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Pornhub is severely criticized for supporting #BlackLivesMatter

The protests in the U.S. sparked by the murder of George Floyd are firmly putting anti-racism back on the agenda. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has definitely turned global, and activists are vigilant of brands and organizations on social media to know who is or isn’t on their side. This has led to several companies tweeting in support of the movement, but it hasn’t been beneficial to everyone. Instead of winning woke points, many companies are actually being confronted with the hypocrisy of their stance, because they profit from the labor or exploitation of black people.

Some brands that have been criticized include Amazon, Disney, Nextdoor, Pretty Little Thing, Resolve, Twitter, Netflix, TikTok, L’Óreal and Grindr. But none has come close to facing the criticism aimed at Pornhub, the largest porn website in the world.

On May 31, Pornhub tweeted “Pornhub stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice. If you are able, we encourage you to give to organizations like @bailproject

@BlackVisionsMN @MNFreedomFund @splcenter @NAACP”. Almost immediately, activists fought back exposing the contradictions of Pornhub’s position.

Eroticizing violence against black women and men

Pornhub has cultivated a woke and sex-positive online persona, investing in environmental campaigns with a twist and presenting itself as a progressive brand. However, the pornography clips it hosts are not nearly as forward-thinking.

Right after George Floyd’s death, there were already videos on Pornhub turning it into porn. Pornhub also hosts a wide array of videos sexualizing the humiliation of black women, filled with racial stereotypes.

One prominent black feminist influencer, Sister Outrider, tweeted in response to Pornhub’s stance: “PornHub doesn’t stand against racism and social injustice. Their website hosts  footage of Black women & girls being raped. Countless videos of abuse tagged as “Black slave girl, white master”, “racist humiliation”, and “racial abuse.” Stop eroticising anti-Black, sexist violence.”

Campaigners against pornography were also more than glad to present several porn clip titles currently being hosted by Pornhub, including:

“- “Black Slave Punished by White Master”

– “White Cops F— Black Chick, Force Boyfriend to Watch”

– “Gang Banged by Blacks”

– “Skanky N—r gives a Blowjob”

– “Black Slave Girl Brutalized””

These campaigners also shared clips which were re-enacting black people’s interactions with the police and police violence as a sexual fetish. Not only were black women being dehumanized, the experience of being a target for police violence was itself branded as a “kink”. Laila Mickelwait, a campaigner for the organization Exodus Cry, tweeted: “Pornhub monetized with ads & actively PROMOTED a partner channel video titled “BLACK PATROL- White Cops Track down and F*ck a Black Deadbeat Dad” Pornhub profits from extreme eroticized racism & police brutality against minorities. Shut it down. #Traffickinghub #Hatehub”.

Even when most businesses were being closely monitored by activists, the porn industry always seemed like the last business standing where racism could be casually brushed aside. It didn’t matter how much it dehumanized black women and men or how it profited from the exploitation of black people – criticizing the porn industry was akin to being against sex, being “prudish” and judgmental of other people’s sexual fetishes.

But this time, activists have had enough and they are not letting the porn industry off the hook, especially a giant such as Pornhub that commands more online traffic than Twitter, Instagram or Reddit. Pornhub was also a privileged target because, unlike other porn websites, it stubbornly wanted to be considered a “progressive ally”, thus exposing itself for all sorts of criticism and charges of hypocrisy.

Although Pornhub seems to be mostly criticized for hosting videos eroticizing violence against black people, it is also the target of an ongoing campaign against sex trafficking. According to the #TraffickingHub campaign, Pornhub is not only guilty of hosting racist videos, it is guilty of hosting real videos of rapes and sexual assaults featuring trafficking victims.

#TraffickingHub

The TraffickingHub campaign is supported by over 240 organizations from all over the world, survivors and experts on sexual exploitation. By June 8, 2020, the petition launched by the campaign had already been signed by over 996,000 people.

The petition reads:

“Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and 6 million videos uploaded per year. Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from. (…)

Pornhub has no reliable system in place to verify that those in the videos it hosts are not trafficked children being raped on film in order to line the pockets of its executives.

What all of this means is that at this very moment, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of videos of underage sex trafficking victims on Pornhub. We already have evidence, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s time to shut down super-predator site Pornhub and hold the executives behind it accountable.”

According to campaigners, and also to dozens of news reports and investigations, Pornhub’s verification mechanism is highly ineffective. It’s extremely easy to upload videos unto the platform featuring teenagers or even children, and there is no way to verify whether the videos involved trafficking for sexual exploitation or not.

Although #TraffickingHub and #BlackLivesMatter may seem as completely different movements, they are brought together by the fact that most victims of domestic trafficking for sexual exploitation are women of color, especially black women and girls.

Holding Pornhub accountable

The latest accusations of racism and trafficking against Pornhub are not the first time the website has come under scrutiny. Porn performers had already criticized it for stealing their videos, and feminist groups have long denounced the violence inherent to pornography, and how websites like Pornhub have manage to make hardcore porn go mainstream.

At a time when most young people’s sex education is done online, through Pornhub and other websites, campaigners and activists are holding executives accountable for the violent content they promote, and how it shapes the attitudes, beliefs and sexuality of the general population.  

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