What Is Ethical Porn? And Why Is It A Myth?

In recent times, you may have heard the term “ethical porn” being used and people encouraging the consumption of “ethical porn”, in the same way you would drink “ethically sourced” coffee.

But what does the term “ethical porn” even mean?

From an adult content creator’s perspective, let’s break it down.

Back In 2018…

To understand the current position of adult content online, we have to go back to 2018 when FOSTA/SESTA was passed by the US Congress. The goal of the legislation was two-fold; to make it illegal to knowingly assist, facilitate or support sex trafficking AND amend legislation which would make online services liable for the actions of their users (the famous “Safe Harbour” rule).

Sex workers in all areas of the industry, from full service sex workers (FSSW) through to online content creators immediately saw what this meant for our business. It was clear this was going to affect marginalised groups, drive traffickers deeper underground and make an online environment where discussion of sex (including sex education) would be drastically curtailed.

But how so?

The penalties for being found to violate FOSTA/SESTA are such that online platforms cannot risk being targeted and shut down overnight. Speaking of being shutdown overnight, the signing in of this legislation resulted in Backpage being raided by US Federal Government officials and de-platformed. Other platforms have fallen victim to FOSTA/SESTA, including Tumblr and Reddit. 

And you know the increased conservative attitude we are seeing on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram? Well, you can thank FOSTA/SESTA for that too.

You may be asking, but this is American legislation, what does that have to do with us? Great question. All of these platforms are US based and hosted on US servers, so are subject to American laws. Australian laws relating to the hosting of pornographic content are a whole other can of worms, and perhaps a story for another time.

The War on Porn Re-Ignites

FOSTA/SESTA was the spark for a new war on porn. The conflation of sex trafficking and consensual sex work added fuel to the flames of the anti-porn movement, which had been relatively dormant for some time. The verification and consent of performers and types of content that can be accessed became the number one priority of the next wave of this movement. Visa and Mastercard removed payment processing services from the biggest tube site, PornHub, after a flawed New York Times expose put pressure on the big banks not to support companies which may be involved in sex trafficking and child exploitation. In order to keep payment processing alive, sites hosting adult content have needed to increase their levels and quality of verification, consent and review of user uploaded content.

It also has resulted in sites having to ban certain content in line with the wishes of Visa and Mastercard. Although sites have had certain rules in place for a long time, more and more keywords and categories have come under fire and been banned. The pressure has increased on sites to review ALL pieces of content uploaded by their users (AKA adult content creators) to ensure they are sticking by the rules.

But What Does This Have To Do With Ethical Porn?

Unfortunately, there are people who saw this as an opportunity to capitalise, despite the toll being taken on the majority of those working in the adult industry.

Ethical porn became a buzzword at exactly the same time as FOSTA/SESTA dug in. One definition I found of ethical porn is “pornography that is made consensually, treats performers with respect, and pays performers and filmmakers fairly for their work.” Purporting to be a feminist take on the production of pornography, those who use the term say it is a major difference from the way the “mainstream” porn industry operates and what they focus on. One of those people who use the term to describe their work is Erika Lust, and she has received great publicity for doing so.

The reality is that the majority of porn you can view and purchase on the internet is made by individual professional, semi-professional and amateur creators. People who are engaging consensually, filling out all their verification paperwork and paying co-stars accordingly.

Big production companies, including Erika Lust, actually make up a very small slice of the online porn pie.

By creating a divide between those who are “ethical” and those who are not, and making work-life extremely hard for those individual professional, semi-professional and amateur creators, results in them being driven out of the industry. It also limits diversity and the opportunity for meaningful work for disadvantaged people. And some of these “ethical porn production companies” have been trying to drive out the independent creators by actively supporting measures which target smaller creators, in order to eliminate them from a very lucrative pie.

So what is “ethical porn”?

As a creator of adult content, I am here to tell you that the definition you may have heard is a marketing device. It is a myth to make you buy porn from some people/platforms and not others. If performers are appearing consensually (and can withdraw their consent at any time), have their identification verified and are being paid for their performance, THAT is ethical. And that is what the majority of us are doing.

In my next piece, I will talk about where and how to find the porn creators who will get your engine running, and that your support will really make a difference to.

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