The Uber-ization of porn

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Hot Girls Wanted': A Good Film About Porn That’s No Turn-On.

Documentaries about sex work always risk falling prey to moralizing that doesn’t have much to do with the well-being of workers themselves. “Hot Girls Wanted,” a new documentary produced by Rashida Jones that arrives on Netflix today, certainly has concerns about the ways in which consumer demands affect the kind of pornography that’s getting produced and the way doing sex work affects the private lives of the women who are its subjects. While Rashida Jones is best known for getting laughs on the big and small screens, the actress has taken on a serious role as producer of a documentary called “Hot Girls Wanted.” The movie focuses on the lives of young women featured in so-called amateur porn films, and Jones stopped by TODAY Wednesday to share why she got involved with the project. “I think porn is now prevalent,” Jones explained. “I mean, it’s almost part of our mainstream.”Parks & Recreation” star Rashida Jones has been critical about what she sees as an increasingly sexualized culture, and it’s a position that has seen her take a fair share of heat.Consider this: Netflix is the single biggest driver of internet bandwidth, accounting for over one-third of all downstream usage during prime time hours.

In standard labor-exposé form, the answer is that the product you use (in this case, professional amateur porn) was made under objectionable conditions by workers who were often treated poorly. But if we step away from single companies and look at genres instead, there’s one category that receives more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. The directors’ exploration of a porn series called “Latina Abuse,” that Jade, one of their subjects, stars in, reveals a virulent combination of racism and misogyny. It’s a totally unregulated industry.” “This particular part of the industry, amateur porn — which is not really amateur porn, it’s just made to seem like amateurs are involved — they attract 18-year-old girls to come work with the promise of glamour and success and fame, to be big stars,” she said. “And, you know, the reality’s a little different from that.” “This is not about people who come from broken homes to fill some hole in their heart,” Jones said. “I mean, these girls have great families and boyfriends.

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and acquired by Netflix, the film takes a look at the amateur porn industry, and how it trades on the aspirations of teenagers and young women, and exploits them in an industry that is only getting bigger and more mainstream each year. “…very often the women in this type of porn are just starting out, so they can’t negotiate the conditions of their employment. But that’s not something many consumers of porn want to think about. “This movie, in reality, should not be shocking,” director Jill Bauer told BuzzFeed News on the phone. “Most people use [porn], see it, are aware of it. It spends time with a few young women involved in the “amateur porn” subset of the genre, finding out why they’ve chosen this work, and how their initial expectations compare to their subsequent realities. While working on 2012’s Sexy Baby, a documentary about how the internet has shifted the way young people think and feel about sexuality, Gradus and Bauer watched a lot of porn for research.

After an initial montage of sex-positive pop culture — Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian are among the dignitaries acknowledged — the filmmakers’ implication is that female role models can influence suggestible people into thinking sex work is a path to wealth and fame. In a way, this model of porn production is a lot like Uber, the service that lets people sign up to provide driving services using their personal cars. Both the new porn model and Uber have some advantages for consumers over the existing service providers, but they also shift major costs and risks onto workers themselves. They feel like this is a good choice, in part because of the cultural backdrop and in part because it’s so easy to do.” Gradus says that many of the young women profiled live together in the same house while they are working and form sorority-like bonds to support each other. “They work very hard when they shoot these scenes and then they go back and they’re very supportive.

You’d think Tressa and other girls who share an apartment-cum-office with Riley would become suspicious of their new boss’ worldview when he flips through potential stars on his laptop and remarks approvingly of one, “She’s 18, she looks like she’s 12 — with double-Ds!” Ick. Unlike legacy cab companies, Uber will tell you exactly who is coming to pick you up and gives you GPS information about how close the driver is and when he or she is expected to arrive, a dramatic improvement over calling for a cab that may never show up (or, if you’re African American, calling for or hailing a cab that then refuses to serve you).

Without making a judgment call on pornography itself, the documentary asserts that the progression from average teen girl to sex worker to washed-up porn star has never been easier. “They’re all just looking for an adventure, and porn, because there’s a recruiter right there offering them a plane ticket, is a very easy vehicle,” Gradus said. At first elated to be enjoying a sorority-house atmosphere and making hundreds of dollars per shoot, Tressa soon finds herself in a loop of arduous labor and pain.

Bauer and Gradus were intrigued by her because she’d gotten into porn in a seemingly spontaneous way they saw as typical. “I needed some way to escape somehow,” Tressa says in the documentary. “And I found an ad on Craigslist.” Tressa, like the four other young women the movie shows, is not in a strong position to negotiate her working conditions. The cameras follow her on return visits to home, where her mother is sad and her father is clueless (Tressa doesn’t tell him what she’s doing until long after her mother knows).

Knox was able to make substantial amounts of money because she capitalized on her notoriety after a fellow student outed her, not because the work is actually remunerative. “Riley [a porn recruiter profiled in the film] said she wouldn’t even have made enough to pay for one class,” Gradus said. “Because there is this concept, and I think especially when you’re 18 or 19, you’re not thinking about net profit, you’re not doing an analysis before you go in. In one scene, we see her housemate Rachel prepare uneasily for a shoot with a much older man she finds unattractive — she’s directed to look like she’s not enjoying the sex. She says starring in adult films impacted not just her personal relationships, but her physical health as well. “There’s no room for a normal relationship — you can’t even have sex after you get off of a set,” she says. “You’re messed up. You have to go to the doctor every two weeks to figure out what’s wrong with you, to get some type of antibiotics; some kind of medication to get you back on track, and then it’s messed up instantly right after that. This is definitely one of the things you should consider, that you are not going to come home with a ton of cash.” Both Uber and the new business model for the porn industry are possible because of new technology.

But when people in her small hometown of Oswego, New York, found out, her attitude changed. “The news traveled through the high schools, and then someone had sent a picture to my parents,” she says. “And then my brothers and sisters had the shock waves go through them. Uber drivers are fighting to be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors, to get access to the benefits and protections that would be due them if they actually worked for the company.

But I wasn’t just a body — I have a soul, I have a mind, and I have so much to offer.” Editor’s Note: The above article is a condensed version of The Takeaway’s interview with Rashida Jones, Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus and Rachel. Some of the movie’s queasiest moments involve the women debating whether to take on certain sex acts for extra pay and calculating their takeaway if they have to buy Plan B as a result.

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