Why Rashida Jones produced a documentary about the porn industry

Rashida Jones is one cool lady. Not only has she already secured her place in the Comedy Hall of Fame with roles like Karen Filipelli in The Office and Ann Perkins in Parks and Recreation, she’s also doing killer work behind the camera. Jones tends to stay as comedic offscreen as she is on (she produced this fall’s television comedy A to Z and is currently penning Toy Story 4) but her work took a serious turn recently when she produced Hot Girls Wanted a documentary that recently premiered at Sundance exploring exploitation in amateur pornography.

The documentary follows a young woman who leaves her small town in search of fame and ends up entering the amateur porn world. Working in independently produced videos which garner up to 41 million hits a month, she’s initially intrigued by the attention but eventually ends up realizing the pitfalls of her choices.

For Jones, this project was more than just another producer credit. It covers a thorny topic she’s particularly impassioned about exploring.

“Porn is prevalent. There’s no more denying it,” Jones explained to Vanity Fair while at Sundance. “It’s not seedy. It’s not underworld. Seventy percent of the Internet is used for porn. And we haven’t had a real, real intense look into it, so this movie is kind of like a way to take the lid off of that and realize that this is a real industry.”

When asked if the amateur porn industry is a “sinkhole” for these girls, Jones explained:

“Everyone, when they’re 18, makes stupid mistakes. But this, the cost of this, is pretty high. But yeah, the moral of the story is ‘Yeah, at 18, there may be better options to help you get out of your town.’”

She explained to the Associated Press what troubles her about the effect porn has had on your average woman:

“There’s something of a protection of people’s private sexual fantasies, I think, which is kind of a funny contrast in this country cause everybody’s like obsessed with sex. I personally have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is that the tipping point — it became that it was so pro-forma for women to be sexualized on a mainstream level that it’s the only way to be sexy. It’s just this one way and it’s the porn way, it’s the stripper way.”

In an interview with “The Wrap,” Jones explained how the doc explores the tricky distinction between sexuality and sexualization:

“That’s a huge thing, too, that we talk about all the time is the difference between sexuality and sexualization. Because it’s reformative, you know, women aren’t feeling joy from it. This would be a whole different conversation if women were like, ‘We’re having sex. We love it so much. We want more of it. We feel so good about our bodies and ourselves.’ But that’s not the conversation.”

For Jones, this film is really about the tremendous toll amateur pornography takes on the young women who participate in this industry:

“For me, the takeaway is, whatever the cost is of saying, ‘Oh, you know what, I’m having sex anyway. Why not just do it on camera for money?’ They’re not considering the real cost, the psychological cost, the emotional cost, the physical cost, the trauma that it does on your body to have sex for a living is a real thing. And I think by the time they realize it — it’s not too late because they can go back to their lives — but they’ve lost their childhoods.”

The film, co-directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, was just purchased by Netflix, so if you’re a subscriber, you’ll be able to watch on the site later this year. In the meantime, if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can stream the filmmakers’ previous doc, Sexy Baby, which explores the sexuality of young women in the Internet age.

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