I wrote previously about questionable behaviour from allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, and I think it is long past time that we discuss Pornhub. Pornhub has a habit of latching on to causes and movements, to soften their image and get good press. Previous attempts such as awareness campaigns for beach clean ups, and saving the bees, have often been perceived as wholesome campaigns, that allow their users to make a difference, simply by sitting at home, and watching monetised videos. However, there is always a nagging question in the back of some people’s minds, about whether Pornhub engages in these campaigns because they actually care, or because latching onto trends in wider media gives them positive coverage, that pushes down some of the more negative coverage they receive.
For every article or twitter thread about Pornhub being a wholesome and awesome platform, there are others, telling their stories, about being wronged by the media giant. There are countless stories from sex workers, who have pleaded with Pornhub to take a stand against piracy, as their content being uploaded for free takes money from their pockets. For a platform that claims to support sex workers, it’s a bit hard to believe that they do, when they do nothing to stop their earnings being stolen from them, but, as previously discussed, these stories are pushed down, by the many publicity stunts Pornhub wheel out, when negative coverage is starting to become a problem, and the voices of these sex workers are drowned out.
There are also countless stories from people who have had to go to great lengths to have revenge porn, and videos of their own rapes and assaults removed from Pornhub, with people having to go to great lengths, just to get videos of them being abused taken down. This includes Rose Kalemba, who discovered videos of herself, as a minor, being sexually assaulted on Pornhub. Her initial ordeal was horrific enough, but the trauma continued, after she discovered a link to a video of her assault being shared around her school.
The video of her ordeal was uploaded under the titles “Teen crying and getting slapped around”, “Passed out teen” and “Teen getting destroyed”. Rose had been fourteen at the time of the assault. As the videos made their way around the school, Rose faced bullying from other students, with the videos racking up millions of views. Since the videos were uploaded, Rose has also faced stalking, sexual harassment and sexual assault, from viewers of the videos, who now view her solely as a sex object. The video was potentially downloaded by the millions of viewers, and so Rose will never be able to have the peace of mind, of knowing that the videos are gone for good, and she had to fight, for months, just to get the original uploads taken down.
Rose emailed Pornhub on a daily basis, petitioning for them to remove the videos that had been uploaded. She explained that she was being assaulted in the videos, and that nothing in the videos was consensual. She also explained that she had been a minor in the video, but for months, Pornhub ignored her. Rose was only able to get the videos taken down when she created a new email account and posed as a lawyer, representing herself, threatening to take legal action against Pornhub. She shouldn’t have had to go to such lengths to have a video of her rape removed from a porn website, but Pornhub forced her to take those actions, by refusing to help her before.
After Rose wrote a viral blog post about her experience in 2019, a huge number of people reached out to her, saying that they had been in her position, and had struggled to have videos of their sexual abuse removed from the platform. Revenge porn is fast becoming illegal across the world, but it is hard to action those laws, when platforms like Pornhub refuse to cooperate with victims, and prioritise clicks over their safety. Pornhub claims to have a non consensual content removal system, but the stories of Rose and other people who have had to fight for months to have this kind of content removed, calls into question how effective the system actually is, and if the system is just another, in a long line of stunts, to clean up Pornhub’s image.
That brings us back to now, where Pornhub, like a lot of brands, has latched onto the Black Lives Matter movement. Support and allyship can be a good thing, as I discussed in my earlier blog on the movement, but when the support and allyship comes with an ulterior motive, or is drenched in hypocrisy, it is meaningless. In the case of Pornhub, coming out as an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement, when you openly profit from racist content, is a slap in the face. This is not a new issue for the platform. I spent a little time researching Pornhub (among other places) a few years ago, when I was writing about one of my characters, Bradley, an incel, with a large body count (but not in the sex way). As I wrote the poem Bradley’s Browser History, I spent time researching the kind of content that radicalises men and turns them into misogynists, including pick up artists, destructive forums and message boards, and of course, Pornhub. With just a few clicks through Pornhub, I had found horrifically racist content, along with misogynistic content, and content that encouraged and glorified abusive behaviour. I used some of the video titles I found in the poem, and after publishing it, I received a lot of comments and messages from people who couldn’t believe they were real, but, unfortunately, they were.
Pornhub has specific categories for ethnic minorities, which encourages racial fetishisation. Racial fetishisation has been proven to be a contributing factor to high levels of sexual harassment and assault faced by minorities, as well as dehumanisation, that leads to violence and even death. Pornhub not only turns a blind eye to this, they encourage it, by making it easy to categorise this kind of content. There are videos on Pornhub, right now, making light of slavery and police brutality, where you can watch black men and women, being mistreated and racially abused, where you can watch black men and women being dehumanised and treated as sex toys and fetishes for white people, there are videos that refer to black people as racial slurs, specifically, in the titles, along with countless videos of girls and women of colour, being raped, with the victims unable to get the videos taken down, without months of fighting. There is also equivalent content for a number of races, with racist content about Latin, Native American, and Asian people being a huge part of Pornhub too.
With all this in mind, it is hard to accept Pornhub at face value when they call themselves allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, or of any anti racist movement. Pornhub states that it stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice, but Pornhub allows the trauma of people of colour to be shared all around the world. Pornhub states that it stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice, but Pornhub allows racist content that contributes to the dehumanisation of minorities, and the violence that follows. Pornhub states that it stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice, but despite saying every video uploaded is manually reviewed, traumatic, non consensual and racist content still finds it’s way onto Pornhub.
Being an ally is not as simple as just saying that you are an ally. If you claim to be an ally to anti racists, but are profiting from racism, you are not an ally. If you claim to be an ally to anti racists, but are profiting from abuse of people of colour, you are not an ally. If you claim to be an ally to anti racists, but you are stealing from smaller content creators, including many sex workers of colour, you are not an ally.
Pornhub is not our friend. They are not our ally. They are just a brand, trying to latch onto the pain of the black community, to cover up the fact that they contributed to that pain.