It’s time to start pointing out that the moralising extremists who see all sexual expression and any nudity as evil are extremists who do not speak for the majority of society.
In one of those ‘enough is enough’ moments, a letter signed by members of the adult industry and organised by PornHub has been sent to Meta and Instagram – so, more specifically, to Mark Zuckerberg and his underlings – protesting the continual and increasing removal of adult performers and businesses from Facebook and Instagram, even though they have not broken any of the ever-changing rules that govern what you can or cannot post on the platforms. There’s a certain self-serving aspect to PornHub organising this – their Instagram account was shut down a couple of weeks ago and a cynic might note their previous silence on an issue that has been affecting individual performers for quite some time. But let’s not be negative – sometimes it takes being personally affected by something for people or businesses to realise just how bad that thing is.
I’m not confident that the letter will do much, because Zuckerberg seems – like Steve Jobs before him – to be one of those Tech Bro moralists who genuinely believe adult content (by which I mean anything from lingerie modelling onwards) to be evil, dangerous and exploitative and who have probably never actually watched any adult content – at least not without feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred consuming them afterwards. But it does once again show how adult entertainment is an easy target. As the letter points out, the platforms allow mainstream celebrities of the Kim Kardashian type much more leeway than it does adult performers when it comes to nudity and sexually provocative posing, presumably because they assume no one has ever had a wank over a semi-nude photo of a famous person (even if that person’s claim to fame is entirely based on their alleged sexiness). The line between soft porn and celebrity glamour seems so thin that some might call it non-existent beyond the fact that Meta can make more money and have less hassle from censorial groups from the latter.
It does make me think about all the hypocrisy surrounding porn though. The fact that banks – mostly in America, but let’s not pretend that it isn’t happening elsewhere – will close the accounts of porn stars and refuse the business of porn companies as a moral statement, even though their customers, their employees and their executives are clearly jerking off over said content. After all, you might wonder how these banks even know that their customers are porn stars to begin with – I’m pretty sure that most performers are not announcing what they do under pseudonyms to banks that they have probably been using long before entering the industry. Similarly, do you honestly believe that the journalists, the TV producers and the newspaper executives that produce anti-porn articles and documentaries are not furtively enjoying the thing that they so fervently condemn on the quiet?
The problem we have with porn is that everyone treats it as a secret shame, as though they are social outcasts for even watching this stuff, when in fact everyone is doing it. Studies on this are, of course, notoriously and predictably iffy but according to a BBC study in 2019, some 77 per cent of men and 47 per cent of women had watched porn in the last month (and that’s just ones who will admit it – given the whole social taboo of it all and the indistinct definitions of what ‘porn’ is, figures are likely to be higher, especially for women where the taboo is stronger). Do we really believe that our journalists, bank managers, politicians and so on are all miraculously from the percentages that don’t? It seems a bit unlikely.
More to the point, it seems likely that a large number of their customers watch porn on a pretty regular basis. Maybe not that much or for long at a time – claims of growing ‘porn addiction’ are an invention of moral campaigners and most of the evidence seems to be that people watch for short periods at a time – say, as long as it takes the content to do the job for them – and don’t enter some slippery slope that takes them from Playboy to torture and abuse. Unsurprisingly, people like what they like and that doesn’t seem to change all that much for most of them (they might discover a previously unknown kink along the way, but that’s another issue).
We see this hypocrisy whenever a mainstream company advertises on PornHub and we are told that they will be offending their customers and shareholders, even when their target audience is also PornHub’s biggest audience; when banks that happily trade with arms dealers and corrupt businesses and dodgy governments (not to mention fundamentalist religious organisations) suddenly develop a moral conscience about sexual content; when advertisers that appear on the most hate-driven news outlets refuse to have their ads placed on websites that feature any level of nudity (a personal bugbear, this, given that it keeps us poor); and when web services kowtow to the extremist demands of religious dictatorships by treating bare breasts and buttcrack imagery as worse than beheadings, while at the same time touting themselves as ethical free speech supporters.
So perhaps the adult industry doesn’t need to simply push back against Instagram. It needs to call companies out on their hypocrisy and remind people – constantly, insistently – that they represent the mainstream, not the Christian extremists who shout loudly and pressurise businesses over porn while keeping their anti-gay, pro-chastity, all nudity is sinful agendas out of their mainstream publicity, even though they are in bed with fundamentalist fanatics and see porn as simply the first step in a wider moral campaign. When these lunatics push their anti-porn agenda to social media companies, banks, authorities and journalists, they need to be exposed for what they really are – and what you are actually supporting when you listen to them. We need to make it clear that those businesses that treat mere nudity as pornography and demonise the female body are furthering the agenda of the worst people in the world: hate-driven extremists, religious fanatics, corrupt nations and psychotic conspiracy theorists. Most businesses are driven by profit and public image – there needs to be more effort to show that neither will be affected negatively by rejecting the deranged ideas of prohibitionist fundamentalists.
None of this is easy – like we’ve said before, the moral fanatics win because they are fanatics and have a relentless mission. But the time has come to start calling out the shameful discrimination against sex workers, sexual entertainment and simple celebrations of the human body – and do it every time it happens. Shame companies every time they behave shamefully. Make them aware that they are not speaking for the majority. And most importantly, make it clear to the general public that there is nothing seedy or unusual in looking at images of naked people or consensual sexual content and enjoying it. The way forward is to emphasise that it is the people who see naked men and women as inherently evil who are the oddballs and the lunatic fringe.
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