When the Netflix-backed documentary Hot Girls Wanted premiered at Sundance in 2015, it was met with generally-positive reviews. The film, directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus (and featuring Rashida Jones as a producer), explored the amateur porn industry.
Hot Girls Wanted showed the harsh realities of why many teen girls start doing amateur porn. But some critics argued that it was a bit one-sided, as it only shows one subsection of the industry. (Many porn proponents will be quick to direct you to feminist porn sites, which are a lot different from the mainstream options.)
If the 2015 film was myopic, though, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On is the opposite. The Netflix docuseries, created by the same women as the original documentary, looks at a variety of issues that relate to sex and technology. The Hot Girls Wanted title is a bit of a misnomer. The six episodes feature a number of male points of view. And, most importantly, a lot of the women featured in the series say that they really do love what they do to make money.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the Netflix series, but what surprised me the most is how far-reaching its topics are. The second episode focuses on dating apps, and the show explores things like cam sites and same-sex porn videos, which the movie didn't really address. There are so, so many facets to the industry, and the series does a great job at presenting a variety of perspectives. Whether or not you consume porn, the series is fascinating, and it's definitely worth a watch. Join me as I embark on a binge-watch through the series' six episodes — check out each of the episode's stories below.
Episode 1: "Women On Top"
The first episode of Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, directed by Rashida Jones, shows a perspective that's missing from the 2015 film. Namely, the point of view of women behind the camera — the ones who are creating female-forward porn. The women interviewed in this episode have almost nothing in common with the amateur porn producers featured in the 2015 documentary.
The episode focuses on three women. Holly Randall (pictured) describes herself as "an erotic photographer, producer, and director." She got into the industry in part because of her mom, Suze Randall, who was Playboy 's first female staff photographer and is also featured in the episode. (Incidentally, Suze Randall got into the industry by responding to an "attractive girls wanted" newspaper ad.) The third woman "Women On Top" features is Erika Lust, a film director based in Sweden who works to create feminist porn.
In her interviews, Holly Randall describes her experience in the industry and why the internet has made her work a challenge. She and her mom are very detail-oriented; the way the two of them talk about their work, you'd think they were describing a traditional art form. But with the number of porn sites online now — many of which are free — there's less demand (and budget) for work like hers, which has a higher production value and takes more time to create.
"There are mostly male directors and producers in this industry, so I'm one of the very few females," Randall tells the camera. "My clients come to me because they want that feminine touch in their work."
Randall also says that she's unsure if there's a "place" for her in the industry, questioning whether she'll still be able to work in porn in 10 years' time. But if she tries to transition into, say, fashion photography, Randall is worried that the "stigma of porn" could keep potential employers from hiring her. (Suze suggests that her daughter should be a sex therapist.)
Erika's story, meanwhile, is more uplifting. She encourages women to speak up about what they want to see in porn, and says that she wants more women behind the cameras, too. She talks a lot about "mainstream" porn, which she says concentrates on male desire. Her work depicts enjoyment for everyone involved. Erika tells the camera that she wants to show "female pleasure" while still being "aesthetically interesting."
The episode's scenes with Erika center on a video she's producing for her confessions-inspired collection. Inspired by fan submissions about their own fantasies, Erika works to turn them into video form. The one in "Women on Top" is about a female piano player who imagines a man beneath the piano, pleasuring her as she continues her music.
The woman Erika features in the scene, Monica, is shooting her first erotic film, but her experience looks nothing like that of the women from 2015's Hot Girls Wanted. When Monica becomes uncomfortable during filming, saying she's in pain, Erika stops the scene immediately, saying they can fake the orgasm on video later. Erika also stresses to the cameras that when she uses performers who've been in "mainstream" porn films, she reminds them not to use details like hair-pulling that may be seen as degrading to women. (A theme Holly Randall stressed, too.)
Erika, Holly, and Suze's perspectives show that there are many voices in the porn industry, and it's great to hear their insights — both positive and negative.
Episode 2: "Love Me Tinder"
This episode isn't a behind-the-scenes look at the porn industry. Rather, it focuses on former Big Brother houseguest James Rhine and his experiences on Tinder.
Rhine, the marketing director at a Las Vegas nightlife company, is extremely candid about his experience and what he's looking for on the dating app. "If you aren't having fun at life, then you're doing the thing way wrong," Rhine says.
We learn that Rhine is dating a woman, Jessica, whom he met online. Jessica tells the camera that "dating is awful" and that she could see a future with Rhine. She assumes their relationship is exclusive, but he's still swiping on dating apps. When Jessica sees another woman in Rhine's Snapchat story, she texts him. According to her, his response was along the lines of "I don't know why you're acting like this." James later ghosts on Jessica's texts; she tells the camera that it hurts.
For his part, Rhine explains that when he was younger, he was the "nice guy" who was just friends with girls. He also says that he used to be nervous before dates, but they've now become "routine." And he says that there's no "law against" sleeping with multiple people, arguing that technology has made commitment to relationships "a thing of the past."
"When I am seeing a bunch of other people, all I have to do is post a couple Snapchats and get really drunk over a weekend, and then I'm no longer seeing anyone anymore," Rhine tells the camera. "It's called reloading."
An on-screen statistic says that "more than one in four people on dating apps say there are too many choices, making it hard to settle on one person."
"You have so many different options right at your fingertips," Rhine says of dating apps. But later in the episode, he tells the camera he could see himself settling into a relationship with Alexis, the woman from the Snapchat video. Alexis appears to feel the same way; she tells her mom that he has a "good heart." But when Rhine texts her on a Monday, asking her to party with his friends, she declines, saying she has work the next day, and noting that it's a little weird for a 40-year-old man to be getting drunk on a Monday night. Rhine ends the text conversation shortly afterward, declining to answer Alexis' phone call.
Jessica later visits James' home, where he admits that she has a "right to be upset" about what happened. He tells the camera that the visit was the wakeup call he needed, and that he was an "asshole." At the end of the episode, he says the docuseries' interviews have made him realize that he's been exhibiting "completely unacceptable behavior."
"We have become so selfish, and I think a large part of that is due to social media," Rhine tells the camera. "Because we don't slow down anymore. We don't just talk things out and think things out. We don't realize the consequences of our actions towards other people."
"I should probably call every girl I've ever dated and just apologize to them individually," Rhine says. It's a dramatic statement — but for anyone who's had a James Rhine in their lives, it's satisfying to see how the interviews have changed his perspective.
Episode 3: "Owning It"
"Owning It" seems to be a direct response to critics of the 2015 film. It focuses on Bailey Rayne (pictured, right), an assistant agent in Los Angeles who also works as a cam girl and model. Rayne explains to the camera that she finds potential new performers on cam websites. She gets paid for each woman she recruits — $500 for those who will shoot "solo" and "girl-girl" scenes, and $1,000 for women who will shoot "boy-girl" scenes. (The episode is also Hot Girls Wanted 's first foray into solo and same-sex porn; the original film focused on male-female porn.)
Bailey recruits several women in the episode, including Selena Storm (pictured in opener image) and Bonnie Kinz (pictured, left), who goes by Kylie Page by the end of the episode. Selena hopes that gaining recognition as a porn performer will help her cam room get more visits; Bonnie has previously worked as a stripper and done solo work.
Bailey stresses that she wants to create a "safe environment" for the new women. She brings them to agent John Steven, who describes himself as a "father figure" to the girls. Bailey also reiterates throughout the episode that she finds the industry empowering.
"I've had a very successful, empowering, positive career in porn," Bailey tells the camera. "I am a feminist working in this industry. I know I'm a sex object, but I control everything."
Selena seems to agree with Bailey's viewpoint, saying in the episode that it's "possible to be empowered and still be a sex object."
Still, both of them, as well as Bonnie, say they got into porn for the money. Bailey explains that after college, she was going to take a teaching job — but it paid $20,000 a year, and she makes eight times that now. Selena, meanwhile, tells the camera that her parents' business failed, and they ended up broke, something she's not interested in repeating.
Bonnie, too, tells the camera that her family grew up poor, and she wanted to get into porn to give her younger siblings a better life than she had. Her experience in the episode, though, is more troubling. She quickly turns to drug use, despite Bailey's warning that "if you need to get high in order to cope with this job, that is not healthy."
Bailey and John discuss their concerns about Bonnie, before ultimately deciding that she's an adult and there's not much they can do.
"Watching someone spiral out of control is always going to be kind of heartbreaking. But we are all competitive, and so the business side of me just kind of kicks in," Bailey tells the camera at the end of the episode. "Like, well, maybe she won’t be around very long. It's terrible, but that's how business is."
The quote may be taken out of context. But it also stands in contrast to Bailey's earlier statements about keeping the new ladies safe. (Plus, if she's paid to recruit them, won't there always be an influx of new girls on the scene?)
I looked at Bonnie's — now Kylie's — Twitter account, and it looks like she's still doing XXX work. Yet Bonnie's telling the camera that "it's fun" isn't very convincing. Plenty of women feel empowered by sex work, and we see that in Bailey and Selena; Bonnie, on the other hand, seems trapped, at least in this episode.
Episode 4: "Money Shot"
Ah, a familiar face. You may recognize Riley Reynolds, the CEO and founder of Hussie Models, from 2015's Hot Girls Wanted. Reynolds became infamous for his statement in the original documentary that "every day, a new girl turns 18," a sentence he claims was taken out of context.
One thing viewers might not realize is that Reynolds also represents male talent. The episode focuses on two Black male performers, who go by the names of Tyler Knight and Jax Slayher.
"Money Shot" is a painful episode to watch. It uncovers racial bias behind the scenes — but that bias is driven by what people want to see on porn sites. The episode shows videos with titles like "big Black guy roughs up white teen" — that one had garnered 144,518 views, as of the time of filming.
"Black performers get booked, mostly, for interracial sex with white women," Slayher tells the camera. "To me it's silly, but this is what I'm getting booked for, and I'll always continue to get booked for it, because that’s what people want to see."
The episode shows Slayher filming a scene with 18-year-old female performer Kylie Quinn. The term "big Black cock" is thrown around on set. A camera man makes a "joke" by asking Slayher if Black men "eat pussy."
"Porn separates us by race," Quinn tells the camera. "People accept it in this industry because they benefit from it."
Not everyone benefits, though.
"We literally get reduced to our lowest common denominator, to appeal to the lowest common denominator," Knight tells the camera. "'I want to see a ripped Black guy with, you know, an innocent little cheerleader.' The point is, this is the last bastion of American industry where it is okay to not be hired for something specifically because of your race or your outward appearance. And it's perfectly fine."
Knight adds that in any other industry, such practices would be illegal. An onscreen fact says that white women are often paid a higher "interacial rate" to film with Black men.
Both Reynolds and Knight also express the notion that a majority of internet users watch porn. "The same people who are judging you, who are hanging that albatross around your neck, are the people who consume your product," Knight says.
Reynolds, meanwhile, says that if he weren't making porn, someone else would be. "The majority of people watch porn," he tells the camera. "So if it weren't for people like me and other people that do this job, you wouldn't have your porn."
Episode 5: "Take Me Private"
"Take Me Private" explores the world of "camming." Specifically, it centers on Alice Frost, a 25-year-old cam girl, and Thomas "Tom" McDonald, one of her frequent cam visitors. (Online, McDonald goes by the name "Approximate.")
Alice explains that cam room users can choose to take cam models "private" for $3.69 a minute and request what they want the models to do. Other people can join the room, but they can't suggest anything until the first user is finished, she says. Or, for $8.69 a minute, users can have a private room with the cam models.
It's clear that Alice enjoys what she does; she describes herself as a "psychiatrist" of sorts. "I might be doing it naked, but I'm making a difference," Alice says. "I seem to change people’s lives in a positive way."
The episode focuses on Alice's relationship with Tom, who's been visiting her cam page for four years. "From camming, I get a kind of relationship that I have trouble with in real life," he tells the camera. He says that he has a "relationship" with Alice. She, meanwhile, tells the camera that she likes being friends with Tom, but at the end of the day, she's in love with her husband, Chad.
It's clear that the pair do have a rapport that goes beyond erotic performances. During a video call, they briefly discuss movie releases. It's still a cam conversation, though — he asks he to give herself four spanks to commemorate their four-year "cam-iversary."
After four years, Alice has decided she owes it to Tom to meet him in person. She's based in California, and he's in Australia, so it's a hike — but she says that after the thousands of dollars he's given her, he's "earned the right" to meet her. A friend and fellow cam model warns Alice that the trip might not be a good idea, but she brushes it off, describing herself as polyamorous and open to new possibilities.
But as soon as she gets there, Alice knows something is different. She packed lacy bras and a bikini that Tom gave her — but without the digital barrier, the relationship is "a little uncomfortable," she admits. Tom, meanwhile, has told his friends that he's in love with Alice and hopes she feels the same way. (He also knew, though, that she was married.)
By the end of the visit, Alice is in tears during the camera interviews. "I didn't know the computer screen meant that much," Alice says. "I thought that it would transfer really easily, and it just doesn't."
Seeing Tom IRL also makes her realize how much stock he's put into the relationship, and she's afraid he's expecting more than she can give him. "Even though he’s happy, it's a false happiness, and that hurts," Alice tells the camera through tears.
On her last night in Australia, Alice tells Tom that she likes being a fantasy. She says that she wanted to put on a private show, but realized it wasn't who she was. "I didn't realize quite how much you adored me," Alice tells Tom. "I really, really care about you, but I think you need some in-person love, and I can't give that to you." She also asks him not to be "hung up" on her.
Alice later tells the camera that she feels like she kept him "trapped" for years from finding real love. But Tom ends the episode on a positive note — he tells the camera that his relationship with Alice helped him realize that he needs more.
"I guess this has given me hope that there might be, as cheesy and corny as it sounds, someone out there for me, and that it's not impossible for me to find someone like that, someone special," Tom says.
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