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From “what’s the difference between ogling a model and a porn star” to “are free porn sites bad,” if you’ve got Q’s about adult content, this guide is for you.

Heads-up: This is the first 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 is any visual content that’s created with the explicit intention of exciting, enticing, and pleasuring viewers, with the consent of all performers or creators involved,” says Rev. Rucifer, a sex educator, performer, and founder of Reiki Bondage.

There are two phrases in the above definition that you should take note of: “explicit intention” and “consent.”

The former phrase separates porn, which is created to sexually arouse, from something like a Victoria’s Secret catalog or Instagram model’s post, which typically uses suggestive material to sell something.

And the latter (“consensual”) separates porn from things like “revenge porn,” video abuse, and sexual content of minors.

No doubt, there are photos of some scantily clad beauts on Instagram (that somehow *haven’t* been removed due to censorship). But this content isn’t necessarily porn.

“Showing your body doesn’t automatically make something porn,” says branding expert and fat activist Megan, founder and performer behind That Fat Babe.

“Unless people are posting their body on Instagram with the intent of it being consumed like porn, it’s not porn,” Megan explains.

In fact, she started an OnlyFans account (under the name That Fat Babe) specifically to differentiate her Instagram content from the porn she produces. (OnlyFans is a content subscription site.)

“I didn’t create my Instagram account with the intent of people engaging with my content in a sexual way,” Megan says.

When she started getting requests for more sexual content in her DMs, she started an OnlyFans. Now, when someone messages her on Instagram asking for sexually explicit content, she directs them to her OnlyFans.

“This allows me to decide what people get access to, while also allowing me to profit off of it,” Megan says.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky: Often, performers will use Instagram to help market their pornographic content.

For example, Megan runs an Instagram (@ThatFatBabe) where she promotes her OnlyFans account.

Rev. Rucifer uses her personal Instagram (@RevRucifer) to inform her followers of upcoming events or when her OnlyFans is on sale.

But these posts aren’t porn. They’re designed to lead you to a place where you can ethically consume porn.

“Ethical porn” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, so you might be wondering what it means.

“The phrase ‘ethical porn’ is heavily tied to the circumstances and environment that the porn was produced,” Rev. Rucifer says.

Ethical porn, according to her, is porn:

  • that’s made with the talent’s pleasure, boundaries, and well-being in mind
  • that doesn’t rely on racist tropes
  • that’s made on a set free of harassment, sexism, racism, homophobia, and abuse
  • where performers are being paid their worth

Generally, ethical porn is thought to depict more “realistic” sex compared to other videos on the internet.

Other phrases that have popped up with a similar intent include:

  • feminist porn
  • fair-trade porn
  • constitutional porn
  • responsible porn
  • independent porn

“At this day and age, porn and ethical porn should be synonymous — all porn should be ethical porn,” says booty sexpert, performer, and BDSM bottom Daya Dare.

Why? Well, because if it isn’t ethical, it shouldn’t be considered porn, Dare says.

One way to understand this is to think about the difference between sex and assault.

Just as sexual behavior that isn’t consensual isn’t considered sex (it’s considered assault), porn that isn’t ethical shouldn’t be considered porn (it should be considered abuse).

Ehhh.

“It’s hard to tell,” Rev. Rucifer says.

A big determinant of ethical porn is how the performers’ contracts are being negotiated and what they’re being paid. On tube sites — aka porn sites modeled after YouTube — it’s nearly impossible to find out this information.

As a general rule, though, Dare says, “If the consumer isn’t paying for their porn, they’re not consuming their porn ethically.”

And most of these tube sites allow porn consumers to watch for free.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a good search engine,” Dare says.

If, for example, you’re looking for a performer with red hair and type “red hair” into the search bar, the only performers who will come up are those who have the phrase “red hair” in their account handle.

To find OnlyFans accounts to follow, Rev. Rucifer recommends following the performers you already know you like on Instagram.

“Many performers do a wonderful job at co-promoting each other on social media,” Rev. Rucifer says.

Reddit and Twitter are other good avenues, according to Dare.

“Reddit is an especially good place to find performers that are catering to your specific kink,” Dare says.

Other paid channels include:

“Many performers are also creating their own websites that you go to directly to consume their content,” Dare adds.

So, if you find a performer you like, don’t hesitate to Google their name or tap the link in their Instagram bio to try to find their personal website.

Luckily, there are many paid porn platforms that are working to revolutionize the porn industry with ethical aggregated content.

These include:

If you’re consuming porn on a platform where tipping is an option, Megan recommends tipping well and often.

“One way to think about it is that your subscription is your price in the door at a club, while your tips are what you would pay for a drink or lap dance or plate of nachos,” Megan explains.

How much you tip will vary based on things like what you want to see, hear, or say, or whether you want to be seen. But as a general rule, she recommends tipping at least $5 for every other response.

“It’s imperative that you show the performer that you value their time and creativity,” Megan says.

Really, what this question is asking is, What’s the difference between porn and prostitution?

At the time of publication, prostitution — defined as the act of engaging in IRL sexual intercourse for money — is illegal everywhere in the United States except for a few counties in Nevada.

Porn, however, isn’t illegal. It’s considered artistic expression, so it’s allowed under the First Amendment, so long as obscenity isn’t involved.

In other words, according to the law, prostitutes are paid for sex (illegal) while porn performers are paid to act (legal).

Does this distinction sound arbitrary to you? TBH, it should.

That’s why most porn performers believe that to be an ethical porn consumer, you also need to be actively working to decriminalize sex work.

Consuming porn in an ethical way may be more time (and financially) consuming than typing in “red head” or “big booty” into a random search bar.

But beyond ultimately creating a more pleasurable viewing experience for you, it’s also just the right thing to do — for everyone involved.


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.