One of the stars of the new Netflix documentary Hot Girls Wanted has a secret, and it’s what the French call ‘problématique’
It has been written that “ideology knows the answer before the question has been asked.” Never has this been more clear than in the case of the new “documentary” film Hot Girls Wanted, which was snapped up by Netflix after its premiere screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
The film looks at five young women who were recruited off of Craigslist by an “agent” in Miami, Florida named Riley from Hussie Models. It was directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, whose previous documentary Sexy Baby, looked at an alleged cultural shift in the sexual landscape that, the women claim, was caused by adult entertainment.
The filmmakers claim their movie is the “first-ever look at the realities of the professional “amateur” porn world and the steady stream of 18-to-19-year old girls entering into it.”
Writing in Vice, Susan Elizabeth Shepard notes that the team’s new film is actually an exercise in offering “unexamined statements and vague intimations about how doing porn harms women and watching it warps men.” The agenda of the filmmakers is clear, says Shepard.
As Bauer and Gradus did in their previous film, Sexy Baby,they put forth the idea that porn has so thoroughly saturated popular culture that it’s not even necessary to watch actual pornography to absorb its influence…. Rather than explore how pornography might reflect society rather than shape it, they point to porn as the cause of societal ills. Bauer, for one, thinks that this leads to sexual assault. In an interview last week, she said, “All these [frat] boys are watching this porn… and it is no mistake that their behavior is aggressive, and that there are all these rapes on college campuses, because this is where it’s starting. This is what they’re watching.”
To reduce an epidemic of sexual assault to a problem instigated by pornography is problematic, at best. So, too, is [producer Rashida] Jones’s claim that “the trauma that it does on your body to have sex for a living is a real thing.”
These arguments (assertions, really) are right out of the playbook of radical feminist lecturer and academic fraud Gail Dines.
“Academic fraud” is a strong term — how could I substantiate that? Well, having previously claimed to have a “slew” of evidence on her side, Dines later admitted that, “there is no study, argument, or theory that will persuade us [i.e. radical feminists].” As writer Sarah Ditum noted in 2012, “Confronted with her own misuse of the research, she states that the research has never influenced her beliefs anyway.”
As is usually the case when it comes to material critical of pornography or sex work, mainstream media have taken the movie at face value, regurgitating the filmmakers’ line that their “film attempts to pull back the covers on the amateur porn industry and its exploitive practices” (although Variety‘s glowing review did mention that the effect ‘pornified’ culture allegedly has on teen girls was “a point the film hits perhaps a bit too hard”).
Members of the adult film community, however — and in particular female adult performers (the group who would be natural allies of the filmmakers, were they honest and accurate in their presentation) — have mostly been outraged.
Overall, the documentary went like this: Here are these girls. They are being exploited. It is really sad. Then, after multiple scenes of tears and shame, the documentary ends with a vague message, leaving the viewer with a demonized view of the adult film industry.
I understand why Rashida Jones would want to make this documentary; she saw a group of young victims, and she wanted to raise awareness around the issue of female exploitation. Unfortunately, the documentary doesn’t have a view point about this subject beyond “this is bad” except that it alludes to pornography as being the problem.
Others in the adult biz took to Twitter to address the documentary:
Netflix and the filmmakers have gone on an aggressive media tour in support of the documentary. Last week, the directors and producer Rashida Jones convened a panel on AOL Build to discuss the merits of the film, and its subject matter. Panelists included, on the pro-adult side, AVN’s Mark Kernes and law professor Nadine Strossen. The remainder of the panel spoke in support of the film, and included Gail Dines, and one of the documentary’s subjects, ex-performer Ava Taylor (a.k.a. Rachel).
The deck was stacked, as they say.
As one sex worker told TRPWL, “putting anti-pornography ‘academic’ Gail Dines on the panel shows the motivation behind the documentary. This film is being used as an excuse for more regulation in sex work; save the poor little girls who don’t know any better! How insulting is that? There’s nothing ’empowering’ to women about that message.”
Indeed, dragging Dines out on the press tour is a clear a sign as anyone should need that the filmmakers intended their work to be a propaganda piece, not merely a documentary simply presenting a story.
An impassive and rather lackluster adult performer, Ava/Rachel oozed a sense of entitlement in the documentary; she wanted to make money and get famous fast. On the AOL panel, the dressed down and bespectacled Ava/Rachel — who claims to be out of sex work — is angry and combative, hurling blame at producers, her agent, and even the testing system for adult performers.
On one of her Twitter accounts, she has repeated how glad she is to be out, and moving on with her life.
She also repeats the view that porn is exploitative of “girls” and retweets anti-porn accounts:
However, there are a couple of big problems with what Ava/Rachel is saying.
For one thing, in March of this year — two months after Hot Girls Wanted premiered, Ava was back in Los Angeles shooting brand new porn scenes. A few of them are already available online:
This despite the fact that the film claims she had left adult entertainment. And guess who Rachel/Ava had book those scenes for her? Riley from Hussie Models.
Shocked yet? Wait, it gets better.
Rachel/Ava currently offers escort sercvices online.
When I tweeted the above screen cap to Rachel/Ava, she replied that she had no control over who uses her pics online, and that her pics were also up on an adult agent’s website — implying quite clearly that she was not actually available and that her pics were being used without her permission. However, I can confirm beyond any question that she has in fact been taking escort appointments for some time.
Following a Twitter blow-up with myself and others on May 30 (after which she deleted several tweets), Rachel/Ava was moved to the escort site’s UTR (Under the Radar) section, but a post on TheEroticReview that advertised her services remained until it was deleted earlier today (May 31).
Notice the date. Rachel/Ava is escorting right now — at the same time she is telling the world that she has better things to do than make a living off of her body.
Did the filmmakers know that Rachel/Ava has been putting one over on the public? And do they even care as long as their agenda gets eyeballs.
Let’s take a look the people behind Hot Girls Wanted.
Above the line
Among the producers is feminist philanthropist Abigail Disney (granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, co-founder of The Walt Disney Company). Previously, Disney served as Executive Producer on Bauer and Ronnus’ Sexy Baby. More recently, Disney made the news as one of the team of feminists (including anti-porn / anti-sex work feminist icon Gloria Steinem) endorsed by dictator Kim Jong-Un to announce they would march across the DMZ and hold a “peace conference” in North Korea.
Human Rights Foundation founder Thor Halvorssen was flabbergasted, and told reporters that the marchers are playing the role of useful idiots. “How many female defectors have they spoken to? None,” says Halvorssen.
The march was organized by a woman named Christine Ahn, who, as Foreign Policy noted, has worked closely with Korea Policy Institute (KPI) “and the now-defunct Korea Solidarity Committee [which] take positions that support or refuse to criticize the Kim dictatorship. And Ahn has spent much of the last 15 years whitewashing a North Korean government that the U.N. Human Rights Commission has said is guilty of ‘appalling human rights abuses … on a scale unparalleled in the modern world’ and ‘crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis.'”
“How can Steinem and Disney participate given the rapes, forced abortions and sex trafficking?” Halvorssen asks. “Kim Jong-Un is right now putting his pleasure group of concubines together. Do they even know that?”
as a society, how are we failing our boys? The film will examine how gender stereotypes are interconnected with race, class, and circumstance, and how kids are further influenced by the education system, sports culture, and mass media- video games and pornography in particular. The film also highlights the importance of placing emphasis on the social and emotional needs of boys through healthy family communication, alternative teaching strategies, conscious media consumption, positive role modeling and innovative mentorship programs. The goal of this film is to spark a national conversation around masculinity and ultimately create a more balanced, equitable society for all.
As one commentator noted, masculinity is mentioned “only in the context that there is something wrong with masculinity that needs to be fixed – by feminist filmmakers and organizations dedicated to the ’empowerment’ of women and girls.” This is the Gloria Steinem – Gail Dines school of feminism.
Mary Anne Franks, an avowed feminist, is the film’s Co-Producer. She is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law. She’s also a Catherine MacKinnon protégé who claims that the ruling in the Freeman case (which held that pornography is not prostitution and constitutes protected speech) “doesn’t hold up to legal analysis”.
Franks brags that she has worked with legislators to draft legislation against the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images. What she doesn’t mention is, as Mike Masnick notes at TechDirt, “her goal is to undermine Section 230 protections for websites (protecting them from liability of actions by third parties) to make them liable for others’ actions.” In other words, she would criminalize websites, ISPs and other third parties such as Google — punishing them with criminal penalties for material created and posted by others; material they likely never knew had been posted in the first place. The chilling effect this would have on speech cannot be overstated — and it is precisely the intention. (More on Mary Anne Franks and her pet revenge porn legislation.)
Add to this mix, the ‘face’ of the project, actress and producer Rashida Jones. The daughter of mega-rich musician and music producer Quincy Jones, and actress Peggy Lipton, Rashida grew up in a world of rare privilege. She attended the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, whose other notable alumni include Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. A clip of Kardashian appears in Hot Girls Wanted, yet Jones appears oblivious to the fact that far more young women seek to emulate pseudo-celebrities such as her schoolmates than they do porn stars. Then again, those elite born into privilege — the winners of life’s lottery — never see their own corner of the world as the problem.
Jones too comes from the Gail Dines school of feminism — she clutches her pearls close to her chest and frets over the Pornification of Everything. Women are “not considering the real cost, the psychological cost, the emotional cost, the physical cost,” Jones opines, while claiming that modern porn is defined by degrading and violent imagery.
Jones’ fellow producer is Debby Herbenick, an associate professor at Indiana University School of Public Health. As Mark Kernes reports at AVN:
“Human sexuality is broad, diverse, rich, nuanced and allows for so many possibilities about how a person can experience their sexuality,” Herbenick told Mic.com. “The kinds of sexualization and objectification we see in most mainstream porn tends to be pretty narrow… As my students often point out, porn sex often focuses on people’s genitals—as if that’s all that matters—and often features titles that describe women as ‘dirty whores’ or ‘sluts’.”
I don’t know what kind of porn Dines, Jones and Herbenickis are watching, but it doesn’t seem to align with the top selling and award-winning titles compiled by adult industry trade publication AVN, as Mark Kernes notes here.
Then again, as commentator and author Jordan Owen points out, Dines still tells “crowded lecture halls that Gag Me Then Fuck Me is one of the most popular porn sites on the web when the readily available empirical evidence of internet stats like those on Alexa show that it’s actually extremely unpopular.”
Christina Parreira also had a few choice words for the filmmakers:
I watched Hot Girls Wanted, and as a sex worker (and as a human being with agency) I was disgusted. This is nothing more than a propaganda piece from start to finish, infantilizing the adult women that chose to participate in pornography. Suddenly, they’re painted as helpless exploited victims with no agency, when in reality, they were adult women who signed contracts. Did they do their research into the unlicensed/unbonded agency they signed with? Perhaps not, but whose fault is that? This “documentary” takes a small slice of amateur pornography and makes it seem representative of ALL pornography. It does not reflect the realities and work lives of women who were savvy enough to do their research and to work with respected agencies and companies.
Outspoken adult star Mercedes Carrera offered this perspective on the affluent self-appointed saviors who dominate the documentary’s credits:
We’ll give the last word to Susan Elizabeth Shepard, who closed her Vice op/ed with the following:
While porn performer may be the only legal occupation where sexual boundaries are so blatantly up for negotiation, it’s not the only place where workers can get treated unfairly. It’s just the only place where the industry itself, rather than its practices, is subject to condemnation. Porn performers need the space to talk about bad experiences, however they describe them, without having them used as evidence against their entire business. Hot Girls Wanted reinforces tired sexual stereotypes that harm all women, while ignoring the real work concerns specific to porn performers. In its moral simplicity and willingness to exploit its subjects, it ends up resembling the genre it aims to expose.