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Sexploitative Feminism: Hot Girls Wanted and How Not to Apologize for Mistreating Porn Stars

"Hot Girls Wanted" producers purport to care about sex workers' well-being but mock their privacy concerns.

screenshot/YouTubescreenshot/YouTubeTwo weeks ago, the new Hot Girls Wanted documentary series from actress Rashida Jones was released on Netflix. Last week, a host of porn performers came out with complaints about the Hot Girls Wanted producers, whom they accused of lying about the nature of the project in order to obtain their consent and "outing" women as sex workers without their permission. The producers' response: If those women were really so worried about being outed, why were they speaking out in public about producers' exploiting them?

"They saw themselves, and then on Twitter, as themselves, using their own handles, tweeted out, 'Oh my God, we're on Netflix. Oh my God nobody told us. Oh my God, we're sex workers and they've just shown us on Netflix,'" Hot Girls Wanted director and producer Ronna Gradus told Variety this week. "So the great irony here is that they identified themselves as sex workers."

It was, at best, a totally tone-deaf statement. Hot Girls Wanted isn't just any documentary but one that purports to have feminist ambitions and concern for sex workers' well being. Casually dismissing the privacy concerns of sex workers who appear in the series totally betrays both alleged principles.

It's also a horseshit justification. As the women concerned with Hot Girls Wanted outing them have pointed out, the problem isn't that no one knew they were sex workers before the documentary and now they might. It's the fact that these women had chosen to limit their public sex-worker personas to certain audiences of their choosing and Hot Girls Wanted went ahead and, without so much as alerting them, used their images in a production with a much, much wider reach.

In other words: yes, these women are already "out" as sex workers on Twitter and Periscope. No, that doesn't make it OK for people to profit off of outing them to the whole world.

Legally, the producers are probably fine, of course. But the ethics of the move are another story. And for a production that's explicitly marketing itself as a nuanced, feminist look at the porn industry, how producers treated their sex-worker subjects should be a key part of the equation. Yet only a handful of professional publications have even addressed sex worker complaints about the production, while major media outlets from Rolling Stone magazine to The Daily Show have covered the series glowingly, content to let Jones and the other producers speak for sex workers.

No one involved with the film has returned my requests for comment or requests from others asking difficult questions, though they do seem plenty happy to do softball interviews with entertainment media still. Throughout these interviews, Jones, Gradus, and other Hot Girls Wanted spokespeople have refused to even address allegations that they directly lied to documentary subjects in order to secure their participation. At this point, multiple performers claim that producers directly told them this was not a Hot Girls Wanted or Rashida Jones production (a crucial point, as the 2015 Hot Girls Wanted series was considered so biased that performers say they would've refused to work on the project had they known).

In explaining to Variety why she thinks sex workers are criticizing the film, Gradus, who also directed and produced the original documentary, accused them of doing so under coercion from nefarious behind-the-scenes porn industry folk. "The industry is very defensive about people coming in and shining a light on the industry and doing stories about it," she said. "The allegations that have come out are probably the result of pressure they are feeling to stand in solidarity with the industry."

And it all comes full circle!

Step 1: decide women are exploited by the porn industry.

Step 2: make documentary with this foregone conclusion in mind.

Step 3: trick sex workers into participating.

Step 4: accuse any sex workers who object to your exploitation of being sad representations of the very problem you were trying to highlight; rest assured that no one will care what they have to say because they're in porn and you're a hotshot Hollywood filmmaker.

Step 5: become feminist darlings. Who cares about those filthy whores; you've got Trevor Noah on your side now, baby!

Photo Credit: screenshot/Variety on YouTube

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    File under: For Their Own Good

  • Jerryskids||

    What the fuck is clap back?

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    It's the sexual disease that's transmitted while watching this documentary.

  • Meh.||

    It's also a very stupid trendy term for replying to an insult with another burn. The intent is to win the argument by rendering your opponent speechless through shock/shame.

    But mostly, it's the STD thing.

  • Marty .||

    It's a form of ableism against the deaf & hearing impaired, or so progressive media outlets tell me.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    I thought it was when you use The Clapper to turn off a light, only to realize it's now too dark and you clap it back on.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    If there's one thing that women in Hollywood don't do, it's exploiting either their own bodies or the bodies of others to make money, which is why they are morally superior to silly, icky prostitutes.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    I know prostitutes, and believe me Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry is no prostitute.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Link fail broheim.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

  • Chipper Mourning LackOfSerifs||

    How dare you accuse a stripper of being a prostitute? Nobody looks down on prostitutes more than strippers, as I am sure you have personally been told many times.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    I can't imagine, unless prostitution were still largely illegal or something.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Or socially frowned upon. I mean, there are no instances on record where someone was fired after they left the porn industry. Not at all. /sarc

    But here is DanO, who would be the first to talk about not victim blaming in other instances, taking the opposite tack as fast as possible. Because they are not the right kind of feminists.

  • Bubba Jones||

    I am confused. They appeared on camera and then were upset that this footage was used?

    I am also a bit amused by the idea that they were concerned about being exploited but apparently relied on the word of the alleged exploiter.

    "I am not a crook."

  • Hugh Akston||

    They are upset that they appeared on camera under false pretenses after the producers lied to them about the nature of the project and then edited the footage to tilt the interviews to suit the producers predetermined conclusion.

  • SIV||

    Like on the Daily Show.

  • Bubba Jones||

    They were afraid this might happen. And then relied on the word of the person who was likely to do it.

    In what scenario will someone actually say "I plan to make you look bad"?

  • Marty .||

    > They appeared on camera and then were upset that this footage was used?

    If only the article had explained their complaints in detail....oh wait....

  • Bubba Jones||

    I also don't understand the idea that they are "out" on twitter but not on Netflix.

    Has twitter really lost that much audience share?

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Read the leaked Variety interview for a few relevant details.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    In solidarity I'll be doubling up on my porn consumption today

  • esteve7||

    There's not enough hours in a day to do that

  • Hugh Akston||

    Two monitors.

  • Chipper Mourning LackOfSerifs||

    One cup

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    No! And no four girls one finger paint!

  • Microaggressor||

    Step 4: accuse any sex workers who object to your exploitation of being sad representations of the very problem you were trying to highlight

    They are just suffering from false consciousness, comrade.

  • jdgalt1||

    I suggest we respond in kind. Start by publishing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the producers and of anyone in their employ who has helped them trick women into appearing on their show. Then if they move or change numbers to try to get back their privacy, keep "outing" them again. Once they experience how great it is (not) to be "outed" at someone else's will, maybe the next wanna-be abuser of women in Hollywood will decide to behave herself.

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