The 2012 documentary, which is now available again on Netflix, contains interviews conducted with some of the biggest names in the porn business. With two sequels already released and available on the streaming service as well, the original is worth a look back. Featured prominently in the film are Nina Hartley, Asia Carrera, Seka, and Randy West. A few of the actors on screen reveal that they have no, or very few, regrets, and they acknowledge that the business afforded them the ability to lead a comfortable life, and even retire at a young age.

Those with a positive reflection on pornography tend to be those who were able to work “on both sides of the camera.” Asia Carrera was not only a popular actress, but learned how to write, direct, and produce films and videos, and how to run a profitable website. Her experience from the business is clearly not typical of most adult entertainers. Randy West noted that most women are “good for about two years—tops.” He, and many successful men in the business, have been able to survive in the industry much longer. Even he notes that, with the advent of DVDs and internet porn, he signed a business contract that completely took away all control of his own films and videos. He not only lost most of the profit from his movies, but lost the ability to control how and when they would be shown and on which websites they would be featured. Even as a successful actor and pornography producer, he was literally alienated from the product of his own labor.

Imagine the countless men and women who find themselves in pornographic sex work in order to make ends meet, and who have no control over the use and prevalence of those sexually explicit images!

Many women who have worked in the business are demonstrated to have been receptive to evangelical Christianity, which has actually reached out to former sex workers in an effort to help them find redemption. Nina Hartley, herself a well-known actor, has gone on to work as a sex educator. She said that many women in particular enter the porn industry seeking some form of validation and acceptance. Being considered sexy or desirable was seen as a way to receive it. According to Hartley, it is those women in particular that should never have entered the business, and who are currently the most open to the evangelical movement.

In this film, stigma is the common denominator for all sex workers, be they successful producers or virtually anonymous sex workers. Many actors speak of trying to become real estate agents or engage in similar “normal” work activity. Even Asia Carrera, who moved to Utah—and cut her hair to avoid being recognized in a state where porn is illegal—was found out, again and again, as a former porn actor. All actors interviewed indicate that they have suffered as a result of never, ever being able to return to any kind of normalcy after a career in which they have been immortalized on film or on the internet. One actor speaks of the hypocrisy of a society that fantasizes about sex workers on one hand, then stigmatizes them for that work on the other.

One woman explores the phenomenon of being stalked by a man who somehow construed himself to be in a relationship with her, as he had been a fan of hers. He was consuming her material from home on a regular basis, and came to feel he had some level of both ownership and intimacy. Pornography, especially internet pornography, has been described as not only commodifying the actors’ body parts, but their sexuality and humanity as well. It seems that the same is true for the consumers. From their home, men, mostly heterosexual, consume porn on a regular basis in anonymity. Their very sexuality has been divorced from real relationships with their fellow humans, while they fantasize about having sexual relationships with women who themselves have been commodified by the porn business.

One aspect is, unfortunately, absent in the film. There is no exploration of the role that porn has in the queer community. Even same-sex acts taking place in mainstream porn are often with heterosexual women engaged in “lesbian” scenes. Many of those women admit to having no idea what actual lesbian women do when they want to be sexual with one another. It is important to note that no sexual activity between men is ever featured in heterosexual porn. Sex between women is seen as erotic, but sex between men is considered dangerous or threatening to a heterosexual identity.

In the film, there is also no discussion of porn involving transwomen or transmen. It should be noted that some porn featuring “shemales” is available—again, to a “heterosexual” audience—but actual depictions or features of real members of the trans community are missing.

Finally, the issue of race does come up in the film. Asia Carrera, who is from a mixed (Asian and European) background, is described as “opening the door” to women from ethnic minorities. It should be noted that films depicting women and men of color are considered to be “niche” and typically feature predominant and racist stereotypes.

After Porn Ends, along with the sequels it has spawned, is a good attempt to address the issue of porn in our culture. It also serves to humanize sex workers. Many of them are featured in the film as real people with everyday issues, not as the sexualized objects that they have been constructed to be. (People’s World — IPA Service)