Cardus NextGen Fellow Maxime Huot Couture summarizes important progress in 2021 towards cancelling porn culture. He hopes both the law and the culture will continue to make anti-porn progress in 2022.
The original version of this article appeared in Le Verbe magazine.
Pornography is not a new phenomenon, but it has enjoyed an ambivalent moral pass for a long time. This has helped it grow into a multi-billion-dollar global industry. In 2021, however, the international porn industry ran into some new checks on its growth – and that’s good news. Authorities in Canada and the U.S. took aim at Big Porn last year, finally calling it to account in several areas. The evidence against the industry was overwhelming.
We knew that pornography was immoral. We now know, based on evidence presented against the industry, that porn is also a public threat – a real pandemic that affects the physical, mental, and social health of men (mostly), women, teens, and children. A growing body of research shows that regular pornography consumption causes anxiety, depression, and reduced reasoning skills. It is also responsible for higher violence and abuse against women, along with an increased demand for prostitution. Worst of all, it encourages child abuse. “Teens” is disturbingly the top search “category” today on a lot of porn sites.
Those are the charges which authorities directed especially against Pornhub, one of the most visited websites in the world, and Mindgeek, its parent company. The “Pornhub case” really went public after the New York Times published the shocking testimony of a young girl. She was just 14 when she made naked videos of herself for a boy, who then uploaded them onto Pornhub’s platform without her consent. The site’s lax verification of age and consent did nothing to prevent the upload – or all the views the videos received.
Mindgeek is now in choppy waters. Visa and Mastercard both withdrew from the Pornhub payment options. Companies like Paypal, Roku, and accounting firm Grant Thornton have stopped their collaboration. Montreal-based Mindgeek is now facing a $600 million class action lawsuit in Quebec. Pornhub and its affiliates settled a similar class action suit in California back in October. The House of Commons ethics committee has hauled Mindgeek executives before it, grilling them on their company’s operations and policies.
Since then, Pornhub has removed millions of possibly illicit videos. Mindgeek has entirely closed Xtube, another of its pornographic websites. Events also forced Mindgeek’s competitors to reform their practices.
Behind those victories, we find some energetic individuals fighting to protect children and women from sexual exploitation and from the fangs of the porn industry. American activist Laila Mickelwait, for example, founded the Justice Defense Fund for victims of sexual exploitation and initiated th...