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Center for Sexual Health Promotion faculty members serve as co-producers for Sundance documentary

Debby Herbenick, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington and Bryant Paul, associate professor in the Department of Telecommunications at IU’s Media School, are receiving co-producer credits in a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24.

That’s not even the best part. The documentary subject? Amateur porn.

The title of the film is “Hot Girls Wanted,” aptly named for the Craiglist ads consistently posted by the amateur porn industry’s talent scouts. Young women who are about 18 to 19 years old often respond to such ads with pictures of themselves, and within a few weeks, they can be completely immersed in the industry with all of the ups and downs that come along with it.

However, that’s not how the film directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus started the project or even the reason they reached out to IU researchers in the first place.

“They first contacted me a couple of years ago through my work at the Kinsey Institute to talk about ideas related to college students and sexuality,” Herbenick said. “As time went on, their ideas evolved and they became more focused on this aspect of the adult industry. At that point, I suggested they connect with Bryant Paul, given his research about sexually explicit media.”

“They explained to me what they were doing, and we just hit it off,” Paul said. “They had questions about the industry, traffic to particular sites and effects of the content. I just ended up becoming a big researcher for them.”

Though Herbenick and Paul don’t appear on-screen, their research was an integral part of the film’s content, which gained each of them the title of “co-producer.” Another notable producer of the film is Rashida Jones, “Parks and Recreation” actress and daughter of musician and honorary IU Doctorate of Music recipient Quincy Jones.

Although having a star co-producer adds intrigue to the project, the real value of Herbenick and Paul’s involvement was having an active platform from which to communicate sexuality-related matters that are timely and relevant to society.

“I love to take academic knowledge and apply it in the real world to inform non-academics,” Paul said. “I’m so interested in taking information and making it approachable and accessible, and this is a cool opportunity to do that.”

Herbenick, who for years has shared her research findings through writing books, columns and articles for magazines and newspapers, agrees.

“I don’t think Bryant and I expected to be in this situation, but it has been a fun and interesting process,” Herbenick said. “It’s nice to see how research can be built into artistic projects and creative endeavors, and I have so much respect for how Jill and Ronna can connect with real people and tell their story.”

The film will be featured at the Sundance Film festival from Jan. 24 to 31. It will be available on Netflix later this year.

Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

Click here to learn more about the Hot Girls Wanted documentary team.

Published: 02-09-2015