In today’s world of bananas politics, where do “average people” learn about porn?

Documentaries! Specifically, mainstream documentary films. I reviewed three porn-centered documentary films and serials for AVN this month. Check out an excerpt from “What’s Up, Docs? Three Takes on the Adult Industry” below:

Earlier this year, South Dakota, Virginia, and Utah all passed measures declaring porn a public health crisis. In addition to being labeled “evil, degrading, addictive, and harmful” (per Utah), porn consumption allegedly leads to “risky” sexual activity, low-self esteem, and—sometimes—eating disorders (South Dakota). It’s also responsible for “lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity” (Virginia) … again, allegedly.

Though unscientific, subjective, and largely silly, these declarations come from highly legitimized entities. Just like we listen when elected officials and experts issue statements about the Zika virus, lead paint and bird flu, many people internalize public health crisis messages. And for good reason—where else would they come across a counter narrative?

One easy and obvious answer is documentary-style filmmaking. Though often as inventive as any Hollywood narrative, the documentary style is considered tantamount to factual, unbiased information—especially when addressing subjects that are unfamiliar to viewers.

Thus far, 2017 has been a boon for adult industry docu-syle exposés including Pornocracy, After Porn Ends 2, and Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On. Industry insiders may find these films to be everything from old news to downright enraging; however, we must consider seriously the information conveyed therein. Beyond public health crisis rhetoric, these types of narratives are often an “average” viewer’s only source of information about the adult entertainment industry.

I then went into detailed discussion of each title individually, summing up with some insights from Casey Calvert.

“The viewing public has absolutely no frame of reference to evaluate the adult business,” AVN award-winning performer Casey Calvert asserted. “I’ve said it a million times—you never know what it’s like on a porn set until you’ve been there. The problem with Hot Girls Wanted is that it doesn’t just show what it’s like on a porn set. It carefully, sneakily edits what’s it like to fit the narrative the producers want to push.”

“I don’t think [the series] does anything positive for the porn industry,” Calvert continued. “It maybe doesn’t outright say that porn is awful, but it certainly doesn’t present any visual evidence to the contrary. The producers haven’t been shy in sharing their feeling about the business. There’s education in repetition, and that’s what’s so harmful.”

Which is precisely why the industry must remain engaged and mindful.

On the basis of hype and access alone, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On is the narrative speaking to the current state of porn and sex in contemporary society—and it will be viewed more frequently within the context of a public health crisis than it will be seen as sex worker exploitation or propaganda for sex normativity. This is, in a word, frustrating.

Though it may be tempting to throw up one’s hands regarding the sustained prevalence of anti-sex narratives, this is actually the time to highlight useful contributions like Pornocracyand After Porn Ends 2. Maybe a few people will pick up on the irony that comes from watching Pornocracy online, unauthorized and for free. Chances are, though, they won’t.

You can check out the full piece on AVN right here. What do you think?

(pictured: image via AVN)

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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com.

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