Is there such thing as „Ethical Porn“? absolutely, says feminist porn pioneer angie Rowntree

PORN BETTER: What brought you to the porn industry and what is your job there?

ANGIE: My husband, the founder of the web’s first BDSM site, Wasteland.com, and I got involved in the very early days of the online adult entertainment industry, back in 1994. Later, when adult industry conventions became a thing, we were at a convention in Florida and I was struck by the way all the content offered was so clearly focused on men. It was all about male fantasies and male pleasure. I was frustrated by the lack of films and other content aimed at women as consumers and the lack of any expression from a female perspective, or that emphasized mutual pleasure. It made me want to create a space that captures sexual pleasure from the female point of view and to explore female sexual desire and agency. 

I was told repeatedly that this was a crazy idea and “porn for women” would never be marketable. “Women don’t watch porn, women just aren’t ‘visual’, women will not pay for it” – that was the common refrain. That was in 1998. I wanted to change the landscape that I had just seen. At the time I wasn’t sure what that looked like in practice, which is why I started asking women via our survey what they wanted to see and/or experience.

By 1999, the first, primitive version of Sssh was born on our corporate website (the Sssh.com domain was eartagged for development), along with a sex survey, which continues inside the member’s area of Sssh to this day. We now have almost 25 years of in-depth survey data on female sexual desire and fantasy.

PORN BETTER: In your opinion, is there such a thing as “ethical porn”? If so, how would you define ethical porn?

Absolutely yes, there is such a thing as ethical porn – but ethical porn is not a particular “style” or genre of porn; it’s a way of doing business. In other words, ethical porn is composed best practices that ensure everyone’s well-being and fair treatment throughout a production–which ultimately benefits not only the performers and studio, but also the fans who will be able to enjoy content knowing it was truly made with affirmative consent and depicts real pleasure. It’s also important to understand that much of the business of ethical porn occurs before the cameras are rolling.

Ethical porn has many different qualities. Above all, it is always made with open communication, honesty, respect and transparency. This means everything you see in an ethically-produced scene has been negotiated and consented to by all parties.



Other properties of ethical porn include, but are not limited to fair pay for performers, crew and staff; a secure, private and safe set with plenty of food and water; allowing performers to choose scene partners and otherwise be collaborative in the process and checking in throughout the shooting of the scene to make sure everyone feels comfortable, respected, and safe.

The good news is, since it’s not constrained by genre or category, all performers, studios, and content creators can embrace ethical business practices like these. 

Sssh.com is and always has been a very collaborative studio. We not only discuss and negotiate the sex to everyone’s comfort; we listen to our performers’ input as far as the creative direction of their characters. This greatly enhances the storylines and how sex is portrayed in our films, especially since the sex in our narratives is used as a plot point and story driver and not simply a “sex scene”.

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We’re always striving to capture genuine chemistry, realism and mutual pleasure, so we try as much as possible to shoot with real-life couples. In cases when we cast professional performers, they choose who they want to work with. It’s important to us that they are truly enjoying the sex that is being filmed, so we go beyond consent and discuss pleasure, too. In fact, you could say that ethical porn provides a creative space for capturing authentic pleasure.

Another important component, of course, is ethical marketing. Ethical porn avoids using tropes and stereotypes in its marketing.

There is one last important piece here: the consumer. The consumer needs to pay for their porn. Like any other form of entertainment, it costs money to make. Pirating hurts studios and content creators–and it especially harms indie studios that deliver an alternative vision to mainstream pornography.

Again, ethical porn pays everyone fairly and has production costs, so it makes sense to support and respect the people who bring you pleasure –albeit pleasure in a different way than the person who makes your morning latte or gives you that mani/pedi you look forward to.

 Ultimately everyone benefits from ethical porn, including the fans who get to enjoy content, knowing that it was made by people who enthusiastically consented and had a positive experience making it.

PORN BETTER: How would you describe your own standards when it comes to work conditions and distribution of the content?

As a director, I am always on set, present and engaged in everything.

 At Sssh, our production standards have always reflected our commitment to ensuring everyone’s fair treatment and well-being – we’ve been doing ethical porn before it was even a “thing.” 

We don’t “distribute” Sssh content in the same sense that most adult content is widely and freely distributed. Our movies stay behind a paywall and we do not allow downloads. We also respect the wishes of many of our real-life couples to not have their images displayed publicly on social media.

PORN BETTER: How do you ensure that your standards are being met when producing porn / running Sssh.com?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m the director and I’m on set for the production of all our original movies. With the movies on which I’m a producer but not a director, I know the people and production houses shooting those movies. In some cases, I’ve known them for years and we (Sssh.com) are a part of the creative process.

When it comes to the website, it’s important to remember that everything that’s on the site is there because a member has requested it. I love that, to this day, Sssh is still all about its members and their fantasies. 

I really enjoy the challenge of continually delivering innovative new features to our members, such as Sssh Soiree, our integrative video viewing platform that combines porn, intimacy, and sexual wellness. Soiree allows Sssh members to watch films and video chat in real time – it’s a “watch party” of a new and different kind. All of our tech is developed in-house which gives us full control of the results. Sssh is much more than a porn site; it’s an experience!

PORN BETTER: If you had to describe in a nutshell what’s special about your production company / website, what would you say?

How big of a nutshell LOL? Our members don’t just “request” content; they dictate what we offer. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from members about this facet of Sssh. They know everything they see, movies, stories, articles, classes, podcasts, etc – everything on the site is there, because a fellow member has asked for it. It really gives the site a sense of community. I would also say our unique platform and the way in which we utilize the newest technologies to provide the best possible experience helps distinguish Sssh.com from the competition. 

Angie Rowntree is an inductee to the AVN Hall of Fame Founders Division who also has been named as one of the adult industry’s top female directors and power-players. Angie got her start in the adult industry’s online sector in the early 90s, making her one of the adult Internet’s true pioneers. She is running the female focus porn site sssh.com. In addition to directing original adult erotic films, Angie is also the producer of the Mindbrowse.com online discussion series, which brings together directors, performers, academics and critics to tackle some of the most incendiary and controversial topics surrounding the Adult Film Industry.

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