August 2, 2017

Hot Girls Wanted (2015)

Once stuffed under mattresses, pages stuck together, or hidden inside the VHS case of more appropriate material, porn is now easily accessible and watched practically out in the open. Men watch it on their computers while at work. People even watch it on their mobile phones, lest they wait an extra 30 minutes to get home first.

It is this environment that has allowed the subjects of this documentary - amateur porn stars - to flourish. Here the filmmakers follow the paths and experiences of several girls, ages 19 to 25, as they make their way through the industry. It is neither glamorous nor overly sympathetic; rather, just an honest look at who they are and why they do it. It is a stark contrast to the slickly produced "Cathouse" on HBO, which depicts girls constantly lounging in full lingerie and hosting sex toy parties amongst themselves.

What stands out the most, however, is a moment when their "agent," aka the skeezy guy who recruits the girls and charges them rent to live in his hovel of a house, opines on the longevity of most amateur porn stars. Worst case scenario: one month. Best case: anything over six months.

Think about that: these women take a leap of faith, move to a random city, film themselves having sex (film that will be on the Internet forever), for a "career" they can only hope lasts more than six months. They promise of money and freedom is enticing, but I can imagine many teens fresh out of high school are not thinking through the long-term consequences of such a decision.

But there ends my negativity toward the women themselves. I have my own opinions on porn and the negative effect I think it has on teenage boys (one of the women in the film mirrors my sentiment), but I think this film better highlights the double standard placed on women who enter sex work.

We are a country obsessed with sex. We use it to sell everything from hamburgers to shampoo. And as the film points out, porn websites have the highest amount of traffic every month. So if so many people are consuming it, why is there such a stigma for being in one?

At one particularly maddening point, a woman's boyfriend tells her that she "needs to have self-respect" after she shoots a bondage scene. Yes, this is a boyfriend who claims to love her and yes, he already knew she did porn when they met. He even claimed to be okay with it for awhile. I can understand why many would not feel comfortable with their significant other being a sex worker, but for him to claim to be ok in the beginning, but draw a morality line at particular sex acts he doesn't like smacks of patriarchal bullshit. Separately, she has an emotional encounter with her parents and her father tells her "it will take a while before she earns his trust back."

Think about this another way: an adult woman (she's 19, remember), from a small town, finds a way to escape her rural life and does so, with very little qualms. While she may not love her job, it pays her well and she is happy with the freedom it has given her. But under pressure from her boyfriend and family, who constantly tell her how much her job somehow negatively affects them, she walks away, feeling shamed and regretful. Oh, while also telling her she "took the easy way out," which is an interesting comment from someone who has clearly never had to have sex on demand for hours at a time.

I'm not saying there aren't women who regret going into porn. And I'm not going to pretend that being a porn star is the most empowering thing for a woman to do. But society is so quick to judge and dismiss women who do it that they overlook the reason women go into porn in the first place: economic freedom.

Ignored is the fact that absent other opportunities, women are leveraging their assets to improve their situation in life. They are cashing in on a demand, created by mostly men, who then turn around and shame them for it. The same men who watch their porn then tell these women that they cannot be taken seriously as people or mates. It's infuriating.

Though that particular storyline is only one aspect of the documentary, it is an undercurrent that runs through the entire film. These women are looking for a vehicle to get places in life, and to them, porn was the best option to get there. It is both difficult to watch their futures depend on the desires of men and inspiring to see them try and take control of their lives and bodies. It may not have been the most exciting documentary, but the subject is thought-provoking enough to make me interested in seeing the miniseries created out of it.

Final word: People should be watching this documentary instead of actual porn.