Guidelines For Creating Ethical Porn

Written by Rufai Ajala of HelloRooster.com

*This is a follow up to Rufai’s previous article “How One Marginalized Performer Navigated Sexual Assault”

Before Olympe de G began her smear campaign against me, diffusing my accusations of sexual assault, I worked privately with Erika Lust Films to create better ethical standards for their company. This work took the shape of two documents: a “Guideline for Guest Directors” and a “Model Bill of Rights.” I was dedicated to helping Olympe de G, Erika Lust CEOs, and others understand the trauma and harm that had occurred to myself and others, and the vulnerability performers endure when performing for their cameras. I used my experience and other sex workers’ experiences as a template for creating these guidelines that would help improve the ethical working standards and practices at Erika Lust Films. Through these documents, I transformed from victim to activist.

The fourteen-page document meant to guide guest directors includes sections on casting, fees, sexual health testing, how to interact with performers before, during, and after sex scenes are shot, as well as how to interact with cast and crew on social media after the shoot. Before going through a checklist of items, Guest Directors must consult with cast to make sure that performers are in the best care. The document states that, “It is important, in creating ethical porn, that we try to balance the power between directors and performers, and create a safe space where performers can express their concerns (openly).” The protocol behind this philosophy was missing when I performed for Erika Lust Films, and I am proud to have been part of a team that has put it in place for other performers going forward.

But the company erased my labor and contribution in creating these ethical standards. This erasure coming after the fact, of my sexual assault, made me wonder: as a victim of color, was my humanity even seen or acknowledged? Tarana Burke (the creator of the #MeToo Movement), must have felt very similarly when her voice was left out of discussions of who started the #MeToo movement. But even as I write this, I wonder: why does the onus always lie on us, the most marginalized, to make change. (Marginalized) Victims are often looked toward to find the solutions to end rape culture and structural violence, when porn production companies and people in positions of power should really be the ones to hold themselves accountable.

Helping to find solutions was something I deeply cared about, but having my contribution erased was a re-traumatizing experience. When all was said and done, my experience became a silent, silenced contribution, to the story of “ethical porn” marketing. The experiences of those who have been pushed to margins can’t continue going unchecked. We must abandon Selective Feminism, eg:— SWERF (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists), TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), White Feminism and others that prioritise the few—and embrace Intersectionality (Kimberle Crenshaw). We must listen to and prioritise the voices of marginalised sex workers.

Artwork by Rudy Loewe

The Road to Ethical Porn:
—It’s about Labor Rights & Labor Issues—

The creation of truly ethical (and feminist) porn is an ongoing project, that requires ongoing conversations. One document can’t fix the problem of rape culture and sexual violence. Sex workers and performers must come together: organize, unionize, and build safe(r) communities and structures. No one should feel they must be silent. No one should fear being blacklisted in order to keep the peace, with the desire to be treated fairly and have reasonable working conditions. The road to building ethical pornstarts and ends with prioritising the voices and labor rights of sex workers & porn performers. We must give performers the tools they need when seeking justice for sexual misconduct and sexual assault on set. Sexual assault can’t be sidestepped, brushed aside and excused with a simple apology, and a statement that is used too often; “let’s continue shooting.” 

By prioritizing “apologies”, Producers, Directors and company owners, say they are relying on a model of reparative justice. There is nothing reparative about this approach. This approach enables rape culture. The choice of how to proceed after a sexual assault and what steps are considered necessary for repair should be given to the victims. As sex workers, we are always on the front-lines of the fight against rape culture. Sexual assault is an everyday risk and hazard of our job, and the tools for mitigating those risks must ALWAYS belong to us!

How can we create Ethical Porn? Ethical Porn can’t be made without the voices of it’s performers and workers. It’s a labor right and issue first and foremost! This is how we create Ethical Porn.

*Chapter from: #WE TOO: Sex Work in the Wake of a Movement. —An anthology of non-fiction, personal essays by sex workers that allows us to consider our place within and beyond #MeToo and other feminist movements to end sexualized violence in the workplace.—
Release date: Fall 2020.
Associate Editor: 
Tina Horn & Natalie West
Feminist Press

HOW YOU CAN HELP

There are 3 ways to support me:

 Share my story on social media | #BelieveALLSurvivors. Please help support victims of marginalised identities.

 Join my online protest by signing my petition (change.org) 

• Donate to help me fundraise to seek justice.

Author: Rufai Ajala
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