In 2015 Netflix bought the Rashida Jones-produced documentary film Hot Girls Wanted, about the amateur porn industry. Now the title is back as a Netflix documentary series, 'Turned On', out on April 21. We caught up with producers Rashida Jones and Jill Bauer to find out more.
How did Hot Girls Wanted develop from a documentary film into a TV series?
Rashida Jones: “Netflix bought the film at Sundance, and both of us felt there was so much more to talk about within the industry, but also the feedback from the world that we got about the film made us feel like there was a lot more to discuss, there were a lot more voices that wanted to be heard and represented this was our opportunity to do it.”
So like the film, the new series is about porn. Is porn taboo? And do you want to make it not taboo?
Jill Bauer: “It’s not about porn…”
Rashida Jones: “It’s about sex and technology and porn – but there is a lot of porn in there. But yeah, it shouldn’t be taboo. If there was any kind of correlation between how people consume porn and how much we talk about it and accept it in daily life, we would be talking about it all the time. But it’s still shrouded in this secrecy and mystery and guilt and shame, and we have to talk about it. It’s the only way to really get to the dark corners of the industry where people don’t feel like they’re being respected, and to have our desires reflected in a better, larger spectrum and for us to maybe deal with the fact that young people have very little access to seeing sex first-hand like that in a way that might be accurate, might actually look like what their sex is gonna look like.”
Jill Bauer: “And it’s strange, because porn researchers don’t even say ‘watch porn’, they say ‘use porn’. So from a researcher’s perspective, that’s how they frame it because they understand that pornography is used for a reason. Regular people don’t talk about it that way and it should be talked about that way.”
The episode you directed is about female pornographers. Was it difficult to track them down?
Rashida Jones: “No. Luckily the women in my episode are incredibly bold and brave and articulate. Erika Lust has been on the scene for a while and she’s very clear about what her mission is and the kind of film that she wants to make and how it’s hopefully an antidote to the other stuff that’s out there. Holly and Suze [Randall], they were really happy to talk to us as well. They’re not as much making a point – I think they want to work within the industry and they have their own aesthetic and desires for how they treat the women that they work with, but I think it’s hard to track down other women. There’s some that have presented themselves to us but hopefully it will encourage other women to… like Erika says in her TED Talk, she’s like: “Most people are trying to get women out of porn. I’m trying to get women in porn. More women in porn!”
Jill Bauer: “But it was brave for Holly, who’s very much in the industry, to talk about what’s important to her.”
Rashida Jones: “And also what’s lacking. She’s critical in some senses of the industry and how their focus has changed and they don’t really care about the quality of the filmmaking and they’re not interested in taking care of people, they just want to get it done. And she’s still trying to uphold her standards within the confines of budgetary restrictions and stuff and that’s a strain on her.”
What was the most surprising thing you learned while shooting?
Rashida Jones: “How technical sex is on camera. Sex on camera is very, very technical. And I think the performers still try to turn each other on because they have to do that, but it’s so technical and they have sex for such a long time. Hours! It’s crazy.”
Erika Lust says ‘porn today is sex education’. Is that something you want to change? What do you think about it?
Rashida Jones: “Yeah, there’s no doubt. There’s a statistic in Hot Girls Wanted that the average age of watching your first porn in the US is 11 years old. So what are the odds that you’ve had a really good sex education before that? Probably not very high. So it is sex education, we can’t pretend like it’s not. We can’t keep protecting porn because it’s considered adult entertainment, because it is being used as sex education.”
Jill Bauer: “There should be classes on porn literacy or understanding porn.”
Rashida Jones: “That’s a big trend now: media literacy. Helping kids understand that what you see on social media or on TV is not reflective of real life and there’s no more important place to do that than porn.”
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On arrives on Netflix on April 21.