How to watch porn (ethically)

All the pleasure, none of the guilt

Words by Nichi Hodgson

The traditional feminist position on porn has always seen it as an exploitative display of male power; an act of sexual pleasure ‘done’ to women’s bodies. But a new generation of women are interested in its potential power to turn them on.

And the stats are revealing. More than a third of 18 to 35 year old women watch porn at least once a week, the majority of whom are in a relationship yet enjoy watching it alone to spike their own orgasm.

Yet for the majority of these women, their main concern isn’t about whether enjoying it without bae is a form of cheating. Instead, it’s whether the women in the clips are being treated well, and whether the porn they’re watching is perpetuating sexual stereotypes – basically, whether it’s ‘ethical’ or not.

So if you want to get off but have an ethical conscience what do you do?

Focus on content that cares about the performer’s welfare, says Mistress Tytania, fetish pornographer and dominatrix, who prefers the term ‘independent porn’ to ‘ethical’.

‘Independently-made porn that gives importance to the performers and to their sexual expression often shows sex in a context that avoids cliches such as certain stereotyped body shapes, repetitive, mechanically-performed sexual acts or reactions that sound and look predictable or staged. Once you’ve seen porn when the people in it are enjoying what they are doing, you know, you will always recognise it. You can’t unlearn it.’

But then what?

Ethical porn – how to find it:

Do your research first

Like going to the supermarket hungry, searching for ethical porn when you’re horny isn’t likely to result in a nutritious video haul. Instead, it’s better to do some exploring when you’re not in the mood for pleasure then create yourself a ‘playlist’ for when you are. Some good sites to start with include Joybear, an all-British upmarket affair; Pandora Blake’s Dreams of Spanking; director Erika Lust’s main site, BrightDesire.com, anything by the filmmaker Shine Louise Houston, Cindy Gallop’s Make Love Not Porn site which showcases the amateur videos of real-life couples and of course, Mistress Tytania’s Urban Chick Supremacy Cell.

Get to know your favourite stars

These days, adult performers know the value of social media, not only for connecting with their fan base, but for building a brand and expressing their real views about the industry. Depending on where they’re positioned within it will affect just how ‘real’ they are, but the most independent-minded and creatively engaged – people like Vex Ashley or Stoya  – are consistently open and expressive about their vision for their work and what they enjoy doing with their bodies.

ALWAYS pay for it

Porn is no different to any other venture; if you haven’t paid for it, someone along the line isn’t being paid fairly to make it – and that’s frequently the performers. That means all the tube sites that collate content are sometimes sharing it without paying a fair price to the original clip-makers. Best thing to do if you have a favourite performer? Visit their personal website and either watch videos available there or order yourself a bespoke video, which is made to the performer’s own schedule with a larger share of the revenue going to them.

The Curious History of Dating by Nichi Hodgson is published by Robinson, £12.99

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