Angie Rowntree — Why Ethical Porn?

Article by · April 5, 2017 ·

By Angie Rowntree

As I define it, ethical porn centers on trust, honest communication, safety and fair dealing among all parties involved. While it doesn’t end there, ethical porn starts with the relationship between directors, producers and performers. At Sssh.com, we’ve established very clear on-set policies in which the performer always has final say on what takes place and how. Really, it’s all about respect and consent and a mutual exchange of both between everyone involved in the creative process.

As I see it, the performers in the movies I make aren’t working for me. They’re working with me –  it’s a collaboration. A big part of this is discussing the scenes we’re going to shoot extensively, long before everyone arrives on set. I’ve found that when performers are involved in the creative process, it yields a more authentic experience. The performers are taking part in something they’ve helped form and doing things they like to do, which makes for more realistic erotic scenes. All this makes everything about the scene more enjoyable, not only for everyone on set but ultimately for the viewer as well.

Even after all this back and forth, one of our bedrock principles is the performer’s absolute right to change her or his mind, at any time. In other words, the right for a performer to say no or call for a stop in filming for any reason is absolute on my sets. Even if what’s happening in that moment is something the performer suggested in the first place. This taps into ideas about consent and the ongoing need to establish it.

Sexual consent will always be a process. It’s something that must be communicated, mutually understood, and respected as a series of discrete decisions and interpersonal transactions, all of which are ongoing. As a consequence, communication is inextricably bound to consent. So too is respect — respect for changes and modifications that may come.

It’s not as obvious, but consumers also have a role to play in the creation and distribution of ethical porn. Unfortunately, a lot of the most popular outlets for porn online are distributing content without the permission of the movie’s creators and with no regard for the impact of their piracy — not just on producers, but on the performers as well.

At the end of the day, no matter how much I prioritize other aspects of filmmaking, if my movies don’t generate at least some profit, I can’t afford to keep making them. If I stop, then that’s one less ethical filmmaker for performers to work with, one less set where they know they’re in charge at all times, and one less safe space, so to speak, for them to work within.

It has been said before, but I’ll say it again: Does anybody who works for a living relish the idea of doing the same job for free? Even if you think you’d still enjoy your career if you worked on a purely volunteer basis, could you afford to do it? Well, guess what? We (performers, studios, directors, crew, etc) can’t afford to work for free either, so we need fans to pay for porn. It really is that simple.

All of this is a long way of saying ethical porn is a subject rich and complex in its details, but simple and clear at its core. What it boils down to is as familiar to us all as the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. There’s nothing tricky about being an ethical porn company, or an ethical porn consumer for that matter. It just requires the clarity of vision to see what the right thing is, followed by the fortitude to act accordingly. And not just when it’s easy — especially when it’s inconvenient or unprofitable to do so.

You can view Angie’s body of work at Sssh.com. Find her on Twitter at @AngieRowntree.

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