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Advances in Contract Law: Protecting Hollywood’s Naughty Little Sisters

April 14, 2023 by lowens   

By Stefanie Grimando

Stefanie Grimando, CDC Fellow Fall 2022

If you’re involved in directing or shooting media, you’ll likely encounter nudity in some fashion. Most photographers or filmmakers will eventually have to implement a nudity rider to accompany consent agreements.

Models and actors have to consent to what they’ll do during their performance, and great detail goes into how much—if any—nudity they will allow to be filmed or photographed. A consent agreement is a legal contract governing a relationship where one party gives informed consent to participate in an activity. In terms of Hollywood sex scenes, how do directors and actors come to an agreement? Nudity rider incoming! This contract addition could be as simple as not allowing nudity whatsoever or may allow shots of particular body parts or a body double. The nudity rider spells out just how much skin an actor will show, before filming or even auditioning occurs. Success is telling—major celebrities have more freedom to decline work that they don’t agree to do, whereas relatively unknown actors may not have the same liberties if they want to secure as much work as they can. Where Hollywood starlets are protected by SAG-AFTRA, which states “the appearance of a performer in a nude or sex scene or the doubling of a performer in such a scene shall be conditioned upon his or her prior written consent,” adult film stars are often left unprotected by some higher power. If Anne Hathaway can decline to film a racy birth scene, can Sasha Grey decline anal sex if it’s not specifically outlined in her contract? Why should Ms. Grey feel obligated to hire an attorney or agent when a union could specialize in her line of work? 

The Screen Actors Guild represents upwards of 160,000 actors, journalists, dancers, singers, and other media professionals. With SAG formed in the 1930s and pornography having been officially invented in the early 1800s, why is it that when I search “porn” on SAG-AFTRA’s FAQ page, it yields no results? Are adult film actors not worthy of union protection such as those of the likes of Bill Cosby or George Takei? Maybe Hollywood doesn’t want to admit that actors performing on the other side of Mulholland Drive deserve the same protections as its A-List celebrities. So the adult film industry needs to take matters into its own hands. Historically, Hollywood has neglected to associate its movie stars with its adult film actors. Advocates for adult film actors’ rights argue that SAG should create a branch specifically catered to adult film actors. The mainstream entertainment industry ought to recognize adult media stars as performers worthy of legitimate protections, of empowerment. Where Sharon Stone’s Hollywood success could be attributed to her Basic Instinct nudity, perhaps adult film actors should be given more credit. Where all entertainers strive to earn a living, perhaps it is time SAG caters to adult film actors, offering them union protection. Destigmatize sexual expression. Protect the rights and freedoms of adult industry performers. Next stop: the decriminalization of sex work, stereotypes be damned.


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