ETHICAL PORNOGRAPHY 101: A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO FINDING GREAT PORN

Guest written by Rain Andersen (@wearenotfriends_) a veteran sworker with nine years in adult entertainment and five years working for Lovers.

The internet has spawned dozens, if not hundreds of memes that highlight the difficulties of locating satisfying and realistic porn. It’s safe to say that the porn industry has a marketing problem.

QUICK LINKS:

  1. What Qualifies as Ethical Porn?
  2. Why Would I Watch Ethical Porn?
  3. The Problem with Ethical Pornography
  4. The Best Ethical Porn Platforms

What Qualifies as Ethical Porn?

Ethical Pornography uses sexually explicit imagery to challenge the ideas and roles depicted in mainstream porn. Sometimes described as “Feminist” or “Fair-Trade” porn, this style of content aims to provide new and unconventional representations of pleasure that are often excluded from mainstream pornography.

Ethical porn is informed by the interests and boundaries of the people participating in it. This ensures that actors and actresses consent to their scenes, while allowing for more realistic and authentic performances. Porn that falls under this umbrella is created under safe, fair, and consensual conditions- meaning that anyone participating in its production will be treated with respect, reimbursed for their time, and given proper safety and testing accommodations. Take a look at a few other components of ethical pornography that distinguish it from mainstream porn, below.

The pornographic content was purchased by you.
One of the key components of ethical pornography is that it is paid for. These payments help to support the performers, directors, writers, technicians, and artists that create this content for you to enjoy. Free streaming sites are generally funded by the amount of traffic or views a particular piece of content has. This results in many unauthorized uploads, with no incentive to reimburse the participants for the labor they performed.

The pornographic content features a variety of different bodies, races, ages, abilities, and sexualities.
Conventional pornography thrives off of the stereotypes of specific genders, ages, races, and sexual orientations. This has contributed to much of the stigma surrounding female and BIPOC sexuality. Ethical pornography aims to feature a wide variety of performers, that are representative of the bodies, abilities, backgrounds, and interests of the people viewing it.

The pornography is created from an alternative perspective.
Mainstream pornography is often criticized for the way it depicts intimacy, providing rigid examples of the way that sex looks, feels, and sounds like. Ethical pornography demonstrates the complexity of real-life sexual encounters by providing alternating perspectives and narratives, relevant to the people consuming it. Ethical porn has created a space for female, queer, and non-conforming individuals to express their sexuality on their terms.

The pornography was created and shared consensually.
Consensual labor is perhaps the defining feature of ethical pornography. From planning, to shooting, to releasing content, all material is created and shared consensually. The Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG) and the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) have both released their own consent checklists that performers can download and bring to set in order to signify which acts they have consented to for a particular scene. This is one way that industry professionals are attempting to improve working conditions in the adult industry.

Why Would I Watch Ethical Porn?

There are many reasons why someone might gravitate towards ethical porn. Feeling confident about the porn you’re consuming can make viewing it more pleasurable. For others, ethical pornography is about finding an alternative to the type of media available on conventional porn sites.

The stigma around pornography and the people who produce it has contributed to a culture that caters to heteronormative desires, roles, and identities. For anyone who doesn’t identify as straight, male, and DTF (down to fuck), finding good porn can be an difficult process. Ethical porn was created as an alternative to mainstream pornographic content designed to center the experiences of both the viewer, and the people creating it.

As pornography gains greater acceptance in our society, viewers have sought out content that better reflects their lifestyles, cultures, and interests. The rise of feminist pornography, originating in the mid-1980’s, paved the way for new styles of porn that explored themes of female & queer pleasure, BDSM & kink, and shifting gender roles that would ultimately inspire some of the leading contemporary ethical porn platforms.

The Problem with Ethical Pornography

What does ethical actually even mean?

When it comes to ethical porn, it is important to do your research to ensure that the people and the products you’re supporting are authentic. It’s not uncommon for people to mislabel pornography as “ethical” or “consensual,” in the same way that people misuse terms like “organic” and “cruelty-free.” The label offers great appeal: presenting pornography as ethical can enhance a Pornographers credibility and validate consumer consumption.

If you find a platform you’re interested in exploring, we suggest looking at their code of ethics and their company description. These statements typically outline a company’s values, how their performers are treated, and and how consent is established.

Following sex workers and performers on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram can also provide a voice to people within the industry who can shed some light on their experience with certain platforms and directors. Continue to hold the platforms you enjoy accountable for their claims, and support them by paying and praising their content whenever you find something that stirs you. Along with ethical porn creators, viewers play an important role in setting a new standard for porn.

The Most Popular Ethical Porn Websites

Bellesa: Annual Membership - $59.88 ($4.99/Month)
CATEGORY: Assorted
Bellesa is a Canadian porn platform created and founded by women in 2017. Though the platform was initially criticized for embedding content without the consent of creators, Bellesa was quick to address concerns with a full site redesign. Bellesa partnered with one of their most influential critics- the “Taylor Swift of Porn,” Director Jacky St. James. With St. James, Bellesa created a program where performers could select their own acting partners, outfits, and make up. In 2021, Bellesa launched their BIPOC Creators Program which contributes $20,000 per month to projects featuring BIPOC performers. People who subscribe to Bellesa Plus can access all of Bellesa’s premium porn channels, interactive sex ed guides, full erotica library, and VIP BBoutique, which offers private label sex toys and merchandise.

XConfessions: Basic Membership – ($34.95/Month) OR Annual Membership - $143.40 ($11.95/Month)
CATEGORY: Assorted, Crowd-Sourced
XConfessions is one of the five production companies owned by infamous director, Erika Lust. Lust was one of the first female directors to position themselves in the ethical porn category, giving her a powerful voice in the adult industry… but many people have debated the efficacy of Erika Lust’s work, amid sexual assault accusations made by performers on her set. Lust has chosen to address many of these claims publicly, and through the release of new protocols outlined in her popular TEDxTALK, It’s Time for Porn to Change. Lust’s XConfessions is a crowd-sourced cinema where viewers can confess their secret fantasies to be adapted into erotic films. XConfessions combines the work of Erika Lust with curated guest directors and one-of-a-kind screenplays inspired by spectators. Explore over 58 unique categories of content, member submitted confessions, and behind-the-scenes downloads to get inspired, with up to three membership plans for every budget.

Make Love Not Porn: The Binge Package - $50/50 Videos per Month
CATEGORY: Assorted, Crowd-Sourced
Make Love Not Porn (MLNP) is the first user-generated social sex platform, founded by Cindy Gallop in 2009. Designed to capture examples #RealWorldSex, MLNP aims to provide people with authentic and diverse representations of pleasure. How does it work? Viewers over the age of 18 can submit videos, with or without anonymity, and receive a portion of the proceeds for every view. To protect viewers and performers, MLNP has strict policies regarding video submissions, and an extensive curation process to ensure that all content is “consensual, contextualized, a porn-cliché free.” They offer three monthly subscription packages, or pay-per-view content.

Pink Label TV: Annual Membership - $119.88 ($8.99/Month)
CATEGORY: Assorted
For the film snob in your life, we suggest a Pink Label Membership! Pink Label is an indie porn platform, inspired by adult film festivals. Founded by the Director of Pink and White Productions, Shine Louise Houston created PinkLabel.TV to help up-and-coming directors market and safeguard their work. Referred to as the “Criterion Collection” of porn, Pink Label offers viewers a unique and uncensored look into the world of porn production, offering over 1000 different videos, spanning 37 rotating categories and director curated collections.

Light Southern: Lifetime Membership - $60
CATEGORY: Assorted, Queer-Leaning
Light Southern is an award-winning Australian production studio, specializing in its visually-driven, 1970s-inspired cinematography. Creative Director and Founder, Michelle Flynn started working in the adult industry in 2006 before launching Light Southern in 2011. Her work is characterized by its complex narratives, ethical working environment, and retro aesthetic. Members of Light Southern can access new and exclusive content each week, as well as exclusive downloads to Director Cuts, Festival Cuts, Behind the Scene featurettes, and High-Res Photo Galleries.

Want more ethical porn? Support an Independent Creators on selling platforms like Playboy Centerfold or check out these ethical porn platforms that are gaining popularity across the globe!

    • Sssh: Award-winning ethical porn for women & couples
    • Afterglow: Ethical porn made by women, enjoyed by everyone
    • A Four Chambered Heart: Creative photography project creating short films with sex & cinema
    • Ersties: Ethical porn made by women, featuring 100% real women & couples
    • Aorta Films: Award-winning, experimental, indie, queer porn. Lusty, opulant, glorious fuckery.
    • Beautiful Agony: Dedicated to the beauty of the human orgasm, this site specializes in uploading head-shots of user submitted videos during their orgasms.
    • Spit: A Toronto-based, Queer porn collaborative.
    • Crash Pad Series: Queer porn inspired by the award-winning pornographic film, The Crash Pad, featuring real life couples.
    • Joybear Pictures: Very British, very naughty, sex-positive erotic films
    • Wasteland: Wasteland boasts one of the largest BDSM collections on the internet and was one of the first studios to obtain approval from the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) in 2017.
    • ElseCinema: Erika Lust's Soft Core Pornographic Collection, focusing on intimacy, sensuality, and eroticism. 

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    Further Readings:

    Race in Porn- Here's What Needs to Change: XBiz
    Fuck the Police- Why Does Cop Porn Still Exist?: VICE 
    The Problems with Pornography: Psychology Today

    WITH PLEASURE,

    LOVERS