“Hot Girls Wanted” and Problems with Porn

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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

Porn Addiction: It’s Not Just a Guy Thing

Porn addiction is on the rise for men, according to many publications—but what about women? It’s not like we use a different internet than guys or find sexy imagery less appealing. (If that last bit surprises you, check out my Huffington Post article, 3 Myths About Female Sexuality.)

I knew when porn addiction began cropping up readily in my work that more women had to be experiencing it than the masses realize. I can also see why women’s dependencies are less recognized or discussed. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Women are more prone to shame about sexual behaviors; shame makes it difficult to discuss them.
  • Historically, porn has been geared toward a straight male audience, which only increases the shame factor when women indulge. (What’s often considered “normal” for men, is seen as “dirty” for women.)
  • Many people assume that women aren’t relying on porn, so it’s less studied.

After interviewing Gabe Deem, a former porn addict turned counselor, and Rachel Khona, whose ex-boyfriend experienced porn-related sexual dysfunction, I began seeking women with similar issues to interview. The few I connected were too fearful to share their experiences, even anonymously. I certainly don’t blame them. One told me the dependency was ruining her life. Another revealed that her adolescent daughter shared her addiction—which is how she recognized her own.

Finally, I found a woman willing to share her story. In fact, she’d already done so beautifully before. The accomplished writer from Los Angeles, Erica Garza, joined me in the studio to share her journey through porn addiction, its impact on her life and how she’s begun to turn it all around. Her insight is some of the most poignant and important I’ve had the chance to share yet.

To download or stream our chat visit this link on iTunes:

Porn Addiction: Not Just a “Guy Thing” on Girl Boner Radio

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To learn more about Erica’s work, visit EricaGarza.com and follow her on Twitter: @ericadgarza.

For more resources and support regarding porn addiction, visit Gabe Deem’s brainchild, Reboot Nation.

4 Things I Wish Would Change About P*rn

For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.” — Naomi Wolf

Yikes. Porn is a sticky issue for many feminists and sex-positives—no pun intended. Wolf’s quote derives from an article she wrote for New York Magazine called The Porn Myth, based on her research and discussions with college students, and I find her overall insight spot on. While I don’t believe all women are compared to pornographic images by partners or themselves (at least not consciously), countless are—particularly if they or their partners routinely partake. Based on recent statistics, MANY are, and at a cost.

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Every second, $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography and 28,2258 people are viewing porn online, including children, and porn addiction is on the continual rise. — Family Safe Media

Would this be the case if as a culture, we celebrated and respected our bodies and sexuality rather than exploiting both? I personally believe the numbers above would be significantly lower, as would the negative repercussions of porn use, and we’d all benefit tremendously from the shift.

I have no problem with the explicit nature of pornography or the celebration of sexuality as a profitable business. We’re visual creatures, after all, and enticing our Girl Boners with sensual eye sweets is a groovy thing! Much like Wolf, however, I do take issue with other aspects of the industry. Today I’ve decided to whip out my trusty magic wand and share some wishes. (Hey—a girl can dream!)

4 Things I Wish Would Change About Porn

1. It depicted a broad range of body types and ages. The typical porn star is young, tan and, by society’s standards, flawless. Females are lithe yet toned and large-breasted, a combination that seldom occurs in nature, and males have been known to rely on steroids and cosmetic surgery to create that “perfectly” chiseled, large penis-ed physique. Whether we realize it consciously or not, this sends the very real and strong message that to be sexually attractive, we must look like those folks and pointing out supposed flaws that are actually just beautiful, authentic aspects of our appearance.

What would result: Women and men feel and appear more beautiful and embraceable, which leads to happier, more gratifying lives and relationships.

2. It featured a broad range of realistic sexual activities. There’s a place for just about everything when it comes to sexy play, as long as we’re not harming anyone. “Rough sex,” for example, provides some women a healthy way to explore the common fantasy of being dominated by a man, says Laura Berman, Ph.D, and can even help survivors of sexual abuse heal by allowing them to play out such fantasies in a safe, controlled environment. But setting outrageous standards for what sexiness is, such as females routinely ejaculating and climaxing through penetration alone, both of which only happen for a very small minority of women, can make normal sex less enjoyable for just about anyone, given enough exposure.

What would result: Porn fanatics would have more fulfilling sex lives and relationships, gain more pleasure from realistic, “normal” sex and have a lower risk of porn addiction (which is now affecting boys and girls as young as age 8—so sad and scary!). There’d also be a smaller epidemic of erectile dysfunction, which is growing continually more common among male porn users.

3. It was gender-balanced. While it’s changing somewhat with the rise of feminist porn, pornography is still largely male-focused, even though about 30% of porn users are female. This imbalance perpetuates the myths that men are more sexual and visual than women and leads to greater objectification of women and the mistaken belief that such objectification is natural and okay.

What would result: Pornography would become more about mutual sexual gratification and connectedness than merely women pleasing men, and women would gain worthy respect.

4. It hadn’t become our culture’s sex education. If this sounds extreme, that’s because it is—but it’s also true. As countless sexuality experts will attest, children should be learning about sexuality in schools from kindergarten up, yet most are taught nothing until puberty. By this time, research shows that nearly all boys and 2/3 of girls have been exposed to porn online. When kids aren’t taught about their bodies and sexuality from trusted adults, they quell their curiosities elsewhere, and the internet is far too ready and willing to mislead them onto an unhealthy track. While limiting kids’ access to porn can help, it’ll only go so far without fuller, healthier sex education. And adults want to learn, too! We all deserve plentiful, healthy resources.

What would result: Kids would grow up respecting their bodies and sexuality and better able to cultivate healthy, happy relationships with others and themselves as adults. I can’t think of a better outcome than that.

A little food for thought:

Sex is SEXY! So is kissing, fondling and seeing realistic adults in the nude. Like many women, I can get deeply turned on by the mere thought of sex and much subtler sexuality depictions than typical porn. I’d never want to sacrifice that by growing dependent on pornography, which is HIGHLY addictive (as is my personality, which is another reason I steer clear). While porn may fit well within healthy relationships in some cases, research shows that even folks who think that routine porn use isn’t negatively affecting their relationships or views about sexuality and aesthetics, are often wrong. You know what isn’t damaging? Cultivating healthier attitudes about sexuality and doing away with taboos.

Porn is a lot like fast food. If we load up on intentionally addictive, unhealthy food-like-substances in super-size portions, we lose taste for what are bodies thrive on: natural, healthy foods. The more we eat, the more our physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual wellness suffer. Porn functions the same way. The more we rely on it, the less likely we become to delight in happy, healthy relationships in which we cherish and care for our bodies, desires and partners with as much respect and pleasure as we all deserve. Life is too precious for that, in my opinion, and so are our Girl Boners! ♥

 

Unhealthy Diet

Not the kind of head we should want. 😉

How do you feel about porn? Do you wish it would change in any of the ways I mentioned? Any items to add to my list? I love hearing from you!

Hungry for more??? Today on Girl Boner Radio, I’ll be interviewing Belle Knox, aka “Duke’s porn star,” another woman who wants to change elements of the porn industry and the way we as a society view female sexuality. If you subscribe via iTunes, you won’t miss a beat! ♥