If it feels like explicit adult material, looks like a steamy sex scene, and is choreographed like adult films, is it porn?
Adult film producer Noelle Perdue is challenging Hollywood’s double standard when it comes to classifying content, especially in the wake of “Bridgerton” fandom. The hit Netflix series broke streaming records after its second season was released last month.
But as Perdue wrote in an opinion piece for Slate, “Bridgerton” received even more attention after the streamer issued takedown notices to porn sites that had uploading explicit scenes from Season 1. At the time, The Sun reported that the Regency era series had been tainted sitting side by side with “obscene materials” on X-rated websites.
Similarly, sex scenes from Hulu’s “Normal People” ended up in a 22-minute compilation on Pornhub upon release. Producer Ed Guiney said at the time that it was “deeply disrespectful to the actors involved and to the wider creative team” behind “Normal People.”
“While I fully concede intellectual property theft and piracy are legitimate concerns for Netflix — to say nothing of the cast’s consent about where their work appears — the side of moral panic surrounding the show’s approximation to ‘obscenity’ was confusing,” Perdue penned. “Watching [‘Bridgerton’] as a consumer, I didn’t see much of a difference between their well-lit choreography and what I was producing for work.”
Yet Perdue also warned of the slippery double standard between love scenes in adult films versus erotic TV shows. “If explicit sex does not make a scene pornographic, what does?” Perdue wrote. “As sex-forward shows only seem to get more graphic — and more popular — the need to hold on to this distinction is looking a little dishonest, and maybe a little desperate.”
Perdue noted that porn performer Chloe Cherry starred in Season 2 of “Euphoria,” making the leap into mainstream TV. But adult film acting and Hollywood studio acting, when it comes to softcore love scenes, are almost one and the same, per Perdue.
“Sure, maybe their genitals aren’t touching, but in porn, we go through similar negotiation processes, similar contracts, similar choreography and blocking,” Perdue said. And that’s not even discussing unsimulated sex scenes, which also occasionally appear in mainstream media.
“Arguing over whose sex scene qualifies as art — and whose does not — ultimately leads to sexuality gatekept by deep-pocketed institutions and sex workers facing further stigmatization,” Perdue continued. “There is nothing ‘deeply disrespectful’ about being associated with a lot of the great porn produced in the past and today; sexual expression has artistic value both as a plot device and for the sake of itself.”
Perdue also interviewed Australian actress Caitlin Stasey who has also written and directed porn films for independent Los Angeles-based studio Afterglow.
“There are a lot of people who get nominated for Oscars for putting their pussy in a Martin Scorsese or Lars von Trier film, but because I did it on my own terms — for my own art — it was regarded as reckless, compulsive, nonessential,” Stasey said.
Allie Oops, an indie porn performer and producer, added, “It feels unfair. If this is where we can be in Hollywood, where sex is beautiful and artistic and special and cool, then why can’t we extend that respect to the adult industry and to sex work in general, and start valuing the labor that goes into making beautiful sex scenes?”