VICE Interview (Part 1)

Article by · August 1, 2017 ·

Our site curators recently did a group interview about ethical porn, what’s the point, and the point of this site overall for Mark Hay, writing for VICE.

Portions of the interview appeared in the piece “Makers of So-Called Ethical Porn Hope to Clean Up the Industry” (published 20 July 2017).

There was A LOT to our interview though, so we are republishing our interview with Mark in full. The following is Part 1 of 2. You can read Mark’s follow up questions and our responses in Part 2 here.

Part 1 (20 June 2017)

Note from the Ethical Porn Curators: We have rephrased some of these questions in order to reflect that this is an interview/statement with a group of people, not one single person.

Mark Hay/VICE — When did your group start to develop a definite sense of what ethical porn meant, both in definite terms and to you all collectively?  

Ethical.porn: There is no definitive definition of what constitutes ethical porn, and attempts to create such a thing are part of the issue. Discussions of ethical porn that equate it to a genre — meaning, for instance, a specific look or series of sex depictions — are extremely problematic in the sense that they’re trying to define/describe “correct” forms of sexual expression. These types of discussions rely on limited and fairly repressive ideas about what sex “should” be. It’s not to say that people cannot enjoy or prefer these versions of sex and porn, but it is to say that to describe a one specific version of sex as ethical is to marginalize all others.

Based on the statements from members of the industry, ethical content relies on consent, good business practices, and transparency. Beyond this, any porn can be ethical.  

We want to be clear that none of the information included on Ethical.porn is “official adult industry policy.” The contributors do not make up all ethical people and/or entities in porn, and contributing to the site should in no way be considered a crucial aspect of creating ethical adult content.

What, if anything, has frustrated you all about the way people in the industry, the mass media, or the wider public use or misuse the term?

One of the most significant motivators for starting this site was the proliferation of misunderstanding regarding ethical porn coming from outside the adult industry. Not only were/are we seeing a litany of off-mark ideas about what happens on porn sets — not to mention direct and disrespectful refusal to include voices of the actual people involved in producing porn in these conversations — we were seeing ideas of “ethical” being equated with a specific genre, aesthetic, and series of sex depictions. As we’ve said, preference for these versions of sex are totally ok — but they are not the only way to look at sex media.

What specific conversations are you all hoping to engender by launching this site?

The express purpose of Ethical.porn is to have a place for members of the industry — again, those actually involved in doing the work of porn — to share their viewpoints and thoughts on the matter. It’s meant to be a space for those outside the industry to consider these positions, as well as a place for thought leaders and media to access a more nuanced and informed set of ideas about the issues.

And what was the direct impetus that led you to launch this site? Why now?

For various reasons, women and independent pornographers were/are frequently indicated in media think pieces and reflections about ethical porn. These sorts of pieces often include the work of Angie Rowntree, who is a pioneer of online porn for women (she started Sssh.com in 1999, where she directs and produces content to this day). Rowntree, who is plugged deeply into the adult industry community and leadership, initiated Ethical.porn in response to what looked like, for better or worse, very limited understanding of the breadth and scope of all adult content, much less consumer preference and autonomy of sexual expression.  

What has the reaction to the site been like in the wider world of porn? How do you hope it will be received?

We just launched in May, so responses are coming in every day. From within the industry, we have seen reactions run the gamut. People are happy about the site, people feel we are missing pieces of the conversation — which we are — and people are uneasy with our pushback against the mainstream concept of ethical porn, likely because it draws attention to wider social issues in a critical way. No matter the response though, for people working in the adult industry, we encourage you: Please, share your thoughts. Send us your statement, record your audio, however you want. There is no simple, easy, or uniform way to wrestle with this issue, nor is there any way to cover everything at once. We need your viewpoint and insights, and so does society at large.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t bring up the “there is no such thing as ethical porn” argument. Creating a site that dives into nuance almost presumes that the idea of ethical porn is accepted. But there are still many people out there who believe, for any number of reasons (ranging from conceptions about how porn works to macro arguments about the patriarchal conditioning of desire and corrosive forces of capitalism writ large), there can never be ethical porn. So, how does Ethical.porn react to these arguments?

Life takes all kinds — including those that believe there is no way porn can be ethical. This can be because the idea of sex media challenges any number of deeply held principles, ideas about “correct” sexual expression, unease with the content form or lack of understanding about production processes, a wider understanding about the significant power differentials that shape our society on a structural and historical level, or just plain old not liking porn. All these things are fine! In fact, they are useful and compelling positions when engaged on respectful ground with counterpoints and opposition. People are entitled to their position, whatever it may be. Our hope, however, is that these same people can now choose to learn about other considerations shaping oppositional positions on porn — or, at least be confident enough in their own viewpoints to allow others to have theirs.  

How do you all think your site and the discussions on it can interact / engage with these arguments?

Ethical.porn is a platform for members of the industry to place their viewpoints in plain view and accessible. Yes, it is another instance of a marginalized community having to educate and explain themselves as a defensive tactic, but the fact remains that this site makes industry community member standpoints on porn and ethical porn plain and available. Our hope is that people, media, etc will pause when they are faced with assumptions and instead consider what the people who are actually in the porn industry have to say about their own work, lives, and beliefs.

Read Part 2 of our interview with VICE here.

What do you think about ethical porn? Email us at ethicalporn@yahoo.com

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