Ever seen porn featuring the ‘girl next door’ trope? It’s a pretty popular theme – a lot of people find the idea that the babe down the road could be into doing some wild stuff when the situation is juuust right, pretty hot. It’s the stuff of fantasy.

But what if it were true?

Hot Girls Wanted is a 2015 Netflix documentary which investigates the increasing popularity of so-called “pro-am” porn; a genre featuring amateurs that bring veracity to the girl next door trope often simulated by professional adult actresses. The rise of this genre, combined with the consistent demand for teen porn, has led to an influx of barely-legal girls willing to do pornography for money and celebrity.

What’s the appeal?

Pro-am porn is often filmed from the perspective of the male performer, via a handheld camera, drawing the viewer into the scene and allowing them to imagine themselves as part of the experience. The ‘natural’ appearance of the performers (natural breasts, makeup, and hair that’s less artificial, often wearing their own clothes) make viewers feel like the scenes are real, just caught on camera by chance – which is awesome for viewers because it’s like a fantasy come to life. Studios also love this genre because it’s comparatively inexpensive to shoot and produce. It’s convenient for them because the genre lends itself to pretty generic stereotypes – the innocent young girl being exploited by an older, or more experienced, male. So you can be pretty lazy in scripting your scenes, often just improvising dialogue. Everyone wins!

Or do they? Young girls of eighteen to twenty are attracted to this branch of sex work due to the implied promise that they’ll be more independent, successful, and live a life of glamour and freedom in sultry Miami (why Miami? Because at the point of filming the documentary, porn filmed there wasn’t required to show condom use). Many of the performers featured in the film feel trapped in their home towns and mediocre jobs, and see sex work as an opportunity to escape; live fabulous fairytale lives and gain that all-important celebrity which is often so prized in contemporary culture.

Why porn though?

Hot Girls Wanted is cut with clips from popular media, from music videos by Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj to mainstream advertising and movies, all showing a pronounced emphasis on sexuality. The implied message is that blatant sexual references are such a large part of contemporary culture that young people cannot help but be influenced by it. This, combined with the availability of free porn online, means that it’s possible for an audience to view pornographic material at younger ages than in the pre-internet age.

What the film is getting at is that modern society is so geared towards sexy material that it’s easy for young people to get seduced into the idea that this is an easy and desirable way to gain people’s attention and be desirable. You can even become famous with a sex tape or two, and who doesn’t want to gain status and build an empire? Fame and success are common aspirations in our society and this, combined with the emphasis on sexuality, makes porn an obvious choice.

What are the downsides?

Much of the documentary is focused on the disposable nature of female pro-am performers, despite them being the most popular and better-paid performers compared to the men. Because it’s such a competitive industry, new girls enter the scene at a rate that renders everyone in it easy to replace. John Anthony, a male performer with five years in the adult industry, estimates that most newbies last three months, with a maximum shelf-life of a year – that is if they market themselves correctly. If not, they’re often obligated to do increasingly niche shoots (like bondage) in order to make gigs.

The exchange of sexual performance for money inevitably leads to some girls being obligated to submit to certain acts just to make a living. Although Ava Green, one of the older girls in the industry, likens this to any other kind of work (in which you often do things you don’t want to just to keep your job) when linked to sexuality it problematizes the issue of consent. The fact remains that the industry is made primarily for and by men, so the autonomy that the girls seek is often a shallow illusion. An absence of a “no” or the feeling of being financially coerced into an agreement is not full, enthusiastic consent, and this can make it an emotionally-compromising way to earn money.

Even so, the presentation of the content is skewed towards the idea that all these poor girls are broken victims getting themselves into trouble with the big bad porn industry. The documentary focuses on one performer in particular, Stella May, who is struggling with her decision to do porn and the effect her job is having on her relationship and her family. Filmmakers emphasize her regret over her bad choices, making other performers who choose to stay in the industry look woefully misguided by comparison. The moralizing influence of the film is obviously well-intentioned, and nobody should ever suggest that sex-workers are not free to leave the adult industry if they want to. However, it does help in perpetuating the stereotype that sex work is degrading and that all who willingly take part in it require ‘saving,’ Pretty Woman-style. The reality is that, for some, sex work is a carefully-considered, logical and enthusiastically-chosen career path. And they don’t want to be saved, thanks very much.

Despite this, it’s clear that many of the girls in the film are dissatisfied with the realities of working in porn, and Hot Girls Wanted does highlight a subset of pro-am porn which could be potentially problematic for barely-eighteen girls looking for some adventure.

Why You Should Watch It

Hot Girls Wanted is a fascinating exposé of the pro-am porn industry and provides really interesting commentary on the ‘pornification’ of the current social climate. The film is a little preachy but tries to balance the negative aspects of a career in pro-am porn with the reality that many girls really do want to make it in the adult industry, and that their choices are no less important.