June 9, 2013

Uborka’s Got Style: Can porn be ethical?

Mike asked, “Is it ethically possible to enjoy pornography, without feeling guilt at the attendant exploitation? Asking for a friend, of course…”

The short answer is yes. But, of course, it depends on the type of porn you are enjoying. It might surprise you to know that I’m not an expert in pornography – nowhere near, in fact. I have watched very little porn compared to many people I know and, to be perfectly honest, wouldn’t really know where to start looking for it online without some friendly guidance. However, there are always expert voices to be found on any subject, so I shall point you in the direction of a couple of interesting articles I found whilst researching my reply to you. Kitty Stryker wrote an interesting piece for The Huffington Post last year on what constitutes ethically produced pornography.

When I’ve personally been called upon to describe what the phrase “ethical porn” means to me, I’ve talked about pornography produced with the pleasure of the participants in mind; porn that does not depend on male-gaze shooting techniques; porn that shows diversity in body types, gender identities, and sexual orientation; porn that allows the performers to have a say in how the action progresses and what happens. How is the porn shot? Are the performers seen as people needing to be aroused, or just as permanently ready genitals? Is safer sex used? Do you see barriers put into place on camera, or negotiation/consent discussed? Is there use of sex toys that are high-quality, body-safe, and sterile? Does the sexual interaction end with the “money shot,” or do they keep going or snuggle or kiss?

Of course, that’s from a feminist woman’s perspective and so relates to porn which involves women in some way but, even so, it would seem that there are many producers out there trying to do something a bit different these days. Some companies producing porn claim to do so in an ethical way. For example, Crash Pad Series declares itself to be home to authentic queer sexuality. San Francisco powerhouse Kink.com says it respects its performers’ boundaries and safety, so Ezra Crane decided to find out firsthand by signing up to be an extra in one of their shoots, and then writing about it for XO Jane. He explains:

I think the pre and post-show interviews Princess Donna runs with the models are absolutely important to humanizing Public Disgrace. They establish context for the shoot and show the models as real people and not sex objects (even if they get used as such in the movies). “You are about to watch someone’s sex fantasy acted out in a safe and controlled setting,” they tell the viewer.

It’s not all slick big budget productions in the world of ethical porn though. In fact it’s very rarely as mainstream looking (style, not content!) as Kink.com’s videos. There is real world sex to be found too. In 2009, Cindy Gallop spoke at TED about how hardcore pornography had affected the way young men viewed sex. Since then, she has launched an adult social enterprise called MakeLoveNotPorn.tv where real people – of any age, gender, or sexual orientation – can submit their own videos and receive some of the profits the site makes from ‘rentals’. That’s probably about as ethical as you can get, right? She gave a fascinating and inspirational talk about it at this year’s Eroticon conference for sex bloggers and erotica writers, which I attended, and I really do admire her for trying to do something so wonderfully different. When I get some time, I might check out some of the videos. For research purposes, of course.

Lori Smith

3 thoughts on “Uborka’s Got Style: Can porn be ethical?

  1. Very interesting, and thanks for doing the research. I think I once met some “ethical” pornographers in Amsterdam; a share of their profits was donated to the Free Tibet campaign. They seemed happy, sorted and non-exploitative, yet utterly filthy minded at the same time. I couldn’t argue with their life choices!

  2. “happy, sorted and non-exploitative, yet utterly filthy minded at the same time” – sounds like my kind of people 🙂

  3. I’d like to think that describes me, too, though my chosen charity is different 😉

    I spotted this being tweeted by Zoe One Track the other day. [Looking for a friend, obv]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.