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The Trial of Big PornThe Trial of Big Porn

The Trial of Big Porn

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.

Maxime  Huot Couture
3 minute read

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 the #Traffickinghub movement to reveal and fight against the porn industry’s immoral and illegal practices. Mickelwait is working closely with Exodus Cry, a non-profit working with victims of sexual exploitation to help end this modern-day slavery. In hopes of shifting culture, Exodus Cry has produced influential documentary films. They include Nefarious, which reveals the poisonous tentacles of the sex industry, and Raised on Porn, which exposes the harmful effects of porn consumption on children.

In Canada, Quebec Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne has sponsored Bill-210, An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material, and Bill S-211, Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act. Meanwhile, Alberta MP Arnold Viersen has led efforts to get Parliament to act against sexual exploitation and children’s exposure to porn.

From 2019 until late 2020, a special parliamentary committee in the National Assembly of Quebec also addressed the problem of child sexual exploitation. One year later, the CAQ government allocated up to $150 million for the implementation of the committee’s 58 recommendations.

We should rejoice at this progress. Still, there is much more work to do. Pornography consumption has become pervasive not only among adult men, but also among teens, and now, children. Pornographic websites receive more visitors than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. It is not just about Big Porn. It is ultimately about cancelling what we would rightly call our pornographic culture. 

2021 was full of progress against porn culture. Let’s hope this success will grow into a collective battle with greater resources and means in 2022. Some frontrunners have already taken huge steps. Authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Wesphalia squarely banned three pornographic websites considered especially harmful. Each and everyone of us also has an individual responsibility, to change our practices, to help victims and people suffering from dependency, and to protect children. Then 2022 will exceed even last year’s successes.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash.com


Convivium publishes texts that do not necessarily reflect the views held by Cardus, the Convivium team, or its editors. In the spirit of discussion, dialogue, and debate, we ask readers to bear in mind that publication does not equal endorsement. Thanks for reading. Join the conversation!

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