One day, Colorado native Laura Ramadei was watching porn and trying to get off, when she found herself distracted from the task at hand.
“Have you ever been trying to masturbate and then suddenly you get caught up in your head?" she asks. "Like, does she have agency? Is she consenting? Is she being well-compensated? That’s how Girls on Porn was born: from being disturbed and just trying to get off.”
Ramadei cohosts the Girls on Porn podcast with Rachel Napoleon. Each week, the two get on the mic to discuss good porn, bad porn, and what can make porn more “ethical.” From MILF videos and rough sex to watersports, no topic is too much for them to discuss. And they have a good time in the process.
But Girls on Porn isn’t just about the two friends and former roommates watching porn together. Ramadei, a performer and producer, and Napoleon, an actress, want their listeners to watch more ethical porn — and that sometimes means paying for it. Through their show, the two are working to champion sex workers' rights (while occasionally poking fun of porn stars).
“The mission of this podcast is finding ethical porn, because it’s such an important thing,” Ramadei says. “We want to chip away at these mammoth porn companies and think about advocating for performers and how they are being advocated for.”
Prior to launching Girls on Porn in March 2019, Ramadei met Napoleon through mutual friends in New York and the two discussed sex-positivity; Ramadei says she's been sex-positive since before there were even words for it.
“We sort of had a synchronicity, both being femme-presenting straight women but with a greater vocabulary and interest in sex work at large that made us closer as friends,” Ramadei remembers. “I was raised very progressive, visited the red-light district with my mom in high school, went to Denver School of the Arts, read Dan Savage in the Village Voice, and also took a very advanced sex-ed class in middle school, thanks to Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, that planted the seeds for acceptance and activism of all kinds.”
The two are not sex experts, Ramadei stresses, but rather “sex enthusiasts,” at best. “We wanted to be funny, but we had a different intent behind it, where we wanted to review one bad porn that’s unethical and then review one porn that can point people toward a more ethical platform, and hopefully that encourages people to pay for their porn," she says.
Napoleon adds that she didn’t know much about ethical porn until she sat down and considered purchasing a subscription.
“Because of the Internet and tube sites, I always just thought porn was free,” she recalls. “And then when I found things I liked and realized I had to pay for it, I was like, yeah, well, that makes sense. I mean, I’m an actress, and I think performers should be paid. I want to support the art I like and support the performers I like, too. Sex work is work, and no one likes to work for free.”
Since launching Girls on Porn, Ramadei and Napoleon have directed thousands of listeners to more ethical resources (including websites like Bellesa and Erika Lust), helping them recognize what consensual porn looks like, and, in turn, normalizing sex work, too.
“We are all for decriminalization of sex work,” Ramadei says. “With the way our legal system operates now, it makes it unsafe for sex workers to go to the police if they’re abused or attacked, and the very nature of their work puts them at risk, because they’re often vulnerable, marginalized, and facing an abuse of power. Not over-decriminalizing sex work would go a long way toward creating a safe space.”
Napoleon agrees, explaining that there is a difference between legalization and decriminalization, and decriminalization helps keeps sex workers in any industry safe. “I think the government shouldn’t be able to tell anyone what they can or can’t do with their body, whether they’re charging money for sex or not.”
While Girls on Porn is becoming a leader in the movement for destigmatizing all types of sex work, it’s also normalizing the conversation around porn from an educational standpoint.
“A lot of people who don’t pay for porn think it’s all terrible dialogue and bad lighting, which, sure, it absolutely is,” Napoleon says. “But there’s also some great content out there in the indie and feminist porn world, and no one knows where to find it. So I hope we can [do] that with our podcast.”
The podcast's website has a video archive, and its Instagram also serves as a resource, pointing fans toward porn that’s right for them.
For both Ramadei and Napoleon, opening up the conversation about porn starts at home, something they’re both still working on.
“My family doesn’t entirely know [about the podcast],” Ramadei explains. “In fact, I’ll be curious to see if this feature in Westword puts the podcast on my born-again Christian father’s radar. My mother knows about it, but I’ve advised her not to listen except to specific episodes when I tell her. The podcast is still relatively new, so I’m slowly introducing my family to it.”
Napoleon has asked her family not to listen to the podcast, but her current partner is a fan of Girls on Porn. “He finds it so informative and educational, and he thinks of new ways every day of how we can take the podcast to the next level. He just recommended an actual board game like Cards Against Humanity that’s based on sexual health questions and topics that would be considered taboo.”
The range of topics makes Girls on Porn endlessly fascinating, whether it’s listening to Ramadei explain her favorite porn search term, “rough sex,” or hearing porn stars like Michael Vegas explain gaping, the act of inserting and removing an object from an anus so that it remains open.
“We have a lot of fun doing this,” Ramadei says of Girls on Porn. “It’s fun to sit across from major male performers in the ethical space who are known to be advocates for all sex workers, but it’s also fun to sit across from someone who isn't comfortable to talk about porn and speak openly about the porn they’re watching and have them get uncomfortable with us.”
She and Napoleon have big plans for the coming year. Girls on Porn will remain free and available through all major platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox and iHeartRadio.
“We did not go into this as experts, and we’re pretty open about the fact that we’re still learning,” she explains. “We’re connoisseurs, and we’re always exploring new kinks and fetishes that open our minds to things. We want to continue to do that with the podcast and encourage others to find their kinks, but we’re also going to take Girls on Porn to another level, as well. We’re going to continue trying to cover everything, and genuinely appreciate and take to heart the ideas and input we get from listeners, with a fairly quick turn-around rate.”
Girls on Porn will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a live show on March 5, in New York. Ramadei's even looking to bring the podcast to television: “I’m in the process of developing a pilot with the help of Imagine Impact about a cam girl and a cannabis edibles entrepreneur, set in Denver.”
In the meantime, their goal is global. “If everyone just agreed that talking about porn is chic," she says, "that’d be great.”
Catch Girls on Porn's live anniversary show at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at The Gutter, 200 North 14th Street in Brooklyn. Get tickets, $10, at the Girls on Porn website, where you can also listen to it.