There’s a lot of talk about whether or not porn is ethical, but there’s not much discussion about the fact that most people are watching porn illegally. Forget “ethical porn” – let’s talk ethical porn consumption.
Though a small handful of Robin Hoods will feel they’re liberating porn to the masses, or take pride in being savvy enough to scam what they feel entitled to watch for free, the folks who go the extra mile to break the law are not actually the biggest culprits. It’s everybody else.
Let’s face it, free porn is easy. It’s the first (FIVE?) page results on Google. There’s no need to pull out a credit card (if you’re lucky enough to own one). You don’t even need to register or log in to press play. (A big step in preventing underage users from gaining access.) But figuring out where to go and what to click is not the first priority for someone horny.
I believe most viewers don’t think what they’re doing is that bad. Some may not even be aware they’re in the wrong to begin with. Who could blame them? A lack of media literacy around how porn is made leads fans to make a lot of assumptions. I know this first-hand, as I continue to learn more and more about the industry as I move from performing in front of the camera, to helping behind the scenes.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How can I be sure what I’m watching was ethically produced?” Without getting to sidetracked by topics of fantasy and film, marketing transparency and performer interviews, or going right to the source via social media — all of which help discerning viewers better research their options – the simplest answer is that paying for porn is the most direct way to ensure key ethical production values.
Kimberly Gray and I check-in on the set of Tobi Hill-Meyer’s Doing it Again: Trans Woman Porn Project.
Without a credit card processor overlooking distribution, there’s no way to know for sure if basic labor rights took place. There is no 2257 Affidavit to prove performers were of legal age, no STI test results, no W9 or 1099-Misc IRS Forms, and there’s certainly no Model Release Form to ensure the people on film consented to have their image shared online. Unless it features a major star, most pirated content doesn’t even include performers’ names, let alone Custodian of Records addresses. There’s a mountain of paperwork missing. Paperwork that, for better or worse, is designed to protect performers’ rights and safety.
(I should take a moment to add, that of course porn is not perfect. Like any other industry, there are people who will use their position to take advantage of others. Working in the business has helped refine my ability to assert my boundaries, something that’s vital in the work we do. I don’t regret anything I’ve done, but if I could go back in time I would have stood up for myself more and been more explicit about my needs and opinions. There are lessons I carry with me moving forward. Shit may happen, but we learn from it and continue to try our best and avoid the bad apples.)
To be honest, the only time I’ve ever felt exploited, as a performer in porn, is when my work is pirated. When I sign a contract, it’s between the producer and myself. For someone else to assume that right feels non-consensual. (Technically, it’s illegal and a breach of site usage and copyright.) But it also hurts the profit margins that allow us to keep making work. I once came across a video I was in that had been viewed over 50,000 times. If even a fraction of those views had been paid for, the small porn company would have been able to produce another feature, pay performers more, and increase the quality and frequency of their work.
Imagine an independent adult filmmaker being able to pay top prices, cover all tests and travel expenses, produce high-quality content, and put forth the kinds of amazing images that push the representations of human sexuality. Instead of soaring to new heights and taking the world by storm to show the magnificent possibilities of human desire, small companies are slowly-but-surely making by on shoestring budgets. (Some days, working in porn feels a lot like my days in arts administration, minus the state funding.)
So, what can we do?
- Pay for Your Porn. This is the best and most direct way to support companies who make the work you love. We’ll be ever so grateful. Check out Siri’s article, Here’s Why You Need to Pay For Your Porn, as well as the Twitter hashtag full of performers’ voices: #payforyourporn
- Help others find porn you like. If you’re in the position to blog or share posts about porn, help others find companies to watch. If you’re a sex blogger, journalist, or sex educator, you’re in a unique position to educate your readers and students about how paying for porn can shape the kinds of sexual representation available for all to enjoy. (Plus, can earn affiliate commission from your recommendations. It’s a win-win.)
- Keep enjoying porn. If you’re going to watch porn for free and you’re finding videos you like and aren’t convinced you need to change, then there’s not much I can do to stop you. Go forth, but please keep in mind where the work comes from. Allow me to plant a seed, a promise that you’ll support us in a more direct way when you can.
We can still make right of the issue. Ethical viewers have incredible potential to shape the industry by ‘voting with their wallets’ and encouraging producers’ interests, in everything from distribution methods to casting decisions. Increasing production quality, broadening diversity, building sustainable businesses. People put off by not finding what they want (remember, there’s more to porn than PornHub…) can seek it out and encourage – through supportive words, network, or wallet – the content that gets them truly excited.
CrashPadSeries.com stars Drew DeVeaux, Andre Shakti, with director Shine Louise Houston.
Now that you know how to help… here’s the best way to support my work behind the scenes with Shine Louise Houston at Pink & White Productions, which runs CrashPadSeries.com and the VOD hub for indie and emerging adult filmmakers, PinkLabel.tv. (Really, there are truly unique films on PinkLabel that would be censored or too artsy for the conventional porn outlets, plus the site’s studios get the most generous percentage I know of in the US. It’s as ‘fair-trade’ as it comes!)
You can watch my work on both sites. (If it’s your thing.) My most recent proud porn moments are Justify My Jiz, JL+DD: Jiz Lee and Danni Daniels, two collaborations that I directly profit from. (BESIDES the fact that I was so aroused by my perfect co-stars!) And CrashPad will always be my porno home.
My motto in porn has been “Be the Porn you want to see in the world.” But in this case, a better fit is “BUY the Porn you want to see in the world.” Let’s enjoy sexuality, ethically.