What even is ethical porn?

When we speak of feminist porn, we mean a form of political pornography in which queer and feminist artists express desire and sexuality in progressive and provocative ways. Ethical porn is often mentioned in the same breath as feminist porn, and thus may well fall into the same category. It is important to note, however, that the term ethical porn is not intended to make a moral statement or judgment; it is not about content preferences, but about the well-being of the performers and the way the content was shot. The issues of boundaries, consensus, clear agreements about fees, shooting time and where and how the content may be distributed are essential for ethical porn productions.

The term “ethical porn” is not without controversy. Many argue that the term implies that all other porn that is considered mainstream is inherently unethical. Sex workers, who are particularly affected by stigma, often criticize the term ethical porn for being so morally charged that the dichotomy of good and bad porn is unavoidable.

The term “ethical porn” can also be seen as a marketing tool through which a small niche can distinguish itself from other, larger productions. By addressing working conditions, consensus, and the ability of performers to participate, users can seek out offerings that fit their needs.

“Consumers* bemoan the lack of reliable information about the ethics of porn production from certain porn companies, which they believe makes it difficult to determine which products best align with their ethical values. The relevance of vague or inaccessible information to consumers’ ethical decision-making is a phenomenon seen in other industries as well – a problem that respondents believe is exacerbated by pornography’s taboo status and hidden nature. “*


I would argue that a niche has emerged that has adopted an ethical and feminist philosophy in response to some problematic content and reports of exploitative working conditions in certain sectors of the porn industry. The use of the term “ethical porn” is therefore a step towards becoming more visible and appealing to a feminist audience that does not feel addressed and carried along by mainstream productions.

*Macleod, P. (2021). Influences on ethical decision-making among porn consumers: The role of stigma. Journal of Consumer Culture, 21(2), 381–404.

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