‘Hot Girls Wanted’ Creators Fire Back at Porn Industry Criticism of Netflix Series (EXCLUSIVE)

Hot Girls Wanted
Courtesy of Netflix

The creators of Netflix’s “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” are countering complaints that the documentary series features sex workers who did not consent to their inclusion.

In an interview with Variety, filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus defended their series, saying they adhered to standards of documentary filmmaking and fair use.

“The narrative has kind of become hijacked, that we exposed sex workers and that we put them in danger by telling the world that they were sex workers, when in fact we never ever did that,” Gradus said.


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Released to largely positive reviews April 21, “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” explores intersections of sex, commerce, and technology. Netflix commissioned the series after acquiring and releasing Bauer and Gradus’ feature documentary about the porn industry, “Hot Girls Wanted,” in 2015. Both projects were produced by Bauer and Gradus, as well as actor Rashida Jones.

Shortly after its premiere, several women and men featured in “Turned On” took to Twitter to denounce the series. One porn actress claimed that filmmakers had promised her that she would not be featured in the series. Two other women said that footage from their Periscope feed was used without their permission.

Bauer and Gradus dismissed the former claim as false and the latter as misleading.

Criticism against the series began mounting April 22, after two female webcam performers known online as Effy Elizabeth and Autumn Kay said on Twitter that they were shown in one episode without being notified ahead of time or providing consent.


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“It is real, we weren’t even told it was happening,” Elizabeth wrote. Kay later posted a screenshot from a Twitter direct-message conversation with the series’ official account — a message offering to put Kay in touch with producers “to explain fair use.”

The footage of Elizabeth and Kay is shown near the beginning of the series’ sixth episode, “Don’t Stop Filming,” which tells the story of a woman who allegedly broadcast the rape of her friend on Twitter-owned live-streaming service Periscope. Elizabeth and Kay are featured in a segment at the beginning of the episode that explains how Periscope works and what type of content is available to view on it. They are onscreen for nine seconds.

Bauer and Gradus argue that because Elizabeth and Kay broadcast the footage on Periscope, fair-use doctrine and the app’s terms of service protect its inclusion in a documentary. Nowhere in the episode are Elizabeth and Kay identified.

“They saw themselves, and then on Twitter, as themselves, using their own handles, tweeted out, ‘Oh my God, we’re on Netflix. Oh my God nobody told us. Oh my God, we’re sex workers and they’ve just shown us on Netflix,'” Gradus said. “So the great irony here is that they identified themselves as sex workers. And really that is a key piece of information that has been lost in this story.” She added, “We didn’t know who they were. We never would have known, the viewers never would have known, unless they themselves identified themselves.”


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Asked whether she felt that Elizabeth and Kay may be using their inclusion in the series to grow their profiles as performers, Gradus said, “I don’t think we can make a comment on their intentions. But that’s a fair question that I think the public should think about.”

After Elizabeth and Kay took to Twitter, other porn performers began to speak out against the series. One woman featured prominently in the series, performer Gia Paige, wrote on Twitter, “HEY @hotgirlswanted REMEMBER WHEN YOU PROMISED TO CUT MY PART BC YOU WERE TRYING TO MAKE ME TALK ABOUT MY FAMILY AND I WAS UNCOMFORTABLE.” She added in a follow-up tweet, “BECAUSE I DO. THANKS FOR KEEPING YOUR WORD. SNAKES.”

Other performers have complained that they would not have agreed to be filmed for the series had they known it was connected to the original “Hot Girls Wanted.”

Bauer rebutted those claims, saying that Paige, like all performers filmed for the series, signed a release form and that she never expressed to filmmakers a desire to be cut out of the final product. “Nobody was coerced,” Bauer said.

“The bottom line is that everyone in the series was completely aware that this was a ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ offshoot and that we were involved,” she added. “All of those allegations are false.”

Free Speech Coalition, a porn-industry trade association, issued an open letter to Netflix and series producers Friday.

“It is ironic — and disturbing — that a mainstream series which purports to address workplace ethics among adult film performers and focus on issues of empowerment appears to exploit them for its own gain,” the organization wrote. “If the allegations against this project are substantiated, the producers may be perpetuating unfair labor practices against adult performers on their own production.”

The original “Hot Girls Wanted” was criticized by some in the porn business who claimed that it portrayed the industry in too negative a light. Gradus said that in the “Turned On” series, “We tell a lot of positive stories and we show women who are happy sex workers, we show women who tell the viewers that they are empowered.”

Criticism of the series, she said, is likely fueled by sensitivity over how the industry is often portrayed in mainstream media — and that performers who have spoken out against the show may be doing so because they feel they have to.

“The industry is very defensive about people coming in and shining a light on the industry and doing stories about it,” she said, adding, “The allegations that have come out are probably the result of pressure they are feeling to stand in solidarity with the industry.”

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  1. Lisa Gandolfo says:

    Hussie Models, LLC a FL unlicensed talent agency is not only under investigation in FL but lost his CA license after their investigation! Also for your information….Riley Reynolds, owner of Hussie Models, LLC had done an interview in Money Shot segment with his former fiance, pornstar Gia Paige who apparently went on the record with many journalists stating she was victimized and was worried about her family being “outed” in this documentary. The truth is she now has her mother, yes her mother be her manager, another unlicensed agent and using a fake LLC to promote her pornography scenes. From what I understand this is illegal in California and of course in Florida but she has been booked in both states by Mommy and Stepdaddy is on board too. So maybe the next documentary should be titled “All in the Family, Porn Style”.

    • Porn is criminal says:

      This is interesting. I was thinking that forcing women to allow degrating practices ia a criminal act and that the “founder” of Hussie Models Riley Reynolds (aka I am nothing and I can nothing so I simple force young women working for me and make “easy” money) should go to jail for the violence he caused.

      UK banned spanking in porn, the rest of the world should follow. Are there no laws in the U.S. to stop this and other degrating practices (e.g. brutal facials, squirls) shown in porn? This can’t be tolerated and needs action now!

  2. Alec Megale says:

    If you think that Netflix – a corporation that grossed 2.8 Billion in 2016 – is going to allow a series to run that is not 100% vetted for potential liability, then you are a fool.

    Let’s see… who should we believe? An 18 year old pornographic sex worker who got into porn via Craig’s List – someone who admittedly gets paid as little $300 for “forced facial abuse [porn]” – or filmmakers who had a 6 part series aired on Netflix?

    Think about that one.

    I found the series disturbing and concerning. It’s not a surprise that some of the people who agreed to be on it had second thoughts after it aired. They will also no doubt be having second thoughts in a few years about the fact that there are thousands of videos of them having sex for money on the internet.

    • Lisa Gandolfo says:

      You are spot on with your comments!

    • AlfredoGarcia says:

      Man, the super-rich (like those BORN into a multimillionaire show-biz family) need all the help they can get, huh???
      I bet you like to spit on the indigent when you walk past, don’t ya?
      (I’m sure you WON’T think about that one.)

  3. Gregg Young says:

    Since even bad attention is still attention…….,
    These complaints against the filmmakers is what made me aware this documentary exists. They themselves are the only reason I now know they are sex workers, I bet they’ve increased their own business quite a bit with their complaint, not sure if that was their intention or not, but it worked. I’ll likely watch it now just to see what the fuss is about.

  4. lars teal says:

    sounds like two sides of the same sleazy, exploitive industry are posturing as if people care about women. free speech coalition’s letter itself says the sex industry is inherently unsafe, with stalkers and abuse endemic; an industry built on abuse can only try and mitigate the extent of the abuse, it cannot end it (nor will it try to). all identities without explicit consent should be obscurred (the periscopers should’ve been blurred in the doc), and no one should say anything “off the record”- everyone in this industry is alone.

  5. Ashley A. says:

    While I take issue with much of what Gradus is saying, I think her comments about the use of the Periscope video are especially troublesome. Let me try to break down the arguments of both the girls and the filmmakers.

    The girls:
    – While they are sex workers and have social media accounts related to their online personas, Netflix has a much greater viewership than any of their social media accounts combined. Having a video of them included in a Netflix show about pornography could expose their work to extended family members, friends and acquaintances (without their knowledge since they did not give permission for the video to be used).

    The filmmakers:
    – Since the video is from Periscope, fair use law allows the video to be used in the documentary.
    – Gradus claims she did not know the identities of the girls in the video before they mentioned it themselves on Twitter (From this article: “‘So the great irony here is that they identified themselves as sex workers. And really that is a key piece of information that has been lost in this story.’ She added, ‘We didn’t know who they were. We never would have known, the viewers never would have known, unless they themselves identified themselves.'”).

    So, I watched the beginning of the episode where the girls’ video was used so I could understand the context under which the filmmakers used it. Leading up to the use, there are depictions of other Periscope videos, and mentions of how widely used it is by teens. Then a man speaking to a reporter asks, “So what’s the real purpose? Who’s going to use this on a daily basis?” At this point, the girls’ video is shown with one of them wiggling their butt towards the screen wearing what looks like a bathing suit. This editing suggests that as an answer to the man’s questions, apps like Periscope are used by sex workers or to provide some type of sexual gratification for users (remember that this is a documentary predominately about the sex industry).

    Now, perhaps the filmmakers could argue that even with their choice editing they were not suggesting that those girls are sex workers (because, remember, they didn’t know they were according to Gradus). So instead, let’s say they portrayed two girls as sexual exhibitionists in a Netflix documentary about pornography. What if these girls were underage? Would it be appropriate to show two 15 year olds in this kind of a documentary? Would it be appropriate to show an underage girl shaking her butt in a documentary like this? Gradus, if you had a daughter who made a similar video on social media, how would you feel about her image being used in a suggestive way without permission on such a widely viewed platform? Remember, people could still identity your daughter’s face even if her name is never used. Would you think it’s appropriate since it’s allowed under fair use?

    This is the problem with your argument Gradus. Either you knew those girls were sex workers, felt it was unnecessary to ask if their video could be used, and lied about all of it in this interview with Variety. Or, you really had no idea who the girls were or their ages, and used their video suggestively in a documentary show about pornography.

    Which was it?

    • The reason those images are suggestive is the girls actions. The wider context the piece was illustrating is how the juggernaut of on line porn is effecting girl’s view of their worth and therefore their behaviour.

  6. Tony Cu says:

    “fire back” lol yea no thats not what this was its nothing more then them adding to the BS and taking advantage of sex workers.

    That Periscope explanation, well its not even an explanation. ” We didnt out them we just used their video never said they were sex workers in a show thats about sex workers…..” They were getting tweeted out about how they were being seen in it so they didnt even “out” themselves.

    • Tony Cu says:

      The “best” part about this is these filmmakers are exploiting people who didn’t want to be exploited in a documentary about how they are being exploited. So good job doing the thing you dont even really try to pretend to help with. Guess you stand in solidarity with your industry about shaming sex workers. All that pressure you must get to shame them Jill, Ronna, Rashida must weight on you and how just have to use these women in a industry that you only care to make money off of while not caring about who you might hurt.

  7. Make Critics Great Again says:

    Sounds like the filmmakers took advantage of vulnerable young women for profit.

    • Lisa Gandolfo says:

      You are so wrong! Riley Reynolds is the one taking advantage of vulnerable young women. His exfiance, Gia Paige is an out and out liar too. She signed the release having Riley oversee her contracts too so put blame on the unlicensed talent agent shooting in Florida for over 4 years illegally.

    • As opposed to their customers using vulnerable young women for sexual profit … the programme segment was talking in general about how much sexualisation of young women has become the norm since internet porn and these random images were used to illustrate that point. The women then identified themselves both as sex workers and as outraged that their previously broadcast material was used. Once its on the internet, its not private, even they must realise that.

      • Jim Gally says:

        Agree. How would we know or get an understanding of what periscope is being used for (or any porn media) without showing something that illustrates the culture behind the gloss and editting. Thats the point of documentaries.

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