June 26, 2020

Whenever I agree to write about porn, it’s followed by an immediate plummeting of my soul: oh God, I’m going to have to look at PornHub now. PornHub is the second biggest website in the world for adult content by traffic, but in terms of public profile, it’s far and away the leader. And PornHub is horrible. For example, I just checked in on the homepage and was greeted by multiple clips promising mini-versions of Flowers in the Attic. Ugh. Why am I here? Oh yes, to find out if PornHub will let me search for racist porn.

Not that I really have to search. In the homepage thumbnails, everyone is white, unless their race can be sold as a kink. Japanese wife. Chocolate. In the sidebar, I can click on the category “interracial”, because this is 2020 and apparently two people of different skin tones getting down is still as niche an interest as “babysitter” or “smoking”. “Female orgasm” is also a category, for that subset of men who are interested in whether a woman actually enjoys it. Have I mentioned, I hate PornHub.

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But I am a brave journalist, so I press on. (Is this sex? Do people like this? Are women people? No, we are sluts and milfs and bitches, according to PornHub.) Will PornHub let me search for racist porn? Spoiler: it will. I put the word “racist” in the search bar, and am served multiple videos, all of which are definitely racist.

Some of them, though, have a veneer of woke, which is very heartwarming. I search for Black Lives Matter: I get a video tagged “black cocks matter”, and one “ebony slut”. All this should be a surprise, because PornHub was recently vaunting its progressive credentials. “Pornhub stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice”, the company tweeted, along with links to Black Lives Matter-adjacent campaigns that followers could support. It’s not a surprise, though, because PornHub is horrible.

If I wanted to be chippy, I would call this a perfect example of the indulgence model of modern liberal mores. Pay your tithe to the bail fund as directed, get back to whacking off over racism with your conscience salved. But actually, I would probably be being both chippy and incorrect, because does anyone really feel bad about their porn? The generally agreed position is that porn exists somewhere outside morality. Things which, at a tenth of the strength, would be instant cancellation offences in any other medium are granted licence in porn because someone, somewhere got an erection from them.

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Why doesn't porn ever get cancelled?

By Sarah Ditum

The porn industry’s success in positioning itself beyond petty questions of good and bad is one of the great marketing triumphs of modern times. If it feels good, watch it. Heck, watch it at work if you want to. Here, I run into some tricky terrain, because what happens in the dark between our own heads and hands is really no one’s concern but our own, and if you want to think about that particular woman bent OTK in a lace chemise then what does it have at all to do with me. Hectoring our fantasies seems a spectacularly fruitless endeavour.

But porn is not fantasy. Porn is business, and a profoundly exploitative one. I don’t mean that in the no-doubt tiresome feminist sense that it exploits women, although it does. I mean it in the sense that, in its modern form, pornography is an industry where the capitalist rinses out the worker, then puts up a blogpost to mark International Sex Workers’ Day, which aims to “honor sex workers” and “push for better working conditions”. The fact that PornHub is a major driver of those working conditions is, well, wouldn’t you like to look at some tits instead of thinking about it?

PornHub belongs to the conglomerate MindGeek, which also owns multiple other “tube” sites for watching free porn. Where does this porn come from? From production companies, many of which are also owned by MindGeek. In many cases, if a performer wants to defend their royalties on a clip, they’ll need the help of the copyright holder, which just happens to also be the company drawing down a profit by serving it for free, so good luck with that. Another group of people have also struggled to get PornHub to remove content that violates their rights: victims of “revenge porn”, whose abusers upload their images to the “amateur” category.

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By Tom Chivers

At this point in the argument, people like to say: but what about ethical porn? Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming. Apologies to those who twist themselves into astonishing shapes to produce the kind of porn they think should exist, but at best all they’re doing is providing a talking point for people who want to stall the discussion by saying “what about ethical porn?” so they can get back to their vertically integrated faux-incest.

If you want to talk about ethics in porn, let’s discuss why the industry has yet to have its #metoo moment. There was a possibility of one in 2015, when the performer James Deen was accused of on-set assault by multiple female costars; but the reckoning failed to come. (Deen denies any wrongdoing.) Journalists with an interest in the porn industry proved surprisingly incurious about following these allegations up. For example, writer Emily Witt met Deen during a set visit for an article published in n+1. The abuse claims emerged while she was revising that piece for inclusion in her 2016 book Future Sex: rather than address them, Witt cut him from the copy.

Now another porn celebrity has been not just accused, but charged: the performer Ron Jeremy faces three counts of rape and one of sexual assault. And perhaps this will, finally, be the occasion for a conversation about the attitudes inculcated by an industry which makes a show of brutality against women. Probably not, though. The porn industry could hardly survive if it went in for any self-reflection at all. But, then the hollowness of PornHub’s ethical credentials is obvious. It’s the credulousness of porn’s defenders that’s the really shocking thing.

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  • August 10, 2020
    Not from Ireland, no. But of partly Irish descent. I’m just replying in fashion, mark. You often describe posts as woke. Yet to me hostility to Christianity and the crusades is very similar to woke indeed. And I’m not a believer. Hostility to the religious past and hostility to the past in... Read more

  • August 5, 2020
    Andrew Derrick and I, both ‘devout sceptics’ had a brief discussion on this subject a month ago. We begged to differ, although really I think we were not talking about religion, but rather semantics. However what was Leviticus 24:13-16 all about? My point is people were killed in the name of... Read more

  • August 5, 2020
    None of these listed are examples of human sacrifice as part of the liturgy of either Islam, Christianity or Judaism. Actual human sacrifice was. however, part of the rituals of pre Abrahamic religions. That is, humans were killed to appease the Gods. Thousands perishing in crusades (at least you... Read more

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