5 Ways To Support Ethical Porn (Even If You Can’t Afford It)

All images via shutterstock.


Ethical porn might seem like an oxymoron, but the truth is a lot of porn is made without the unethical practices that most people — and particularly women and trans people — assume go with it.

Ethical porn is ethical because the performers are fairly paid, may use safer sex practices if they choose, and actively show their real enjoyment of the sex they are having. It’s also inclusive of people of all genders, races, sizes and abilities. Good examples include the Crash Pad Series, Trouble Films, Foxhouse Films and Heartless Productions (some of which I’ve worked with as a performer), among others.

The ethical or fair trade label is used across industries from coffee to clothing to diamonds, but it’s often scoffed at in porn. The concept that something sexually appealing can be made ethically often faces criticism even within the industry, with slurs used to fetishize sexual minorities and those attracted to their bodies. I think what’s important about ethical porn is the ability to take something that is so important to our sense of ourselves — our sexuality — and think about it like any other aspect of our daily habits. If we buy organic free-range beef so that we know the cow wasn’t poorly treated, why shouldn’t we think about the concerns of the people who make our porn in the same way? It’s important we don’t leave an industry and its workers behind when we all consume what they make on a level that largely created the modern internet.

The number one way to support ethical porn is to pay for it. But there are also a few easy ways you can support ethical porn and ethical porn performers without breaking the bank.

1. Follow Us on Social Media

I should really be following more porn stars on twitter

I should really be following more porn stars on twitter

Just about every porn star has a performer twitter where the majority of networking, casting and porn fan interaction takes place. The truth is that our number of followers on Twitter can really reflect how large our fan base is and how likely directors will be to book us. Following performers on social media is also a great way to keep up with what your favorite performers are doing, and you can often see free nudes.

2. Buy Any Porn You Can

subscription RENEWED

subscription RENEWED

I understand spending $30 for a DVD isn’t a luxury that everyone can afford. If you can afford only one DVD a year, buying it directly through the performer’s website will have the biggest impact. Many performers do online cam shows, so even if you can’t afford to buy a DVD you can give them a tip on there to show you really enjoy their work. Most porn is stolen — tube sites like youporn and redtube, for example, are notorious — and it’s an uphill fight to try to make everyone pay for their porn.

Personally, I took an approach of a sliding scale payment for my last film; I’ve had people spend as low as $15 and as high as $70. Some sites, such as the Crash Pad Series, offer tiered online subscriptions so you can get a month membership for as low as $22. I think if you can do whatever you can afford for your porn, that’s by far the best way to be an ethical porn consumer.

3. Support Our Activism

the conversation needs to reach more people than this

the conversation needs to reach more people than this

Part of ethical porn is actively trying to change porn for the better. For example, I’ve been extremely outspoken against the use of transphobic slurs in trans porn, so I started a petition to actively change it. For many people in ethical porn, their reasons for entering the industry are just as much tied up in activism as in making porn — this includes Drew DeVeaux, who has helped start the conversation about the cotton ceiling; Courtney Trouble, who has created a space for people of size; and Jiz Lee, who has introduced the mainstream porn world to genderqueer performers. Supporting their causes is extremely important, especially since so often sex worker voices are ignored. A large number of non-sex workers getting involved with sex workers’ concerns will only make the conversation reach more people and in turn can actively help change unethical policies.

4. Attend a Screening or Porn Panel

this is so much better than it is on my phone

this is so much better than it is on my phone

Unlike mainstream porn, of which the majority is direct-to-DVD or posted to the company or performer’s website, a lot of ethical porn is as much about talking about the reasons behind the porn as it is as something to get off to. The great thing about screenings and panels on porn is they aren’t limited to one area,so you can actually meet performers and see their porn in a film screening environment. For example, I had my film Fucking Mystic premiere in Berlin, but during the same week I had films screening in Dayton, Ohio, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. These screenings aren’t what most people think about when they imagine porn being shown (for instance, creepy men in trench coats) but instead college students, artists and in the case of my Brooklyn screening, tons of super cute queers.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Us

I love this I am gonna send the most respectful appreciative email about it

I love this I am gonna send the most respectful appreciative email about it

I get emails extremely often from fans telling they saw me on a flight, at a bar or walking down the street in my neighborhood but were worried it would be weird if they said something to me. Honestly, porn is an amazing job, but we all have our bad days like everyone else, and getting emails from fans telling us how “my girlfriend and I hooked up for the first time to your porn” or “watching your porn helped me get through dysphoria” really means a lot. Clearly there’s a line, but I feel like most fans don’t overshare. and telling us how you actually genuinely enjoy our porn is really easy free way you can support performers.

Sex is such an important factor in everyone’s life and creating porn that can show all types of bodies and people actively engaging in positive sex can have an overall serious impact on our communities. As a trans woman, I have had to navigate this while being subjected to the use of slurs to portray trans bodies as something strange or a fetish. I think the only way to erase the negative narratives that have been so associated with porn is by supporting ethical, positive porn narratives instead.

Chelsea Poe is a 23 year old trans woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan but currently residing in Oakland. She is an outspoken trans activist who has challenged the trans porn establishment on the use of trans misogynistic language. In November of 2014 she became the first ever trans woman to be featured on Alt Porn site God's Girl. She is a porn performer, writer, director and producer who had her work featured at Mix Fest (NYC), The Berlin Porn Film Festival and her work has earned her multiple AVN, Transgender Erotica Award and Feminist Porn Award nominations.

Chelsea has written 1 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. OMG, the adorable Chelsea Poe wrote an article for Autostraddle; I’m fan personing out! Thank you!

    This is a very good article. I follow a few of the aforementioned stars on Tumblr and they post some very cool stuff(and some of it isn’t porn). Like Courtney Trouble’s tumblr page is just pretty legit and as a person who like photography and film, she even mentions sometimes equipment and settings used to get that shot. That’s the stuff I love to read about and see.

    In a related question how can one start making ethical queer porn, or porn like material?

    • I’m guessing it depends on the scale of it…nowt wrong with webcamming oneself in the bedroom. And if it only involves one person who is 100% in charge of everything, how could it be anything but ethical?

  2. Not sure if I’m comfortable with the beef analogy. But fair trade porn is definitely something I can get behind. And should be mandatory. Are there sex workers unions? The idea of screenings sounds amazing, is this a thing that happens across the sector? I don’t want to accidentally go along to something produced and put on by companies that disrespect/mistreat their artists. I will get googling.

    • I think usually the indie and queer companies do screening, while the mainstream companies only do a screening when it’s a big budget porno(like that Pirates of the Caribbean parody).

  3. I would also love a “how to get started in indie porn” post in the future! I do cam already, but I would much rather the folks buying/appreciating it were also queer of nature. Does a queer webcam site exist anywhere?! Would it even succeed?

  4. That Brooklyn screening was the most babes I have ever seen in one room, and that includes on the screen.

    Yay for this article! I love things that spell out HOW you can help, even if you can’t support with your dosh.

    (BTW, buying a stream-to-own is awesome because 1. they’re usually cost effective and 2. no hiding the DVDs when family visits. I once screened Sugar High Glitter City on a projector for two dates, a+++ would screen again.)

  5. I am so happy to hear all of this!! I look forward to viewing your work.
    Cis lesbian sex/love is a beautiful and emotional connection that is totally loving and wonderful for both. I am so glad there is a place for the cis lesbians to see us as the loving female we are!

    • I meant to say ” cis lesbian with a translesbian”…..arrrghhh!
      So that cis lesbians can “see” the female to female loving connection that can exist between us. And my penis does not desire sex with you, nor want you to try to please me in any way with it…. in fact, I would feel threatened if you tried….. no handjobs, no blowjobs, no penetrations…. That would disrespecting stated gender identity…. and ruin our relationship. My penis does not have anything to do with what woman I love!

  6. In my heart of hearts, I think that if a cis lesbians would say to me…. ” I love you, sweet Sarah! You are my lovey girl friend!”…..I would melt into her…..give her all of my love…..and my body…..to please her……and make her know a smart, loving female knows how sweet and amazing she is…..just as she is….touseled hair, regular girl to everyone else, a bit nerdy but so cute….and the one who made me feel female….and changed my life forever………..when I thought of my feelings for Maryanna…..and then thought….how can I write so her heart will feel the connection I have for her….
    and know that connection is totally female , and that my love for you would feel so wonderful….just like your love would be so wonderful for me…Sarah! 🙂

  7. Awesome post. 🙂 I started in porn in 1995… then it was just my boyfriend (now husband) at the time, taking shots of me and posting them on the newsgroups (aka usenet)… which turned into a website, which turned into my career for the past almost 20 years now. I’ve seen online porn evolve in so many ways over these last couple decades… some good, some bad… and I definitely think we need more people like this involved! Porn can be a good thing. 🙂 It just has to be done for the right reasons…

  8. Yepp. We need more critical opinions in and about porn ! And as the article says : we are dependent on a critical and supportive/buying audience. As a performer I love the feedback. As a producer I’d like to see more enthusiastic actresses/actors. And, for europe, we need more networking in terms of ethics.
    So, please, share this in conversations, blogs, social networks and/or get involved in one way or the other !

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