*Content warning: themes and images are distressing
A woman slumps in a bathtub full of water, arms tied behind her back, her thighs and ankles bound. Another is restrained: several layers of rope snake around her shoulders and chest and criss-cross around her neck. White liquid (suggestive of semen) is splashed between her breasts and oozing from her mouth. Yet another reclines on a bed, shirt unbuttoned to expose her cleavage. A man’s hand grips her rope-bound neck. There are others. Some wear fetishised costumes, playing the role of nurse, maid, school girl or flight crew. Others are naked. They are accessorised with duct tape and blindfolds. Some look comatosed, others distressed and in pain. Still others look lifeless. They all have Asian features. One woman is bound and propped on a toilet, as though to remind her of what she’s viewed as and how little she’s valued.
There are hundreds of these images. Tagged #Asianbondage, they carry the themes of submission and sexual servitude of Asian women.
We’ve been exposing Pornhub for hosting racialised violence against women and girls and weren’t surprised to find this content on a porn website. The sex industry is notorious for stereotyping and fetishising women of Asian descent.
But this isn’t Pornhub. It’s Instagram.
Why is mainstream social media giant Instagram - a platform pitched to a 13+ audience - playing host to racialised fetish and misogyny?
Despite our call to Instagram to address its child predator problem and to improve safety measures on the platform, even underage girls are victimised. One image of a young girl with Asian features was captioned ‘thicc Asian’, while another attracted comments such as ‘Love Asian food’ and ‘Taste the sweet and sour’. Bondage and torture narratives are also attached to images of young girls. The image below shows an 11-year old girl and a friend in a staged ‘Christmas light challenge’. In the comments, predators reflected on the girls’ bound state and described sex abuse fantasies involving rope and duct tape.
Continuing the broader theme of women and girl hatred is an account (recently pointed out to us by a supporter) called girlsgettinghurt. True to its name, the page - with 648k followers - is dedicated to sharing videos of girls injuring themselves. The page appears to trade off of the popular “fails” genre of video shorts, but there’s something sinister about an account dedicated to ‘girls getting hurt’ as entertainment: it’s an open invite to the audience to participate in and celebrate the real-life pain of women and girls.
In one clip, a girl wearing a high school cheer uniform appears to be heavily intoxicated. The camera follows her as she stumbles into a glass door and collapses on the floor. The video drew a host of predatory, rape-themed comments, such as 'Perfect for that a**f***ing', and 'She’s gonna be a lot of fun for somebody'.
Several videos carry a “Sensitive Content” warning, stating “This video may contain graphic or violent content.” One of these shows a group of young people standing on a river bank. A young woman jumps from the bank while holding onto a rope swing. The camera pans as she plummets face-first into the shallow water below. Did she even survive? Is she paralysed? How is this entertaining? The tone of comments on this post and others - which include victim-blaming ('she deserved it', 'karma'), name-calling ('slut', 'trashy bitch') and misogyny ('where are all the serial killers when you need them?') - is distressing. Where is the compassion? The outrage? Is this a hate group? Does Instagram endorse these attitudes? Why is it broadcasting them?
Recently, Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper was quoted in the media after the discovery of a Facebook Melbourne-based “boys only” group which was posting so-called revenge porn and rape jokes. Facebook purportedly hosts hundreds of other similar groups. Do women and girls matter at all to the social media giant?
When Facebook-owned Instagram accommodates racist, sexualised bondage and torture images of women and girls, and offers up real-life pain and injury of women and girls as entertainment, we must ask: what sort of culture is it hoping to foster, on its own platform and in society at large? Should Instagram users get a free pass to promote misogyny, racialised violence or the fetishisation of little girls? Is there more Facebook could do to combat the degrading and exploitative treatment of women and girls on its platforms? What repurcussions will there be if they don't?
Does Instagram really want to serve as a prelude to Pornhub?
Help shut down girlsgettinghurt and #asianbondage on Instagram:
- Use Instagram's in-app reporting tool to report the girlsgettinghurt page (we reported it for hate speech).
- Use Instagram's in-app reporting tool to report the #asianbondage hashtag for exploitation. See below for instructions.
1. Tap the search icon and enter 'asianbondage' into the search bar
2. Tap the ▪▪▪ icon in the top right corner
3. Tap 'Give feedback on this hashtag'
4. Select 'Nudity or sexual activity'
5. Select 'Sexual exploitation or solicitation', then tap 'Give feedback'
Let us know if you hear back from Instagram.
For Immediate Release: Flight Attendant slams Honey Birdette ad campaign sexualising female cabin crewRead more
“It's not empowering or uplifting, but rather just reinforcing negative stereotypes and negative attitudes towards women in the airline industry.”
[UPDATE] More Cabin Crew come forwardRead more
Collective Shout's letter to KFC heads
KFC's Zinger Popcorn Box ad, which ran on high rotation during the 7 Network 2019-20 Big Bash League cricket broadcast, was a tribute to age-old sexism. The ad featured a young, female festival-goer who - after leaning forward to adjust her low-cut top in the reflection of a parked car window - realises she's given two young boys inside the car an eyeful of her cleavage.
We called KFC out for its 'regression to tired and archaic stereotypes where young women are sexually objectified for male pleasure; and males are helplessly transfixed when confronted with the opportunity to ogle a woman's body'. Our campaign - kicked off after a supporter alerted us to the ad - made international headlines while the ad itself drew the ire of marketing experts around the globe.
In response to complaints made to Ad Standards (which the Ad Standards Community Panel ultimately dismissed), KFC gave a detailed defense of the ad with reference to the AANA Code of Ethics. For example, regarding complaints about exploitative and degrading treatment of women, KFC said:
The act of the woman adjusting her outfit is a commonplace act that both males and females participate in when preparing to attend social events.
The crux of their defense is that the ad was not degrading to women because men adjust their outfits on the way to festivals too. But does commonplace or the fact that both men and women engage in 'outfit adjustment' negate the sexually objectifying features of the ad: the focus on the woman's body parts and the ogling response scripted for the boys? Complaints about the ad certainly did not speak to the gender breakdown of engagement in 'outfit adjustment'. They were directed at the ad's unfavourable portrayal of women: the crystal-clear promotion of the idea that women exist for the male (age providing no boundaries) gaze.
Regarding the ad's treatment of sex, sexuality and nudity, KFC gave the following defense:
KFC strives to create real situations which audiences can relate to; people wanting to look their best at a music festival and the feeling of embarrassment when caught unaware...the festival goer is not shown as encouraging a reaction from the young boys in the car as she is completely unaware of their presence until the end of the Advert. The only purpose of adjusting her clothing is to get ready for the festival. Her behaviour is in no way sexual, but rather depicts the feeling of embarrassment when unaware of being watched.
While KFC on one hand tells us the ad is not degrading to women because men also adjust their outfits, on the other, they admit that this 'awkward moment' is all about humiliation and embarrassment. AKA: degradation.
If this narrative was simply about portraying an 'awkward moment' - one that is equal between men and women in the commonplace act of outfit adjustment - one that chicken will solve - KFC could just as well have used a man adjusting his outfit with little girls looking on. But there are reasons KFC didn't script a man adjusting his testicles in his pants in the faces of underage girls for this 'awkward moments' ad. Ultimately the ad was about trading off of a woman's body to sell product.
Last month we wrote to the heads of KFC to voice our objections to their use of harmful, sexist tropes in their ads. In our letter we highlighted the global body of research that proves the harms of objectification in media and advertising - the devastating, real-life consequences of which are part of women's and girls' daily lived experiences. We pointed out the incompatibility of promoting harmful sexist stereotypes through their ads with their current efforts to address the customer abuse crisis that plagues the fast food industry. We challenged them to do better by centering respect for women and girls in their future ads.
To date, we've had no reply from KFC.
You can read the full letter here, and use the address details to write your own letter to KFC corporate leaders.
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.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.Read more