Hot Girls Wanted ★½

- I will preface this by saying that I consider myself a sex positive feminist, or feminist ally, which means that I believe any sexual conduct between consenting adults is fine. This includes sex work, such as prostitution or pornography. So, I was naturally interested to see how Hot Girls Wanted was going to portray sex and sex work.
- The first three or four minutes of Hot Girls Wanted is a collage, or a montage technically, of clips used to illustrate the desensitization to sexuality within mainstream society. Its goal is, presumably, to focus on this idea of the exploitation of women, but the issue with this is that several of the clips – from Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” music video to interviews with “Duke Porn Star” Belle Knox – are from/about women who are using their sexuality to their advantage. From the get go, there seems to be a slight misunderstanding that some of these women are completely aware that the culture we live in allows for the exploitation of women, and that these particular people are doing their best to subvert that or take advantage of that. (The Minaj video is particularly interesting, given the particular fetishization that black women experience and that she is trying to subvert. Poor Drake... lol not really.)
- About 12 minutes in, the man they’ve interviewed is skeezy. Of course.
- Thus far (14 min) the doc has not explored the socioeconomic roots to why women would want to take advantage of this patriarchal system. the current job market, economy, etc. Nor has it examined the fact that sex work is, as the old adage goes, the oldest profession in the world.
- I have a feeling that this won’t explore an alternative, where porn is perhaps more regulated inasmuch as to protect sex workers from unfair exploitation.
- Not unlike a Vanity Fair piece from 2013 (called ”Friends without Benefits”), I’m getting this impression that it’s going to be a very screechy.
- One actress, Tressa says that doing this work is what makes her happy; self-actualization has a weird place in the culture at this moment, at once treated with contempt and yet something that we wish to attain. But this film is bent on portraying these women, who are trying to attain that self-actualization and autonomy (at least, ostensibly so) as victims, or girls led astray and making the wrong choices.
- This kind of position is especially evident when juxtaposing the sweet, hometown life, hunting and whatnot, against what this performer is actually doing.
- There’s obviously something about performance and performativity that should be discussed, and it is briefly when a blond performer, Karly, talks about the character she plays. This performer is also exhibits herself as pretty overtly sex positive (and a lover of Frank McCourt!).
- There’s a little bit of interesting discourse with regards to society’s mores with regard to sex, and , to extrapolate, why porn is paradoxical: anarchic in what sex is supposed to be for a heteronormative nuclear family, but also desirable in any sense.
- But even this discourse ends up being undercut by an ominous voiceover from Karly saying that “sex doesn’t mean anything [to me] anymore”.
- One performer, Michelle, is very, hmm, cynical. Her words are edited in a way where she says something along the lines of “I mean, people are going to see it anyways” three times.
- A discourse where one explores a culture where women’s feelings, and self-actualization, is predicated on being desirable is here, but it is only tenuous.
- There’s an interesting sororal aspect to these performers; they seem to be very supportive of one another.
- Again, there is a discourse on the influence of social media in the lives of sex workers, but it feels like very little is done with it, or what is done with it is very superficial. There’s much to be examined in how social media adds another layer of performance, especially for any people who literally perform for a living.
- It feels like one would be better off watching The Girlfriend Experience.
- On the one hand, I am a little surprised that these subjects aren’t being made out to be martyrs more than they already are.
- Oh, I second guessed myself, 42 min in, the doc has Kendall express unsureness and tentativeness. And Tressa boyfriend mentions, “I can’t believe I used to have meaningless sex”, during a discussion of their sex lives and how they “make love” to one another. I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing, but it’s obviously used as a tool to further illustrate the Lost Girls narrative and thematic arc.
- Bondage play is portrayed as weird and taboo when a performer (I think Tressa) accepts a niche job, since pro-am actresses have to go into niche markets to still be viable.
- “In the amateur porn world, you’re just processed meat,” Rachel says. This is proceeded by a talking head where she talks about the more exploitative aspects of the industry, where it’s about “the guy getting off” and how it’s “work”, how “as long as you have a vagina and boobs; they don’t really care about who you are as a person”. But rather that address this as an issue within amateur porn specifically, it seems to be used as a way to illustrate sex work as a whole. No solutions are insinuated, such as better regulation.
- As the doc proceeds (50 min), it becomes grimmer: Karly says nonchalantly, “It must not be healthy to be having sex with so many different people. Weird, since it’s my job.” It cuts to Tressa filming herself at the ER, having a cyst drained.
- Jade, a Latina performer, talks about the degradation of facial abuse. But just prior to that, she mentions “supply and demand”, but this isn’t really expanded upon. But there’s a very weird contrast in this segment: she seems very sex positive, saying that this is acting, that it’s good that people may be watching it and not doing it in real life. She says she doesn’t “see things in black and white, good and bad.” She continues, “Good and bad is what you experience in the moment.” But the music lining this part is kind of gleefully morbid.
- One thing I appreciated about Kirby Dick’s The Hunting Ground is that all of the statistics that were shown or used in the film was cited by the studies that the filmmakers had consulted. This film, as with most documentaries I’ve seen, does not do that.
- It says that “40% of online pornography depicts violence against women”, but does not ask the question of whether this perpetuates violence against women, if it is a product of a society that has long allowed violence against women, or if it is a release from those things. It just infers the first option, I think.
- When these women do have moments of empowerment on screen, such as when Jade performer discusses how it is a job and she does it to get paid so she can feel comfortable for herself, the film seems to portray them as silly, as if their desires are frivolous. Jade very succinctly describes it as basically a capitalist model.
- They also don’t really examine the performative aspect very well especially the fact that much of this is consensual. Again, almost in passing, Tressa mentions a bondage shoot, but she says she was hurt and how the crew treated her: with care, affection, and concern. But still, the tone seems to be, She’s doing bondage and abuse porn, oh no!
- “It hurts now, every time I see a porno, I think, ‘That’s someone’s girlfriend or that’s someone’s daughter!’” one guy exclaims. But, in that, he doesn’t give these women the benefit of having an identity outside of the roles of mother, daughter, etc. he continues, “It’s like, you’re supposed to have a respect for yourself, too.” It’s revealed that this is Kendall’s Tressa, and as he says that, she interrupts and says, “I do!” The tone of the scene, once again, is played as if she doesn’t; she is a young fool who doesn’t know any better and needs to be helped. He then basically calls her a prostitute, explicitly so, but qualifies it with, “You’re not a prostitute to me, baby.”
- I think that last comment is perhaps more indicative of an exploitative patriarchal culture, where he has to approve of his girlfriend’s work and what she does with her body, than the porn that’s depicted in the movie.
- Some sad guitar music plays.
- Rachel talks about her experience when a surprise forced blowjob scene is dropped in her lap, and talks about the anxiety she feels being comparable to rape victims. This isn’t to invalidate her experiences, but I do think it’s interesting that the directors had this scene in.
- Tressa’s mother asks, rather accusatorily, how Kendall, Tressa’s boyfriend, can date someone who does porn. His response is vehement: “I hate it.” He says it again and again. In this scene, there’s an incredible amount of guilt tripping involved that, I feel, is rather unfair. That she expresses her motivations being money and travel are made to make her look aloof and irresponsible. But the doc fails to acknowledge, again, the capitalist society we exist in.
- When she does quit at the behest of her boyfriend and her mother, she mentions how she misses her freedom.
- When Belle Knox comes up, some performers talk about how Knox is one of a thousand girls who does it for similar reasons. They replay one of Knox’s scenes from Facial Abuse (or something?), and her feminist ideology is contrasted against the abuse of the scene, as if to invalidate the power she has.
- Tressa talks about how she told her father that she was doing porn, tearfully. She explains that he told her that it would be a long time until she gained his trust back. Again, her value is predicated on men perceive her.
- Tressa talks about she made $25,000 in four months and drained her account to $2000 by the time she got out of porn.
- The tone she uses when she says “got out of porn” makes it sound as if she escaped from it. She is the film’s redemption story, and she says as much towards the end of the film, treating her search for freedom in exactly the contemptible way the filmmakers want it to look like. This maternal attitude is kind of troubling to me because it invalidates that journey and treats it like this big mistake. Maybe she does genuinely feel regretful about the industry she worked in, which is fine, but I also think it’s just as dangerous to paint sex work in that way because it makes it harder for sex work to be safer and less exploitative.
- The end of the film features where the performers are now overlaid against their Twitter profile. Jade is the notable one, with the doc relaying that she quit porn and does webcams instead, saying that she prefers to be in control of how she appears. This option of control and empowerment is, as I have mentioned tenuously explored, if at all, and when it does appear in the doc, it’s undermined or invalidated by music or latent ideology.
- About the use of Twitter through the film, there’s such a wealth of stuff to be investigated with regards to persona, performance, and authenticity in the digital age, and it’s never touched upon. Instead, it’s used as a weapon against the performers, that the goal for followers (admirers, fans, etc) is a bad, vapid, superficial, vacuous thing to be reprimanded for and to be pitied for.
- The end credit music is, of course, saccharine.
- The film basically infantilizes its subjects and treats them like children.
- I am very much bringing my own personal beliefs about sex and sex work to the table in this doc, but nearly everything the filmmakers point out to be exploitative, the performers are seemingly in some control of. And if they’re not, they at least express their concerns about it. So it feels like, rather than offering solutions to make this kind of industry safer, less harmful, exploitative, and so on, that the doc wants to paint porn, and sex work in general, as the thing young women go to when they’re lost, when they’ve drifted from the path of righteousness and morality. it also absolutely does not examine the sociopolitical roots of sexualization, or its ramifications, which makes its arguments rather ramshackle. And I think that’s as harmful as the ostensibly exploitative industry it wants to portray.