real life' couples, including people of color, people of size, older queers, and people with disabilities (including neurodivergent). She also founded PinkLabel.tv, indie adult cinema by porn filmmakers with queer, feminist, and ethical perspectives.

XConfessions, feminist filmmaker Erika Lust turns crowdsourced fantasies into short films.

ForPlay Films, an independent, all-woman production company on a mission to create erotic short films through a feminist gaze.

Deeper, Porn veteran Kayden Kross directs high-end films for this site, part of the Vixen Media Group.

Royal Fetish Films, run by real life couple, Jet-Setting Jasmine and King Noire, Royal Fetish demonstrates what a more inclusive, ethical and safe space for BIPOC performers actually looks like.

Industry Organizations

Fairporn, ensures the rights of everyone in the porn industry and helps people make better choices about the porn they watch.

Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade organization, which sets standards for things like COVID and STD testing.

BIPOC AIC is a resource for education and support services to make the adult entertainment industry a safer space for BIPOC.