How to Ethically Consume Porn

How to Ethically Consume Porn

Someone asked a great question about pornography and sex workers over the weekend, and I added that question to my queue. Then the New York Times published a really stupid piece on the same topic, and I decided now was a good time to talk about porn.

Porn. A lot of people watch it. Not everyone – generalizations are rarely accurate – but most people consume porn at some point or another. As millennials, most of us started consuming porn quite young – we had access to the internet, and Ask Jeeves or Bing at our fingertips, and we could find photos of naked people. Why were we looking at photos or videos of naked people? Well, there are a few reasons. As young folks, for sexual exploration, sexual gratification, and sex education. As adults, usually sexual gratification. All of these are great reasons to watch porn. In fact, I can’t think of many bad reasons to watch porn! What I worry about sometimes are the results.

What are some good results to watching porn? Well, sexual arousal, orgasms, learning more about your interests, finding images of people who look like you while being sexy, passing time, studying up on kinks or new things that arouse you, getting turned on with a partner, etc. Lots of reasons. All great.

What are some bad results to watching porn? Non-representative views of what sex can look like, thinking you now know what sex *should* look like, building up expectations for yourself and your partner that match cultivated media instead of reality, taking advantage of the sex workers who make porn, using pornography to avoid human connections, objectifying people in ways that you can’t compartmentalize out if the bedroom….

Wait a second. Let’s back up. Watching porn can take advantage of sex workers? Yes, straw man, it can. But does it always? No.

Our culture is extremely sex negative – we consume huge amounts of porn, but we consider it shameful and inappropriate, and we look down on the people who create it*. Sex workers who make porn do it for a variety of reasons – as many reasons as people work in any job – but have disproportionately high stigma facing them. Some people make porn just because they need the money, and not because they “love it” – but…. that’s why many of us work in our jobs. I’d wager that at least half of you would quit your jobs if you had unlimited money, at least to move to a job you find more rewarding.

But there are plenty of sex workers – most of them, I’d imagine – who are making pornographic films, or having sex with clients, or doing any numbers of jobs that involve having or simulating sex, who love their jobs.

There is no reason why sex work is inherently degrading. Unless, of course, you think having sex is shameful.

So, if sex work isn’t inherently degrading, how can watching porn take advantage of sex workers?

Well, you like getting paid for your job, right? So do sex workers. Whenever you watch free porn, you are stealing income from performers, producers, camera people and everyone who works on the set of porn films. PornHub, *even a paid account* is not paying the performers who act and have sex in the videos you’re watching. RedTube, XVideos… they all are video aggregators. Even if *some* of their videos come from legitimate paid channels, the number of videos I see ripped from paid sites is staggering. The most they can do is put a website link in the corner and hope that people watching free porn will come back to their website and pay them to watch the content they created. I imagine it doesn’t happen often.

Can you imagine putting a lot of time and effort into a project at work, only to have one of your clients pay for it, and then turn around and hand it out to 6000 other people who now aren’t paying you for the same product? Uncool. Way uncool.

Thankfully, there’s a solution to this and it’s actually a solution to the problems I posted up above as well.

Do you remember when I said that some bad results of porn involve unrealistic views of sex, not seeing yourself shown in explicit media, and building an opinion about what sex is supposed to look like? There is porn that is so, so much better about these problems. And they pay their employees.

Ethical porn, y’all. It exists.

You need to pay for your porn. If you pay for your porn, and you buy it from the company/site that produces it, you know your money is going to the performers. If you buy that porn from companies/sites that hire diverse sex workers, show many views of what sex can look like, and show the depth and breadth of human connections, you can train yourself to see sex as an activity for everyone, not just thin white cis straight people. When I saw porn that featured performers who looked like me, my mind was blown. I know a lot of people who have had similar experiences.

If you want to find ethical, diverse porn, I suggest reading the reviews on ‘Oh Joy, Sex Toy,’ a sex education/review comic by Erika Moen. She and her husband have reviewed several sites that they consider ethical porn, and I’m inclined to believe them. (I have personal preference towards the Crash Pad series, if you’re into queer sex and diverse bodies.)

Pay for your porn. Seriously. That is the #1, 100% best way to behave ethically towards sex workers. (Well, pay all of the sex workers you interact with in a professional capacity, and respect their goddamn choices.) Are you broke? Pick one website that makes porn, buy a subscription there, and watch your porn there. Can’t afford a subscription? Fine, thats legit. Money is hard. Watch free porn, but PayPal some money to a sex worker. Pick one from Twitter. Guilt money is fine – it’s money. Pay them. Can’t afford to pay any money to anyone, even $3 for a Ko-Fi? Legit, I’m not here to judge. Watch free porn but be vocal in how you support sex workers, and let Sex Worker Excluding Radical Feminists know that every person deserves respect.

Pay for your porn, do some research to make sure the places you buy porn pay their actors, and go have fun**.

Later this week, or possibly next week, I’ll talk about how to talk to your kids about porn, and making sure they have good representations of sex as they enter the stage of their life where they might want to get intimate.


*People who shame Trump for sleeping with a porn star, as opposed to shaming him for having an affair are part of the problem, btw.

**If you’re at work right now, you might want to wait until later.

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