‘Hot Girls Wanted’: Documentary, Sex, and Technology

The new Netflix series explores the complexities of sex in the modern age.
By  · Published on May 11th, 2017

Episode 4: Money Shot

“Money Shot” focuses on the mainstream porn industry, with the camera following around a porn agent and one of his clients. The male porn star interviewed here discusses how he is fetishized as a black male working in the adult entertainment industry — it is assumed he is well-endowed, and there is a high demand for scenes of him dominating white women. He makes the point that porn is the only industry where it is accepted for people to be separated by race. Various races are fetishized in the porn industry, and performers go along with it so that they can continue working and making money. One of the main points of the entire series, which features in this episode in particular, is that people get into the porn industry to make money. The porn agent, who frequently wears a hat with big gold letters spelling out P-O-R-N, talks about how his version of the American Dream is being a successful porn entrepreneur.

This episode is interesting because the camera watches on as two of the agent’s clients perform an interracial scene. The episode shows everything from the preparation of the location (a couch in some guy’s house), to the fake cum poured on the female performer’s face at the end of a scene. The performers both sweat and contort themselves into uncomfortable positions that will look attractive on camera. This is clearly a tough job that requires a lot of work, despite what people may assume. There is also a lot of pressure on the male performer to have an orgasm — if he cannot provide the “money shot” as it were, the scene is incomplete and no one gets paid. It is incredibly stressful to feel that pressure, especially when there are cameras shoved in his face as he performs borderline violent acts to a young women he only met earlier that day. This episode makes it clear that the adult entertainment industry is a business run by hard-working people. These people all have jobs, and even though they are unconventional, they still require hard work and brain power.

Episode 5: Take Me Private

This is one of the most depressing episodes of the bunch. It follows Alice, a cam girl, and her relationship with one of her viewers nicknamed “Approximate.” At the time of the episode, they have known each other for four years and are quite close friends. Approximate and Alice perform sexual acts on webcam together almost every day, but they also have deep conversations about their personal lives, and Approximate sends Alice large sums of money. What is interesting about this episode is how conflicted Alice becomes about their relationship. She is married, but does not feel guilty about her work or her relationship with Approximate, because she is polyamorous. She accepts herself, and her husband is loving and understanding, realizing that she loves what she does and works hard at it. However, when Alice flies to Australia to meet Approximate, things take an awkward turn.

It becomes clear to Alice that Approximate adores her and wants to be with her, but she does not feel the same connection with him in person as she did when they only communicated via webcam. Alice makes the astute point that her online self is different from her real-life self. Adult performers, whether they are on webcam, in films, or stripping/dancing onstage, all take on a persona different from their daily self. Usually performers take on a more seductive, aggressive persona wherein they act as though they are always ready for sex. Obviously performers do not completely abandon who they are when they are working, but they definitely alter their personalities to suit the needs of their viewers.

When Alice interacts with Approximate in real life, she feels like something has changed because she is no longer using her cam persona and is just being herself. She feels like she is not as “up” and happy as she is on cam, and that it may seem disappointing for Approximate. It is as though he has met his favorite movie star in person, and she is nothing like the roles she plays in her movies. This makes Alice so uncomfortable that she breaks down and cries on camera, noting that she just wants to be home and comfy with her husband. The camera creates a shield between the performer and their viewers. Porn is based on fantasy, and Alice becomes stressed out when she realizes she couldn’t be Approximate’s fantasy in real life.

Episode 6: Don’t Stop Filming

The final episode is the series’ darkest, most horrific installment. It tells the story of Marina, an 18-year-old girl who broadcast her friend’s sexual assault using the Periscope app. She faced rape charges and the possibility of being put on the sex offender registry for her actions, and the episode explores what happened and how she feels about the incident. The app allows people to livestream things that are happening to them at any moment. Marina notes that it is as though you are with someone, experiencing their lives in the same way as them. The incident took place after she and her friend met a sexually aggressive young man who bought the girls alcohol and took him back to his place. Marina’s friend began having sex with him while Marina was filming on Periscope. The sex became non-consensual, but Marina kept filming because she was excited by the attention she was getting from her followers.

The episode shows her shame, regret, and disbelief at how out of hand the entire incident became. She has become completely isolated since the incident, and internet news articles refer to her as a “monster,” condemning her for life for her actions. She and her father believe that she deserves leniency and that she is a good person at heart. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and drama of social media, but clearly it can lead to violent and dangerous situations which cannot be reversed. Her lawyer notes that social media has made it so that one’s mistakes, and the backlash they receive, can never be erased from the internet. Everything is so public, and it exists forever — one only needs to type Marina’s name into Google, and all the hateful articles about her are right there.

Liz Shannon Miller notes that the horrors of this episode seem out of place in this series, which is a fair statement. This episode deals with the intersection of mainstream technology, sex, and social media. This is a complex subject, but this episode deals with one major problem with just anyone being able to film anything they want. Anyone can broadcast horrific images to the entire world, and even if they feel terrible afterwards like Marina does, the images are still out there. The horror of sexual assault is made even worse by the fact that it was seen by so many people, who did nothing to stop it. Marina tearfully notes that she could have called the police but chose not to, in the interest of more likes and comments.

Sex and technology is not always a bad combination, as most of the episodes of Turned On proves. There are many performers in the adult entertainment industry who are perfectly happy with their work, and the advent of new technologies has allowed them to start their own businesses and take control of their careers. As the series shows, porn performers often have mixed feelings about their jobs, as it comes with a number of challenges, but overall most performers feel that the challenges are worth it.

The series also explores the ways people outside the porn industry use technology in their sex lives, and these episodes are seemingly more grim. Technology seems to isolate people and make them more prone to commit acts that hurt others — whether it be something small, like “ghosting,” or something horrific and serious like filming a sexual assault. Turned On is valuable because it addresses a wide range of issues all connected to the same subject. Sex is something a lot of people do not have frank discussions about, but this series addresses its complexities fearlessly. Hopefully if the series continues, it will focus on an even wider range of stories, experiences, and issues.

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Actual film school graduate from Toronto. Always thinking and writing about queerness, feminism, camp, melodrama, and popular culture.