The Phantom Search for ‘Ethical Porn’

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LOS ANGELES, January 19, 2015 (TheRightsWriter.com) — “Is there such a thing as ethical porn, and if so, how can we find it?” That's the question asked by Ethan Fixell in an essay for the Daily Dot entitled, “Why You Should Support 'Ethical' Porn.” Fixell writes that he gave up pornography for 30 days in an effort to determine how much control it had over his life. Porn had such a grip that, despite his month-long hiatus, he was unable to give up porn use altogether. But that got him thinking…

“What if, rather than restricting ourselves from all adult content, we could demand a higher level of quality from the industry?” he asks. “What if there was a way to seek out porn only made by enthusiastic performers under 'healthy' working conditions, the same way we seek out organically raised, grass-fed steak?”

Thus, he set off on a phantom search for ethical porn.

He concludes that, “as is the case in any industry,” there are a “handful of sleazy filmmakers who prey on inexperienced performers.” Luckily, “the majority of porn content is produced by responsible and capable performers and producers, under safe, professional, and consensual circumstances.”

What a relief.

But how to tell them apart? Fixell came up with a few pointers for others whose consciences twinge every time their loins stir.

He suggested only paying for pornography from the largest studios, assuming their actions must be above-board. He notes that “subscription websites” feature “interviews with [their] performers before and after each scene, ensuring that all activities were consensual.”

Porn addicts users could also binge-watch their favorite performers, he suggested. They regularly grant interviews discussing how much they enjoy their life in front of the camera.

“Perhaps the best thing a viewer can do for his favorite porn star is to subscribe directly to their website, instead of watching their content on a tube site,” he said – referring to the free, YouTube-like outlets that stream pornography for free. Such sites have severely undercut the porn industry's profit margin.

Following his helpful advice, he reassures his readers, “There’s no reason to feel guilty about watching [porn], or to try and give it up.”

Apparently, he is not the only one concerned with the prospect that the person he is lusting over may be less than enthusiastic about her filmed exploitation. His article got more than 3,100 Facebook shares in just a few days.

But Fixell's counsels – which coincidentally have the effect of filling the porn industry's coffers with cash – ignore the fact that there is no corner of the pornographic industry that does not demean and dehumanize women, no segment that is free of his expressed concerns.

But don't believe me; ask the pornstars and former pornstars themselves.

The Duke porn star Miriam Weeks, who performs under the name “Belle Knox,” has said publicly that her work left her feeling empowered. But she is not always so consistent.

“I’m so used to being on the lookout for scammers, people who are going to try pimp me out or traffic me. I think my experiences have aged me. I don’t have the mind of an eighteen-year-old. I have the emotional baggage of someone much, much older than me,” she said.

Weeks first experienced some doubt about her story when an online video emerged showing her being strangled, slapped, and verbally humiliated. Although she said she was “comfortable” with the limits, she understood that “maybe some of the women” who performed for that site “weren't role-playing, as I was.”

In fact, women have little choice about their roles or what will happen on the set, she and others have acknowledged. Women show up expecting one kind of scene only to be told a much different fate awaits them. If they turn it down, they must pay the producers a kill-fee (in Weeks' case, $300), and she would never be able to work for that company again. So, in the case of the video showing her being abused mentioned above, she consented. But it's hardly without ethical issues.

True, most pornstars say they enjoy having sex on camera – because women who are paid to have sex usually verbally flatter their customers. “I lied to the cameras,” revealed Jan Villarubia, a former pornstar who performed under the name Elizabeth Rollings. “I lied to the fans, 'I love what I do. I love what I do.' Because that's how you make money.”

At the risk of bursting Fixell's bubble, there is no sexual shangri-la in which teeming gangs of nymphettes long to sexually service every anonymous man who approaches them. For the women tasked with portraying such a fantasy, the degrading nature of the work soon takes its toll.

Brittni Ruiz, who used to be “Jenna Presley,” said she turned to drugs “to be able to do the scenes, because I was so robotic. I was like a rubber Barbie doll. I had no emotions. I was plastic.” She used cocaine and heroin before she began violent, self-destructive behaviors such as “cutting” – slashing her skin with knives as a form of stress-release.

Others need drugs to get through the scenes. Vanessa Belmond, formerly pornstar “Alexa Cruz,” told the crew of Date My Pornstar that the sexual situations she filmed were so dangerous she had to take painkillers to get through them.

That physical pain may last for life. Fixell never confronts the reality that virtually every pornstar will have an endless series of STD infections because of the work he and other “ethical porn” enthusiasts consume. Belmond said she had multiple STDs, and contracted one her first day on the set. Villarubia said she caught herpes on the job. And all porn industry shooting has been temporarily halted a handful of times in recent months as performers worry they have passed on AIDS/HIV. Yet porn consumers, and producers, object when performers use condoms to minimize the risk.

How does Fixell feel that these women will end up with the pain of a venereal disease because they chose to provide his product-of-choice?

What of the fact that nearly all of these women are reliving their own sexual abuse, and many are runaways, taking the next logical step after prostitution, or trying to get drug money?

These young women will be stigmatized and often unable to work in other careers because of a choice they made for the sake of a quick buck at age 18, 19, or 20. (Most women shoot only a handful of scenes before exiting the industry.)

Does Fixell really believe that women would consent to be choked, beaten, and humiliated in a medium that can be accessed around the world and that will be preserved forever if they saw any other viable way to make a living?

No “ethical porn” can exist, because pornography is by its very nature exploitative and artificial. It portrays the outer shell of sexuality – the deepest connection between two human beings – without conferring the emotional closeness itself to its viewers or practitioners. Even the biological imperative that scientists credit with giving us the sex drive – the will to procreate – speaks of a longing for something that transcends the boundaries of any one person's existence.

Instead of looking at images of people engaged in an imitation of love, why not search for love itself? Rather than sit in front of flickering images of exploited women, why not attempt to establish an emotional relationship with a woman or man that produces love, marriage, and, perhaps in time, children? “Against such, there is no law.”

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Ben Johnson is U.S. Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews.com, the guest host of Nothing But Truth with Crane Durhamon AFR Talk Radio, and the author of three books. His personal website is TheRightsWriter.com. Connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Cross-posted at LifeSiteNews.com.