Ethical Porn (and other Controversial Products)

Here’s a question: if you think product X is unethical (or maybe just morally “problematic”), can you engage in a constructive discussion about how to make that product more acceptable (while still selling it) or how to sell it more ethically?

Here’s a story & video clip from This Magazine: “The New Face of Porn”. It’s basically a story about “indie” pornography, which is (roughly) porn that is not produced by one of the big porn studios, and which (more often?) attempts to avoid the sexist stereotypes, heteronormativity, etc. common within “standard” porn. In the eyes of the producers and consumers of indy porn, indy porn is ethical porn. Of course, if you think selling images and videos of naked people doing, um, stuff to each other is intrinsically evil, maybe the idea of “ethical” porn will seem outrageous. Or maybe not.

Or think of a product that is socially controversial in another way: tobacco. Tobacco companies kill people (or help them kill themselves, if you prefer). You could argue that tobacco companies are evil. But you could also enquire into the business practices of various tobacco companies, and ask which ones do their (unethical) business more ethically. Do some treat employees better than others? Do some advertise more responsibly than others? If you’re a passionate opponent of that industry, it might be hard to wrap your head around those questions, but it’s worth the effort.

Here’s a thought experiment (or a classroom activity, for you teachers & profs out there). Fill in the blanks in the table below with behavioural examples (i.e., examples of behaviours that would differentiate good, questionable, and evil sellers of good, controversial, and evil products). An easy example: a “good” seller of meth (an evil product) only sells to current addicts, and doesn’t lure new ones into the habit. Stuff like that.

3 comments so far

  1. Shel Horowitz, author, Principled Profit on

    Wow, Chris, you stunned them! I’m amazed that a whole went by and no one commented on this. Maybe because to answer would take writing a book. It’s something I’ve thought about often, and never came up with a clear answer.It might be interesting to explore this in a conversation, and to broadcast that conversation. I do a radio show on business ethics twice a month. Interested in spending an hour talking about this? Drop me a private note at shel (at) principledprofit.comShel Horowitz, author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and founder of the Business ethics Pledge http://www.business-ethics-pledge.org

  2. Anonymous on

    You should write about Ethics on Pornography and adult filming as a business.Very interesting controversial topic regarding Ethics and the leadership roles of professional adult film makers.I think the periodical databases lack a topic as such.

  3. […] Posted November 10, 2008 Filed under: Uncategorized | Further to yesterday’s posting about ethically controversial products, here’s a story about a business (Craigslist) facilitating one ethically controversial […]


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