How Does Consent Work On A Porn Set?

November 22, 2018

In a post #MeToo era, how does sexual consent work, when the people involved have been paid to perform?

Adult film actor and sex worker Lucie Bee has had many years of experience working in porn. From her early career days of being too shy to speak up, to now where she feels confident expressing herself about feeling any discomfort, Bee says that for most porn shoots, consent starts with simple research.

“Before I work with someone, I’ll talk to them directly and I’ll talk to people who’ve worked with them. If they’ve had good experiences and I’ve been able to have a positive discussion with a fellow performer, then that helps me to decide if I say ‘yes’ to a project.

“If there are producers making content that I don’t feel comfortable with, then I won’t work with them. I think it’s important for me as a sex worker in a broader sense to also be wary of what I put out in to the world. We’re at a stage as a society where we deserve a better standard of porn both in front of the camera and behind the scenes –  that is what I want to be involved with.”

Something that the average viewer of porn won’t always realise is the amount of paperwork the actors need to complete before filming can start.

“There is a model release, maybe some paperwork more specific to the company itself, possibly some financial paperwork, then a big form to confirm your age. I’m well over 21 now so I usually only need one form of ID, but I bring the required two, just to be safe!

“Actors usually have to record a short video for the company to keep on file saying something like ‘Hi, I’m Lucie – I’m here of my own free will, feeling pretty swell, I am over 18 years of age and here’s my ID.’”

Kim Cums is an independent producer of porn who writes, edits, directs and acts in her own films. Cums’ approach has always been to be open and clear with communication from the start through to post-production.

“The first thing that I do when hiring a performer for a scene is send a proposal email. This e-mail includes all of the basic information about a scene: the date and time, payment rate, what they need to bring to set, what we are providing, and the basic concept for the scene.

“If there are particular sex acts that are key to a scene i.e. oral, penetration, spanking, anal, I include it in the e-mail. Since this e-mail gets sent out well before the shoot date, the performers have time to think about the scene in advance, raise questions, and let me know if there is anything that conflicts with their ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ limits.

“I want to enable them to make informed choices, and that means providing as much information as possible upfront. This philosophy has meant I’ve had performers drop out before shoots, but I would much rather a performer decide not to go ahead with a shoot, than to persevere and feel uncomfortable afterwards.”

Discussion between performers is something important to both Cums as a producer, and Bee as an actor. In the lead up to shooting a film the actors will normally talk or email to discuss what they are comfortable with.

“For a recent short film, I started an e-mail thread between all five of the performers, so that they could exchange information about their hard and soft limits,” Cums explains.

“This conversation also meant that I had a list of limits on hand, so that I would be prepared to speak up or intervene during a scene, if I noticed something that violated a performer’s boundaries. Boundaries can shift, so we run through limits again on shoot day before we start a scene. And during the scene itself, I encourage communication. I think it is really wonderful when you see performers checking in with each other, and asking questions or telling the other person what they would like.”

There are occasions where the communication fails and when Bee has not felt comfortable with certain scenes in the past.

“I was new [to the industry] once and frankly thrilled to be working. I wasn’t necessarily confident as a performer and I think there were producers in my past who definitely took advantage of that.”

These days Bee is much happier to speak up when something is not right.

“I haven’t had to end a shoot entirely, but I’ve had to ask to stop and revisit a scene because something wasn’t working. For me it’s often been that my body needs a break – we were in an awkward or uncomfortable position – or if it is a particularly intense scene. There’s plenty of physical and emotional labour when it comes to working in the porn industry and it’s important we’re mindful of both.”

Bee believes that the future of the porn industry lies in consumers understanding what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ porn and paying for good porn means you are more than likely supporting a quality product where the actors were respected.

“Encouraging people to pay for their porn and consider where it’s coming from, has seen more money going towards really awesome ethical porn producers and content that is a huge leap above what most of us were exposed to as teens. Performers have always been vocal but they’re even more vocal now – especially if something has gone wrong on a set. Stigma means that adult entertainers and sex workers are being left out of the ‘me too’ movement in a big way. That really has to change. It’s not your typical type of work – but it IS work and for performers to be at their safest on set, then we need to be taken seriously.”

Image via tumblr.com.

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