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Ethical. Feminist. Independent. Amateur. Pro-amateur. Buzzwords abound in the adult entertainment industry.

Unfortunately, many of these terms have been co-opted by production companies for marketing purposes, and therefore now mean farrr less than you’d hope.

Read on to learn what feminist and ethical adult content claim to be. Plus, how to engage with erotic content as ethically as possible.

Heads-up: This is the second 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.

On the production side, adult content is dominated by cisgender men.

“Feminist” is the term for adult content that aims to flip that script.

“Feminist porn is porn that puts women in charge of the narrative,” says kink-inclusive sex educator Carly S., founder of Dildo or Dildon’t, a pleasure product review and sex education platform.

Other phrases for “feminist” adult content include:

  • made for women, by women
  • sex-positive content for women
  • female-founded
  • female-focused
  • feminist-focused

Carly S. says that feminist content is generally made with the (false!) assumption that women don’t enjoy watching sex that involves a woman taking on a submissive role, power play, BDSM, or kink.

As a result, “feminist porn is typically pretty soft-core,” she says. (Soft-core = less sexually explicit than its hard-core counterpart.)

“Ethical” refers to the work environment the content was created in.

Ethical content is content that’s made with the performer’s pleasure and boundaries in mind, says Carly S.

The phrase is intended to signal that performers were paid their worth and that they didn’t face any harassment, sexism, racism, homophobia, or abuse on set, she adds.

“Ethical” adult content may also be called:

  • fair-trade
  • independent
  • constitutional

FYI: Ethical adult content isn’t necessarily feminist adult content and vice versa.

“Porn can be ethical and still have men in charge of production,” Carly S. says.

To be clear: There isn’t anything inherently wrong with ethical or feminist adult entertainment!

On the contrary, it’s S-U-P-E-R important that women, nonbinary folks, and trans men have equal opportunities to be on the production side of things.

And it should go without saying: Production companies should prioritize their performers’ safety and pleasure.

But here’s the rub:

Over the past few years, “ethical” and “feminist” have become SUCH buzzwords within the adult film industry that production studios have started using them as a marketing tool — even when the content isn’t actually ethical or feminist.

The most glaring example of this is the work of adult filmmaker Erika Lust, founder of XConfessions, Lust Cinemas, Else Cinema, and The Store. All are adult film studios that are marketed as “sex positive,” “focused on female pleasure,” and “ethical.”

In 2017, adult content creator Rooster says that they had their “consent […] violated on the set of Erika Lust Films, which is currently being investigated by the authorities as a rape allegation.”

(After initial publication, Sara Marrone, press office manager at Erika Lust Films, reached out to Healthline to say, no authorities are investigating a rape allegation – all the backlash on Erika is currently happening exclusively online and on social media.” The following paragraphs have been updated to more accurately refer to these allegations.)

At the time of this publication, no resolution has been reached. And both Lust and former guest director, Olympe de G, who’s also implicated in the allegations, have refused Rooster’s claims.

However, it’s important to realize that Rooster is a Black, trans, and nonbinary adult content creator, activist, and survivor. And it is, as they say, “incredibly hard to receive justice as a survivor of sexual assault and someone of marginalized identity.”

Closed or not — and investigated by authorities or not — these allegations show that unethical things can happen on a so-called ethical set.

Yep… “porn.”

Adding the adjective “ethical” in front of “porn” suggests that erotic content that isn’t ethical is still porn, says Daya Dare, booty sexpert, performer, and BDSM bottom.

In reality, X-rated content that isn’t ethical isn’t porn. It’s abuse.

What’s more, adult content made by women shouldn’t be sidelined as “feminist” erotica.

There should be an industry-wide push to have women, nonbinary folks, and trans men at all levels of production: in soft-core, hard-core, and all other forms of adult content.

Consuming adult content in an ethical way goes far beyond just checking to see whether what you’re watching was ethically made — though that’s a solid start.

Here are four tips for being an ethical consumer.

1. Pay for your content

“You have to pay for your porn,” Carly S. says. “You cannot be an ethical consumer of porn if you aren’t paying for your porn.”

“You need to pay the people you’re masturbating to every single time. You need to pay them even if you don’t reach orgasm. You need to pay them if you stop having sex halfway through because your phone went off,” she says.

2. Double-check the age of those on-screen

“Many platforms have multistepped age and identity verification processes,” Carly S. says.

But that doesn’t mean they always catch explicit photos or videos that include someone under the age of 18.

Free and paid aggregation sites are regularly called into question for allowing stolen or otherwise nonconsensually created photos and videos to be uploaded to and remain on their platform.

The only way to ensure you aren’t partaking in sexual abuse — because viewing stolen content or content coerced out of underage children is sexual abuse — is to do your due diligence and make sure those involved are consenting adults ages 18 or older.

If there isn’t a statement on the production company’s “about us” page or at the start of the film saying that its performers are consenting adults, that’s a h-u-g-e red flag.

3. Look into amateur and pro-amateur content

The term “ethical porn” typically refers to adult content that was made in a production studio.

But it’s important to know that there’s another kind of erotic content that is ethical, even though it doesn’t go by that nomenclature.

Enter: amateur adult content.

The only difference is that amateur content isn’t created at a professional studio, says Carly S.

Although amateur content is typically thought of as “lower quality” than other types of adult entertainment, that isn’t always true.

There’s actually a whole category of adult film known as “pro-amateur.”

It features people who are technically amateur performers who also happen to have the skills to create a high-quality film.

Because amateur content features people performing acts that they already want to be doing, “amateur and pro-amateur porn is a great way to consume porn that is ethical,” Carly S. says.

4. Learn more about the performers

Who’s in the video you’re about to watch? Why not give them a follow on Instagram, watch an interview they did on YouTube, or read their Wiki page?

Better yet: Go subscribe to your fave performer’s personal site (more on this below).

It depends!

If there are performer(s) you already know and love

Rather than watching them on free tube sites, check to see whether they have their own website or an account on:

If they do, then pay and subscribe.

Oh, and don’t forget to tip every time you watch and engage (if that’s an option on the platform you’re using).

Carly S. compares gaining access to someone’s personal platform as paying the entry fee at the door of a strip club.

“You pay an initial sum, then every time you see things you like, you tip,” she says.

If you’re new on your erotic journey

In this case, a paid platform that features many different performers may be a better starting point.

Some of the best include:

It may sound complicated, but it’s not.

“For viewers, it all comes down to this: To be an ethical consumer — which all consumers should aim to be — you need to be paying for your porn,” Carly S. says.

In other words: When in doubt, shell green out.


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.