Ethical Porn – Sunday Times

This column first appeared in The Sunday Times on 6th August 2017:

https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2017-08-05-what-kind-of-wampnker-doesnt-care-about-ethics-in-porn/

Here is the uncut version: 

ETHICS IN PORN – PAIGE NICK

Ethical porn, I doubt a bigger oxymoron exists. Given the heavy issues that have dogged the industry for decades, it’s a ticklish topic, and not sexy ticklish, the other more uncomfortable kind.

The term first appeared back when people started seeking out more sustainable and considerate alternatives for just about everything. Think of it as the sexual equivalent of pasture-raised beef, organic eggs and vegan everything.

We still want to buy the sausage, but now we want to know how it’s made first. Not counting trolls and sociopaths, we’re becoming increasingly conscious of the impact of our choices. Which is why we want our penises and vaginas ethically sourced, hand reared and grain-fed. I only fear the day vegetarians stop offering cunnilingus.

Of course there are basic ethics that should be no-brainers and non-negotiables, unless you’re an utter tosser, which much of the porn industry is, so no surprises that these aren’t always a given. The rights, freedom, safety and mental health of any performer of any gender has to be a priority for production houses, and ultimately viewers too.

But outside of law and humanity, there are a host of other issues proving just how fluid the definition of sexual ethics is. The Ethical Porn Partnership and ethical.porn offer guidelines, but they’re quick to note that they’re just suggestions.

I suspect they’re nervous to lay down laws because it’s a sexual minefield out there. Who’s to say what should or shouldn’t float your boat or tick your box. There are plenty of people who get turned on by all sorts of boats and boxes. So how can one specific body decide what we should or shouldn’t fantasise about? Who died and made them king cock?

If we let the internet loose on deciphering the ethics of porn, I worry there wouldn’t be much left to film. The citizens of Internetland will get outraged at an old sock if you give them half a chance, especially one with jizz in it. I’m willing to bet a nipple piercing somebody out there will manage to find something problematic in any scene you can imagine, no matter how vanilla.

But the thing about pornography is that what you see isn’t always what you get. Sometimes it is, but not always. Sometimes something may look unethical to the naked eye, but who’s to say what film or porn tricks were used behind the scenes to create it.

Plus, what’s sexy to me might not be ethical to you. Say I was into massage porn, you could question the origin of the coconut massage oil, whether it’s organic, how many coconuts were killed to fill the bottle? And speaking of the bottle, have you seen our landfills?

It’s a tame example, but surely judging someone’s fantasy or taste in porn is almost as loaded as judging the porn itself?

The problem is, no matter how ethical something is; it will never be ethical enough for everyone. This column case in point. It’s bound to pee off someone, which is different to peeing on them, something I have absolutely no judgement about.

We could also turn to academics to define the ethics of porn. But thinking of some of the academics I know, maybe not. Since this conversation went live, feminists, therapists and broad-spectrum scholars have suggested bans on the promotion of rape culture in porn, building consent into narratives, and encouraging diversity of body types; not just portraying the skinny, big-boobed and well-endowed. As well as looking at fair and equal pay (porn might just be the only industry where men routinely earn less than women).

Their points are valid, but their opinions are problematic in themselves. Porn industry insiders don’t want outsiders’ analysis, advice or assistance. I’ve seen furious commenters defending their industry, although it’s hard to take someone seriously when their name is Roger Mesilly or Spanky McSpank Face.

Of course the industry wants to work it out for themselves. But left to their own devices, what’s to say they won’t continue in their own best interests, following the money shot wherever it takes them, as has historically been the case.

So if we want to consider the ethics and remove guilt from our porn, and we can’t rely on the industry, the internet, or academics to police it for us, maybe the onus is on us to find our own solutions. Like seeking out performers who are open about working conditions, or checking out guidelines suggested by ethical.porn

There are also pay porn sites that offer ethical porn. Paying for it is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting something that’s been mindfully produced. Although I don’t know if we’ll ever get a critical mass of people willing to pay, when there’s so much of it out there for free. So next time you dim the lights, grab the tissues and get ready to enjoy something off the boob tube, remember you get what you pay for.

@paigen

amillionmilesfromnormal@gmail.com

 



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