How Sexual Wellbeing is Ensured on an Ethical Porn Set
Lights, camera, action: ever wondered how to ensure performers’ sexual wellbeing on an ethical porn set? For many of us, visual inspiration is a key part of our masturbatory or partnered sex. However, concerns about exploitation of performers can sour the experience, and turn us off from getting off with digital assistance.
Help is at hand (literally). A rising wave of ethically centred creators are doing things differently, and we're huge fans of award-winning erotic filmmaker Erika Lust. In her XConfessions' short-film, "Hazme Las Uñas", a hyperreal nail salon sets the scene for awakening desires, hand fetishism and intimate dialogue. Post-shoot, we caught up with performer Gia Green to talk all about maintaining your physical and emotional health on set, consent and communication.
“There have been very few places where I felt intimately safe and cared for my physical and emotional health; one of these was a porn set. My name’s Gia Green and I’m a sex performer for Erika Lust Films.
A few years ago, I would have never thought that I would end up shooting an explicit film, having sex in front of a camera with a whole crew surrounding me. I’ve always been curious about sex and sexuality and advocated for more open sex conversations in public. I believe that knowing and embracing ourselves sexually is our main source of power in a society that’s still dominated by the patriarchal, heterosexual, and monogamous outdated norms. We are taught to fear our sexuality, speak low about it, and keep it hidden into our private sphere.
At some point in my journey, while I was contemplating the possibility of uploading on OnlyFans my own naughty content that I had hidden in my phone, I casually got to know Erika Lust. It didn’t take long for her mind blowing films and the ethical production process under which they were made to utterly captivate me. I found all of that so exciting and meaningful. Most of all, they seemed trustworthy to someone who hadn’t done any sex work before as myself. So I decided I would rely on Erika Lust Films to take that step further and jump into the exciting (and often misunderstood) world of sex work.
Hence last year I put myself forward as a performer and ended up shooting a short film for XConfessions and a series for Lust Cinema.
The most incredibly important thing I experienced during these shootings was the effort of the Lust production team to safeguard my overall wellness and make sure I was feeling 100% comfortable at all times. From the first proposal to the casting, and during the whole shooting, the attention on my sexual and emotional needs has been thorough and never invasive.
My first XConfessions film, ‘Hazme las Uñas’, is a Spanish-speaking, funny take on the glamorous world of nail salons and hand fetishism. When director Perlita León shared the treatment and script, I immediately loved all of it - it reminded me of Almodóvar, Rosalía, and my lesbian surreal fantasies all at once, so of course it was a yes for me. I then had a few video calls with the director and my amazing fellow performer, where we got to know each other a bit more, clarified any doubts about the shooting, read the script together, and most of all, discussed each other’s sexual boundaries and needs. "I want to focus on the touch of your hands. Are you ok with that? Do you want to use sex toys as well?", Perlita asked. We finally decided that we wouldn’t use any sex toys, and agreed we would just use our hands to do everything, in accordance to the concept of the film. We then agreed that the only thing we would have used other than that would be water-based lubes. I loved that.
The next prep step was taking STI tests (performers only) two weeks before the shooting and COVID-19 tests (the whole crew), no more than one week before. Once tested negative, we came to the set where we showed the negative results to each other as further proof we could feel safe to engage in sex together. Even though all performers need to come to the set being STI negative, a performer has the right to use condoms anyway, if that makes them feel more comfortable (as I did myself when shooting heterosexual sex on ‘Three’). We then read and signed the Performers’ Bill of Rights.
Sex work is a real job, and we must take it seriously, whether we make it or we consume it. And, as any other job, a worker needs to know their rights before getting to work.
All Erika’s sets require the presence of a Talent Manager on set who’s in charge of making sure the performers are feeling at their best and have everything they need. However, that extraordinary care was actually guaranteed by everyone on set; from the director to the camera girls to the rest of the crew. Everyone clearly knew the delicacy of sex performing, that is, the physical and emotional dimensions that are inevitably involved when having sex, even more if in front of a whole crew, being recorded by a camera, with someone you barely know (but with whom you then happen to share such a deep and lovely connection).
Shooting ‘Hazme las Uñas’ took just one day and we shot the sex scene first thing in the morning (what a good way to start off a working day!). Right before that, we found ourselves once again discussing the sex scene with director and fellow performer. The same happened with ‘Three’, where I shot four sex scenes (one solo, a GG scene, a GB scene, and a threesome) throughout eight days of shooting, and where Erika couldn’t stress enough that we had the right to stop the shooting at any time, for any reason, if we felt so.
I always felt like I was working in a highly comfy and friendly environment, where everyone clearly loves what they’re doing and are determined to do it as best as they can. I believe that this is also a key factor in safeguarding performers’ emotional and mental health, as it allows you to feel like you’re intimately exposing yourself in a non-hostile context. Besides that, when the overall health of performers is safeguarded, you can feel it when watching the film.
Above all, ‘Hazme las Uñas’ and ‘Three’ made me learn so much about consent and self-care; how to be vocal about my sexual dos and don’ts while being carefully receptive to others’. I’ve never had a 30-minute sex conversation like the one I had with my fellow performer on the set of ‘Three’. We reviewed everything from head to toe, as well as agreeing on safe words or signals in case one of us didn’t feel ok.
Once the sex scene was over, we looked at each other and realised that the greatest sexual enjoyment comes from the awareness of each others’ desires and boundaries. In a few words: communication is the sexiest part of sex.
These films have been some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had because I felt in charge of everything and knew exactly how to handle the situation. If I’m tempting you right now to dip your toes in sex performance as well, keep in mind that the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to really, honestly enjoy the sex you’re having. Don’t let anyone force you to do anything and take pride in it while being very mindful during the process. That makes it empowering for you and hopefully for someone else who will watch it. But actually, that’s what we all should be doing in our everyday sex lives, isn’t it?
Shooting an adult, cinematic film created with an ethical production process, based on transparency and negotiation is the only way I see myself doing this job. I’m glad that adult production companies like this exist, where performers are given space to speak up about their sexual needs at any point, making them feel highly protected and valued as professionals. I found a place within sex work not only to challenge myself as a performer in such a unique way, but mainly to enhance my sexuality and sense of self, while the very nature of this work encouraged me to pay even closer attention to my sexual wellness. And I had the safest and best sex I’ve ever had!
I'm glad to be one of those who offer a healthier and more positive look on sex and passion; creating porn that is beautifully different, instead of the over-performed, unrealistic sex that PornHub and similar platforms have presented since the early 2000s. We can actually create porn that is inspiring instead of alienating (if not harmful). We can make a difference in our perception of human sexuality, starting with our own. And I love being part of that change.”