What’s the Big Deal with Amateur Porn?

https://www.theblot.com/hot-girls-wanted-whats-the-big-deal-with-amateur-porn-7745278
Critically acclaimed documentary ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ offers an exclusive look into amateur porn while raising some uncomfortable questions in the process. (Netflix photo)

Amateur pornography is a generally new phenomenon — or so directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus have found to be true in the digital age. The Internet, specifically social media, makes porn more accessible than it’s ever been. But in their effort to collect data on the teen girls involved with amateur porn, and just the industry itself, Bauer and Gradus were proving to have a difficult time. So they decided to curate it themselves.

The two teamed up with Dr. Debby Herbenick and Dr. Bryant Paul Kinsey of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University to finally shine a light, however dark, on the world of amateur porn, the results of which can be seen in the recent documentary “Hot Girls Wanted.” The documentary first released to critical claim during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it’s newly available to stream on Netflix.

“Hot Girls Wanted” follows a handful of teen girls who’ve left behind their “small-town life” for “freedom and fame.” We watch the girls fall for clickbait Craigslist ads, fly to Miami, set up house with other girls chasing their same dream and perform, all the while coming to terms with their decision to be in porn in the first place. Initially, some of the girls are thrilled to be in such a position.

“I’ve done so much shit here, more than I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Rachel Bernard, 19, formally known as Ava Taylor, says in the documentary. “Chillin’, penthouses, Lamborghinis, riding on street bikes … all the shit I’ve ever wanted to do … I’m trying to be famous, so you gotta do what you gotta do.”

But the documentary actually centers around one girl named Tressa Silguero, 19, formally known as Stella May. Tressa thought she wanted the glamorous life of a porn star — until her scenes took a niche, aggressive turn, and she suffers from a vaginal infection caused by too much sex. It isn’t until she returns home to Texas that her boyfriend and mother finally convince her to quit the industry for good. All but two of the girls viewers initially meet leave the industry after a few months.

('Hot Girls Wanted' photo)

Tressa Silguero, formerly known as porn star Stella May, in a scene from the documentary. (‘Hot Girls Wanted’ photo)

PORN BY THE NUMBERS

Porn sites get more traffic each month that Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, with the top three pro-amateur sites being worth an estimated $50 million, Paul found. What’s more is for its annual “Year in Review” survey, PornHub found in the world both in 2014 and 2013, second to “lesbian” and then “MILF.”

“There’s this niche of amateur porn content that people assume is less organized and that you don’t have professionals working in it,” Paul told “Nightline.” “But it’s just as organized and professional as mainstream pornography. There’s nothing amateur about most amateur pornography — except the naiveté and the youth and newness of the actresses. The producers go out of their way to create this aura of ‘its you’re first time’ and ‘you’ve never done this before,’ but in fact everybody is being paid and is in on the act.”

Girls in amateur porn earn an average $800 per scene, filming anywhere between three and five scenes per week. And unless they’re an immediate, breakout success, they either stop getting work after about three months or have to explore niche porn, such as bondage and abuse; Bryant and Herbenick found 40 percent of porn involves violence against women.

To stay safe, the girls are tested for STDs every two weeks and men essentially pull out to keep from getting girls pregnant. “Plan B always works, I guess,” said up-and-coming porn star Brooklyn Daniels in an interview, referring to the morning-after pill.

In fact, throughout the documentary, in between what seem to be empowering, sex-positive statements are evidence of the naiveté Paul refers to. One of the girls muses, “It can’t be good for you to have this much sex,” while another equates an unexpected abusive scene to rape. But is this the deceptive, sometimes predatory industry solely to blame?

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY

There’s no question: The evidence in “Hot Girls Wanted” shows amateur porn, as one producer puts it, can be a trap. But the documentary primarily unfolds from the girls’ point of view; a one-dimensional view, as critic Jordan Brown for Moviepilot.

Sex workers, no matter their age, struggle to be apart of mainstream society — they struggle to be respected. Women in porn are called sluts, prostitutes and otherwise “asking for it” for their career choice. While there’s no denying corners of the industry are misleading, thus thriving on taking advantage of young girls, there are others not so degrading. Some corners, believe it or not, women find liberating.

Take , aka “The Duke Porn Star.” The sexual autonomy associated with the porn industry was “freeing,” Knox, whose real name is Miriam Weeks, said during an interview on “The View.” Bernard can actually be seen watching this video in “Hot Girls Wanted,” saying that Knox pisses her off. One might say this is projection. No matter the case, it’s OK for Bernard to disagree — but it’s also OK for Knox (and any other girl) to genuinely enjoy her work. Neither girl is worthy of less respect.

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More often than not, defending sex work is considered anti-feminist when it’s actually the opposite. Sex workers are still women (ditto for men); they’re human, and they can certainly be feminist.

“We rightly defend a woman’s right to say ‘no’, but we must equally defend her right to say ‘yes’,” Leanora Volpe wrote in The Independent UK. “You can be a feminist and like male attention. You can be a feminist and shave your legs. But above all else, you can be a feminist and be a prostitute. And it’s about time we stopped limiting female experience to a set of purist ideals under the guise of feminism, and started empowering women from all walks of life to make their own choices without judgment.”

Perhaps the most alarming insight to the girls working in porn is their basic level of sex education, or rather lack thereof. From one girl musing about the effectiveness of Plan B to another convinced that pulling out completely protects against pregnancy, one can’t help but wonder if sex education were both prioritized and improved across the country these girls would be in a better position to choose to do porn — or not.

Watch the trailer for “Hot Girls Wanted:”

Hot Girls Wanted,” documentary, 84 mins., streaming now on Netflix. 

Stephanie Castillo is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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