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Illustration by Brittany England

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No.

There isn’t anything that makes audio or written erotica inherently more ethical than its visual counterparts.

Below, we break down why people think they are — and what you can do to be the best (read: most ethical) consumer of written and aural smut you can be.

Heads up: This is the third piece in Adult Entertainment & You, a limited series about porn and erotica.

We’re going back to the basics to provide you with the tools you need to create a healthy relationship with adult content — if that’s something you’re into.

Intrigued? Read more about why we’re doing this and catch up on pieces you missed here.

Porn or erotica is any content that’s designed with the explicit intention of arousing, enticing, or sexually intriguing an audience.

While “porn” is often used as shorthand for “XXX videos,” written and audio content can qualify as erotica, too.

Ethical porn or erotica is the phrase used for content that was created and distributed ethically.

That means the content creators:

  • were paid fair wages
  • were treated with respect
  • had access to good working conditions

In the case of video content, that means the performers’ pleasures, boundaries, and health were integral to determining how the scene would play out.

“Porn” and “ethical porn” should be synonymous.

And explicit content that isn’t ethical shouldn’t be called “porn” — it should be called violence and abuse.

As a consumer, it’s pretty tricky to know if the content you’re enjoying was created or distributed ethically, says sex worker and sex educator Corey More.

“But as a general rule, the best way to be an ethical consumer of porn is to pay for it,” they say.

And that’s true for all types of erotica!

Adult content that’s distributed via explicit paperbacks, online stories, and audio recordings isn’t automatically more ethical than NSFW photos and videos.

But many people believe that it is.

Why? More says it stems from the pervasive societal ideal that nobody would ever voluntarily choose to be a sex worker.

“There’s an idea that all video porn performers are victims of circumstance,” they add.

Because the bodies of those who make written and audio erotica aren’t directly implicated in creation, these creators usually aren’t considered sex workers, explains More.

Instead, they’re considered performers, voice-over artists, essayists, and wordsmiths.

“I’ve been editing anthologies for over 15 years, and the instances of unethical written erotica I’ve come across, personally, are rare,” says Rachel Kramer Bussel, an erotica writer and editor of over 60 anthologies, including the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series from Cleis Press.

“But just as with video porn, written erotica can be unethical,” says Bussel. “There are shady people pirating books and trying to illegally profit off of others’ work in many creative fields, including erotica.”

Pirating, for the record, basically means plagiarizing.

“There’s also things such as book stuffing by unethical self-published erotica authors,” explains Bussel.

Book stuffing refers to padding a book with “nothing pages” — like sneak previews of upcoming books and reprintings of old stories — in order to boost the overall number of pages and, subsequently, the price.

A lot of explicit audio is recorded based on a script or short story. So just as the storylines and sentences of written erotica can be plagiarized, so can those in audio erotica.

To date, documented instances of this are few.

Some audio erotica platforms — like Quinn and Literotica — allow users to upload their own soundtracks.

It should go without saying, but if any of the noisemakers involved are unaware that or didn’t consent to their noises being uploaded onto the internet, the content is unethical.

Want to get an eye- or earful of X-rated smut? Here’s how to make sure it, and the way you’re consuming it, are ethical.

1. Do a quick Google search

Thanks to the (sometimes) wonderful worldwide web, a few clicks and clacks will introduce you to anyone’s backstory — and that includes erotica writers and voice-over artists.

Your move: “Google the name of the author you’re thinking about reading [or hearing] from,” says Bussel.

“This will help you make sure they haven’t been involved with anything you wouldn’t want to contribute to financially,” she says.

2. Check out the publisher

“One of the best ways to make sure your written erotica isn’t plagiarized or being sold by an unauthorized seller is to look at the source,” says Bussel.

Is it published by a reputable publisher (such as those listed on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website)? If so, the odds that this publisher is ethical are solid!

Bussel also recommends doing a quick internet search of the publisher in question.

“Have they been accused of withholding owed royalties from their authors, for example? If so, they’re not ethical,” she says.

(Popular LGBTQ+ erotica publisher, Dreamspinner Press, for example, has been accused of doing this.)

3. Or the producer

In the case of audio erotica, take a moment to learn more about the app or platform where the content lives.

If the platform has an easy-to-find disclaimer about their practice, that’s promising.

Audio erotica app, Dipsea, for example, shares, “Dipsea sex is safe, positive, and full of healthy boundary setting and enthusiastic consent.”

Ditto goes for platforms that donate a portion of their income to sexual rights.

&Jane, for example, donates a portion of their income to Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that works full time to affirm and protect sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.

4. Pay for your content directly

Did you know that many erotica writers have paid newsletters or Patreon memberships that you can subscribe to for automatic access to their new content? Yep!

For just $1 a month on Patreon, for example, you can access erotica writer Lesbian Pulp’s steamy, lesbian fiction.

And for $10 a month, you can access two erotica short stories from Eclipse, which pegs itself as a cosmic home for Black Queer Erotica.

5. Reach out to the creator

Know you love the work of one particular writer or performer? “You can always ask them via email or social media what the best way to support their work is,” says Bussel.

You may not always get a response, but many creators do read the messages they receive — hearing that you enjoy the work they’re doing is sure to be appreciated!

6. Support the creators in other ways, too

Paying for and consuming a creator’s content is the best way to put money where your *heart eyes* are.

But these days, employers do look at authors’ and performers’ follower counts and engagement. So giving your fave creators a follow on Instagram or Twitter could help them earn more work in the future.

Video erotica can be great! Written erotica can be great! Audio erotica can be great!

But no form of adult content is immune to unethical practices.

So whether you’re curling up with your laptop, AirPods, or one-handed reader, be sure to take a little time to do research.

A little clock and coin are small prices to pay for climax, after all.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.