BE ADVISED THIS ARTICLE ADDRESSES MATURE CONTENT
Pornography is rarely discussed in the corporate mainstream; but it has become a staple of internet culture. Porn jokes on network television still feel like they have some taboo edge to them whereas on youtube videos, meme pages and forums, pornography is treated as a given. This of course comes from the age demographics of their respective’ audience’s. Whereas for the Baby Boomers and GenXers that make up the television viewership pornography was something that was hard to obtain because it had to come in some physical medium that would need to be concealed from one’s parents, the Millenials and GenZ kids of the internet grew up with a window to every porn video ever created sitting in their homes, and later, their pockets.
This disconnect between the generations means that those who control the national discourse, the Boomers and GenXers of cable news, have no conception of how common pornography is among the younger generations nor of how radically different the pornography of today is from that of their own youths. The aforementioned taboo also allows porn to slip under the radar of the older generations: they do not want to ruffle any feathers by bringing up a very sensitive and personal topic, especially one that they believe is not very common. When asked on their thoughts on pornography and its role in society most will err on the side of freedom.
The modern limp-wristed defence of pornography is that it is created by consenting adult performers and consumed by consenting adults, and that it doesn’t affect you. Every aspect of this defence is wrong, however. But it survives, because people, especially porn consumers, don’t want to look into the realities of porn production, nor do they really care about who is consuming it or how that consumption might shape society. In this article I will focus on the first aspect of that defence, that “porn is created by consenting adults”.
This is of course how things are supposed to occur: if everyone followed the rules, then it would be true that porn is created out of the free choices of adults who are of sound mind and body. But in practice, this is rarely the case. The testimonies from former pornographic actresses paint a horrifying picture of what transpires on-set in order for the producers and directors to get the shots that they need.
Donna Hughes examined some of these testimonies in her paper, Sex Trafficking of Women for the Production of Pornography. The former performers stated that they had been coerced and threatened into performing certain scenes that they did not want to do– they were told that they had already signed contracts and the studio would sue them, taking from them the small amount of money that they had. The threat of bankruptcy was often enough to scare these women into performing sexual acts against their desires, but when that failed, drugs and alcohol prevailed. Former Pornstar Michelle Avanti recalled using Vicodin, Xanax, Norcos, Prozac and Zoloft to get through her days on set. Her agent assigned her a driver because he knew she was in no condition to drive on her way to and from shoots every day. Michelle’s first instance of using alcohol or drugs to get through a scene came on her first day, and the substance was provided by the producers themselves. She alleges that approximately 75% of the women in the pornography industry need drivers because of their alcohol and drug addictions. Alexa Milano, another former porn actress, confirmed that “there was always alcohol and drugs readily available on the sets”. Michelle also recounted an instance of her agent lying to her about the nature of the scene in which she would appear. Once she arrived on set and realized that he had deceived her, he threatened her by saying she would be charged a fee and lose any other bookings she had if she refused to do the scene. Nikki Benz brought to light physical abuse that occurs on porn sets after being assaulted on a Brazzers set. She was attacked by the director and then forced to re-record her end of shoot interview (an interview to assure viewers that what they watched was a performance by consenting actors) after she had stated that she would not do that shoot again given the chance, because of the implication that it was not a consensual performance. The stories of abuse in the Western porn industry seem almost unending.
On top of the abuse that occurs on sets is the question of how do the women end up on the sets in the first place. One answer came from Paige Jennings in her YouTube video, This Is Why I Quit Porn, where, at the 19:37 mark, she relayed a conversation she had had on set with a newly 18 year-old performer. She had asked the teenager how come she could end up on a set at such a young age; the young actress then explained that at the age of 16 or 17 she had met a porn producer at a house party who convinced her to join the industry once she became of age. He told her that she could become famous and make lots of money, and so with that in mind only a few months after her 18th birthday this young girl was on a set in Florida starring in a pornographic film.
Porn producers prey on young women not only because they are what is most desired by the consumer, “teen” being a top 10 search term on Pornhub in 2017 and 2018, but also because the naive young women are more susceptible to the manipulation needed to get a constant stream of new performers required to meet the market demands. Nothing exemplifies this market demand more than the former porn production company GirlsDoPorn. Between 2011 and 2020 they filmed over 100 videos with almost no returning actresses. Each video showcased a new young girl from somewhere in the continental United States who had flown out to Southern California ostensibly to participate in a one off porn shoot for their website. The women chosen for these videos were found on Craigslist ads and originally lured in with the offer of clothes-on modelling; that bait would later be switched for nude modelling, and then switched again for a 30 minute pornographic video they were assured would never be shown outside of Australia and would never be published online. This of course was a lie, as GirlsDoPorn is among one of the most recognizable porn production companies in the world with their videos being mirrored on several large sites.
A class action lawsuit against the company brought to light the stories of 22 victims of GirlsDoPorn who were all told the same lies and who all eventually had their videos spread around in social circles in their real lives. GirlsDoPorn also used other coercive and manipulative techniques, most notably hiring women to pose as former actresses for the company to convince would-be performers that their anonymity would be maintained. Some of the testimonies cited the conversations with the “former actresses” as the thing that convinced them it would be okay to do it. On top of all of this, despite the website and others affiliated with it generating over $17M in revenue over its decade and a half in operation, the company would often not even pay performers the promised amount. At least 100 more women came forward claiming they had similar experiences with the company, and of that 100, 2 dozen claimed they had been sexually assaulted before or after the shoot by the company’s male talent Andre Garcia. Some of the women were as young as 17 which has lead to the company owners being charged with producing child pornography.
The loss of the 2019 class action lawsuit led to the removal of GirlsDoPorn.com from the internet, but that doesn’t mean the videos disappear. Pornhub, who used to promote GirlsDoPorn excessively, removed their channel but has done a lacklustre job of removing the offending videos from their site. Pornhub is still making money off of GirlsDoPorn videos mirrored on their site, so they are making money off of videos they know were created via coercion and fraud. Pornhub is no stranger to monetizing illegal content: in 2019 a kidnapped 15 year-old was found by authorities after photos and videos of her being sexually exploited were uploaded to Pornhub. This 15 year-old girl had been a Verified User, implying that the administrators were aware of the presence of these videos and didn’t see anything wrong with them.
Another horrifying example of Pornhub hosting rape videos on their site is the account of Rose Kalemba. Rose was 14 when she was raped by two men and filmed by a third. Coping with the experience proved difficult, but it got even harder a few months later when the kids in her school started sharing links with each other. The links went to several videos of her assault, some of which took place when she was unconscious, hosted on Pornhub with graphic titles that explained exactly what had happened to her. Rose reached out to the site several times via email asking them to take down the videos of her assault, letting them know that she was a minor (making the videos child pornography): she received no response. A year later, she sent Pornhub a video posing as a lawyer and threatened legal action. The site then removed the videos within two days.
Rose wrote about her experience with the site in a blog post. She was inspired to write openly about this after a decade of silence upon seeing praise for Pornhub’s “progressive” philanthropy online. Dozens of men and women responded to her post alleging the exact same treatment from the site. The site has over 100 confirmed cases of child rape or abuse in the last three years, as well as easily available videos of “creep shots” of underage girls in school or men masterbating in front of teenage women in public. The investigation into this led to Pornhub’s loss of PayPal as a payment processor last fall.
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg as to what can be found on mainstream porn sites. Pornhub gets most of the focus because of its fame, but these types of videos can be found across several different websites, many of which share the same owners. One of these owners is a company called MindGeek. Mindgeek owns Pornhub, RedTube and YouPorn, it partners with several production companies, and it is one of the top 5 bandwidth consumers in the world. Mindgeek is headquartered in Montreal, which provides Canadians a unique opportunity to fight back against the industry as a whole.
These sites do not care about the type of content they put out or how it is made; the depravity and destructiveness of their videos is limited only by how much they’re able to get away with without incurring punishment from the law. Pornhub has continued to thrive despite the discovery of their disgusting practices because nobody pays attention but, with 93% of boys (and 62% of girls) being exposed to it before the age of 18 we as a society must ask ourselves what it is exactly that they are watching. This billion dollar industry makes its money through abuse and exploitation of its performers, and its millions of underage consumers. As a society we must seriously consider what the effect of such an evil industry could be having on those who partake in it.