Depending on your taste, Dear Zachary could top the list of the most depressing documentaries ever made. No joke, bring tissues. But Hot Girls Wanted, a documentary by producer Rashida Jones, gives even Dear Zachary a run for its emotional money.
The documentary deals with the dark side of the adult film industry, presenting facts about what goes on in front of and behind the camera through the lens of a houseful of aspiring young stars near Miami, Florida. The hardest part about the story is that it's very real. Jones produced the film as a passion project to call attention to the fact that there's no regulation in the sex industry, which only serves to further harm, risk, and stigmatize its workers. Jones says she has no problem with real sex in film, but her goal is to shed light on bad practices inside a fast-and-loose industry. To each his or her own — as long as it's safe and consensual. In an unregulated, unmonitored industry, that's not often the case.
On its face — and with its sexy cover — the film pulls you in under incredibly sexy pretenses, like a modern-day Pretty Woman. But all too soon, you figure out that Richard Gere isn't coming to the rescue. The intricate realities of life as a sex worker in America, as told by filmmakers following some of the girls who aren't faking it, is about as heart-wrenching as it gets, and Hot Girls Wanted is one of the most depressing documentaries out there. Please note that what you're about to read is unquestionably not safe for work, but it's a vital look at some of what lies behind the sexy front of adult entertainment.
Many Girls Know It's A Trap, But Are In It For The Cash
"There is an influx of girls trying to do [adult films]," says John Anthony, an adult film actor. "A lot of them know it's a trap but the money's there in their face, right now - cash! They take it and just hope for the best."
In one scene, one girl admits that she's nervous as she readies herself for a scene to be featured on a website with a name that admits outright that it exploits teens. "We just met, and here I am, already got my old man hands all over your young teen ass," a man tells the actress as he wields a low-quality camera over her.
Afterward, she elaborates on her first adult film shoot: "It was at a hotel and it was just like, him one-on-one like pretty much, 'I'm a f*cking creeper and I'm gonna mack on you, little teenage girl," she says afterward, wincing.
Because California Requires Condoms In Adult Videos, Many Studios Have Migrated To Florida
"I'm in so much pain," Stella May says into her selfie stick, scanning her ER room. She's developed a Bartholin's cyst on her labia, which is the result of an STD. She's been having unprotected sex.
She films in Miami, after all, which doesn't require safe sex on set. That's where Riley Reynolds runs a talent agency: a house he bought where he brings young girls and connects them with adult filmmakers. The whole film revolves around this houseful of girls and their "manager." Stella May, whose real name is Tressa Silguero, has already been questioned on camera by her mother about the lack of protection and the prevention of STDs and pregnancy. Tressa reassures her that precautions are taken, such as bi-weekly screenings. However, it's not uncommon to catch something within the two-week screen, and forged documents are a very real issue in the industry.
For all of Tressa's assurances, she's caught a painful cyst that requires emergency assistance, as it's the size of a golf ball and needs "to be drained." It was, as she says, a gland that was "clogged from having too much sex." A higher price can be demanded of the girls for certain kinds of adult-rated actions that have higher risk for STDs. There are few safeguards for a woman working in such an unregulated industry, and pregnancy is a pervasive risk.
One of the actresses admits that she got paid $100 extra dollars on top of her elevated rate for a particularly risque scene. That extra Benjamin was thrown in for the cost of Plan B One Step, a morning-after pills that's used for birth control. According to the actress, the pill costs around $40, so in actuality she netted an extra $60.
The Girls' Participation Is Not Always Consensual
There are many reasons why a young woman in this industry might break down and cry, but as degrading as the work can be, there's only one Hot Girls Wanted confession in which a young woman's tough-as-nails facade cracks. It's when she speaks about a $300 blowjob scene in California wherein she walked into a situation she didn't know how to leave. Turns out, it was a video in which she actually had to act like she was being forced. And in this industry, if you turn on your heels and leave, it could be your last time. “I was scared,” Ava Taylor (stage name) reflects in the film.
“I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I could tell him no ... or the fact that we'd already recorded 15 minutes of it, if I could just fucking leave. It's like, then what?"
Could Taylor be cut out of future roles? This is a real possibility and the Catch-22 that so often gets abused when it comes to men running the show. But even when it is consensual, there are people behind the cameras creating scenes that lead the viewer to believe it actually isn't. Later in the doc, viewers are privy to a scene being filmed in which Ava is playing the role of virgin to a much, much older man. He's playing a "friend of the family" who's preying on the family's daughter. The male director instructs the actor to touch her as she lays in bed - he's gone upstairs to her room under the guise that he's getting a phone he forgot and to use the restroom.
Older Guy: "I've known you since you were little."
Ava: "I've never looked at you that way; I consider you like my uncle."
The director continues: "And you kiiiiind of, without getting a yes, you almost start to like, keep going with it. Then eventually, you can just tell her, like, 'Move over' and you kinda of start taking [her pants] off. It's like you never even got that full 'yes' but you're kind of getting little 'yesses' to the big 'yes.'" It continues: "Mmm hmm," is the older guy's replies throughout the director's instruction. "The little sales technique," prods the director. The next bit of direction is aimed at her: "And here's the key point," the director says emphatically. "You're never, like, fully engaged into it." She's supposed to be thinking, according to him, that 'this is kind of weird.'"
The next two scenes show Taylor naked and grimacing, admitting she's in pain. "That last part, I f*cking hated," she says, without a smile.
'She's 18, But Looks Like She's 12!'
In one scene from Hot Girls Wanted, a man off-camera enthusiastically says, "She's 18, but looks like she's 12!" According to this guy and his homies, looking 12 years old is a bonus in their corner of the adult film industry. To put it in perspective, that would mean the favored girls for risque films look like someone who was a newborn infant when Pirates of the Caribbean came out; when Borat was causing a stir in the press; when "Sexy Back" and "Crazy" were tearin' up the pop charts.
"Every day, a new girl turns 18," says Riley Reynolds, a 23-year-old Tampa, FL talent agent. "Every day, a new girl... I will never run out." Riley says that in a single year, he went from being a bullied high schooler, to a dishwasher at Outback Steakhouse, to a talent agent living in Miami Beach in a five-bedroom house with his own car as he peddles young female talent for films.
But when the camera pans around the house, it's not so glamorous: his house is more like bachelor pad that needs some handymen to come through and fix and paint the patches, maybe put up some window treatment and clean the floors. But for all his bragging, the life isn't as glamorous as it sounds. The same could be said for the entire draw of the industry aimed directly at these young ladies.