What to Know About Ethical Pornography
Some people may think the term "ethical pornography" is simply an oxymoron, like "organized chaos" or "deafening silence." But ethical porn is breakthrough entertainment and represents a path to much more.
By definition, ethical pornography is exactly what it sounds like: porn produced in an ethical manner. The Center for Growth, a counseling group with offices in several states, defines it as "erotic material that is produced legally, respects the rights of the performers and for which performers are compensated fairly."
The ethics of pornography and adult content are twofold. Not only is the production process held to ethical and fair standards for performers, but it also promotes diverse body types, sexual preferences and casting in a way mainstream porn studios may not.
Production and casting
Strict consent parameters, diverse casting and fair payment are all founding tenets of independent studio Moon Rabbit Studios, based in Colorado and owned by adult content creator Luna Lapine.
"Consent is key from everyone involved," Lapine explained. "The big thing is that everyone knows exactly what is going on before, during and after a shoot."
Just because a person consents to shoot one type of pornography doesn't mean they agree to all kinds of content, and Lapine emphasized the importance of making sure there's no additional pressure on performers to do sexual acts for which they didn't initially sign up. Lapine gave the example of someone answering a casting call that is supposed to be boy/girl action and then the production team wants to add anal or group sex at the last minute.
'Regardless of your skin color or sexuality, you're going to get paid fairly.'
"There have been some less ethical situations that I have heard of, and that I've actually experienced myself, where they try to bait and switch you," Lapine said. "With ethical porn, everyone knows, 'Here's what we're doing,' and if there is any deviation, everyone agrees to it then and there."
Fair payment and diverse casting are other key elements of ethical production.
"Everyone needs to be paid fairly," Lapine explained. "Historically, there's been a bit of a problem with this in mainstream porn, where performers of color have actually ended up getting paid less or gotten more restrictive contracts.
"Ethical porn embraces equality, diversity," she added. "So regardless of your skin color or sexuality, you're going to get paid fairly."
Make love, not pornography
Adult content and porn are terms used interchangeably, but they're not the same product. In the same way a square can be a rectangle but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square, porn can be adult content but adult content isn't necessarily porn.
Traditionally, pornography has been defined by its actors, who act out fantasies rather than depict how sex actually works in the real world. Branding wunderkind and lifelong innovator Cindy Gallop saw a gap in the market for people seeking relatable, real-world adult content, which is why she founded the adult content platform MakeLoveNotPorn about 10 years ago as a safe space for people to share their real-life sexual encounters.
The platform is curated by a small but dedicated team that carefully screens every video submitted for harmful content, such as sexual abuse and child pornography. The company is, as explained by the MLNP motto, "Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference."
"As a female founder, I concepted MLNP through the female lens to be the safest place on the internet," said Gallop, who is based in New York City.
Having spent decades working in the tech industry, Gallop is intimately aware of how diversity and inclusion were missing in adult content. Internet conglomerates own most of the common tube sites where mainstream porn is distributed, and Gallop pointed out that this circumstance can result in the promotion of specific genres of pornography, including some that depict simulated violence. MLNP is intended to diversify the offerings of adult content and porn's gatekeepers.
"Ultimately, MLNP's mission is to end rape culture by showing you how wonderful great, consensual, communicative sex is in the real world," Gallop said. "You can call it ethical but it's much more fundamental than that."
The misconception of 'feminist porn'
The term "feminist porn" is often misunderstood and typecast as solely romantic, soft-core sexual scenarios. Picture a Fabio-type actor making love to a female actor surrounded by lace curtains. While this is certainly true of some feminist pornography, it is also a reductionist understanding that pigeonholes feminist porn as targeting only female consumers.
The definition of feminist pornography only means that it was directed by people who believe in equal sexual standards for all genders. The correlation between feminist porn and soft-core scenarios may be due to society stereotyping what women and men are supposed to want. Feminist porn directors such as Erika Lust (Lust Cinema) and Shine Louise Houston (Pink & White Productions) create beautifully shot, diverse pornography that highlights a variety of sexualities, tastes and kinks.
"Terms like 'feminist porn' and 'porn for women' marginalize that porn," Gallop said. "It's a huge misnomer that women like touchy-feely, white curtains romantic sh-t all the time. We are as multifaceted sexuality-wise as men are. There are just as many women that are turned on by watching rough sex, and there are just as many men who get turned on by romantic content."
While MLNP isn't technically a porn platform, it is a platform that features a wide array of sexual tastes and proclivities for all sexualities and genders. Gallop often receives grateful messages from straight men who are able to feel more comfortable with their own sexuality because they can see how other men explore.
"These men and our MakeLoveNotPorn stars say that we're such an important part of exploring their sexuality, coming to terms with it, and learning more about themselves," Gallop explained.
Ultimately, ethical porn—or feminist porn—is what all of us should enjoy and strive for, because it is simply depictions of sexuality that embrace everybody, and not from just one phallocentric viewpoint.
"Every creator is creating the porn they want to see in the world," Gallop said. "Don't patronize women by thinking that porn is one thing."