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      Worry About Porn Stars, Not What They Act Out On Screen Worry About Porn Stars, Not What They Act Out On Screen Worry About Porn Stars, Not What They Act Out On Screen

      Worry About Porn Stars, Not What They Act Out On Screen

      October 3, 2013

      By Frankie Mullin


      A photo taken on the set of a "kink porn" shoot. (Photo via)

      Everyone has their own pornographic preferences. Some are clearly far more niche than others, but that's where internet porn has proved itself a useful resource. Think of all those nervous foot fetishists who no longer have to apply for summer jobs at Barratts, or the group sex enthusiasts who don't have to submit themselves to an STD lottery every weekend in order to get their kicks. Sure, it's not the real thing – but so often, the fantasy is better (or at least less harrowing) than the reality anyway.

      However, if David Cameron gets his way with a piece of impending legislation, one specific breed of smut consumer is going to find their chosen fantasy forbidden by law. That fantasy is what's been dubbed "rape porn" – videos that Cameron says "normalise sexual violence against women" and that are "quite simply poisonous to the young people who see them". The government have vowed to ban anyone from possessing or viewing this kind of porn online.

      Whether they're actually capable of doing this remains to be seen, but the proposed ban has once again opened up a dialogue about what kinds of sex we should be allowed to watch consenting adults have on camera. But while the debate about what is or isn't acceptable masturbation material continues on the message-boards of mumsnet and in the pages of the Telegraph, there's another, arguably more important, issue picking up momentum: how much attention is paid to the safety and treatment of performers – the real women, not the fantasies.

      Horror stories have long emerged from porn sets and they continue to do so; women have their consent violated, are coerced into performing acts they didn’t agree to perform, have their requests to use condoms turned down and aren’t paid what was promised. On top of all of that, the industry is reportedly full of racial inequality: Black performers are paid substantially less than white performers and white women are reportedly told by agents and managers to avoid scenes with black men for fear that it will damage their career.       

      In response to all those depressing accounts, writer, sex-educator and one-time professional dominatrix Nichi Hodgson has launched the Ethical Porn Partnership. Hodgson is concerned about the ethics of production in porn and is aiming to create a self-regulatory body to monitor abuses and bad practice within the industry – it's an attempt to breed a culture of Fairtrade fucking, essentially.

      "Lots of companies already make pretty good porn," she says. "What we lack is transparency about how it’s produced, and that’s what the Ethical Porn Partnership is about – building user confidence in porn, saying we can guarantee that it’s been produced in an ethical way."

      Hodgson says she wants to "reclaim some moral high ground" with the partnership, proving that porn producers aren't all sleazy reprobates who care more about money or getting their end away than a human's wellbeing. That will translate into a kite mark attached to porn that meets a certain set of criteria, and producers who wish to be accredited will have to present health certificates and records. There are also plans to set up a system for anonymously reporting complaints, which the EPP will have the capacity to investigate.


      A scene from one of Petra Joy's movies.

      Sex worker, performer and activist Kitty Stryker, who works in alternative porn, agrees that it's performer safety, hiring practices and working conditions – not the fantasies you see being portrayed on screen – that should take priority in any debate on porn and morality. "You can’t tell by watching a porn film who is being degraded," she says. "There’s a major porn company that talks constantly about how ethical they are, but I know lots of women who have worked there, some of whom have had terrible experiences. It’s not the kinky sex we should be worried about, it’s the shit behind the scenes."

      There are those working in the industry who define themselves as "feminist" porn producers. People like Anna Span, who seek to differentiate themselves from the norm by making films that include more shots of male bodies and a focus on storyline. Meanwhile, award-winning producer Petra Joy claims to “blur the lines between art and porn" (even if often this simply equates to some footage of people having sex interspersed with shots of trees and birds). These producers and the companies they run and work for have already placed an emphasis on creating fair working environments for their performers, and as such they're likely to be the first to get on board with the Ethical Porn Partnership. However, despite this distinction being made between feminist and alternative porn and the more stylistically misogynist mainstream "gonzo" type of porn that Cameron seems to most abhor, Hodgson is wary of excluding mainstream porn companies.

      "I will be approaching some strictly feminist producers, but I don’t want to encourage a sense of censorship around representation," she told me. "While there's no denying there's a female perspective, there’s definitely an element of snobbery in the distinction [between mainstream porn and feminist or alternative porn]. Often material isn’t that different, it’s just the cultural frame put around it – if porn is packaged in a certain way and shot with certain camera angles, then it’s going to feel like a completely different experience."

      Following that same thought, Hodgson says that there will still be space for "extreme" porn within her Fairtrade framework, and is outspoken against any legislation that attempts to police fantasy. "I’m really concerned about the clampdown on so-called 'rape porn'," she says. "The latest research suggests that 65 percent of women have admitted to having rape fantasies. Desire is amoral – what you like to watch or fantasise about isn't necessarily anything you’ve dreamt of doing in real life."

      Far more salient than asking whether or not we should feel guilty about our fantasies is the question of how porn is produced and whether performers were genuinely safe while producing it. Unfortunately, producing porn – mainstream or otherwise – costs money, and with most of the wanking public now used to free material, this will be one of the largest challenges in getting people to consume "ethical" porn. But if we're going to continue getting het up about porn – seemingly unavoidable in the context of Cameron's crusade – let it be about making sure women are safe in the real world above whether we’re disturbed by what they act out on camera.

      "I don’t like gonzo porn," says Petra Joy. “But I think the important thing is that we now have more than one kind of porn, and that if you don't like the mainstream gonzo style, then there's now something you can watch that turns you on."

      Follow Frankie on Twitter: @frankiemullin

      More stories about porn:

      David Cameron's War On Internet Porn Lacks a Smoking Gun

      I Tattooed Porn Websites On My Face So My Kids Wouldn't Starve

      So You Want to Perform in Porn 

      Recognising Your Ex-Girlfriend in Porn Is Weird

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      Topics: porn, ethical porn, Frankie Mullen, alternative porn, feminist porn, Petra Joy, Kitty Stryker, Anna Span, Nichi Hodgson

      Comments

      Are you over 18?

      The stuff you're trying to look at is considered \"naughty\" by busybodies, legal types, and (probably) your mom, so we'd like to make sure you're of legal age before we let you see it.