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Why Porn Is Actually Empowering, As Told By Experts In The Industry

Does porn exploit women?

While the answer for most might be an obvious yes, I recently attended a seminar at the 34th annual AVN Awards and Expo (commonly known as the Oscars of porn) where leaders in the adult film industry vehemently suggested otherwise.

Not only that, but the panelists — Director Bree Mills, actress Angela White, sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals, Kay Brandt, Kristel Penn and more — argued porn is actually the ultimate form of empowerment, and their arguments were quite compelling.

Here are the panel’s most gripping arguments as to why choosing a career in porn shouldn’t be stigmatized:

1. Porn is a decision, not a consequence.

“We’re adults who have made adult decisions,” White, who performs, directs and produces porn, said on behalf of women in porn. “We’re seen as there is something wrong with us, but we’ve made the decision to be here. Nobody has been coerced.”

White argues that porn stars are one of the few groups of people to embrace the fact that women are beautiful, sexual beings, and she insists women are taught to feel shame about their inherent sexuality as opposed to embracing it.

“If I had sex with a woman, I was a lesbian. If I had sex with men, I was a slut,” White recalled of her high school experience — one of the many factors that led her to a career in porn.

She added that people were (and still are) very quick to judge her for this choice.

For instance, she noted that everybody has bad days at their jobs, but when an adult performer has a bad day, people say things like, “OMG, YOU HAVE TO GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!” as if the talent is being held at gunpoint behind the cameras.


2. Women in porn are treated like “goddesses.”

“People not being treated ethically is very few and far between,” the panelists asserted, noting there are good and bad people in every industry — not just adult film.

While they all agree ethical treatment is only ever in question with less reputable production companies outside of major cities, each panelist insisted none of this behavior occurs when producing mainstream porn.

While there’s no question that the women are the stars of each scene, each panelist insisted they are also seen and treated as goddesses on set and off.


3. Porn stars feel like they’re at the forefront of a new movement.

Erotic literature is celebrated, yet porn is considered distasteful. And why is that? Classism. At least, that’s what the panelists believe.

This is largely due to the perception that porn stars are despicable, dumb and have no other way to make money, which, again, the panelists insisted isn’t true.

Even when it comes to the word “erotica” vs. “porn,” people still have vastly different reactions.

But it’s really not all that different. The subject matter is the same, after all. It is, essentially, a live reenactment of the words written on a page. Live theater, if you will.

So why then is seeing something sexual acted out in front of us so much more grotesque than reading it?

There is no answer to this because, according to the panel, this discrepancy shouldn’t exist. In fact, the panel goes as far as to suggest erotic literature can be just as filthy — if not filthier — than most adult films.

With the belief that pornographic material will become more and more accepted within society (which has already proven to be true), female talent view themselves as oppressed leaders of this to-be shift. This, in and of itself, is a form of empowerment.


4. Porn stars are encouraged to demand respect for their work.

It’s no surprise that in our society, men are celebrated for having sex and women are condemned for it. Is this fair? Fuck no, but it’s the unfortunate reality we live in.

But in porn, women are given the utmost respect for their work. Because of this, the panelists discussed how important it is for women to demand respect outside of the industry.

This one-sided perception of exploitation is clearly a very large issue currently plaguing the industry and was something that was addressed multiple times during the show.

“Adult performers, what you do is art. Do not let them shame you!” Greg Lansky, winner of Director of the Year, shouted during his acceptance speech on behalf of female performers at the awards show.

As someone who was in attendance at the awards, I admit I’d never heard such loud shrieks of support from both male and female performers during the entire show.

When each performer won her award last Saturday night, she was in tears and could barely get any words out. These women are clearly very proud of what they do for a living and feel both empowered and validated for AVN’s recognition at the award show.

The panelists urged that even though it’s not solely the oppressed’s job to stand up for themselves with regards to this perceived exploitation, women outside and within the industry should stand up for women who profit from their sexuality.

This is important so we don’t see women in adult film as defenseless or any less respected in society.


5. Porn stars are sexual ambassadors for women.

White chose to use her real name in porn as a statement to prove she’s proud of what she does.

“Hey, having sex is really fun. We should make money off of it,” she told the crowd. “This is a legitimate pursuit. Many of us have degrees, and we’ve chosen to do this.”

She added, “We need to embrace people who are OK with using their sexuality to make money,” while encouraging other women in porn to “be open and transparent about what they do, so as not to further stigmatize the profession.”

Follows White’s remark, another panelist suggested, “If you think porn exploits people, you probably feel that sexuality exploits people.”

Because the issue of sexual shame targeting women is far worse than it is for men, many porn stars consider themselves sexual ambassadors for women in that regard. They hope to make society more accepting of women embracing and profiting from their sexuality.

“We still have a long way to go,” they all agreed.

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Bobby Box

Freelance Contributor

Bobby Box is a freelance writer and editor. He writes about sex and relationships and men’s lifestyle topics for publications and websites such as Bustle.com, AskMen, Playboy, Elle, MANdatory, Elite Daily, etc.
Bobby Box is a freelance writer and editor. He writes about sex and relationships and men’s lifestyle topics for publications and websites such as Bustle.com, AskMen, Playboy, Elle, MANdatory, Elite Daily, etc.

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