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Coming clean: can porn be virtuous?

The adult industry can’t distract from the fact it does far more harm than good

This week, Pornhub launched a campaign to raise awareness about plastic pollution: a porn video set on a dirty, plastic bottle-littered beach.

Titled ‘The Dirtiest Porn Ever,’ the porn giant has promised to donate a portion of the money from views to an ocean cleanup charity ⁠— incentivizing people into watching porn. As if people don’t watch enough already.

It’s not the first time that a pornography company has attempted to brand itself as virtuous. Pornhub even has an entire charity page on its website called Pornhub Cares.

Saving the bees, conserving endangered pandas, helping women pursue an education, and planting trees are just a handful of campaigns that Pornhub has run over the past few years. Many of these demand that the audience watches pornographic content in order for money to be donated. It’s like some sort of Black Mirror episode. You get to do the good thing as a reward for doing the bad.

Pornhub’s ‘charitable’ efforts have also landed the company a ‘philanthropy’ section on its Wikipedia page. A number of mainstream media articles have celebrated  the ‘charitable side’ of the adult industry.

At first glance, what’s the problem? If people are watching porn anyway why not help the world at the same time? But Pornhub’s philanthropic ventures cannot distract from the fact the site does far more harm than good.

According to internet security company Webroot, around 200,000 Americans are classified as porn addicts, and according to Covenant Eyes, the average age of exposure to porn for boys is 12 years old. Porn watching has been proven to contribute to and even cause various sexual and personal development issues.

In a Twitter poll this month, 57 percent of the 807 respondents claimed to have been exposed to porn between the ages of 10 and 13. A shocking 20 percent claimed to have been exposed to porn at age 9 or younger, with just 5 percent being exposed at 18 or over

Pornography addiction has been scientifically proven to lead to erectile dysfunction and to worsen the affected individual’s social problems too. Numerous reputable scientists and experts agree: our brains simply were not built for the endless novelty and overstimulation of high-speed internet pornography: it fries our brains as well as our sexual drives.

Porn websites such as Pornhub also fuel the demand for increasingly extreme, taboo, and violent material, which leads to abuse of performers and even trafficking. Many porn actresses turn to drug abuse and alcoholism.

Netflix made an entire documentary on the abuse and degradation of women in the porn industry, titled Hot Girls Wanted, and as reported by the Daily Beast last year, ‘In the space of less than a year, the deaths of half a dozen women in the adult entertainment industry have made headlines,’ many of which were due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Last year, an article at the New York Post claimed porn stars were dying at ‘an alarming rate,’ and there’s enough of them for Wikipedia to dedicate an entire page to ‘Pornographic film actors who committed suicide.’

Porn star August Ames, for instance, who reportedly struggled with depression, committed suicide in 2017 at the age of 23, just days after being at the center of controversy for refusing to engage in pornographic scenes with a man who had performed in gay pornography. A number of drugs were found in her system at time of death.

‘It was torture for seven years. I was miserable, I was lonely, I eventually turned to drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide,’ claimed former adult star Brittni Ruiz in an interview, while another adult star, Lisa Ann, declared, ‘There were times on set with people where I was like, “This is not a good situation. This is not safe. This girl is out of her mind and we’re not sure what she’s going to say when she leaves here.” Everyone’s a ticking time bomb, and a lot of it is linked to the drugs. A lot of this new pain comes from these new girls who have to do these abusive scenes, because that does break you down as a woman.’

Anti-sex abuse organizations also blame the porn industry, and specifically Pornhub, for the exploitation of women.

In response to one of Pornhub’s college scholarship initiatives, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) claimed the campaign was a ‘blatant attempt to exploit economically vulnerable young people.’

‘If Pornhub truly cared about disadvantaged youth, they could give away scholarship money without exploiting thousands of teenagers,’ the center declared, pointing out that the ‘number 1 search term in porn is “teen.”’

In a 2016 Feminist Current article, Raquel Rosario Sanchez argued that Pornhub’s charity PR campaigns were ‘all about soft power: cultural clout and the portrayal of altruistic pursuit for a company and an industry built on the commodification and abuse of the disposable bodies of women and, perniciously, the dehumanization and racialization of further marginalized communities such as people of color.’

‘Don’t be fooled: Pornhub doesn’t care about the mammals one bit,’ she continued. ‘Just as the company doesn’t care about ending domestic violence or breast cancer.’

In an effort to defend the industry from such criticism, pro-porn activists and sex workers alike have claimed in recent years that sex work is ’empowering’ for women – opting to portray exploited young women as icons of freedom.

One such sex worker, porn star Belle Knox, once described her job as ‘freeing and empowering and the way the world should be.’

However, she later went on to admit that it had ‘ruined her’ life.

Mia Khalifa, one of the most famous porn stars of the 21st century, has also since dedicated her life to speaking out against the industry.

‘People think I’m racking in millions from porn. Completely untrue. I made a TOTAL of around $12,000 in the industry and never saw a penny again after that. Difficulty finding a normal job after quitting porn was… scary,’ she declared, adding that porn producers and companies ‘prey on callow young women.’

20-year-old porn star Hannah Hays, who started acting in porn at just 18 years old, faced scrutiny over whether she was mentally stable enough to even consent to her work after appearing in several concerning video interviews that seemed to indicate otherwise.

Pornhub is far from the only porn company exploiting human altruism in an effort to change the public’s perception of their destructive industry. Adult websites IJustCame.org and Come4.org have also donated money to charity for each explicit video that the user watches. But Pornhub is by far the most prominent.

Could it be that Pornhub and other sites are nominally helping the world as they exploit and degrade human beings? Planting some trees isn’t a bad thing, but you don’t need to drive a young woman to suicide just so you can feel a few moments of pleasure and self-righteousness. There’s no real substance to the pornographic altruism crusade — in fact it’s the perfect sign of a society that’s dedicated to self-justifying all its worst habits.


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