Yes, good and ethical queer porn exists — here’s how to know it when you see it

Two stars from Himeros.TV in an ethically made queer porno
Two stars from Himeros.TV in an ethically made queer porno

The internet has given us an embarrassment of riches when it comes to on-demand, easily accessible adult content. Gone are the days of skulking behind the curtain at video rental stores or flipping through mail-order catalogs — now, a whole world of adult videos is (quite literally) at your fingertips. But despite all of this readily available porn that caters to every niche kink, it can still feel like a daunting task to find content that is ethically made by queer people for queer people.

Watching porn is a healthy part of an adult sex life, but it can be hard to enjoy when you're worried about what went on behind the scenes so that you can watch it on your laptop. Was anyone taken advantage of? Were the performers paid fairly? Did everyone consent to everything that's happening on screen? Was the performer's sexual health taken into consideration? These are all important questions if you want to be an ethical porn consumer.

What is "ethical porn?"

Two queer porn stars in an ethically made queer porn
Two queer porn stars in an ethically made queer porn

altShift Films

The term "ethical porn" can feel a little buzzwordy, but there are ethical standards and best practices that make sure everyone on set is taken care of — from ensuring that everyone receives a fair wage to giving performers agency to make decisions about what types of scenes they feel comfortable filming to frequent STI testing and having condoms available if the stars want them.

"I think the misconception around ethical porn as a consumer — people who consume porn view ethical porn as porn that is beautifully shot, beautifully made, beautifully lit, the women are doing nonviolent, nonaggressive things," explains Sam, a director and co-owner of the indie queer porn studio altSHIFT Films. "Actually, ethical porn has nothing to do with what you see on the screen. Ethical porn is about what happens behind the camera, what happens offscreen…They could be on a filthy mattress in the middle of a room doing a consensual non-consent scene if everyone has had the discussion beforehand and everyone is being paid well.”

How are performers treated by ethical porn studios

Two performers in an ethically made queer porn
Two performers in an ethically made queer porn

Davey Wavey

Some indie queer porn studios, like Pink and White Productions — creator of CrashPadSeries.com and PinkLabel.TV — as well as AORTA Films and altSHIFT Films, go one step further by allowing performers to script sex scenes alongside the director and crew, collaborating with the performer on what words they feel comfortable using to refer to their body (and which words should be avoided), and letting performers know they can stop a scene at any time if they feel uncomfortable.

The gay male-centric porn studio Himeros.TV even goes so far as to provide free counseling sessions for all performers and always has a sex coach on set to support the porn stars. Founder Davey Wavey says it’s vital to ensure everyone on set is physically and emotionally safe and that dynamic consent is respected.

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“Gay men haven’t really had a MeToo moment,” he says. “We’ve really given gay guys a free pass when it comes to not respecting boundaries. If it's two guys it somehow feels or is perceived as different, right? Like if someone pinches your ass in a bar and it's another guy, and you’re a guy, it's like, oh, it's just guys being guys, of course they do that. So I think in some ways we're still further behind. We haven't had that moment of awareness that I think a lot of the rest of society has.”

While it may be hard to picture how adult films that can be filled with BDSM scenes or degradation could be made ethically, it all boils down to a labor issue — much like any other industry. "When we talk about it being ethical porn, what we're really talking about is the means of production, right? And that ethical porn is a statement of labor," says Mahx Capacity, the nonbinary creative director and co-founder of AORTA Films, as well as a porn performer and director, who describes indie queer porn as being "DIY," "grassroots," and “anti-capitalistic" because of the industry’s desire to work cooperatively and profit-share.

Capacity may call indie queer porn “anti-capitalistic,” but independent and alternative adult film director Noel Alejandro cautions that money often plays a role in decision making, regardless of the best efforts of the people making the films to meet or exceed ethical standards. “I am skeptical of a production company or business that endorses the title of ethical or feminist, not only because companies seek to make money, which means making decisions that do not always align with ethical examples,” he says. “I believe that entrepreneurs or producers must strike a balance between what is ethically acceptable and the survival of our business.”

How are queer performers impacted by the porn industry?

Behind the scenes of making an ethical queer porn
Behind the scenes of making an ethical queer porn

Davey Wavey

Despite a growing number of indie and mainstream studios working hard to make their films inline with the ethical standards set forth by the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, some performers still say more reforms are needed. Nonbinary adult content creator Jaq Quicksilver says they mostly do independent solo work and only film with studios a few times a year because it can still be challenging to find ethical queer studios to partner with. They even describe having a "personal blacklist" of studios and directors they refuse to work with.

"It's quite limited," Quicksilver says of how many ethical studios are out there. "I would say I could count on one, maybe two hands the number of companies I can think of."

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Not only are there studios that don't follow ethical guidelines, but Quicksilver reveals that there are even more significant abuses that go unchecked in less-scrupulous companies. "I know that there are companies that have like high-level directors or production people that have histories of abuse or they continue to hire people who are known to abuse people," they say. Adding that there is a porn star in the industry who sexually assaults trans women performers, but keeps getting hired because of his popularity.

Vanniall, a Black trans adult content creator, says that while her work in queer porn has been largely positive, she has had some negative experiences too. At one point, she worked with a trans porn studio that didn't pay her fairly, and then when the actual film came out, it wasn't placed on the studio's main website but on an offshoot that used an offensive "play on a race name" in the title of the website. "I remember feeling a bit used in that moment, and none of that was discussed…none of those attributes were discussed before the actual scene [was filmed]," she says.

Is ethically made queer porn more diverse?

Ethically made queer porn
Ethically made queer porn

altShift Films

It's issues like these that make it that much more important to do the work to seek out ethically made queer porn. But beyond following ethical guidelines around safety and equitable pay that a lot of mainstream, big-budget studios also adhere to, many queer porn studios and independent content creators feel that diversity behind and in front of the camera is also hugely important. From different body types to the full spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities to racial diversity, and disability representation, the people making queer indie porn want to present sex that affirms the lived sexual experiences of the queer community and not just produce slick, overly-formulaic adult films that lack any diversity or authenticity.

Courtney Trouble, a Bay Area-based genderqueer porn star and director, who describes themself as a "fat femme," has found throughout their two decades in the adult film industry that mainstream studios are far less inclusive than their indie counterparts. "I've been told many times in my career… I look too dyke-y, or that, like, lesbian porn doesn't sell as well," they say. "So there's just been so many different opportunities that I could have had in the mainstream porn, adult entertainment world that because of my size and my sexual orientation, I think I've just been gatekept out of. So in that sense, my take on ethical porn, is to be creating opportunities for the types of people, who like myself, are visibly othered, either by their size or sexual or gender presentation."

Is ethical porn a political statement?

Genderqueer porn star Courtney Trouble
Genderqueer porn star Courtney Trouble

Courtney Trouble

For Mahx Capacity, making adult films for people who feel "misrepresented or underrepresented" in the porn industry is part of why they helped found the indie studio AORTA Films in the first place, "I think one of the guiding reasons for us getting into this was wanting to make porn for people who had been told that they were somehow wrong. Whether that's your size, your identity or your gender, your sexuality or your race or, the type of play you wanna engage in or the partnerships you wanna have."

This is a sentiment echoed by other people making indie porn, including directors Ed and Sam, who founded their own indie queer porn studio, altSHIFT Films, because of the lack of freedom they had when working with mainstream studios. "We felt a little bit trapped in what we could depict because the commercial viability in that sort of world is still about boring ideas of beauty, boring ideas of what women might be into," explains Ed. "So although it's not abusing women the way some porn does, we got a little bit frustrated that we couldn't show that women can also be filthy and have rich and varied sex lives just like men."

In many ways creating indie porn made by queer people for an LGBTQ+ audience is inherently an act of political activism. Not only are queer bodies constantly politicized, but putting diverse performers on screen, showing a more realistic and affirming version of queer sex than mainstream studios, and fighting for fair labor practices and sex worker rights are forms of activism that the indie directors, studio heads and performers take seriously.

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"It's actually really essential that we are able to continue investing in [queer porn] because it is inherently deeply, deeply political and so tied to autonomy — the right to be in the partnerships we want, to love whoever we want, the right to identify our gender and bodies however we want. So it does feel deeply political to me," Capacity explains.

Vanniall, who is an HIV-positive porn performer, also says that "sex can be a powerful tool" and that creating adult content while being open about her status serves as both a form of activism and an example to people who feel like their sex life ended when they were diagnosed. "Showing people that someone that is HIV positive and undetectable and cannot transmit, showing people that they too can have sex and have fun in the way that they could before this diagnosis became important to me," she says. "It became the primary thing in which I care about. It seems like a lot of people feel like they had to hide, and not just performers but performers as well.”

So, how DO you find ethical queer porn?

Two performers in an ethically made queer porn
Two performers in an ethically made queer porn

altShift Films

Clearly, making queer porn ethically is a worker's rights issue, an act of activism, and an affirming experience, but how do you find it? We have some helpful tips:

  1. Start by exploring a website like PornBetter which has already done the research for you and has cataloged porn studios that follow ethical standards.

  1. Once you’ve found ethical queer porn studios on PornBetter, you can get a subscription or purchase videos directly from the studios they recommend so you know that your money is going to the studios making ethical porn.

  1. If you find a performer you like, consider finding them on social media and search for their website or OnlyFans account so you can support them directly.

  1. Attend queer porn film festivals to discover new studios, directors, and performers to research once you’re home.

  1. Check out the studio or performer’s website. If they are making ethical queer porn their ethical standards and practices are usually listed there.

  1. Talk to your friends! Ask which queer porn stars they love and what websites they frequent and then do a little digging to see if they follow ethical guidelines.

  1. Check out PRIDE’s ethically made queer porn guide below!

Why is it important to pay for the porn you watch?

Ethically made queer porn
Ethically made queer porn

Davey Wavey

While it is important for the people behind and in front of the camera to work to create porn ethically, some of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the consumer as well. Not only is it vital that you seek out ethically made porn, but that you are always paying for the spicy films you watch. If you're seeking out porn on free sites like RedTube, you're going to be scrolling for a long time looking for well-made queer porn with LGBTQ+ stars and the porn you do find is likely stolen, which means that the people that created it aren't getting paid.

"Stealing uncredited work doesn't support the workers, and it might feel harmless if you think you're just one person who is not paying, but when it's a full website of leaked content, it starts to cut into margins that are already narrow," explains popular queer porn star Jiz Lee, who is also the marketing director for CrashPadSeries.com and PinkLabel.TV — both of which make diverse, inclusive, and ethically made queer porn.

Lee says that if you frequent free sites the best way to support the artists is to trace the film back to its origin and purchase a copy or subscription there. "If you find a free video, know that there exists somewhere a paid version of it," Lee says. "Follow the source. If it's not clear who the creators are, consider that it is likely uploaded without consent.”

The sheer overwhelming amount of porn on the internet means that it can be tricky to find ethically made queer films to get you off, but no matter your kink or preference, you can probably find an ethical version of it; you just have to dig a little.

Ethically Made Queer Porn Guide

Ethically made queer porn
Ethically made queer porn

Davey Wavey

Queer porn studios:

CrashPadSeries.com (An ongoing series of ethically made queer porn films set in a “Crash Pad” in a secret San Francisco apartment)

PinkLabel.TV (A streaming platform that hosts ethically made indie queer porn that features diverse performers)

AORTA Films (Diverse, indie queer porn with an expansive view of what sex can look like)

Himeros.TV (Gay porn that focuses on authenticity and real connections)

altSHIFT Films (Ethically made alternative queer porn)

Ciné Sinclaire (Body positive, feminist, inclusive porn)

QueerPorn.TV (Owned and operated by queer porn star and director Courtney Trouble, this site hosts content made by Trouble and other directors)

Trouble Films (Another platform owned by Courtney Trouble that hosts indie porn films made by queer artists through a feminist lens)

Noel Alejandro (Ethical gay porn director who focuses on making beautifully shot, cinematic pornography)

Queer porn performers:

Courtney Trouble

Vanniall

Jiz Lee

Jaq Quicksilver

Jamal Phoenix

Kayden Grey

Ramses Rodstein

Chelsea Poe

Carnegie Velvet

Cristiano

Jonah Wheeler

Now go have some ethically freaky fun! You’re welcome!