Our Favorite Porn That's Both Sexy and Ethical

Illustrations by Gica Tam

by Reina Gattuso

Saying that porn is a contentious issue is like saying the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs was a space rock: It’s not wrong, but it doesn’t reveal the scope of the damage. From the “feminist sex wars” of the 1980s to current anti-porn crusaders, many have argued that filmed sex is inherently wrong, regardless of working conditions or whether performers consent.

But these arguments share a big, glaring problem: They ignore the voices of sex workers, most of them women, who actually create porn. Instead, people from all over the ideological spectrum have labeled all sex work a form of trafficking, and stigmatized certain kinds of consensual sex. The result: less agency for performers, less sexual freedom for consumers, and a more repressive atmosphere all around.

For the past several decades, the sex workers’ movement has pushed back. From porn actors’ advocacy groups to sex workers’ unions, these activists remind us that sex work is, above all, work. Like other kinds of work, performing in porn can be degrading, exploitative, and sexist. Like other kinds of media, porn can represent women, queer people, and people of color in a stereotypical or degrading way. These facts raise real ethical questions for the 71% of women who watch porn, the Dame community included. So how can we keep our porn viewing both ethical and hot? 

There’s one fail-safe way to know the sex workers you love are actually getting the money they deserve: Pay them!

Criminalizing or moralizing porn isn’t the answer. Instead, many sex worker organizers advocate for a porn industry that is legal, safe, and pro-worker. Since the 1990s, a small but fierce group of self-described queer, indie, and feminist porn producers has also emerged, centering women and queer performers and crafting an aesthetic meant to cater to people beyond just straight, cis men. Many of these companies, like Shine Louise Houston’s Pink & White Productions, are a good bet for consumers who want to feel confident that the performers they’re watching are experiencing healthy and equitable working conditions.

But what matters most in determining whether porn is ethical isn’t what’s onscreen—it’s what’s in workers’ pockets. As Allie Oops, a queer porn director, producer, and performer, told Dame, “You’ll never be able to judge a porn as being ethical by what you see on the screen.” Mikey Way, an Australian sex worker and activist, echoes this sentiment in an essay on Tits and Sass: “Here’s what my feminist porn looks like: independent models working the way they want to work; making money; and setting their own hours, limits, and standards."

There’s one fail-safe way to know the sex workers you love are actually getting the money they deserve: Pay them! With so much porn available on the internet, it’s tempting to get your sexy media for free, especially when you don’t have too much money in the bank. But most of the clips on these sites are stolen, meaning the cash from your clicks ends up going to site owners, not performers. Instead, you can think of paying for porn the same way you’d pay for sex toys and SFW video steaming services: as an investment in your pleasure, and a small way to make the world more equitable. 

Wondering where to start? Here are four porn performers we love, whose work will both turn you on and educate you about the many ways workers are making a better sex industry.

Jiz Lee

Who: A veteran of the queer porn world, Jiz Lee is a great person to follow if you’re just learning about the ethics of porn production. A groundbreaking genderqueer non-binary performer, they’ve spent years advocating for more queer-positive porn. They’ve also won a bunch of awards both from the mainstream and independent industries, so their body of work offers a lot of different aesthetics to choose from. 

How to Watch: Watch Jiz’s work through the link on their site; up to 80% of what you pay goes directly to them. “Be the PORN you wish to see in the world,” writes Jiz on their website. “BUY the porn you wish to see in the world.”  

Favorite Work: Jiz has worked with both mainstream and indie companies, so pick your pleasure. We’d recommend starting with their work in the Crash Pad series. Directed by Shine Louise Houston, Crash Pad broke boundaries by shooting queer and trans people having sex for a queer and trans audience. It’s also super-hot. 

Siouxsie Q 

Who: Siouxsie Q is a sex worker, writer, activist, and the creator of the Whorecast podcast, which centers sex workers’ perspectives on sexuality and labor. She published a book on sex work in 2016. Now, she’s secretary of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. And, oh yeah: She makes very hot porn, and is known for her kink and fetish work. 

How to Watch: You can support her activism by becoming a member of her Patreon page, and subscribe to check out her sexy photos and videos at Fancentro

Favorite Work: If you’re in the mood for less titillation and more information, you can listen to the Whorecast archives here. If, on the other hand, you want to watch something hot, check out The Luck of the Draw, a feature-length film about a cast of hot-to-trot partygoers who get down in a variety of gender and sexual configurations.

April Flores

Who: Fat women in the porn industry are described with many words: “Curvy, zaftig, voluptuous,” said Flores in an interview with Cosmo. “But I feel like the word ‘fat’ is more in-your-face.” It’s an apt description of Flores’ work. An Adult Video Network award-winning performer, Flores originally started in porn after exploring nude artistic collaborations with her photographer-husband. Besides just liking porn, she says she also sees her work as a way to center fat women’s sexual desire. Now, she runs her own subscription site, Fat Girl Fantasies.

How to Watch: You can subscribe to Fat Girl Fantasies for videos, photos, and an archive of Flores’ past work. 

Favorite Work: Flores collaborates with another queer porn icon, Courtney Trouble, in this lesbian scene available on Trouble’s website.

Maxine Holloway

Who: When big-name porn producer Kink slashed performers’ rates without warning several years ago, Maxine Holloway called a meeting to organize with fellow workers. She was fired as a result. She went on to create a worker-led, live porn show, Cum & Glitter, with another performer. Now, she creates her own videos for her subscribers and advocates for sex workers’ rights with Bay Area Workers’ Support

How to Watch: You can pay Holloway a monthly subscription fee through OnlyFans to see her photos and videos. 

Favorite Work: Check out Homance, a collaboration with other bad-ass feminist porn performer Siouxsie Q. It’s described as a “romantic porno-pop music video” telling the story of two sex workers in love. It won an Honorable Mention in the Feminist Porn Awards, and is the lingerie lesbian scene of your dreams.

Reina Gattuso is a feminist journalist covering food, sex, and politics. Follow her work at @reinagattuso and reinagattuso.com.