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What Pornhub’s New Regulations Mean for Your Porn Viewing

Are Pornhub’s changes a victory for sex workers — or a distressing sign of future crackdowns and consequences?

If you’re any combination of “extremely online” and “frequently horny,” you’ve probably seen whisperings of some important changes at Pornhub this week. It’s been a messy, complicated time for the online sex titan, but the resulting fallout looks set to shape not only the future of tube sites, but of online sex work across the board.

Here then is a no-bullshit summary of what’s changing, why it’s changing, and most importantly, what these new rules will mean for your digital spank bank moving forward, as well as the internet porn stars who keep it filled.

Pornhub bans and regulations? What’s going on?

Pornhub has announced that it will ban downloads and stop allowing uploads from unverified users. Thus, you’ll now have to show your ID before sharing that grainy clip of you beating your meat, and the days of pirated studio and subscription site porn could be numbered. Downloads will be disabled, the global moderation team will be expanded and Pornhub has pledged full transparency by 2021 — as well as a load of new policy small print, which you can read here if you’re interested.

That doesn’t mean your favorite busty step-MILFs and hentai fantasies will disappear — at least not yet. But this does mark the latest chapter in a long-running war on sex work, led by Bible Belt morality crusaders and now buoyed by the New York Times. More specifically, the latest fight is being led by the same high-profile columnist whose work arguably helped to pass SESTA-FOSTA, a disastrous bill that pushed sex workers offline and decimated their online safety resources.

What did Nicholas Kristof write about Pornhub?

Last weekend, the New York Times published an investigation that found underage porn and graphic rape scenes on Pornhub. The data to back up those claims, however, is pretty thin. In fact, a quoted independent watchdog, the U.K.-based Internet Watch Foundation, received just 118 reports of child sex on Pornhub over three years, whereas Facebook removed 12.4 million child sex images in just three months.

In lieu of hard evidence, the NYT piece is filled with particularly grim porn video titles and isolated, traumatic stories, which collectively achieved in just a few days what sex workers like Mia Khalifa and Siri Dahl have been demanding for years: more regulation. The backlash has been swift, too: Mastercard and Visa have already cut ties with Pornhub over the scandal.

Got it. Lemme get straight to the point then: What does this mean for me and my Pornhub viewing pleasure?

Potentially, bad news. Kristof basically parrots the mission of Traffickinghub, name-checking them in his article and expanding on their key talking points — trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Traffickinghub claims to be a “non-religious, non-partisan” campaign, which aims to shut down Pornhub altogether. In reality, it’s powered by controversial Bible Belt NGO Exodus Cry, the kind of hardcore religious “activist” group that preaches abstinence and believe the only way to eliminate child porn is to wage a broad-strokes war on your private browsing tabs.

In short, Traffickinghub is definitely religious; it’s a moral crusade led by Exodus Cry’s “Director of Abolition” Laila Mickelwait. Her Instagram account uses the same tactics as the Exodus Cry website: Namely, using graphic, harrowing stories of trafficked victims to paint all porn sites as insidious.

Playing the Whore author and sex worker advocate Melissa Gira Grant recently wrote about the Pornhub changes against this wider, contextual backdrop. For the New Republic, she describes this week as the latest battle in an ongoing “holy war” on porn, backed not just by Traffickinghub and Exodus Cry, but by a wider pool of anti-porn organizations — the kind that happily fight to defund HIV charities and deny women the right to safe abortion.

In reality, probably no amount of regulation could genuinely shut down the sex industry, but these moral crusaders could definitely succeed in making life a whole lot more difficult for smut connoisseurs and sex workers across the board.

How do actual porn stars feel about this?

In a word: conflicted. The general consensus is that these new rules are actually pretty good for porn stars, who have long complained about Pornhub leaking their money shots for free. In fact, some were convinced these new rules were a victory for sex workers, by sex workers.

What’s obviously not so great is that MindGeek, the multimillionaire tech overlords that own Pornhub, as well as basically every other horny, unregulated tube site, ignored porn stars for so long that it’s taken a moral crusade by non-sex workers and a global scandal to make these changes. Mastercard and Visa cutting ties with Pornhub is a huge blow to the industry, too — sex workers are already blocked from most major payment platforms due to stigma, and this news doesn’t exactly look great for their bank accounts in the near future, especially given the global lack of pandemic relief.

“Whatever your opinion about Pornhub, know that this decision negatively impacts the verified performers and producers who gain revenue through the site,” tweeted Jiz Lee, a nonbinary porn pioneer and marketing director of the queer smut paradise PinkLabel TV.

Lee’s words were echoed by the Adult Performers and Actors Guild, a California-based sex work union whose board members held an emergency meeting this week to discuss the changes. “This year has been difficult on our workers and businesses as we have struggled through this pandemic,” they wrote in an official statement, nodding toward the absolute shit-show of the last few months in the sex industry. “Emotions are heightened with many facing serious financial struggles. We understand how our members have been impacted through the chaos, and would like to offer emotional support at this time.”

Berlin-based filmmaker and porn performer Paulita Pappel also retweeted victims’ rights lawyer Carrie A. Goldberg, who reiterated that the vast majority of rape-tape cases don’t come from Pornhub:

Porn industry expert Amberly Rothfield, who regularly publishes advice and guidance for sex workers, tells me her greatest fear is that these changes will have a trickle-down effect. If payment processors pull their services from any company that’s remotely horny on main (despite frequent, similar controversies, the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram would likely never be blacklisted), it could spell disaster for smaller creators, as well as sites that Rothfield says are “doing things right,” like Niteflirt, Clips4Sale and Chaturbate.

“When stuff like this happens, it’s never the major, well-known models and sites that truly suffer, but the marginalized ones like myself,” she explains. “I worry for them greatly, as many don’t have my background in business and marketing. Most don’t know how to pivot before the tide pulls them back out to sea.”

How might I lend an, um, helping hand?

You’ll be glad to know that — other than weeding out the dog-whistle politics of anti-porn crusaders — the best way you can help is to keep busting nuts to your favorite horny, online faces, ideally to scenes you can buy from them directly. “If you’re a porn consumer who cares about the health of the industry and the people behind it, remember that wherever there’s free content, there’s a paid version,” writes Lee, in a continuation of their earlier tweet. “Support your favorite creators by going to the source — purchasing directly through the performer or studio’s website.”

NSFW subscription sites — although far from perfect, especially in the case of OnlyFans — can keep cash flowing directly into sex workers’ hands, and sites like PinkLabel TV, Lustery and MakeLoveNotPorn are veritable buffets of glorious online filth that don’t have vast, shady networks of untraceable content.

For just a few bucks, you can have the sticky quarantine weekend of your dreams. Better yet, your filthy fantasies will be keeping sex workers afloat as moral crusaders try once again to banish them.