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.
*Content warning- this article mentions child sexual abuse which may be distressing for some readers*Read more