Rashida Jones' Netflix Docuseries 'Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On' Will Change The Way You Look At Porn
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When the 2015 Netflix documentary Hot Girls Wanted came out, reactions were intense, to say the least. The film's discussion of young women's experiences in the porn industry earned raves from some viewers, but outrage from others, many of whom criticized the doc for, in their eyes, providing an inaccurate look at the industry's dangers and its effects on female performers. Yet when producers Rashida Jones, Jill Bauer, and Ronna Gradus decided to make a follow-up docuseries to the film, they didn't shy away from the backlash; instead, they made sure to address it head on.

"We invited our biggest critics to be a part of the show," explains Jones, sitting alongside her Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On co-producers during the Sundance Film Festival. "And not surprisingly, a lot of them didn’t want to." Several of the women, Bauer explains, were "defending their profession because they felt threatened," and didn't want to get involved in the series. Yet the women who did connect made a huge difference in how the producers viewed the industry and the stories they wanted to tell. "We’ll always give people an opportunity, because our priority is creating a conversation," says Jones. "It’s not like this is the bottom line on porn. We’re not interested in that at all."

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What they are interested in is creating a series that explores porn from all different angles, including, as, shown in the episode "Women on Top," the women working to create feminist, empowering porn for female viewers. "We were asking each other, is there any porn that we feel like can reflect our desires or our value systems? And we found it," explains Jones.

"Women on Top" explores the small but powerful world of female-created porn, in which women writers, directors, and producers work to create content that's sexy and effective, but not degrading towards its female performers or viewers. It's a fascinating look into a corner of the industry rarely talked about; although a 2015 study by Marie Claire found that one out of three women watch porn at least once a week, the subject, like female sexuality as a whole, is considered taboo.

"I am so confused by the relationship between sexuality and sexualization, and I feel like culturally, we’re very confused about it too, because there’s this pressure to feel really comfortable and open and shameless about your sexuality, but there’s no attention paid to how you get there," says Jones. "You’re supposed to be sexual and look sexual and like you want it without ever really understanding how you get there. Do you enjoy orgasms? What turns you on? Is it different than what we think turns people on? So it's great to see women who are very comfortable in their bodies… and are doing it because they love it."

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And, adds Gradus, seeing so many women working behind-the-scenes to make feminist porn was reassuring, proof that the female performers would be treated with respect in sexual scenes. "When there’s a male director, he doesn’t know what it’s like to have a vagina and have it pounded," she says with a laugh. "With women, I think there’s an implicit understanding of what that feels like."

These days, of course, women supporting women couldn't be a more crucial matter. From the laws being passed to limit abortion access to the sexism and misogyny faced online by women who dare to speak up, the start of 2017 has seen female rights and sexuality under attack. "I think women are more attuned now to the rights that they took for granted... and I feel like this sort of plays into that," Jones says of the series, which will premiere this spring. "I feel very strongly that the subject matters we picked are crucial, and I think we’ll at least begin a conversation."

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Judging by the response the documentary received, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On will likely cause plenty of chatter, especially when it delves into more controversial topics. In future episodes, the team plans on exploring subjects like the accessibility of the medium for kids and teens. "Parents have no idea what their kids are seeing," Bauer says, with Gradus noting that, according to a recent study, over 90 percent of teen girls saw porn for the first time unintentionally.  

They also, Jones says, want to dive into the racism and misogyny evident in plenty of porn. "There’s a huge chasm in terms of what’s socially and culturally acceptable and what’s acceptable in porn," she explains. "It’s like this crazy dive off of a cliff, where all of a sudden in porn, women are being treated terribly, every racial stereotype is being celebrated, and people are being abused because of their race and their gender."

The team is hopeful that Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On will have a Season 2 in order to explore all these topics, and it's hard to imagine it won't, considering the conversation surrounding the documentary alone. Fingers crossed for more episodes, because this eye-opening show has so much more necessary ground to cover.