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The challenges of finding ethical porn

09 Aug

To say I was surprised when a Globe and Mail columnist contacted me a little while ago to discuss ethical porn would be an understatement. After two years of being knee-deep in porn while working on Sex, Bombs and Burgers, so to speak, it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone looking for it would actually be interested in doing so ethically. After all, when someone is actively looking for porn, they generally only have one thing on their mind.

In any event, the search for ethics in adult entertainment was the topic of Micah Toub’s column last week. I’m quoted in it pointing to the HIV scare that rocked the industry in Los Angeles a few years ago, and how a push for actors to wear condoms arose from it.

As several porn experts – alas, I guess I’m considered one now – point out in the column, there are essentially two ways in which consumers can support ethical adult entertainment. The first, of course, is to educate themselves as to how the performers are treated. That doesn’t just include the actors wearing condoms to prevent the spread of disease, it also involves an issue that has existed for almost as long as pornography itself: the exploitation of performers, particularly women.

The condom issue is easy to determine: either the actors are wearing them on screen or they aren’t. The exploitation issue is much, much more thorny because there’s really no way to tell whether the actors are being fairly compensated for their work. There’s also the question of what exactly is fair compensation? Many men would tell you they’d do porn for free, while some women working in the business believe they’re being fairly paid but are actually earning a pittance compared to what their movies are making. Should porn actresses make as much as mainstream actresses, or should they get a percentage of the film’s revenue? The question of fair compensation is tough because there are no real hard-and-fast rules for how people are paid.

As I told Micah, finding out this sort of information is really, really difficult because the companies are almost all privately-owned and therefore less than transparent. We generally only have their word that everything is on the up-and-up and that performers are treated fairly, but such claims need to be taken with a huge grain of salt because, as one industry expert told me, “everybody lies.”

The second and perhaps more currently pressing way in which people can ethically consume porn is to actually pay for it. It’s a fact that goes back to the first point – the more that people go to free, pirated porn such as that found on YouPorn and RedTube, the less the performers will be paid, which ultimately means they get treated less fairly. Of course, it goes without saying that the vast majority of porn consumers would rather get their goods for free, so this is almost a moot point.

In the words of a Toronto sex shop owner quoted in the Globe and Mail column, if you want to find ethical porn, “You’d have to be a very conscientious shopper.” My guess is there are too few people out there concerned with this sort of thing to actually make a difference. It’s like the adult industry’s attempt a few months ago to guilt people into paying for porn through a public service video: ultimately, it’s going to be a losing battle so it’s almost not worth the effort to try and convince people otherwise.

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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in internet, sex

 

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