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The Importance of Consent in Pornography

In 2020, former adult film star Ron Jeremy was charged with multiple sex crimes, including rape, forcible oral copulation, and forcible penetration by a foreign object. The charges came on the heels of years of allegations against Jeremy, who was long rumored to use his status to abuse, intimidate, and manipulate his victims. In 2021, additional charges were added that involved 13 different women. For Jeremy’s accusers, their day in court would never come. Earlier this year, the 70-year-old Jeremy was deemed incompetent to stand trial.

For critics of the adult film industry, Ron Jeremy is emblematic of everything wrong with the porn industry which has long been criticized for portraying sex as either transactional or without adequate consideration for consent. This has led to a perception that adult films promote a culture of non-consensual sex, which has been further reinforced by the prevalence of themes such as coercion, exploitation, and abuse.

In response to an increased awareness of bodily autonomy, women’s rights, and the importance of consent, the industry did make adjustments to accommodate a more culturally aware audience, which now includes a greater number of women among its consumers.

Many adult film studios have taken steps to better portray consent in their films. For example, some studios now require performers to consent to sexual activity before it takes place. This not only ensures that all parties are on the same page, but also reinforces the idea that sex should be a consensual act between equals.

Some studios adopt a comprehensive approach, aiming to establish a secure and empowering environment where performers can openly express their boundaries and preferences, while also implementing explicit protocols to address any concerns or challenges that may arise during filming.

Because consent is a healthy part of sexuality, ethical porn prioritizes other positive aspects of healthy sexual encounters like communication, respect, and mutual pleasure, and features performers who are enjoying themselves and actively agreeing to on-screen sexual activities.

An example of adult content lauded for positive representations of enthusiastic consent is the CrashPadSeries, a queer porn website that features lesbian, trans, and queer performers. Based on the 2005 dyke porn cult classic The Crash Pad, the series is set in a secret apartment in San Francisco. The series is produced by Shine Louise Houston, who is a leading indie feminist porn director. The Crash Pad won the Feminist Porn Award’s “Hottest Dyke Sex Scene.”

Nearly 40 million Americans consume pornography on a regular basis, leaving critics to fret that the press given to ethical porn is little more than a smokescreen masking a problematic industry that hasn’t really changed. Ethical porn, they say, is merely a blip on a $200 billion mainstream porn industry that still trades in misogyny and often violent exploitation of women.

Still, the effort continues with producers of ethical and feminist porn continuing to advocate and educate critics and fans alike about the need for on-screen depictions of sex to include the vital elements of respect and consent.

By Ava Sinclair

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