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Behind the camera: Victims of the porn industry

February 18, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the author.
Sophie Lipset

In June 2021, nearly fifty women sued MindGeek, Pornhub’s parent company. These women, citing their own experiences, accused the conglomerate of profiting off of videos that had been created and uploaded to the site without their consent, an act which some states have made illegal. Pornhub, they alleged, had refused to remove the content. By October of the same year, the lawsuit was settled; Pornhub was found liable for the alleged crimes.

Many of the plaintiffs in this case were victims of MindGeek’s partner company, GirlsDoPorn. Following the settlement of the lawsuit against MindGeek, GirlsDoPorn was investigated and found guilty by a U.S. Federal Court on sex trafficking crimes. Ultimately, the court awarded $13 million in damages to 22 women that GirlsDoPorn had coerced and deceived. Examples of the coercion include the forcing of certain sex acts the women had originally refused to partake in or withholding payment for work they had already done.

In response to these findings, the FBI asked the public for assistance in locating the founder of GirlsDoPorn, Michael James Pratt, for “sex trafficking and production of child pornography.” The FBI offered a reward of $50,000 for information leading to Pratt’s arrest.

These lawsuits raise concerns about the ethics behind porn—both in its creation and distribution. MindGeek is one of the largest porn companies in the world, overseeing major sites such as Pornhub, Brazzers and RedTube. Considering the power MindGeek has in the porn industry, it is likely that many consumers of adult videos have come across a criminally created pornographic video. As I was researching for this article, I came across a comment under a Washington Post article on Pornhub’s profiting off of rape and other criminal acts. The comment read:

“I’m pretty familiar with Pornhub … But I have never, ever seen anything that depicted a child in any kind of sexual situation, or an actual rape.”

I believe that many pornography viewers would agree with this comment considering the apparent enthusiasm of porn actors and actresses in adult videos. However, as the investigation of MindGeek revealed, these issues often manifest in more subtle than in overt videos depicting rape and abuse. Also, bear in mind that MindGeek was sued for profiting off these criminal films. As with any for-profit company, their objective is to retain consumers, and money is a huge influencing factor for content.

As people continue to watch porn, their brain chemistry requires an increased amount of dopamine to become aroused, ultimately requiring the production of increasingly stimulating videos. To create these more stimulating videos, MindGeek has two options: engage their actors in more extreme activities, or get their videos from elsewhere. This logical intensification reveals the process of how Pornhub enabled criminal activity.

My most significant takeaway from the MindGeek lawsuit and exposure of GirlsDoPorn’s business tactics is how little respect the industry has for the actresses in pornography videos. The coercion and manipulation of women for profit illustrates that MindGeek and its partner companies, see women as objects to use for their personal gain. Had morals been involved, MindGeek would not have made the videos in the first place and would have removed the women’s videos after they asked them to be taken down from their sites.

Pornography perpetuates the dangerous mentality that women can be controlled, from its creation to its content and distribution. In watching porn, viewers inadvertently contribute to this dangerous business scheme. Although Pornhub has recently modified its site to limit its uploads to verified users, this doesn’t prevent videos such as those created by companies operating like GirlsDoPorn from being posted. What you don’t watch is just as harmful as what you do watch.

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