Benjamin Linh VU/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

4 ways you can find ‘ethical porn’

You don't have to feel guilty about watching porn, as long as you're watching the right kind.

Mar 1, 2020, 12:50 pm*

IRL

Although I’ve been watching porn for as long as I’ve had relish on my hotdog (i.e., for most of my conscious life), I recently decided to go without it for an entire month to better understand how it affected my life on a day-to-day basis. As it turned out, the answer was “quite a lot”: After 30 days without erotic visual stimulation, I even found reruns of The Golden Girls arousing.

But my 30-day abstention from porn also got me thinking about how porn is made. I began to ponder the ethical questions associated with filming sex for profit, and the psychological effects on both the performers and the viewers who watch them. And yet, I was still unable to permanently let go of my lifelong masturbatory crutch.

From there, I wondered: What if there was another way to consume porn? What if, rather than restricting ourselves from all adult content, we could demand a higher level of quality from the industry? What if there was a way to seek out porn only made by enthusiastic performers under “healthy” working conditions, the same way we seek out organically raised, grass-fed steak, so we could wank guilt-free? Is there such a thing as ethical porn, and if so, how can we find it?

I interviewed some of the most successful adult film performers to see if they had any tips.

1) Stick with the Big Dogs

To ensure the porn you’re watching is of the highest quality, 2014 AVN Performer of the Year Bonnie Rotten (NSFW) suggests that viewers stay loyal to the biggest brands in the biz. Producers and distributors like Evil Angel, Elegant Angel, Girlfriends Films, and Digital Playground employ only top-tier cast and crew, which means they usually shoot under the best working conditions.

Rotten says that when she works with these high-end outfits, “If I’m uncomfortable with something, I can call ‘cut.’ I can let the director know, ‘Hey, man, I’m not down with this.’…. If you’re comfortable with speaking up and not feeling like you’re offending someone…as a performer, you do have the power.”

 

Gary/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

 

Of course, there are also plenty of insecure performers in the industry—some of whom may simply need money, or feel obligated to perform because of a personal relationship. Rotten told me a story she’d heard about a young woman on a shoot who had to be sent home because the directors felt she clearly looked uncomfortable on-camera: “They couldn’t shoot her because she was so awkward,” says Rotten.

But big companies like Evil Angel and Digital Playground won’t waste any time hiring performers who don’t truly want to perform. As the biggest players in the game, they have a reputation to uphold:”They can’t waste time and money on chicks [who] are bad in videos,” says Rotten.

For this reason, it’s best to steer clear of random scenes shot in hotel rooms by anonymous men with blurred faces. If you want to avoid watching “reluctant” performances, stick with movies from big-name distributors.

2) Play Favorites

Much like Rotten, veteran adult star and 2012 Penthouse Pet Chanel Preston (below) performed her first few scenes for some of the biggest names in the industry, so she’s always had an exceptional amount of control over her career. Although she’s always been prepared for her scenes, she knows that “agents are not always giving [new performers] a lot of information about the company…. So [a new performer] walks in thinking she’s doing a regular boy/girl scene, and she’s doing really hardcore aggressive stuff that she might not be prepared for.”

But since some producers intentionally stage scenarios to look creepily forced—for instance, there’s the classic “This chick had no idea that this wasn’t actually a ‘modeling audition’” scenario—there’s no way for a viewer to know what’s really going on. Instead of guessing, Preston says that it’s best to simply “know the girl” you’re watching on screen.

 

Michael Dorausch/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

 

“If you have a favorite performer, she’s probably going to be on the Internet” with a professional website and a slew of YouTube interviews, Preston points out. “When people watch my YouTube videos, they can see that I really like what I do, I’m very confident, and [my career] was a choice I made. I wasn’t coerced into this [career].”

Industry veteran Dana DeArmond, who’s been in the porn industry for almost a decade, also suggests that viewers check out behind-the-scenes footage or supplementary content on subscription websites, which can offer more information about a performer. Kink.com, for example, features interviews with its performers before and after each scene, ensuring that all activities were consensual.

To sum up: If you do just a little bit of research on a performer before watching them in a scene, you can learn more about their backstory, personality, and their reasons for joining the industry, so you can make sure they really want to be there before typing their name into your favorite tube site.

3) Subscribe to your favorite performers’ websites (and pay for their porn)

DeArmond also says that perhaps the best thing a viewer can do for his favorite porn star is to subscribe directly to their website, instead of watching their content on a tube site. Most stars today have their own subscription-only websites, which they use as a way to interact directly with fans. “I even go on webcam and people can talk to me personally,” explains DeArmond (below). If a girl has her own website (specifically, one that she runs herself), it’s a good sign that she’s in total control of her career.

 

Michael Dorausch/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

 

DeArmond also suggests that fans avoid checking out her work on “tube”-style free streaming sites like Pornhub and YouPorn, which have been decimating the adult industry for years. Because much of the content on sites like Pornhub is pirated, the performers featured in said content usually don’t get compensated. When you subscribe to an official site, however, you’re directly compensating producers and performers. And when you directly compensate the original producers, you’re preventing them from taking advantage of performers by paying them less for more extreme scenes.

As DeArmond says of the tube sites, “Using illegal means to get [something you enjoy] is not supportive of the industry. It’s not ethical.”

4) Bring It Home

Of course, not everyone is into the glossy style of high-end, big-budget “mainstream” porn. If you’re not into porn with high-end production value, but you’d still like to go the ethical route, retired stud Ryan Knox, who has performed in over 150 adult titles, has another suggestion for you: Homemade porn.

Knox suggests that talented female superstars like Rotten, Preston, and DeArmond might have a myopic perspective of the adult industry. “Some girls that are really hot and in demand…can probably say no to whatever [they] want to on the set,” he says. Less experienced performers dealing with more aggressive directors, however, might not have that option.

Knox believes that technically, the only way to be 100 percent certain that the porn you’re watching was shot consensually is to seek out homemade amateur films. “The

quality is so low,” he says, “but the sex is way hotter, because these people are comfortable with each other. They can go way beyond the limits that you might find in a regular porn when two people have just met each other.” Sites like Cindy Gallop’s “real-world sex” website Make Love Not Porn and filmmaker Erika Lust’s XConfessions (NSFW) are good starting points.

Knox says one of the best ways to ensure that the performers are in control physically and financially is to pay for “camgirl” shows, where women and couples use their own webcams to broadcast performances to subscribed users.That way, you can make sure the performer is directly receiving the revenue from her performance, free from any outside influence. (That said, some cam performers might not be working in such autonomous conditions, particularly those working for studios in developing countries.)


As is the case in any industry, there are a handful of sleazy filmmakers who prey on inexperienced performers to produce content. But the majority of porn content is produced by responsible and capable performers and producers, under safe, professional, and consensual circumstances. There’s no reason to feel guilty about watching it, or to try and give it up.

It’s been said that we men are visual creatures, which is why we’re primarily aroused by visual content. Our biological tendency toward prompt and efficient arousal can be tamed, but it’s not going anywhere—just like pornography itself. So just as adult performers have a responsibility to know in advance which co-stars they want to work with and which sex acts they are and aren’t willing to do, viewers also have a responsibility to support porn that’s safe, consensual, and ethically made.

Photo via Benjamin Linh VU/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Jan 12, 2015, 11:00 am