Pornhub’s Pandemic: normalised rape culture

This article contains description of sexual assault and rape.

Pornhub. The centre of the world’s pornography source, receiving more visits per month than Netflix, Amazon, or Yahoo. Created in 2007, Pornhub allowed anyone to upload content onto the site, until the summer of 2020 when their own pandemic started.

After an investigation found content of child abuse, sex trafficking and rape on the site; MindGeek, the owners of Pornhub have taken drastic measures to ensure any illegal or un-consensual content is not on the site. Even after the quick action they took into removing illegal content and changing the verification process, Pornhub argued that they were ‘unfairly targeted’. 

Moderators have described the job as “soul Destroying”, having to assess hours of footage to decide whether the people in the video are of legal age, consenting and whether the acts in the video (this can range from acts of torture to the use of spy cams) are real or roleplay. And with a fine line between fake and reality a lot has ‘slipped through the net’, including videos of young girls being raped by their traffickers. Even with evidence of these videos being published on the site, MindGeek claim the scrutiny against them is ‘anti-porn’ and ‘anti-sex worker’. 

At the start of the pandemic, Pornhub said they would donate 50,000 surgical masks to hospitals in New York and make its premium content free for all users during Covid. The premium content, however, includes videos of rape and sexual exploitation of minors. This has collectively been called a ‘publicity stunt’ by other publications. 

Rape culture is so normalised in today’s society. This is where the sexual violence against women is excused in the media and popular culture. This is demonstrated through the objectification of women’s bodies, misogynistic language and how sexual violence is glamorised, especially in porn. This stunt by Pornhub contributes to rape culture by exploiting women for charity.  

Part of the new measures Pornhub put in place was removing the ability for unverified accounts to upload videos. There is now a verification process that you need to go through to become a content partner and host videos. They have also taken away download features from unverified users, this seems all well and good, however, they have had issues with verified accounts too. 

The men behind the verified account on Pornhub, known as ‘Girls do Porn’, were charged of 22 accounts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion by 22 different women. Also, they have had issues where removed videos have reappeared due to users having the option to download. New York Times’ Journalist Nicholas Kristoff interviewed several women who said they struggled to remove child porn and non-consensual videos of themselves from Pornhub and with no guarantee they will stay off the site once removed.

A 15-year-old girl from Florida went missing in late December 2018 and was untraceable for nearly a year. She wasn’t found until her mother discovered her in explicit videos on various porn sites. After further investigation they found her in around 58 videos on websites like; snapchat, Pornhub, periscope and modelhub. 

Pornhub went on a video purge and removed around 10.9 million videos from their site, leaving them with just 2.9 million videos. These videos were removed if the account was unverified. The site also made the terms ‘underage’ and ‘rape’ unsearchable, but not impossible to find this content. With teen being one of the top searches consistently over the years.

Traffickinghub is a campaign started by Laila Mickelwait in February 2020. The campaign was launched to get Pornhub shut down, and the petition got millions of signatures. However, unknown to many people who participated in signing the petition, the campaign is run by a conservative, religious group, with anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-sex worker views. So, their ideology for shutting down Pornhub isn’t necessarily pro-active in supporting the people who make a living working for Pornhub, and making it a safe environment for them. 

This attracted other people with these views, with protesters from anti-porn and anti-sex work groups gathering outside MindGeeks headquarters in Montreal. Many people have been misled by Traffickinghub’s petition which opposes decriminalising and legalising sex work. Some people (including sex workers and abuse survivors) spoke out against trafficking hub, saying that in their bid to ‘save’ sex workers they are harming them more in the long run. 

After sending a vague email asking about how to upload videos to around 10 various porn accounts, only four responded. Pornhub, OnlyFans, Xhamster and Xtube. Xtube asked for the email address registered with the site to help further with the question. They asked this for reasons of privacy as they can only process requests for accounts which are registered. This was a good start, showing that they care about their content creators, and not allowing just anyone access to upload onto the site. 

Xhamster said “the content in question is undergoing additional policy and procedural reviews”, then went on to say how this process may take some time and depending on the outcome the content will be adjusted accordingly. No content was sent to this email, although it couldn’t be decided whether this was a stock reply or just slight confusion, it does show that they are looking at the content coming their way and clearly putting in the time to review and check over this. 

OnlyFans gave a detailed response saying: “Please note, that your account cannot be approved, since we require additional social media to be connected”, they check that the social media accounts added to the Onlyfans profile are definitely owned by you to prevent illegal use of personal data and content. Although it isn’t mandatory to connect your social media account, Onlyfans does advise it, to make sure that you are who you say you are and that they can keep you protected. Onlyfans adult content creator ‘Wasababii’ said that the process of creating an account is secure: “you have to take a photo of you holding your ID so they can not only check you have an ID but also check that it is you in the image.” She also said the wait time to become approved was not too long: “I’m pretty sure I signed up and then went to bed and by morning it was completed.” The safety of the creators is important, even though Onlyfans isn’t necessarily just for adult content, there could still be improvements, Wasababii said: “Maybe if the site added a feature to see if people have screenshot or saved the posts it would be beneficial. But as an Onlyfans girl you should know the risks yourself and understand a lot of what you post will get spread, even though its illegal.” 

Pornhub turned out to be the only site I contacted who included that they need ID straight away, they also went into specific detail about the money you earn and how being part of Pornhub works. This seems like a step in the right direction considering what they have been through in the last year.  However, when asked for further information on this and the issues they had, there was no response.

For the victims of these crimes there are places out there willing to help and listen. The NSPCC have services across the UK which work with children under 18, through a referral system which comes through a local authority. For those over 18, Rape Crisis England and Wales is a feminist organisation who supports rape crisis centres across the UK. If you have been affected by any of the issues in this piece, please contact these helplines:

Ethical porn (or independent porn) is pornography that is made with a mutual understanding and respect for everyone on the film set. The porn is made consensually, the performers are treated with respect and everyone is paid fairly for their work. It also shows the reality of sex, with a range of body types, LGBTQ+ relationships and shows real female pleasure, without the fetishisation that mainstream porn creates it for. Independent porn also steers away from creating content purely for the male gaze, they have designed it to be more inclusive for all viewers. 

So, how do you find ethical porn? Firstly, it’s not usually free, but this is a good thing, the money goes towards ensuring everyone is getting paid properly for their work. The money also goes towards the process of creating the film in a safe space for everyone. There are so many places where you can find ethical porn, so you can get your rocks off and feel good about it! Here are just a few:


Make Love Not Porn (MLNP)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *