Rashida Jones' Hot Girls Wanted is a mom's worst nightmare realized
It's a difficult thing to imagine what life for an impressionable young teen might be like in the burgeoning amateur porn industry, but that's precisely what producer Rashida Jones tasks mothers everywhere with via her searing documentary, Hot Girls Wanted.
Right now, my daughter is 4. She wants to be a princess when she grows up and her favorite hobby is coloring.
But one day, which will undoubtedly come far sooner than when I am ready, she will be a teenager. Naturally, she will be curious about her body and about the opposite sex. Yes, there will be tricky waters to tread in our future. This much is certain.
What is far less certain (and equally terrifying) is just how ubiquitous the amateur porn or "pro-am" industry will be by then and how enticing its glossy veneer might seem to a girl of her age — still easily distracted by sparkle and glamour.
Did you know that more people visit porn sites each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter... combined? Or that more and more, the trend driving the industry is amateur porn, which targets girls aged 18 to 21?
Through Hot Girls Wanted, Rashida Jones primarily examines the foray of several of the young women in this demographic into amateur porn. And, in doing so, she humanizes the issue.
She makes you realize, as a mother, that there is nothing wildly different about the girls choosing to do this — aside from their decision.
They are the girls next door and, despite their initial starry-eyed entrance into the lucrative industry, they are woefully unprepared for the realities of this often dangerous and always competitive world.
Take Tressa, aka Stella May.
Before responding to a Craigslist ad, Tressa was much like most of us imagine our daughters will grow up to be: smart, well-rounded, polite, a pretty cheerleader who had a knack for photography and a passion for journalism.
One month into the industry during the filming of Hot Girls Wanted, Tressa struggles with the objections of her mom and boyfriend, revealing what she does to her dad and already being forced to take "less desirable" work like bondage and forced blow jobs.
As John Anthony, a porn actor in the industry for five years, explains, "Shelf life of a girl? Worst case scenario, one to three months. All right scenario, three to six. Best case scenario? A year, tops."
Riley, the 23-year-old "talent agent" who discovered Tressa, says of the beautiful young girl, "Stella's hot... still getting work, but she's got to tone up some more."
And such is the brutal truth about pro-am — most companies won't book a new girl more than two or three times. If they do, they expect compromises. A tweak here, a tuck there, "niche" gigs that very likely put the girl's life at risk.
Living alongside Tressa in Riley's house are Rachel, 18, known professionally as Ava Taylor, and Jade, 25, known professionally as Ava Kelly. Also showcased are Karly, 19, known professionally as Lucy Tyler, and Michelle, 19, known professionally as Brooklyn Daniels.
In this odd microcosm, the 25-year-old is considered a MILF due to her advanced age. She is allowed to get breast implants, whereas the 19-year-old is not since she needs to look pubescent to be popular.
"Teen" is the number-one-searched term on the internet.
And although these girls stand to make an impressive windfall in a moderately short period of time, the cost to their health is staggering: mentally, physically and emotionally.
Aside from the side effects of simply having too much sex — Tressa gets a cyst as large as a golf ball on her labia — the girls expose themselves to potential STDs nearly every single shoot. Since California passed a law making condoms mandatory in porn, the industry picked up and moved to Miami.
Unprotected sex, it turns out, is far more appealing to porn consumers.
When asked by her mother whether she was afraid of getting sick, Tressa thought it was sufficient to point out that all of the girls get tested for STDs every two weeks. As far as unwanted pregnancies go, the girls insist most men ejaculate outside of them.
Another very real danger is abuse porn, a niche with websites boasting 60 million combined hits per month. That's more than NFL.com gets. Or Disney. Or NBC News.
An alarming 40 percent of online porn now depicts violence against women. We are exposed to this firsthand with Hot Girls Wanted in perhaps the most difficult parts of the documentary to watch.
In one scene, we see Jade suffer disturbing masochism for sites promoting facial abuse — oral sex so extreme it is aimed at making the girl vomit — and ethnic degradation.
In another scene, Tressa complains about being exhausted, telling the other girls, "I was strapped on a bed and being forced vodka and hardcore deep throat!"
In yet another scene, Rachel goes on a gig in which she plays a young virgin going away to college who gets taken advantage of by a much older family friend. Says the director to the older male actor, "Here's the key point... you never really get a yes," and then, to Rachel, "You're kinda, like, never fully engaged into it."
It's "all predatory and shit," the older actor says. Or, you know, rapey.
As for the emotional repercussions, they're also upsetting to stomach. Karly admits that she thinks the whole cycle of young women in porn is heartbreaking, but says she doesn't have sex outside of the industry because she doesn't want to "commit myself to someone like that yet."
Tressa recounts how she was devastated when the boyfriend she gave her virginity to dumped her, so "nowadays the sex doesn't really mean anything."
Visibly upset after going on an especially degrading shoot, Rachel says, "In the amateur porn world, you're just processed meat."
In this world, which is expanding at an exponential rate, teenage girls are nothing more than commodities to be exchanged and, ultimately, expended.
As a mother, this obliterates me. It's hard to fathom this is a path my own daughter would ever take, but as Tressa's mother sums up, "In a million years, I wouldn't have thought something like this."
Therein lies the brilliance of Rashida Jones' gutsy documentary — she makes you think about it. She forces you to fathom it. It's tough, but entirely necessary if we want to effect change that makes teen girls less accessible prey for the pro-am industry.
Because, as Riley puts it, "Every day a new girl turns 18, and every day a new girl wants to do porn. I will never run out."
Writer's note: Today, most of the girls in Hot Girls Wanted are out of the industry. Karly is studying marine biology. Rachel is pursuing her dream of becoming a photographer. Jade is webcamming for a living. And Tressa is back in Texas with her boyfriend and family, working as the manager of a local restaurant.