'Hot Girls Wanted:Turned On" Turned Me Off
I saw the documentary Hot Girls Wanted when it came to Netflix about a year ago. I do believe that there are lot of very troublesome and concerning things that happen in some sectors of the porn industry and I think it would be interesting to make a documentary that actually looks at that honestly and offers some insight and options for action. Hot Girls Wanted is not that documentary. It is extremely sex negative. It makes sweeping generalizations about porn after speaking to only one small group involved in creating extremely misogynistic content for just a couple of producers.
So when I heard that Netflix had made a series out of the doc, I had no interest in watching it. That was, until I started reading criticism from people who had been featured in the documentary. Several of the subjects in the series have come forward saying that they were misled about the intent and focus of the show and, even more concerning, that their personal information and legal identities were used in the show without their permission.
I had mixed feelings about watching given that I don't wish to view those things that people in the show had not wished to be seen. I was however, very interested in the ethical paradox of producers who have claimed, at least in their first show, to be gravely concerned with the safety and well-being of young women in porn who would then put women in porn and sex work at risk by exposing their personal information.
I decided to watch it. I wish I hadn't. And now that I have, you don't have to.
'Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On' is, first and foremost, very confusing. There are six episodes that are so completely different from each other that it seems there is no central theme to the show and no point of view. The first episode about two female porn producers (one of them is the incredible Erika Lust and it may be worth watching this pile of dreck just for the parts about her) and is mostly positive in its portrayal of female produced porn. The second is about dating apps and seems to belong to a different series altogether. The third, fourth and fifth feature producers and performers in video and live cams. The sixth is about a young woman who filmed the rape of her friend and streamed it on facebook live - this one also seems to belong to another show.
I looked up several mainstream reviews of the series and they universally praise it. Most people seem to think that it gives 'an honest and disturbing look behind the scenes at the seedier side of the porn industry'. I don't agree. It's fairly obvious to me as I watched the show, that the producers knew how they felt about each of these topics before they started filming and instead of really listening to their subjects and letting them tell the story, they cherry picked their content to conform to the story they wanted to tell. It's anything but honest, in fact, it's quite manipulative.
Here are some examples:
The third episode features about six different young women who do live cams. One of them is a recruiter who brings people she finds on the internet to casting agents for film work. For the most part, these young women are very positive about what they are doing. They make a lot of money doing cams and they like doing it. Most of them want to do video work as a way to increase traffic for their cam site. They seem to know what they're doing and are pretty happy. That, however, gets only a small part of the screen time, the one of the six that gets the most attention is the one who is not doing well. She is taking a lot of drugs and engaging in risky behavior like public sex with strangers while she's under the influence. Interview segments with this person make it pretty clear that she has had quite a difficult life and that her drug use and emotional troubles long preceded her involvement with porn. The show, however, shows several clips of the recruiter and others saying that 'some people just can't handle it' - leading us toward the conclusion that porn caused these problems. It's very disingenuous and the way it's shot and edited shows little respect for that young women and the others.
In the fifth episode, a cam performer goes to meet one of her most loyal long-term clients in person. When you watch the show, you are under the impression that this meeting was arranged spontaneously between the two themselves and the producers just happened to find them and have them agree to the filming. I'm guessing that's not the case at all, particularly because Bailey Rayne, who is featured in the third episode, revealed publicly that she was supposed to be the focus of this episode but she couldn't find a client who wanted to do it. It's clear to me that this was the story the producers wanted to tell so they found a cammer who could find a client who wanted to do it and set up the meeting. Why does it matter? It matters because this episode is very negative and somber. Like almost all the episodes (except the last one) it starts off light-hearted and postive and then turns a corner to a dark place where the participants learn a very hard lesson. In this case, what was a nice, mutually beneficial relationship is destroyed because the two realize that being with each other live in real life is very different. They also know that, having met, they can't go back. It's was actually heartbreaking to watch what they put these two through in order to make the point that camming isn't real life.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. Anytime anyone in these episodes seems to be healthy and happy, the producers go out of their way to show some terrible negative side, sometimes even creating it themselves. According to Riley Reynolds, who is featured in the fourth episode, he offered the producers a filmed meeting with his father, who disapproves of what he does for a living, in exchange for them taking his girlfriend, Gia Page, out of the show. She had become uncomfortable when producers started asking her questions about her family on camera. It's clear that they were trying to show that performers have messed up families or have damaged their family relationships. I'm guessing what happened was Page didn't want to talk about her family so Reynolds jumped in and offered his so they would have someone to show who doesn't like what these two do. The segment with the father is in the video and guess what? So are the interviews with Page. Although there is no mention of her family, segments of her interview with Reynolds are still in the show. Producers refused the request to take them out even though they were happy to still use the interview with Reynold's father.
There are many more things that bother me about this series (addressing the problems with the sixth episode would require an entire post of its own) but this is what really makes me angry. The whole point of the show seems to be that although maybe there are some good producers in porn (first episode) mostly it just exploits people, especially women. The irony is that in order to make that point, they exploited a lot of people. The worst part is that they don't recognize it at all. Instead of hearing the concerns and working with the individuals to address them in a sensitive and respectful manner, their answers have been 'they signed a contract so too bad' and 'using your personal stuff is okay because it's on the internet and that's fair use'.
Clearly the people who made this show don't care about people in the porn industry. They care about making a show that people will watch - even if they have to manipulate and expose people to do it.