Author: Katherina Toews
Trigger Warning: This article contains references to pornography, sex trafficking, sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
115 million. That’s the average number of visitors that the world’s largest pornography site has each day. In 2019 Pornhub had over 42 billion visitors, that’s more than Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix combined. It’s impossible to count the number of videos that are posted on the site because new content is being uploaded every hour, with 6.83 million videos uploaded in 2019 alone. With that much content being uploaded, streamed, downloaded, and shared, you would assume that there would be some form of filtration program that would sort through each video to see which was from a “legitimate” source and which ones were not. Yet, for what is arguably the world’s most visited site, all that is needed to upload videos to Pornhub is an email address. Laila Mickelwait director of abolition for Exodus Cry says that it took her “under 10 minutes to create a user account and upload blank test content to the site, which went live instantly. I could have then gone on to become Pornhub-verified, and all I would need to do is send a photo of myself holding a paper with my username. That’s it.”
This information comes after several shocking cases of sex trafficking and child rape films posted on Pornhub have come to light. A 15-year-old girl who had been missing for a year was found after her mother was tipped off that her daughter was being featured in videos on the site — 58 such videos of her rape and sexual abuse were discovered on Pornhub. There was also the case of 22 women who were deceived and coerced by Michael Pratt, owner of GirlsDoPorn, into performing sex acts on film that were subsequently uploaded to the site. These women sued GirlsDoPorn and won a $12.7 million lawsuit against the company. Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of these women, minors, and thousands more like them. These are by no means the first videos of this kind to be uploaded to the site and sadly, they won’t be the last until the site is shut down forever.
Laila Mickelwait has created a petition and subsequent website to not only shut down Pornhub but to hold its executives accountable for the role they’ve played in the sex trafficking of numerous people. The petition which now has just over 586,826 signatures (with a goal of reaching 1,000,000 in the next couple of weeks) has not only generated buzz in the news world, with sites such as Vice, Washington Examiner, The BBC, and New York Post publishing stories; but has created a wave of awareness about the harmful effects of pornography that has swept across North America.
We live in a world where anything we could want is available right at our fingertips, and yet in a time when we are more connected and self-sufficient than ever before in history, underage girls are being used repeatedly to create videos titled “Young Girl Tricked” and the like. Mickelwait says that “One of the most-searched terms on Pornhub is “teen” pornography. The search will result in videos that are constantly being added faster than any individual could watch them. Many feature girls who look 13 years old at best — girls with braces, pigtails, flat chests, no makeup, extremely young faces, holding teddy bears and licking lollipops, all while being aggressively penetrated.” It is content such as this that is causing victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse to be exploited over and over again from anywhere in the world, often without their knowledge, and without anyone being held accountable.
If we allow for sites that regularly and routinely degrade, disrespect, and dehumanize people, we are failing the people we love the most. With keys constantly tapping out search words and cursors fervently clicking on one video after another, our friends, family members, children, leaders, and humankind as a whole are falling into a chasm of depression, disconnect, decreased self-confidence, and damaging concepts of how to relate to one another. Families are searching for daughters, women are tricked, men are trapped, and a society that is erasing what healthy, loving, consensual connection looks like. This is not the time to sit by and wait for someone else to do the hard work. This is the time when each of us pulls on our gloves, straps on our boots, and gets down in the dirt to root out the toxic mindsets. This is when we come together as families, communities, and cultures to change the direction that we are headed. This is how we make a change, right here and right now by shutting down hubs of trafficking and exploitation!