Guest blog: Ethical porn – is it real?

Image of Charlie Ten by @MrGroveFilms (NSFW links)

This week’s guest blogger is Charlie Ten – @CharlieTenModel – a porn performer (or ‘mattress actress’ as she puts it on her Twitter profile, which made me giggle) who is here to talk about ethical porn. One of the things that most frustrates me about the porn ‘debate’ (by which I mean broadly the arguments between those who think that All Porn Is Bad And Evil and those who don’t) is that those who are anti-porn are rarely interested in engaging with the specific problems in the industry – their blanket dislike of porn means they can just say ‘all porn is bad’ and have done with it. Performers like Charlie, on the other hand, are well-placed to talk about the ways in which the industry may be letting people down, and how ethical porn producers are working to change that. Take it away Charlie…

Ethical porn

An anti-pornography protest I recently witnessed got me thinking. It was held by the “London Feminist Network” outside the UK Adult porn awards. It struck me as entirely anti-feminist to tell women – as well as everyone else attending the awards – that their way of making money was inherently wrong. We laughed at their signs and inability to explain their views coherently. But whilst I didn’t agree with their sentiment one bit, aspects of the industry are in fact damaging.

Performers can feel like they have to change themselves in order to get more work; I am often told that my tattoos, scars and even my height mean I’m unsuitable for a scene. Some performers are denied work for having too much plastic surgery. Whilst this may be down to the fact that producers are catering to a market and know what sells, as an industry, we need to be creating porn with diverse body types instead of tiny, white, unblemished ones. There is a market for everything and any individual with the right attitude should be able to partake.

The impact of the porn industry on my life began long before I actually became a part of it; I started watching porn when I was young, and I obsessively watched it for years to come. At first I watched hentai – Japanese anime porn – exclusively, I thought it was somehow morally more righteous than watching live action porn. Whether or not my early consumption of porn has had a positive or negative impact on my life is up for debate.

On one hand, it led to me to the exciting adult industry based life I lead today. I’ve travelled to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin, all based on my strength as a performer and businesswoman. But on the other hand, it may well be responsible for my uncontrollable craving for hardcore sex, brutality, hurting people sexually and getting hurt by them. But is that necessarily a bad thing? I’m sexually satisfied, more than if I were to just have vanilla sex; no whips, no chains, no excitement.

Parents need to make an active effort to talk to their children about sex from a young age to ensure that they realise that porn is purely a fantasy, especially as it’s becoming more readily available to newer generations, and to explain that any fantasies they have as a result of consuming it are fine as long as it’s consensual and (retrospectively) safe. The education system also needs to catch up with the fact that any child with a computer will come across pornography sooner or later.

I believe ethical porn is not defined by the content as much as it is defined by two key conditions – treating your performers with kindness and respect, and paying them enough.

Treating your models ethically is easy. Talk to them like humans, not circus animals. They should be aware of what’s expected of them, and never made to feel bad for saying no to anything they did not agree to prior. It is also important to be as communicative as possible leading up to the shoot and answer any and all questions they have. If it is a full day shoot, make sure they are fed, and provide lunch if possible. Compliments are fine, but never flirt with them or make them feel uncomfortable – don’t assume that they are single or interested in you – always remember consent.

Let me describe one unethical thing that happened to me on a porn set. During one scene, I was bound, feet to the floor with my arms tied up above me, as well as being blindfolded and gagged – unable to say a safe word. I felt a sharp object run up my leg. At this point I thought I was going to die, that my lifelong habit of getting into particularly weird situations had led me to my death.

It was a pinwheel, I discovered later – which is not dangerous at all, but the fact that my life was not truly in danger doesn’t matter. In porn, everything should be discussed beforehand and as a performer you should know exactly what you’re about to do.

Ten years ago, it wasn’t unheard of for models to make upwards of £10,000 a scene. Now, in the UK, the standard rate is £300-350 for a boy/girl scene of any length. People just aren’t paying for their porn anymore, so no-one is making as much as they used to – producers cut their losses and cut the rate they pay models.

The other day I was offered £250 to appear in a 6 guy/1 girl gangbang scene. I turned it down, as I can easily make double that doing a softcore lesbian scene in Europe. I simply felt that amount did not reflect my value as a performer. I’d happily do my first gangbang for the right price, with the right producer, but that was not it. The models who accept this price for multiple penises: good for you! It will probably make for a better scene if the model is doing it because she really wants to fuck 6 guys, rather than because she needs to pay her rent. I have worked for free (naively), I have worked for £50 a scene, and £1000 a scene, and I don’t regret any of it. It all led to building my bank account and my reputation. However I insist on being paid a fair amount, in comparison to the profits the company filming me will make.

This is not to say that content share – the act of making porn where both parties receive the content to sell on their own platforms instead of pay – is inherently unethical. Rather, it is an excellent way to make a name for yourself in the industry and build your fan-base, providing you do it with the right people. It is true that some will use content share to get models to perform free, knowing that they will make more money selling the videos than the model will.

I could go on and on about the ins and outs of making ethical porn, but at the end of the day, the best way to ensure the future of ethical porn is to pay for it. Buy videos from your favourite models, subscribe to your favourite sites and search for ethical alternatives. For those within the industry, learn and practise proper consent, act professionally, and pay your performers respectfully.

ethical porn performer charlie ten wearing a pink leotard, kneeling on the bed and looking straight to camera

Image of Charlie Ten by @MrGroveFilms (NSFW links)

9 Comments

  • Lexy says:

    All very well said! I’m glad you mentioned parents/ education because you’re right — with easy access these days to so many things on the Internet, it’s time for honest conversations, not avoidance.

    For me as an adult, porn has been a fun part of learning about my sexuality; it’s great for ideas and fantasies! But as with TV and movies it’s important to convey the message that some of the “standard gender roles” you see in porn don’t need to be limiting-defining for young people exploring their sexualities.

    So yes, support ethical porn! I don’t do it enough, and this is a good reminder to do so. You’ve also got me thinking about how the sense of professionalism and personal agency that might come across when buying from models directly or sites that respect them will help with a more reality-based understanding of porn for young people with developing minds.

  • Well said. It’s not difficult to make ethical porn, and people should seek it out and support it.

  • Perfectly put . . . because, as with everything in life, respect and mutual consent should surely be second-nature to all of us !!!
    Xxx – K

  • Lola says:

    Though I’m totally in support of ethical porn, it’s so hard to know which porn was made ethically. It would be great if the performers themselves had a website with a rating system so we could know from them what the conditions were.

  • Prufrock says:

    Good article!
    Nice idea Lola, I don’t know if you have heard of it but there is a group that accredits employers in London as ‘London living wage’ employers. Maybe the same could be done for porn, but with standards of treatment and respect as evaluated by performers- almost like the fair trade mark for Porn?
    Obviously it would be alot of work but I would be much happier to pay (and pay more) of I was certain of what that money was going towards- the same way I tip more in a restaurant when there is a statement that it goes 100% to staff.

  • Prufrock says:

    Also if anyone has sources of good ethical porn please share 😊

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hello! So quite a few people have asked off the back of this article where they can find ethical porn, and my go-to answer is to say that talking to performers/following them on social channels is usually a really good place to start. Keep an eye out for porn made by (or endorsed by) those who are really outspoken about ethical porn, those who are pushing for fairer industry practices etc.

      Obviously Charlie (who wrote this piece and whose twitter handle is @CharlieTenModel) is a great person to follow to start with!

      I’d also add these fab people/production companies:

      Jiz Lee
      Pandora Blake
      Shine Louise Houston
      Crashpad Series
      Ms Naughty (Bright Desire)
      Stoya and Kayden Kross (who run Trenchcoatx)
      Four Chambered Heart
      Royal Fetish XXX (and Jet Setting Jasmine/King Noire who run it)
      Nimue Allen
      Ariel Anderssen of Restrained Elegance

      And there are so so many more that I will have forgotten to include here! There are more suggestions at the end of this article here: https://www.girlonthenet.com/2014/10/22/porn-censorship-feminist-porn-debate/ And if anyone else has great suggestions please do feel free to add in comments!

      Your suggestion about a trust mark is a good one, and I know some people have tried to make this happen in the past (i.e. http://ethicalporn.org/). The difficulty with something like that is who gets to decide on the rules? And who polices it? They’re tricky questions (though not impossible – there are definitely some core standards that I think most people could agree on when it comes to what makes porn ethical). I’d love to see one, and if anyone knows of anyone who is doing it well at the moment please do let me know!

  • Indigo Byrd says:

    I read this article with interest, as I was once anti-porn myself – though not to the extent of protesting in public about it.
    Some reasons I can readily identify as to why I was anti-porn are that I hadn’t been exposed (!) to well made material where women’s pleasure was a focus not an immaterial matter, to discussion and debate around the industry, and to my own capacity to enjoy sexuality in ways I had not thought were possible. (I now run a blog that deals in part with my sexual journey as an older woman).
    Consequently I saw male porn watching as (a) representative of what they really wanted to do and thought ie women were just a hole or three to be filled (I now realise that while this is probably the case for some men, its far more complicated than that), (b) reflecting back on my own capacity and desireability in a negative way, and (c) something that women who worked in the industry did because they need the money not because they wanted to do it. I have since re-educated myself on all these points, having started to watch porn that involves differing points of view, and reading material like this article in order to gain a better understanding of the industry.
    One of the other things that bothered me about mainstream porn was the lack of diversity and/or negative role models. I know that porn is now being made to cater for a broader population and more diverse tastes, although I’ve yet to see porn that goes beyond stereotypical views of older people. I started watching Abby Winters and have since looked at other porn sites including A Four Chambered Heart and Bright Desire. I haven’t found huge amounts of porn that actually gets me aroused, (but then I also struggle with a lot of written erotica) and it may be that porn is too visual for me, but I live in hope.
    Thanks for the engaging article, I appreciated it very much.
    Indie

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hi Indigo – thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! And delighted to have found your blog – am following you on Twitter now <3

Leave a Reply to Prufrock Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *