Young women clicking through Craigslist ads, lured by notions of free trips to Miami, quick cash and escape from their small town lives. Here opens Hot Girls Wanted, a documentary produced by Rashida Jones, that follows a group of 18 to 25-year-old women as they navigate the paid amateur porn world as performers.
Seconds into the film available on Netflix, they’re flashing their blurred breasts for the camera, going for joy rides and discussing newfound opportunities they’d never have in their hometowns. But as their Twitter and bank accounts flourish, their well-being gradually suffers. One woman acquires an STD. Numerous feel pressured to participate in violent scenes known as facial abuse.
As the film progresses, Tressa, aka “Stella May,” a 19-year-old from Texas, grapples with whether she’s made the right decision in pursuing porn, particularly after she’s told to (unnecessarily) slim down, to practice fitting an unfathomably large dildo into her vagina and offered big pay to perform BDSM, a style she doesn’t seem comfortable with.
Tressa’s story is important, as are many of the issues brought featured—but the film doesn’t offer solutions for the problems it raises, clarity about these problems or highlight the more positive side of the adult industry.
Directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus originally planned to cover male consumption of porn on college campuses, according to the Telegraph. When they discovered that girls fresh out of high school appeared in these films, they shifted focus.
People are watching and appearing in adult films at strikingly young ages.
Why young women enter the adult industry through sketchy online ads would have been a fascinating exploration, yet the film seems to tell another story: The porn industry is bad and the ultra young women entering it are misled, abused and exploited.
When the adult industry is vilified, sex workers suffer. They are “slut” shamed, seen as low-class citizens and, in some cases, threatened. All of this seems hypocritical, seeing as porn remains one of the largest industries in the world, watched readily by Americans of virtually all ages, including women.
Viewers suffer, too, but not because of porn. Without comprehensive sex education, a lack that remains throughout the U.S., kids turn to porn for sexuality answers at continually younger ages. Porn depicts sex as entertainment, which is far different from physical intimacy in our lives. Extremely few are taught the difference, and that takes a tole.
This is the message most kids learn about sex, which causes more damage than good.
No film should be expected to solve the complex problems involving porn—but any responsible documentary should at least mention potential answers and alternatives. Feminist porn, for example, depicts performers of all ages, races and orientations in healthier acts. (Think erotic sensuality versus hard-core violence.) The only alternative Hot Girls Wanted seems to present for performers is quitting, and none are offered for viewers.
Comedian and former porn star Alia Janine relates to the film.
“Although, I found the film to be edited and presented in a way that will want to make people look down on the adult film industry (as every other documentary done on the industry from people with no background in it), I found this film to be fairly accurate,” she said on her podcast. “I only say this because it is basically how I got into the industry, from Craigslist’s ads in Florida. It’s how most of the girls get into the industry.”
Industry executive Jack Spade agrees with Janine. After working as a porn actor, he launched his own agency and now runs two professional representation firms.
“Unfortunately, [Hot Girls Wanted] does show a real part of the industry, but I was upset that they didn’t show other aspects, a more professional side,” he said. “I wish it acknowledged that there are people that try to do it a better way.”
Spade, whose agency prizes professionalism first, pointed out that Reynolds, the agent featured in the film, lacked licensure at the time of filming.
“If you’re going to do a documentary on a mainstream agency,” he said, “would you go out and find an unlicensed one, and let that be seen as the norm?”
Yes, even the porn world has credible agencies and other firms looking out for its talent.
Many viewers of Hot Girls Wanted are concerned about the young age at which females are entering the business. Janine says that’s a social and economical issue—not an industry one.
“If people don’t like seeing 18-year-old girls being ‘taking advantage’ of, they should ask their government to raise the legal age of an adult to an age where the human brain is more developed,” she said, “or simply raise the age to be able to shoot adult content.”
“If the general public is bothered by women using their bodies to make a living wage in America; they may want to talk to their government and ask them why a middle class family can barely support their family, and can’t pay for college,” she added. “The sex work industries are only going to get bigger, and pay rates are going to get lower if the bigger picture isn’t looked at. But blaming the adult industry seems so much easier than trying to figure out why so many people are having to turn to it, instead of wanting to.”
Most of the problems within or related to the porn industry are cultural, yet the industry itself consistently takes the heat.
Reviewers have called Hot Girls Wanted “a damning portrayal of an industry in crisis.” I don’t think that’s accurate. In a society where kids learn virtually nothing about sexuality in early education and violence is celebrated in the very films nipples are banned from, the real culprit seems obvious; it’s our culture, not porn.
How a woman expresses her sexuality is her choice, made complex by our society’s harmful attitudes and mixed messaging. The idea that women are “sluts” or “prudes” depending on how we dress and behave is an antiquated and unjust mentality that needs to stop.
I’m grateful for the conversations Hot Girls Wanted has spurred, but wish they did more to offer solutions to the risks many women (and men) in the adult industry face rather than shun them or the entire industry. If the film had gone beyond seedy side of porn, it would have provided more sound and helpful messaging.
Rather than discuss whether porn is good or evil, let’s talk about ways to empower females to embrace their bodies and sexuality from early childhood up and men to respect women and their sexuality—no matter how they choose to express it.
Regardless of your career path, one message from the film rings markedly true: Never trust a shady Craigslist ad at face value. When it comes to sex as entertainment, remember that every performer is a human being with thoughts and feelings like the rest of us.
To hear or watch my Girl Boner® Radio episode on Hot Girls Wanted, visit this link.