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Ask Erica: Is There Such a Thing as Ethical Porn?

Ask Erica: Is There Such a Thing as Ethical Porn?

Wellbeing columnist Erica Chidi Cohen is here to answer our most pressing questions about sex, health and overall wellbeing. Today, she’s tackling the topic of ethical porn…

Q. What’s the real deal with “ethical porn?” My partner is interested in incorporating porn into our sex life — and I’m curious myself. But I’ve heard a lot about the exploitation and abuse that goes on in the mainstream porn industry, and I obviously don’t want to support a system like that. Is there really such a thing as ethical, non-exploitative porn? If so, how do I know where to find it? — Yvette

A. Let me start by saying how awesome it is that you and your partner are considering this. Watching porn together can be a great opportunity to expand and deepen your sexual dynamic. It’s also a chance to discover what you — and your partner — like and don’t like, or are mutually intrigued by. As humans, we learn a lot by behavior modeling — and most of us didn’t grow up with a lot of healthy modeling around sex.

Of course, you’re absolutely right to be concerned about finding healthy, ethical content. And yes, that content does exist. Generally, an ethical porn production is one where the performers are paid a fair wage and treated with respect, and no one is made to perform acts they’re not comfortable with. Personally, I also think porn that’s ethical features a diverse range of bodies and genders. It should feel inclusive. While ethical porn is increasingly in demand, there’s not yet a standard set of rules or a governing body to put its seal of approval on certain films or production houses, so you have to do a little research. Here are a few great places to start:

GoodForHer.com: This is a blog, store and sexual education site, which also hosts hundreds of streaming feminist porn videos on its site. (They also have DVDs for sale.) Good For Her is also a brick and mortar business in Canada, and has been working in this field since 1997. The company is extremely committed to supporting healthy, inclusive business practices — offering women- and trans-only hours in their shop, supplying sustainably produced products, and carefully curating its erotic content. If you’re getting porn from them, you can be confident that its been vetted by people who are well-acquainted with ethical production and genuinely care about it.

IFeelMyself.com: I really love to send people here and often recommend in my sex ed class at LOOM. It’s a collection primarily of masturbation videos mostly featuring female-identifying participants. I think female masturbation content can be very helpful, not only for women to see but also to share with their partners (regardless of gender). It can give you a sense of permission to explore yourself, and also give you something to model off. There’s still so much socialized stigma around female masturbation and pleasure, and IFeelMyself does a great job of reframing that. The collection of over 5,000 videos includes all kinds of bodies and strongly emphasizes an honest, diverse and artful depiction of sexual pleasure.

OmgYes.com: This is not exactly a porn site, but I still highly recommend it and think you and your partner would enjoy it. It’s an educational video series produced by researchers at Indiana University and The Kinsey Institute, who interviewed thousands of women, from age 18 to 95, about the actual techniques they enjoy sexually. There are demonstration and description videos, as well as “touchable videos” that allow you to practice the various techniques on a touch screen. OmgYes is a website, but it works similarly to an app and its compatible on desktop, phone or tablet. It’s a really fun and educative experience — and a really fun resource to explore, on your own or with a partner.

Finally, when in doubt, you can look for films that were featured at the Toronto International Porn Festival. They have a very detailed criteria for submissions (which you can read in full here), and they emphasize work that’s both high-quality and inclusive. They aim to represent the broadcast spectrum of sexual expression, rejecting stereotypes, emphasizing empowerment, and putting forth content that’s completely sex positive. This festival is really trying to push back against the mainstream porn industry and its exploitative practices, so you can feel good about any films associated with it.

Again, I want to commend you for being open to porn AND for being committed to finding good, ethical content. The more people that support this kind of work, the more prevalent it will become! So do your research, then go forth and enjoy!


Erica Chidi Cohen is the CEO of LOOM, a wellbeing brand closing the reproductive and sexual health knowledge gap for womxn. Through her book, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood and her work as both a doula and health educator, she has guided thousands of people in their transition from pregnancy to parenthood. Erica also educates people on pleasure, relationships and self-care by providing an inclusive and shame-free perspective. She began her practice in San Francisco, volunteering as a doula within the prison system. She continues to work with organizations that serve marginalized communities.

Do you have a sex, health or wellness question for Erica? Let us know in the comments. And here are 10 things Erica always tells pregnant women, if you’d like to read.

P.S. “I’ve never had an orgasm,” and who initiates sex in your relationship?

(Top photo by VISUALSPECTRUM/Stocksy. Erica’s photo by Julia Chesky.)

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