The Good, the Bad and the Ethical:
Explicit Erotic Media
Erotic media is pervasive and easily accessible, even by accident. From magazines to DVDs and online videos, erotic images are at our fingertips, especially in the age of the internet. In fact, 30% of online content is of the erotic variety. And many online features that we all use such as streaming video were actually originally created by and for the porn industry. No matter how we feel about it, the availability is not going away anytime soon. Half of us are watching it at least a few times per year, many of us feeling shame or conflicted about this behaviour. Alternatively, we can be proactive about how we consume erotic media so that we can feel good about feeling good.
Is it Bad for You?
Anything can be unhealthy in excess: social media, time on the internet in general, even exercise can have negative consequences if taken to an extreme. Porn can be bad for you too in an extreme, but not necessarily when consumed in moderation. There has been no link between sexual assault or addiction and porn viewing. And those who are moderate viewers have more satisfying sex lives and a healthier relationship to sex and their partners. Being conscious about what you consume and how often you indulge as well as not letting it interfere with your relationship(s), work life and personal goals will minimize any negative potential. Most people also recognize that, like all media, erotic media is a form of entertainment and not usually educational, realistic or representative of “real” sex. Hopefully this recognition will help temper any tendencies to compare your erotic life, abilities and preferences and body to what porn unrealistically portrays as “the norm”. When it comes to humans, bodies and sex, there is no norm.
What about the performers?
The Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) has established a Model Bill of Rights for people working in the industry, developed by performers themselves. It includes important aspects such as the right to choose with whom a performer works, which form of safer sex methods they prefer to use, and which activities are included, as well as outlining what it means to be respected on set.
(link for web) http://www.apac-usa.com/model-bill-of-rightsApac
Of course, not all directors will follow these rules, but word travels quickly in this industry, especially when talent is not treated properly. Studios with poor reputations then have a hard time finding models who wish to work with them.
As for the performer’s choice of employment, there are plenty of performers who have public profiles where they dispel myths about their work and discuss why they choose and enjoy the work that they do. And choosing studios and producers who align themselves with APAC’s guidelines will mean that you can support work where performers are treated with respect and given choice.
Paying for Porn?
It costs money to create products. All the free sites steal their content in order to provide it to the consumer free of charge. Some performers have stated that the only time that they have felt taken advantage of in their work is when they see their films offered for free on other sites. Many studios have shut down because of the competition of free websites and other studios are moving to produce in countries where there are few labour rights, asking performers to do more for less compensation. If you care about how people are treated in the industry, then you can do two things: research and vote with your dollar.
There are many companies who call themselves progressive, ethical and/or feminist who treat their performers well. In Toronto, many will showcase their films at the Toronto International Porn Festival in April. Many of these companies are even local such as SPIT and CherryStems. The other positive aspect of these companies is that they make a point to offer a more diverse representation of bodies, pleasure, and sexualities without stereotypes and where everyone gets their fair share of the pleasure. They feature straight, lesbian, gay, bi and trans folks, fat and thin, young and old, black, brown, white, Asian and indigenous people, kinky, tame and romantic scenes and people of varying abilities. This means that no matter who you are and what you find hot, you are more likely to find yourself and your desires represented in their productions. Those who prefer that their media —from TV shows and movies to newspapers to explicit films — reflect them and their values appreciate also having a choice in their erotic selections.
Just as you might choose to pay a little more for chocolate, coffee, clothing, and jewellery that is produced under ethical working conditions, so you might also want to pay a little more for your erotic films. This small fee supports the work of people who are producing films in a manner that might make you feel better about getting sexy. For those who have always assumed that online erotic content is free, it might be a little hard to imagine paying for content. But think of all of the people who have been robbed of their work — often small independent folks who rely on viewers paying for their content in order to stay in business. Each consumer who chooses to pay for their films makes a difference in the lives of the performers.
Online erotic content is not going away. We need to be smart about how we consume it in order to reap the benefits without incurring negative consequences for ourselves and our relationships.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com