Just like our food, clothing, and entertainment, there are ways within each industry to consume more or less ethically.
As people have spoken up about issues like fast fashion or factory farming, we’ve seen more and more industries enforcing regulations on labor, content piracy, and other protections. What differentiates the porn industry so much from these other industries is that it is largely considered a taboo subject, thus as a society, we don’t often openly discuss the porn we consume in private. This means the porn industry is left largely unchecked - making unethical and abusive practices all the more prevalent.
The majority of mainstream adult video sites (pornography sites set up in a YouTube-like fashion; hosted by a company that allows anyone to upload content) are owned by a single company called MindGeek. MindGeek owns what are arguably 8 of the 10 largest free porn sites (aka “tube” sites), including PornHub, YouPorn, and RedTube.
Tube sites rely on profiting off of widespread piracy. Mindgeek owns both the Tube sites as well as many porn production sites, which means that many adult industry members are stuck working for the same company that benefits off of pirating their work. In other words, adult industry workers produce content to be put on these tube sites, which then get reposted by other individuals without regulation on various tube sites. Tube sites make money from the traction their videos generate, whether or not the content is legal.
Shira Tarrant, author of The Pornography Industry, estimates that pirated porn impacts the adult industry by about $2 billion a year. MindGeek isn’t hurt by this, but the actual creators of the content are. With wide and unmonitored access to free and often pirated porn, wages for the people in the field have declined across the board.
There is little to no protection for industry workers who fear black-listing if they speak out against unfair practices. The burden of making copyright claims falls on the producers, actors, or on victims who have had videos uploaded without their consent.
“Making ethical decisions about pornography means knowing where your porn comes from and the labor conditions under which it was made… If we're willing to be concerned about those issues when it comes to sneakers or food, then we need to transfer those concerns to the adult industry as well” - Shira Tarrant (Read Full Interview Here)
Since Tube sites make money from the traction they get on their websites, even if the videos you personally watch are not abusive or pirated, just using a site that displays pirated content enables these practices. There are some serious and disturbing consequences:
While PornHub has recently removed all content uploaded by unverified uploaders in response to widespread coverage and complaint, the same policy changes have not been taken up on the other sites owned by MindGeek. In other words, MindGeek continues to profit off of abusive content that is illegally uploaded and distributed through its network.
In addition to hurting the workers and unconsenting victims of revenge pornography, there have been many studies that find a correlation between exposure to violent pornagraphy and sexual violence against women. While it cannot be concluded that pornography is the sole cause of sexual violence, youth exposure to violent pornographic material shows a strong link with teen dating violence. As mentioned previously, much of mainstream porn depicts violent sexual acts, most commonly towards women, and often with a lack of consent. While BDSM practices can be safe and enjoyable between consenting parties, it takes a lot more discussion, planning, and still requires consent, which is rarely shown in mainstream pornography. Mindgeek continues to profit off of so much of this content, while simultaneously failing to pay necessary parties, perpetuating violence towards women, fetisisation of minorities, and more.
The simplest answer to ensure key ethical production value is by paying for your porn. (check out the Twitter hashtag #payforyourporn to see more online discourse and recommendations)
Think of mainstream tube sites as the “Fast Food” of the porn industry. Don’t apply this idea to the business’ practices and ethics alone, but also apply it to the actual content.
Part of paying for your porn and seeking ethical porn means you are also likely to get higher quality content. It can mean seeing real intimacy and accessing a more diverse representation of people, preferences, and sexualities. Consuming erotic materials shouldn’t have to be guilt-inducing: it can be a great and healthy way to explore or enhance your sexual experience.
Companies such as Pink and White Productionsaim to challenge mainstream tube sites’ monopolies. They intend to overthrow the sexist and racist categories/keywording that are silently shaping societal preferences.
Although we believe we need to start treating porn the same way we treat Netflix (by paying), we understand that may not be possible for everyone for a number of reasons (such as having a monitored bank account and guardians who are unsupportive of porn-watching at all). However, if you still want to watch ethically, there are other ways!