We all want to be good, upstanding, ethical humans – especially when it comes to sex. This includes when we’re consuming erotic media. (That means porn!) But what makes porn ethical? And how do you spot it?

Ethical adult content is more about production processes than it is about the content itself. Put simply: It’s how the porn is made, rather than its content, that makes it ethical. Or at least, that’s what many of the performers, producers, and other members of the industry have shared.

No matter the sex being shown or the genre in which said sex is being depicted, if ethical production processes are enacted, then said porn is ethical. But what exactly are those processes? Here are some things to think about when you’re looking for ethical porn.

1. Was it consensual?

Did all of the performers and members of the crew agree to be present and participate in the creation of adult content? If so, you are watching ethical porn.

“There’s quite a bit of porn out there that appears to be non-consensual,” explains award-winning porn performer Casey Calvert, “from ‘coerced’ amateur movies to very rough ‘rape’ scenes. And yes, some of this porn is, unfortunately, shot in an unethical manner. But a lot of it is ethically produced, and if you enjoy watching this kind of content, it’s not hard to find performers and companies who enjoy shooting it. And if you don’t enjoy watching it, then don’t watch it. The content doesn’t inherently make it any less ethical.”

2. Was there transparency?

Were all of the performers and members of the crew informed about what was going to be shot? How far in advance? If changes became necessary, were these changes discussed and were reasonable alternatives offered? If so, you are watching ethical porn.

According to Dee Severe, co-owner and director at Severe Sex Films, “When it comes to fetish porn, good communication and consent are extra important. Because you’re venturing into areas way beyond good ol’ vanilla sex, it’s important to know – did producers hire performers who have the right BDSM skills? Putting a whip in [the] hand of [a] person who doesn’t know what they’re doing can lead to real, serious injuries. That would be unethical porn.”

3. Was “good business” practiced?

Were terms met in an agreed upon manner, from rates of pay to terms for content trade? If so, you are watching ethical porn.

According to performer and producer Jiz Lee, “When it comes down to it, most porn IS ethically made. The fact that we feel we have to put a qualifier on porn like this says a lot about the stigma most people have against the adult film industry and its workers. Like most good business practices, the best companies are the ones that are the most communicative and respectful to their employees.”

4. Are you watching something that’s actually porn?

If you are viewing something that showcases people without their consent (e.g. “revenge porn”) or is illegal in some way, you are not watching professionally produced adult content.

“‘Revenge porn’ isn’t just unethical, it’s not porn!” Severe asserts. “It’s a malicious act, usually by some asshole whose ego can’t take the fact that his girlfriend dumped him. It’s awful, and it’s illegal.”

5. Is the content EXACTLY what you, the viewer, find sexy and stimulating?

This is irrelevant! Ethical adult content can take any form and showcase all sorts of sex depictions that appeal to many different proclivities. Adult content matching your taste is NOT a precursor to it being ethical.

“Ethical porn is not just the stereotypical soft, female-focused, romantic content,” Calvert explains. “Any kind of content, from the softest glamour solo to the hardest roughest scene, can be produced both ethically and unethically. It’s important for you to seek out ethically-produced content in whatever genre you enjoy watching.”

6. Did you pay for the content you are watching?

Nothing in life is free, and performers and producers need to be compensated for their work – just like you get compensated for yours. If you’re watching porn for free, chances are, this is unethical consumption on your part.

“This includes tube sites,” Calvert asserts, “which do their best to masquerade as ethical. They are not.”

“‘Ethical porn’ is what you pay for,” Lee explains. “Credit card processors have a lot of control for paid content. While this can sometimes be frustrating for producers, it can be a checkpoint to help ensure that sound business and labor practices occurred. At the very least, to post (paid) content online requires proof of age, and a model release that confirms the performer agreed to the shoot. And while most ‘tube site’ porn is professionally produced but illegally posted, most performers did not consent to having their entire scenes posted for free. Especially those who film their videos themselves. Piracy hurts producers and performers, and is a non-consensual form of viewership. Respect sex workers – pay us!”