Rachel, one of the subjects of a new documentary, “Hot Girls Wanted,” shoots a scene for one of her movies. (Courtesy of Netflix)

Documentaries about sex work always risk falling prey to moralizing that doesn’t have much to do with the well-being of workers themselves. “Hot Girls Wanted,” a new documentary produced by Rashida Jones that arrives on Netflix today, certainly has concerns about the ways in which consumer demands affect the kind of pornography that’s getting produced and the way doing sex work affects the private lives of the women who are its subjects. The desire for movies featuring women who are actually having sex on camera for the first time, as opposed to those who are just pretending to be “the girl next door,” certainly drives the Craigslist recruitment of very young women. The directors’ exploration of a porn series called “Latina Abuse,” that Jade, one of their subjects, stars in, reveals a virulent combination of racism and misogyny. And “Hot Girls Wanted” explores how Tressa, one of the main subjects of the film, negotiates her work in pornography with her disapproving mother and her boyfriend, Kendall, whose initial support gives way to deep concern.

But the film’s real, refreshing subject, and where it produces the sharpest insights, is the casualization of the pornography industry. In a way, this model of porn production is a lot like Uber, the service that lets people sign up to provide driving services using their personal cars. Both the new porn model and Uber have some advantages for consumers over the existing service providers, but they also shift major costs and risks onto workers themselves.

Unlike legacy cab companies, Uber will tell you exactly who is coming to pick you up and gives you GPS information about how close the driver is and when he or she is expected to arrive, a dramatic improvement over calling for a cab that may never show up (or, if you’re African American, calling for or hailing a cab that then refuses to serve you). The amateur porn boom provides greater variety at more competitive prices than the old studio-based model, and because it’s less dependent on geography, makers of pornographic films can more easily avoid regulations, such as the California requirement that sex performers use barrier protection in their films.

But both business models also shift costs onto workers and away from the companies who profit from their work. As my colleague Emily Badger noted this year, “Uber drivers must deduct from their earnings the costs of gas, car insurance and vehicle maintenance.”

“Being a porn star is very expensive, and it sucked, because you’re always spending money,” Tressa says in “Hot Girls Wanted,” explaining how she had to shoulder many of the costs involved in her work, including lingerie for costumes and travel, as well as medical treatment when she had a painful cyst. “I only made $25,000 in four months and after I got out of porn I had $2,000 in my bank account.”

The filmmakers contrasted stories such as Tressa’s with that of Belle Knox, who worked in sex films because she hoped it would help finance her Duke University education, because they wanted to make the point that her story was unusual, co-director Ronna Gradus told me. Knox was able to make substantial amounts of money because she capitalized on her notoriety after a fellow student outed her, not because the work is actually remunerative.

“Riley [a porn recruiter profiled in the film] said she wouldn’t even have made enough to pay for one class,” Gradus said. “Because there is this concept, and I think especially when you’re 18 or 19, you’re not thinking about net profit, you’re not doing an analysis before you go in. You’re just seeing the promise of $800 cash, but that’s not a lot of money. The reality is they’re paying for their flights, they’re paying for their hotel when they have to travel. At the end it’s not really fulfilling what it is they think they’re going to get. That hopefully will be a big takeaway from the film. This is definitely one of the things you should consider, that you are not going to come home with a ton of cash.”

Both Uber and the new business model for the porn industry are possible because of new technology. With Uber, it’s smartphones; with porn, it’s cheap, small cameras and services such as Craigslist that make it easy to recruit new candidates. Those technologies sometimes create real benefits: Jade, who was doing abuse porn during the period when “Hot Girls Wanted” was filming, has switched to camming — doing live chats with customers — which lets her control the environment in which she works and means she can keep all the money she makes.

“I think she really does enjoy camming,” Gradus said. “She has fans and regulars and a lot of time people just want to talk to her and they don’t even ask her to do anything sexual, because she really just gets to be herself. I think one of the things that was hardest for her [in making more conventional pornographic movies] was not even the sex work, but people saying, ‘Stop being so funny,’ and ‘Stop having so much personality,’ and ‘Tone it down.'”

But breaking out of an old model can mean escaping regulations that protect workers. Uber drivers are fighting to be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors, to get access to the benefits and protections that would be due them if they actually worked for the company. Working in Miami rather than in California means that the subjects portrayed in “Hot Girls Wanted” aren’t subject to the laws that require condoms to be used in scenes. Some of the movie’s queasiest moments involve the women debating whether to take on certain sex acts for extra pay and calculating their takeaway if they have to buy Plan B as a result.

And “Hot Girls Wanted” makes the point that porn seems attractive in part because other options seem worse. “Do I want to be in my parents’ shoes when I’m their age?” muses Rachel in the movie. “No. I don’t want to go to college, meet someone when I’m in college, marry them, stay in my home town, have a bunch of kids and then die there.”

Gradus drew the contrast even more starkly. “Most of them would have been first-generation college. So it was not really something that they had sort of been preparing to do all their lives,” she said. “When we asked them about college, they would say I don’t know, it puts you in so much debt and you don’t get a better job anyway …T he recruiter says I’m going to send you a plane ticket. And that’s why they do it. None of the girls we met went into it because they were dying to be porn stars. Having sex on camera and having to play the part of a porn star was an aside, and it was what they had to do to achieve what they were really after, which was freedom and money and adventure.”

But this new porn business model isn’t exactly a reliable source of those things, either. Riley, the recruiter, estimates that most women will drop out of the industry within a few months or a year at most. The real shame of “Hot Girls Wanted” isn’t porn itself, but a lack of other, more sustainable opportunities.