Guilt-Free Lust and Ethical Porn

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We’ve all learnt to boycott the baristas that don’t pass us our double soy latte with that extra dose of altruism, but are our viewing habits as ethical? Mia Kwok looks into the world of ‘fair trade’ pornography… for your ethical viewing pleasure. 

WORDS Mia Kwok

Porn is society’s quiet guilty pleasure and, contrary to popular belief, both men and women take part in watching it. For 42 per cent of the general population, watching porn remains one of their most secret and favourite indulgences.

As I wrote this article, I began asking women around campus why they watch porn (or rather, why they don’t). I wasn’t completely surprised by the responses I got, but I was disappointed. Despite massive leaps forward since the days of men’s only secret cinemas in the 1920s, women continue to deny their right to enter into this realm of sexuality. Some have been guided by their parents’ conservative attitudes, others described feeling threatened when a significant other watches porn and many of the replies indicated that masturbation was something that men do. “It’s their thing.”

For non-viewers, often the biggest issue with porn is the woman in front of the camera. She is generally typified as a poor, submissive victim of male misogyny. It was probably a man’s fault that she got there in the first place, right? Not to mention that you, the viewer, are perverse for watching – you’re now more likely to physically abuse women as a result of that cum-shot compilation that was on your screen.

There are other, more practical, arguments against the consumption of porn. Concerns over power relations, issues of abuse, and of sexual and racial inequality all get tossed around in debate. Legitimately so. Yet you, as a consumer of porn, are entitled to not watch these videos. In fact, making a conscious decision about the porn you watch could be considered more ethical than ignoring the problem altogether.

A lot of students watch porn. Roughly 70 per cent of males aged 18-24 visit porn sites in a typical month. For some it is enjoyed in a couple as a healthy part of their sex life, for others it provides some much needed solo sexual relief and then there are those who just want to procrastinate on that essay that’s due tomorrow. Pornography can be an important part of a person’s sexual experience, and now it can be a guilt-free pleasure for all, instead of just our dirty little secret.

[quote]We have  to make connections between fair labor practices even when the labor being performed is sex. If you care about the conditions under which your food was made and the conditions under which your jeans were made, then you should care about the conditions under which your pornography is made.[/quote]

Ethical Pornography

We live in an age of ethical consumerism, so why shouldn’t this extend to one of the most successful and profitable industries of all? “We have to make connections between fair labor practices even when the labor being performed is sex. If you care about the conditions under which your food was made and the conditions under which your jeans were made, then you should care about the conditions under which your pornography is made,” says Feminist Porn Award winner Tristan Taormino to The Daily Beast.

Women’s consumption of porn has been shown to have a positive influence on the industry itself. Several directors and marketers within the porn industry have noted the rise of female appreciation for porn and with it an increase in intimacy based scenarios, better narratives and female-focused pleasure: for those who don’t know this already that means plenty of clitoral stimulation. The ongoing success of the Feminist Porn Awards in Canada is a testament to this changing market. To be nominated for these awards there are three main criteria:

  1. A woman was involved in the production, writing or direction of the work.
  2. It depicts ‘genuine female pleasure’.
  3. It expands the boundaries of sexual representation or challenges the stereotypes generated through mainstream porn.

The real problem with porn isn’t the women in front of the camera. It is the people behind it that you should worry about. Questioning the ethics of the directors is a good start to finding ‘fair trade’ porn. To produce ethical porn good directors put a lot of effort into ensuring a safe, clean and enjoyable atmosphere for the stars of the show. Women like Nica Noelle and Jincey Lumpkin have emphasised professional ethics in their directing to ensure that actors are comfortable in their roles. They avoid scenarios with racial framing, ‘fake sex’ (heavily scripted and instructed) and disrespectful language. They have both seen a definite shift towards authentic, passionate sex in porn and this doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be ‘vanilla’.

So, Now What?

Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn website, Cindy Gallop, proves the growth of desire for ‘real sex’ through her business model of crowd-sourcing adult films. Their tagline ‘Pro-sex, Pro-porn, Pro-knowing the difference’ specifically supports porn, but clarifies that there needs to be a demarcation between the poor standards of the porn we see generally and the potential for viewing real sex as part of an arousing sexual experience. According to her website, this allows people to “share their intimate moments in video form, without the trite, unrealistic trappings of ‘traditional’ porn”. While the site does set you back $5 per rental, sometimes ethics is worth paying a little extra for.

Gallop further emphasises the need for women to play a key role in changing the porn industry. ‘Porn hasn’t even begun to leverage the female experience of desire, arousal and sex, through the female lens,’ she writes for The Independent. ‘Men haven’t even begun to realise how hot they would actually find that.’ It’s incredible that people tend to forget their buying power when it comes to porn. Noelle said that she was constantly told that intimate porn wouldn’t sell, but her film His Mother’s Lover was quick to sell out on DVD in 2012 and was at the top of the gay VOD (video-on-demand) charts for three months.

Watching porn shouldn’t make you feel cheap and dirty (unless that’s your kink, and then I’m sorry for slightly ruining it). Men and women should be able to relish in the enjoyment of porn. In your search for guilt-free lusting, you might need to change the way you look at porn, or maybe the way you look for porn. You could try watching ‘real sex’ or find porn directed by a woman and see if you like it – maybe you have been watching this already without even noticing the difference. Don’t forget that like your fair trade coffee, your porn and the girl you met last weekend, you can be selective with the things you consume.

Mia is wearing: Lace trim blouse (black) $74.50; Leather pencil skirt (charcoal) $135; Anki necklace (silver) $25; www.oxfordshop.com.au.