The high cost of Pornhub's 'free' offer
Apparently there’s no end to the lengths the porn industry will go to to legitimise its exploitative practises. Now with the world in the grips of a pandemic, Pornhub is showing that not even a global health crisis or its victims are off limits.
This week, in the name of slowing down the spread of COVID-19, Pornhub boasted about donating 50,000 surgical masks to the city of New York and expanding its 'free premium' offer for ad-free content worldwide. The offer prompted UK MPs to call for urgent action to get control of online porn.
This type of publicity stunt - one that attempts to mesh objectification and commodification of women's bodies with 'charity' - is not new. Earlier this year several porn stars came out in the name of supporting Australian bushfire victims. For example, an LA-based Only Fans (subscription-based content service) star claimed to raise one million dollars for victims of the fires. The claim is dubious, given the woman’s method of ‘donation’ was to retrospectively give other donors a digital nude image in exchange for proof of their donations. How do we know those donations would not have been made regardless of her offer? Her claim of ‘raising’ funds is unsubstantiated and in the end, her efforts appeared to be nothing more than a plug for the porn industry.
During the same crisis, a Cairns hotel promoted a bikini car wash in the name of bushfire charity. Men were able to pay for ‘sexy girls to wash their car’ - all for a ‘good cause’.
Are fundraising and donation activities that exploit women really charitable?
The interconnected sex and porn industries are rooted in malevolence: women (and children) are the means to men’s sexual gratification and profit, not ends in and of themselves. Trading off of the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies, agents of the industries - like Pornhub - legitimise misogyny and exploitation.
Acts of 'charity' are normally seen as benevolent. But when these are borne out of industries that exploit women, they should be rejected and condemned. What are Pornhub's COVID-19 'donations' other than profits derived from women's bodies, at the cost of women's humanity and worth, transferred to another party?
History shows that women and girls are more vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse during natural disasters and emergencies. In the present COVID-19 pandemic, the UN has pointed to previous health crises to highlight the 'exacerbated sexual exploitation risks for women and children', while the Executive Director of UNICEF warned that right now, the risks of exploitation and abuse for children are 'higher than ever'. These facts must inform our interpretation of so-called-charitable acts carried out by exploitative agents like Pornhub which prey upon and profit from women's and children's vulnerabilities.
Attempts to connect acts of ‘generosity’ and ‘sacrifice’ - the essence of philanthropy - with the porn industry result in aberrations. Philanthropy is about promoting the welfare of others. The porn and sex industries are underpinned by the idea that women are objects to be bought and sold, used and abused. When porn industry proponents - individuals and corporates that profit from the use and abuse of women - promote themselves as charitable, we must call them out - each and every time.
(Last year we called out sex shop Honey Birdette for its use of exploitative marketing tactics - pinkwashing - in the name of breast cancer awareness and charity.)
Pornhub hosts countless videos showing the real-life rape and torture of women and girls for men's entertainment. There is a cost to this, as Andrea Dworkin explained:
When your rape is entertainment, your worthlessness is absolute. You have reached the nadir of social worthlessness. The civil impact of pornography on women is staggering. It keeps us socially silent, it keeps us socially compliant, it keeps us afraid in neighborhoods; and it creates a vast hopelessness for women, a vast despair. One lives inside a nightmare of sexual abuse that is both actual and potential, and you have the great joy of knowing that your nightmare is someone else’s freedom and someone else’s fun.
In the midst of a global health crisis in which women and children are at increased risk of exploitation Pornhub is fuelling and feeding the worldwide demand for exploitation material. It has even twisted COVID-19 public health advice to 'stay home and help flatten the curve' for its own purposes. Meanwhile, Pornhub is steepening the curve of abuse and crimes against women and children.
There is nothing 'free' about Pornhub's 'Premium' offer. Women and girls will pay the very high cost of it - with their safety and well-being; with their very lives.
Giving is good. But exploitation of women and girls is an indefensible trade-off for supporting other people in crisis. Philanthropy - truly charitable giving - cannot be pornified. And porn - inextricably linked to women's harm - is never charitable.
Help #ShutDownPornhub and hold its executives accountable for aiding trafficking: Sign and share the petition here.
Sex shop brand's female face a front for male profiteers
Sex shop retailer Honey Birdette spouts a great deal about female 'empowerment'. Despite the talk, after 8 years, 42 breaches of the advertising Code of Ethics and numerous, exploitative PR stunts, the company is renowned for harming women - in its own ranks and in the communities it operates in.
Honey Birdette's recent 'rainbow orgy' ad campaign was slammed as a PR stunt
According to testimonies recorded at glassdoor.com - an online employer review website - Honey Birdette has been complicit in a range of harmful, unethical and even illegal activities including training staff to tolerate sexual harassment, forcing staff to purchase products for personal use and asking interviewees about their sex lives.
We know from Honey Birdette’s years-long defiance of community standards and advertising Code of Ethics that it cares nothing for women who want to visit shopping centres and conduct their business free from forced exposure to porn-style imagery.
In the present #MeToo era in which women around the globe are giving voice to the pain of sexual harassment, to the uprising against and victory over rich and powerful perpetrators, and at a time when communities are increasingly holding corporates accountable for the impact of their actions (and inactions), why does Honey Birdette continue to flout human rights principles, sexual harassment laws, community standards and Corporate Social Responsibility? It’s senseless behaviour. And it’s risky business. As the UN Global Compact puts it:
Not respecting human rights poses a number of risks and costs for business including putting the company’s social license to operate at risk, reputational damage, consumer boycotts, exposure to legal liability and adverse government action, adverse action by investors and business partners, reduced productivity and morale of employees.
Of course, Honey Birdette’s owner is not - as is commonly repeated - a woman. Billionaire businessman Brett Blundy - who through his corporation Brett Blundy Retail Capital (BBRC) has stakes in a suite of brands including Lovisa and Adairs - owns 62% of Honey Birdette shares (Australian Securities and Investment Records, June 2019). Blundy’s long-term business partner and Sanity music stores owner Ray Itaoui owns 21%. With over four-fifths of the company’s shares held by Blundy and Itaoui, the 'Honey Birdette's owner is a woman' trope is a falsehood.
Ray Itaoui (L) and Brett Blundy (R) own a combined four-fifths of Honey Birdette sex shop brand (ASI, June 2019)
Should we be surprised that the major vested interests in a company whose corporate conduct frequently manifests as publicly-displayed, floor-to-ceiling, pornified representations of women are men? It echoes the pattern played out in other companies: from Pornhub to Pepsi the corporate world is filled with male owners and executives who are happy to get rich off the bodies of women and girls. Do Honey Birdette’s owners have anything to do with its repeated breaches of advertising Code of Ethics or its ‘crusade to pornify the public space’?
Honey Birdette ads displayed in family-friendly shopping centres in 2019
Blundy’s brands have a history of profiting from women’s exploitation, sexualising girls and pornifying the public space. In 2011 we launched a petition against Blundy-owned Diva jewelry company for marketing and selling porn empire Playboy-branded jewelry to young girls. After a few weeks and thousands of signatures, Diva pulled all Playboy signage and - apparently - products from its stores. But months later, Playboy products could still be purchased via the Diva website and were seen on shelves in some stores. Even stores that weren’t displaying the products were selling them from behind the counter. We’ve also called out BBRC brands Adairs and Bras N Things (now owned by Hanes Australasia) for promoting and profiting from the Playboy label.
Playboy-branded Diva shop windows, 2011: Blundy-owned brands have a history of pornifying the public space
(With his company Sanity recently named among a group of Australian retailers selling anime titles containing child sex abuse material it appears Itaoui has also profited from exploitation on more than one front.)
March 2020: Sanity stores selling Goblin Slayer, recently named for its depictions of child sex abuse
We know from a massive-and-ever-growing body of global literature that sexually objectifying representations of women in marketing and media are harmful, and that women and girls are paying the high price of corporate misogyny that plays out in advertising. In response to our campaigns calling out harmful, sexist advertising and marketing, some offenders offered non-apologies. Others listened, acknowledged the harm they caused, demonstrated corporate social responsibility and committed to changing their behaviour. Yet despite 8 years of calling out Honey Birdette’s harmful advertising practises, Blundy’s sex shop brand has only dished up more pornified ads for viewing at our local ‘family friendly’ shopping centres.
It’s impossible to reconcile BBRC’s stated corporate values - “respect”, “continuous improvement”, “accountability”, “trust” and “integrity” - or its slogans (like “operate with integrity, succeed with humility”) with Honey Birdette’s belligerent and harmful conduct. As we’ve pointed out before corporate social responsibility is not about words. It’s the demonstrated commitment to the well-being of the people who are impacted by one’s business activities. For BBRC, those people are women and girls around the globe who - contrary to Honey Birdette’s claims of their ‘empowerment’ - are disempowered by the sexually objectifying ads Honey Birdette displays in their communities.
Honey Birdette presents itself as a ‘by-women, for-women’ company. But it is another example of men profiting from the exploitation and objectification of women. Granted, the brand has a female face and plenty of women-worn boots (or stilettos) on the ground. This is strategic, though, routinely used by Honey Birdette to spread its Hugh-Hefnerised objectification-equals-empowerment propaganda, shield itself from critique of its exploitative advertising and public relations tactics, and throw the public off the scent of the men who are profiting.
Despite its claimed commitments to respect and integrity, Blundy’s BBRC - Honey Birdette’s principal shareholder - has failed to properly govern the company and instead has allowed it to disrespect community members and standards. Rather than fostering conduct that matches its stated values, BBRC has - through its Honey Birdette brand - repeatedly violated advertising industry Code, shown disdain for members of the public who have objected to its pornified advertisements and insisted on forcing unwilling members of the public to view its graphic - even explicit - porn-themed ads. It has brought the names of other companies it is associated with into disrepute, for example, its Male Champion-led landlords who have hosted its porn-themed ads in their 'family-friendly' shopping centres.
That is not integrity. That is hypocrisy. It keeps the Honey Birdette brand on the corporate reputation scrap heap, and Blundy's name on the list of men profiting from the exploitation of women.
Are you concerned about lining the pockets of corporates that profit from sexploitation? See the full list of BBRC brands here: https://bbrcworld.com/investments/
For years, Honey Birdette sex shops have relied on sexist and objectifying representations of women to flog their products, despite claiming to empower women.
But far from “female empowerment”, Honey Birdette portrayals of women headless, faceless, bound, chained and objectified convey the exact opposite- the sexualised subjugation of women.Read more
Earlier this week, online (gaming and entertainment) news outlet Kotaku named Collective Shout’s submission to the review of Australian Classification laws one of the review’s “most important submissions”. Collective Shout was listed among other organisations and corporates that Kotaku called “main players” in the review, including the Australian Council on Children and the Media, Google, Disney and Netflix.
Kotaku cited our recommendations, including our push for an urgent investigation ‘into the Classification Board assigning M or MA15+ ratings to anime and manga genres featuring Child Sexual Abuse Material contrary to Australian law’.
In our submission we highlighted
- the need for an evidence-based approach informed by research that demonstrates the harms of sexual objectification;
- pornography should no longer be treated by default as ‘adult content’, but as commercialised sexual exploitation;
- reliance on parents to control what their children access is unrealistic;
- child and youth development experts who can advise on the ‘possible impact of content with sexualised content or messaging’ should be included in the new regulatory process.
We warned against a self-regulated model, using the failures of the self-regulated advertising industry and its overseeing body, Ad Standards, to uphold community standards and the industry’s Code of Ethics to emphasise the need for an overseer which has powers to enforce rulings.
Read our full submission here.
JLo has responded to criticisms over her sexualised SuperBowl 2020 Halftime performance with Shakira.
"The message was really about women and Latinos raising their voices and stepping up. And not being afraid to stand up for yourselves."
"Everything I want to pass onto my not just my daughter, but to all the little girls on that stage... [is] to be proud of who you are, to speak up for yourself, to know your worth and your value," Lopez said. "That was the message. I think for women everywhere, that was the message."
But sexualising women and reducing them to their sexual appeal or body parts does not help women “speak out” or to have their voices heard. On the contrary, it trivialises women and their contributions by legitimising them as sexual entertainment. Sexualising women does not encourage women and girls to “know their worth”, it simply reinforces the notion that their worth is equated with their sexual desirability.
Decades of research has found that experimental exposure to sexualised and sexually objectifying portrayals of women "leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity".
The performance by JLo and Shakira featured guest performers Bad Bunny and J Balvin, both men, who were fully clothed.
Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, said “Cross-culturally, unequal nakedness almost always expresses power relations...To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren’t is to learn inequality in little ways all day long.”
Footage of the performance, which included JLo gliding around a pole and rubbing her crotch, has been shared in full on the world’s leading porn site, Pornhub. Both JLo and Shakira were trending on the site immediately after, alongside “Latina” and “Latina MILF”.
There’s no doubt that both Shakira and JLo are talented performers. But this performance was not simply a display of skill, it was a highly sexualised performance for an audience that included children.
In a culture where women are routinely sexualised and objectified, and where women's value is determined by their sexual appeal, women may feel validated by being sexually desirable to men. But women do not achieve meaningful power through conforming to sexist and limiting stereotypes, or through sex industry practices. The "power" that comes from being sexually desirable to men is temporary and conditional, and determined by men. Sexual objectification does not empower women, it reduces their power and makes them more vulnerable. This is why we fight against the sexualising and objectifying treatment of women and girls- we deserve better.
Ultra Tune has launched its latest "unexpected situations" TV ad to advertise its roadside assistance service. The ad, a knock-off of 1990’s action drama Baywatch, opens with Warwick Capper ogling Pamela Anderson who starred in the series from 1992-1997.
This is the latest in a long series of Ultra Tune ads routinely depicting women as vacuous, incompetent and sexually objectified for men’s entertainment.
Collective Shout was inundated with complaints about the ad and have compiled a list of reasons to boycott Ultra Tune.
Women whose cars break down- especially at night or in regional locations- don’t feel secure knowing some employee whose company oozes sexism is the one turning up to help.Read more
KFC stereotypes women - and young boys - in new TV adRead more
Michael Flood, Associate Professor at Queensland University of Technology, has recently written about the harmful impacts that porn is having on young people.
For many young people, pornography has become the default sex educator. Children and young people are encountering pornography in greater numbers, at younger ages, and with a wider variety of content, influencing young people’s sexual lives.
Research evidence from around the world shows porn has harmful impacts on young people and adults alike. Some impacts are deeply troubling, particularly pornography’s contribution to sexual violence.
Pornography can shift sexual interests, behaviours and relationships. It shapes “sexual scripts”, providing models of behaviour and guiding sexual expectations, with studies finding links between watching pornography and heterosexual anal intercourse, unsafe sex and more.
Watching pornography can lower men’s relationship satisfaction. And for women, male partners’ pornography use can reduce intimacy, feed self-objectification and body shame, or involve coercion into sexual acts.
But these next areas of impact concern me most.
Pornography teaches sexist and sexually objectifying understandings of gender and sexuality. For instance, in a randomised experimental study among young men in Denmark, exposure to (nonviolent) pornography led to less egalitarian attitudes and higher levels of hostile sexism. And in a longitudinal study among US adolescents, increased use of pornography predicted more sexist attitudes for girls two years later.
Aggression, largely by males and overwhelmingly against females, is common in pornography: an analysis of top-selling and top-renting titles found 88% of scenes showed aggression.
Men who use pornography more often are more likely to practise or desire dominant, degrading practices, such as gagging and choking. And women who use pornography are more likely to practise or desire submissive practices.
In fact, longitudinal studies among adolescents find watching pornography is linked to sexually violent behaviour later in life. In a US study, people who watched violent pornography were more than six times as likely to engage in sexually aggressive behaviour. In another, it predicted more frequent sexual harassment perpetration two years later.
In Collective Shout's submission to Senate Environment and Communications References Committee, Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet we recommended:
- The Australian Government should work with Internet Service Providers to establish a scheme for all existing and new customers to be provided with a default family friendly setting (no pornography) with opt-out only permitted by account holders who can establish that they are aged 18 years or over. Regulations to impose this requirement should be considered as a backup if after 12 months insufficient progress has been made by ISPs towards this goal.
- New programs should be designed with respectful and mutual relationships as the starting point, not just ‘sex education’. Young people want content based on their real lives and experiences – information that empowers and equips them to make healthy decisions about their sexuality.
- All children and young people should have access to comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality and relationships education that promotes respectful and mutual relationships.
- The school curriculum should, in an age-appropriate manner, specifically address the influence of media, including the influence of pornography and the sex industry more broadly. We believe it is not enough to adopt a public health perspective, but that a gender equality perspective is also crucial in understanding these problems.
- School communities – including teachers, wellbeing staff and school leaders – should have access to quality professional learning, support and resources, to support them in implementing comprehensive relationships and sexuality education. This should include specialist support to address the influence of pornography.
- Pre-service teacher training should include learning about the influence of pornography and how to address it through respectful relationships and sexuality curricula, and in other relevant learning areas.
- Parents and carers should have access to information and resources to support them to parent effectively in this relatively new context of easy and anonymous access to pornography. This should include support to understand the issues, and practical advice about how to manage technology to minimise exposure and how to support their children’s reflective and critical thinking.
- Other adults involved in children and young people’s care and education – such as youth workers, doctors, counsellors and health promotion staff – should have access to relevant professional learning and resources addressing the influence of pornography.
We also contributed a submission to Inquiry into Age Verification for Online Wagering and Online Pornography.
Recommendation 1: In light of data verifying the real-life harms of childhood exposure to pornography the Commonwealth government should recognise the potential benefits of an Age Verification system along with other measures to limit porn exposure to children, including education programs and improved ISP filters.
Recommendation 2: An age verification scheme for access to online pornography, drawing from work done to develop the original United Kingdom model and with added measures that address perceived shortcomings in that model, for example, additions that extend application to social media platforms, should be implemented by the Commonwealth Government.
Recommendation 3: Introduce an age verification system that will restrict children’s access to online pornography (and the global porn industry’s unfettered access to children), acknowledging that our obligation to protect children, and the ensuing protections afforded to children by such a system far outweigh the concerns of those with vested interests in the global porn industry.
Recommendation 4: Introduce an Age Verification system that will restrict children’s access to online pornography (and the global porn industry’s unfettered access to children) and so uphold Australia’s international obligations to protect children from abuse, exploitation and developmental harm, acknowledging that exposure to online pornography amounts to abuse, exploitation and harm.
Children need the adults around them to protect them from the harms of porn. Have you had "the talk" with the the young people in your life?
Read the full article here