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TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 30, 2021

What is Ethical Porn and How to Change Your Watching Habits

Alone time with your favourite toy or a joint sexy sesh can in fact be spiced up to the max with some consensual content that benefits you and those involved. Let us introduce: ethical porn.

One third of all internet traffic is porn. We’ll pause for a moment whilst that sinks in. Porn is everywhere online- it’s unavoidable and the ease with which anyone can access explicit content makes for a worrying reality in how normalised these unrealistic representations of sex are for many.

For the most part, pornography is designed to appeal to men, meaning the pleasure, consent and respect of the women featured in this content is secondary to the enjoyment of the men creating, partaking and viewing it. Pornography can be dehumanising to those involved when the name of the game is mass-producing content for free on sites such as PornHub, and regularly means those involved are not fairly paid or compensated for their work. Mainstream porn typically shows an inaccurate version of consensual, joyful sex, so it’s really no surprise if you’ve been dissatisfied with mainstream porn up until this point- it is rarely designed with women in mind.

But all is not lost ladies and gents, alone time with your favourite toy or a joint sexy sesh with your S/O can in fact be spiced up to the max with some consensual content that benefits you and those involved. Let us introduce: ethical porn.

What is ethical porn?

Ethical porn is adult content produced with the performer’s welfare as the top priority, ensuring they are paid, consenting and comfortable at each step of the filming and production process. Ethical porn seeks to provide a more realistic and accurate representation of sex, involving those of varying body types, sexualities, disabilities and most importantly prioritises pleasure for all of those involved.

Ethical porn is sometimes also known as ‘feminist porn’, which is another defining characteristic setting it apart from mainstream pornography which is oftentimes rooted in misogyny, violence and disrespecting women and their bodies. Mainstream porn is created with the male gaze at the fore and usually has one main aim, whereas feminist porn looks to create art that also satisfies women’s desires too – what’s not to like?!

Ethical porn can normally be distinguished from mainstream porn because it is typically not available for free – one of the ways it ensures that filmmakers and actors are paid fairly for their time and skills. It is typically hosted on independent websites that can be accessed by paying a subscription or one-off video fee and ensures a safe environment for performers in this industry. Creating high quality, responsibly made, cinematic pornography comes at a cost, and the never ending availability of free porn has wrongly made not paying for this content the norm.

As engaging with ethically made porn becomes more of a priority for viewers, “smaller indie studios have implemented stricter regulations around standardized, fair pay for actors, STI testing, and collaborations over scripts and scenes that take the actors’ boundaries into account” (Men’s Health), meaning you can sit back, relax and enjoy guilt free viewing, knowing everyone involved is having as much fun as you.

Where to watch ethical porn?

Piqued your interest? Heart rate increased? Look no further for a reliable watch list of destinations you can rely on for your feminist porn fix …

PinkLabelTV

Inspired by the pornography she watched at adult film festivals, Shine Louise Houston started PinkLabelTV in 2013 as a one-stop-shop for content that showcases, “the types of bodies and desires that aren’t often depicted on conventional adult websites.” Genres include classic and vintage adult films, sex education, documentary, and collections of award-winning films selected at adult film festivals around the globe.
Sales directly support the filmmakers on the platform, encouraging a sustainable #payforyourporn model where artists can continue expanding their craft and you know those involved are safe and consensual. Users can rent films on an individual basis or subscribe as a member to enjoy unlimited access to all the films and special livestream events.

Watch at: www.pinklabel.tv

Bellesa

“We unwaveringly believe that if we can change the kind of sex that people are watching, we can change a whole lot more.”
Bellesa’s tagline reads “empowering women to explore, embrace and celebrate their sexuality- unapologetically” and we are truly obsessed from the outset! All Bellesa films are fantasies by women, written by women, directed by women, produced by women and on set there is one golden rule: No. Fake. Orgasms. The goal of the scene is always to capture authentic, raw pleasure, and this is what really sets the platform apart from mainstream pornography typically designed for men. The site features some free content but Bellesa+, dubbed the ‘Netflix of porn’ is the most impressive part of the platform, with 4K streaming of the best premium content in porn available at a range of subscription levels to suit your budget. With interactive sex ed, private Facebook groups and chats to encourage members to explore their sexuality, the site is empowering at its very core.

Watch at: www.bellesa.co

Dipsea

The home of sexy audio stories, wellness sessions, and sleep scenes, Dipsea is a female-founded startup and story studio that produces relatable, feminist content that celebrates, “healthy boundary setting and enthusiastic consent”. Founded by friends Gina and Faye, they set out on a mission to create an accessible platform that allowed women, “to tap into their sexuality more easily, and on their terms.”
Subscribers can access 400+ stories with regular new releases, hot and heavy content with diverse themes, soothing bedtime stories & wellness sessions and the option to cancel at any time. We’re obsessed!

Learn more at: www.dipseastories.com

Afterglow

Afterglow’s “pleasure universe” is a new women-led erotica site that produces cinematic adult films that highlight consent, celebrate genuine pleasure, validate personal boundaries and embrace diversity of body size, race, sexuality, age and ability. Their blog is also a hub of sex education content, covering everything from orgasm anxiety, succeeding in non-monogamous relationships and everything you need to know about threesomes. Subscribe and pay monthly or annually, or try a 7-day free trial to see what it’s all about…

Learn more at: www.xoafterglow.com

Lust Cinema

And finally, the creme de la creme of ethical porn and beautifully created adult erotica, “Lust Cinema aims to challenge the porn industry standards by promoting the cinematic possibilities of the medium, high-quality storytelling and a realistic representation of human sexuality and sex.” Available for 1, 3 or 18 month subscription plans, you need look no further for binge-worthy adult series and feature films that prioritise pleasure.
Created by award-winning adult film-maker Erika Lust who broke onto the adult cinema scene in 2004, Lust has since founded four online cinemas: XConfessions, Lust Cinema, Else Cinema and The Store by Erika Lust that celebrate the highest quality adult content. Her TEDX talk ‘It’s Time for Porn to Change’ in 2017 has been viewed over 1 million times, and in 2019 she was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women of the Year.

Watch more at: www.lustcinema.com

We caught up with Erika to learn more about creating ethical porn and working in this trailblazing new subsection of a typically male dominated industry…

When was Erika Lust Films founded and what was the driving force for doing so? 

Right after moving to Barcelona from Sweden back in 2000, I started working in a well-known advertisement company making quick steps forward – from runner to producer – and soon I realised that I loved the atmosphere of a film set. At some point, I felt the need to do my own thing, and what I wanted to do was shoot an explicit film!

It was downloaded so many times that I realised there were other people out there who were also craving an alternative adult filmErika Lust

I wanted to create something totally different within the genre, a porn film according to my own taste, expressing my values and showing the importance of female pleasure. So I made this short film called ‘The Good Girl’, which was a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope and posted it online for free. I wasn’t really expecting anything but it was downloaded so many times that I realised there were other people out there who were also craving an alternative adult film. I was receiving mail from people all over the world telling me that they loved the film and asking when the next one would be out, and so Erika Lust was born!

What is the most challenging part about creating ethical porn? What is the best/most rewarding part about creating ethical porn? 

When you present yourself as an adult production company that puts ethics in the film production process and everything they do, you’re taking a huge responsibility towards the public. This may lead to people holding your work to a standard of “perfection” that doesn’t tolerate even the smallest mistake you may make. On the other hand, the most rewarding part is seeing a growing community of people out there who appreciates our work and supports me and my team to keep on doing it as best as we can. We recently ran a survey through our users and I’m so happy to see that more than 50% of them chose to buy a subscription to XConfessions, Lust Cinema, or Else Cinema, or buy single movies or film compilations at The Store by Erika Lust exactly because of the ethics under which our films are made.

How do viewers know if the porn they are watching is ethical?

You should be checking who are the people behind the porn you watch.Erika Lust

When you go to a porn website, do you know who’s behind that website? Is there an ‘about page’ where you can check who makes the films, how, and what are their values? Are there credits for the team behind the camera? This should be the starting point when it comes to knowing if the porn you watch is made ethically. Just as much as you check the label of the products you consume or the credits of a Netflix series, you should be checking who are the people behind the porn you watch.

Last but not least, is the porn you watch available behind a paywall? It costs money to make a film and to ensure good working conditions for everyone who is involved in making it happen. It costs money to fairly pay performers, crew, post-production and the director; legal contracts that protect all of their rights as workers, lunch for the day, comfortable accommodations if required. 

What do you think is the most pressing issue in the world of pornography production that viewers should be more aware of? e.g. payment, age of actors. consent, representation etc 

I think that consumers should be more aware of the importance of paying for porn. By paying for your porn, you’re helping adult production companies to make films where sex work is done in a safe environment; meaning that performers and their needs and boundaries are taken care of, that the sex they have is consensual. When you pay for your porn, you’re paying a scriptwriter that creates an original, realistic plot where communication and diversity are put at the forefront. You’re paying a production team that ensures that performers are 18+, are enthusiastic about being part of an adult movie, and do not feel obliged to do anything they don’t want to do. You’re paying a Talent Manager or an Intimacy Coordinator that supports them throughout the shoot. Most of all, you’re paying the performers and the whole crew that works to create a film with good cinematography and art direction, lighting, styling, makeup, new locations, and the whole post-production process. All of this is essential to create good quality adult content, both aesthetically and in terms of content.

In recent years we have all become more conscious of what we consume, and ethical and sustainable businesses have really boomed. I hope that this trend also translates to peoples’ attitudes towards pornography and that people begin to think more about the consequences of not paying for pornography and relying on tube sites. At the moment films are often made on a very low budget by companies who need to churn out as many films as possible in order to compete and be profitable; this leads to a very poor representation of sex and sexuality on screen. It is only once people start paying for pornography this will begin to change as more money, more evenly distributed within the industry will provide space for innovative new directors and allow production companies to focus on quality rather than simply having an economy of scale. 

Do you think that the endless amounts of free pornography online make for an inherently problematic industry?

Whether you’re a performer or a production company, if the content you create is uploaded onto tube sites, it doesn’t matter how many times it is watched, you will not get a penny from those views. Erika Lust

The pirating business model which has taken over in recent years with the rise of Tube sites such as PornHub, YouPorn and RedTube (all of which are part of the big controversial company Mindgeek) has completely decimated the industry and put many production studios and performers out of business. Whether you’re a performer or a production company, if the content you create is uploaded onto tube sites, it doesn’t matter how many times it is watched, you will not get a penny from those views. This, coupled with the fact that many content creators, especially smaller independent producers, simply don’t have the time or resources to trawl through these sites to look for their pirated content, has meant that the business is far less profitable than it used to be. 

Do you think we will ever live in a world in which ethical and consensual pornography is the norm when free content can be consumed so mindlessly?  

As said above, the future of pornography depends on whether or not there is a shift away from simply using these tube sites and start backing more varied companies by paying for their content. Users need to be made aware of the ethical implications of watching pirated material. Watching free porn is like going to the supermarket and going out without paying for the groceries.

When you pay for your porn, you are giving it value. You are supporting the people who do it and you are sending the message that you want to watch porn that is made safely, with quality and diversity. As in many other fields, consumers are ultimately a part of the industry; the future of porn depends on the people who watch it.

People are not educated to pay for porn also because our society still sees sex workers as less than human. Sex workers are people like anyone else who do a job that should have the same legal rights as any other job. We need to change for the better our perception of sex workers and their lives. We need to normalise sex work as real work and put an end to stigma, criminalisation, and dehumanisation.

Do you think we’re seeing a cultural shift in attitudes towards porn becoming less taboo as sites such as Only Fans become more popular and mainstream?

Despite the sex-negative culture we still live in, I see that porn is gradually becoming less of a taboo in society. And yes, I think that sites like OnlyFans, Manyvids, etc. are helping to normalise the consumption of paid ethical porn. They do it by putting the power and the money directly in the hands of adult creators and performers, who can create their own content in the safety of their homes and with people they want to work with. 

Pornography is historically rooted in exploitation and misogyny- can ethical porn seek to change that or do the origins of porn make it difficult to escape those issues even now? 

Ethically made porn exists exactly to change that. Porn as a medium can be used in a positive or negative way as everything else. It is absolutely possible to create porn that is not rooted in exploitation and misogyny by simply changing the narratives and making a positive shift in the production process.

We can clearly show consent instead of encouraging simulations of coercion, paedophilia, or abuse. Erika Lust

We can stop showing harmful gender stereotypes and start depicting men and women as equally important sexual collaborators. We can clearly show consent instead of encouraging simulations of coercion, paedophilia, or abuse. We can create porn where people can see themselves in those films, to see the sex they have, to be inspired, become educated, and receptive to the huge range of different sexualities out there. Porn can open your mind about sexuality and help you to discover new desires and fantasies. For many viewers, alternative adult cinema helps them celebrate their sexuality and encourages them to be empowered by sex in a variety of ways.

What is one misconception about creating porn you would like to debunk?

Many people conflate sex work with sex trafficking and perpetuate the stereotype that sex workers are victims or are driven to a demeaning lifestyle by a damaged history. Sex trafficking is easily confused with all types of sex work. There is the assumption that porn and sex work are always particularly exploitative for women, which just isn’t true. So many female performers are empowered and elevated by what they do! 

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