Founder of erotic wellness studio afterglow Lilly Sparks is taking the adult industry by storm with ethical standards anyone can enjoy.
By Katherine Powell, Photos by Lola Saba
Lilly Sparks has one thing in mind when it comes to porn: making content that helps people have an amazing sex life. According to Sparks, 90% of women watch porn. Everybody is watching, and no one is talking about it. “Ethical” and “porn” are two words that should become synonymous and unseparated. Sparks utilizes her extensive business experience to create the next best, inclusive wave in the adult industry. Thus the creation of her online erotic wellness studio afterglow in March 2020.
In your own words, what does ethical porn mean?
Porn is the number one sexual resource for people, and this is the problem. It causes dissatisfaction, and we want to combat bad sex and help people use porn for their sex lives. About two years ago, we tried to make films that were more relatable than mainstream porn. We want to tell stories. In our film Lip Service, we show a woman telling her partner how to pleasure her. We also included a video about guided cunnilingus to play alongside the video. We call these “pleasure journeys.”
To me, I believe it’s really important that sexual abuse material be removed, that being revenge porn or child pornography. This should never be called porn! Porn is also intended to maximize profits and maximize views; it’s run as a profit engine and doesn’t care about the people. We intend to create a better world through what we’re doing by treating the performers and people on set well.
What’s your experience being a female entrepreneur in the adult entertainment industry?
I started my career as an accountant. You really can’t make a bigger jump than accounting to the porn industry. After accounting, I started a natural foods company, and that experience grew beyond my wildest dreams. I believe everyone has the power to create change in this world, and I was lucky enough to have an experience that showed me that. I’m super passionate about helping women. I was in a relationship from high school until the age of 30, and I never received sex ed, except for how to not get pregnant or contract an STD. I never learned how to express love to my partner, and I think that’s a huge gap in the market. We learn by watching, and it’s very normal to learn through videos. Porn can be doing so much more for us as a society than it is.
I haven’t had any negative experiences with people in the adult industry. The old-school people believe that consumers won’t pay for porn, and I just don’t get that. I do believe people will pay for things that make their lives better. Women are not a niche market; so many men want to better their sex lives, too, and want educational resources. For me, the challenge as a female in the adult space is getting support from investors who are male. Women only receive 2% of all venture capital dollars in the adult industry. Mental health wasn’t an industry 10 years ago, and I believe that sextech is the next thing that people should invest in.
Why is it important to have pleasure and education in tandem on your platform?
Pleasure has been absent in the educational conversation, and we all want to experience more pleasure during sex and have more intimacy with our partners. I used to have bad sex, and I didn’t know how to get there. People aren’t Googling for sex education. My mission is to figure out how to get rid of barriers. Making it accessible and fun removes the barrier of dissatisfaction with actionable steps. How do you implement what you just saw?
On your site, a pregnant person is starring in one of your videos. Can you speak further about inclusivity in ethical porn?
We’re trying to tell stories that aren’t told in regular porn. Pregnancy sex is very common, but we don’t see it represented enough. There are so many stories out there to be told, and I wish I had time to tell them all. We just want to tell stories, provide education and help women see themselves in porn that is accurately depicted and realistic. I would also like to see an erotic film win a short film Oscar. I want to see the lines blurred between erotic film and mainstream media. We were also a nominee at the AVN Awards; the adult industry has been a very welcoming environment for ethical porn. Austin is also very culturally inclusive and grounding; we’ve gotten a lot of support here as a brand.