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Socially conscious decision-making doesn’t end at the grocery store...

This September we’ve been talking all about the ethics of the porn industry. There are still many taboos surrounding the watching of porn, but it can be a pleasurable, healthy, and socially conscious activity – especially if we’re educated on the behind-the-scenes of it all.

Before we start, let’s address some of the reasons porn is considered a taboo and why we need to be talking about it.

As public health researcher Emily F. Rothman explains in her 2018 TedTalk, “The free, online, mainstream pornography that teenagers are most likely to see is a completely terrible form of sex education, but that’s not what it was intended for.”

So, yes, if young people are watching porn to fill in the gaps (whether consciously or unconsciously) that sex education is failing to fill, then there could be negative effects on how those young people grow up perceiving what sex is supposed to be like. Much of porn portrays a lack of consent – primarily from women – as violent and degrading sexual acts are forced upon them.

However, that being said, exploring your own kinks that may involve non-consent role-play, BDSM, and more is perfectly healthy! It just needs to be approached with clear communication and all parties feeling safe in the experience. That’s where sex education needs to come in.

If porn is included in our sex eduation for young people around the world, then porn can be an open, shameless, empowering, and fun activity to partake in. However, it’s important that we become informed consumers, for the porn industry is just like any other and must be held accountable in the same way other industries are.

That’s where “ethical porn” comes into play.

But what is “ethical porn”?

Ethical porn, also referred to as “fair-trade” or “feminist” porn, can be broken down to consist of the following:

  • Better compensated and more autonomous actors and workers (given we live in a Capitalism driven system).
  • Professional workplaces with frequent breaks and refreshments
  • Background medical checks for all actors proving that they are free of any STIs
  • Directors who respect the consent of the actors and do not pressure them into performing acts they had not previously agreed to
  • A production team that is proud of the work they are creating

Zoe Williams wrote in the Guardian, “A common assumption is that ‘fair-trade’ porn is going to be very soft and wholemeal and respectful; some of it is, but most of it isn’t. It does address female sexuality in a way that mainstream porn doesn’t (how you go from ‘female gaze’ to ‘wholemeal’ is, of course, via the misapprehension that female sexuality is really sweet).”

You can still find the same interests and topics found in mainstream free porn sites with ethical porn, but it’s the way it’s produced that makes the biggest difference. In addition, ethical porn is often more inclusive to all genders and sexual preferences.

Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101, told the Guardian “Many young women will encounter lesbian sex through mainstream porn. This means everyone, not only girls, can get some very wrong ideas about lesbian sex, because the lesbian sex in mainstream porn is designed for male visual pleasure. So queer women have to navigate male sexuality whether or not it interests them.”


How do I know what I’m watching was made ethically?

There is one golden rule for finding ethical porn: pay for it.

It’s the – kind of – sad reality.

But, think about it. If you aren’t paying for your porn, then how are the actors getting paid? How is the production making enough to keep the work standards up to where they need to be? You pay for everything else you consume – your morning coffee, your groceries, your clothes, etc. – so why wouldn’t you pay for your porn?

Don’t feel as though you can afford to pay for your porn? Check out other forms of erotica. You can visit audio and literary porn sites, like, to get sexy and exciting content but without the harm and mistreatment that often comes with free porn.

However, paying for your porn doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it is “fair-trade.”

The most effective step to take is to research, research, research – and do it before you’re horny! Take some time to look into specific websites, production companies, actors, or directors that are proud of the art they produce and the work put into their films. Bookmark them and keep a list of those that you like and want to explore more when you are ready to get frisky with yourself or your partner(s).

Here are some options to get you started and excited about ethical porn:

Make Love Not Porn
Lust Cinema
Common Sensual
Bright Desire
Indie Porn Revolution
Crash Pad Series

And that’s just the beginning! There are many, many ethical porn sites covering a wide array of sexual interests out there. It just takes a little extra time and effort, but it will be worth it.

Start spreading the word!

The only way for us to start upending the taboos of porn, industry misconduct, and the sexual/dating violence that can occur due to the misunderstanding of porn as nonfiction is to start talking about it!

Remember Rothman’s TedTalk we started off with? Let’s return to that.

In it, Rothman explains that sexual and dating violence is the top risk facing high school students today. More than bullying, vaping, and thoughts of suicide. In conjunction, it has been found that a majority of young people turn to porn “as though it were an instruction manual.”

It seems clear that there is a correlation (though not a determined causation) between porn being misunderstood as a form of sex education and the sexual violence young people are facing at the hands of their partners.

But we have the power to change that!

Start talking about pornography – especially with young people – and start incorporating it into our sex education. This means explaining to young people the difference between sex in porn and sex in the real world. It means teaching young people about the misconduct in the porn industry and how they can be informed consumers. It means ridding the taboos and the shame that can come with it. It means encouraging people to explore their sexual selves in a safe, healthy, and empowering way.

Writing prompt:

What was my first experience with porn like?
This voluntary monthly prompt invites you to explore your sexual biography.
Tips on exploring this:
Set aside 20 minutes with your phone on silent and relax yourself in a comfortable space with a pen and paper. Go slow. Start with what comes to mind from your first read of the prompt. Continue writing your stream of consciousness. Consider some additional questions like: What was the context of when I first watched porn? Who was I with? How did I feel after? When (if ever) did I become comfortable talking about my pornography preferences?

Researching our sexual biographies:

Now that you know about ethically vs. unethically produced porn, will you find an ethical porn producer that you like?
Yes          No
Each month we ask a question in support of our leading mission at My Sex Bio. As we grow we plan to help fund and supply research for sex education. The results of these questions may be shared on social media as well as the following month’s newsletter. These results will also help curate relevant content for our readers, like you, moving forward. Responses are voluntary and anonymous.
—The MY SEX BIO Team
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