If you sift through #Pornocalypse for even a short while you will see a familiar message cropping up again and again: ‘The pornocalypse comes for us all.’
It may not yet have the tradition and durability of doom-laden portents like ‘The End Is Nigh’, but the Pornocalypse is real; it’s happening every day and affecting a great number of people.
While the adult biz has always been wary of the mild witch hunt vibes that provide its background noise, the past few months have seen attackers from all sides try and cut the power that lights up the sex business.
In the UK we saw the British Government stand by and allow draconian rules to be applied to UK porn. Once porn-friendly (or at least tolerant) social media networks like Twitter and Vine began deleting adult accounts with genuine zeal. Search engine giants such as Google and Yahoo have crashed the party solely to turn the screws tighter.
Even crowd funding websites are starting to turn their noses up at the adult product. GoFundMe turned away fledgling businesses that dealt in “activities that relate to sales of items that are considered obscene or certain sexually oriented materials or services.”
That sound you hear is the door being banged harder on the wedged foot of the adult biz. Not just content with strafing established workers, models, producers and any others connected to them, these powerful and influential web companies are cutting off the oxygen to the new minds and fresh blood. So what gives?
Despite the public outcry, the hits, as they say, keep coming…
Porn ban: Twitter talks about Vine’s new ‘no porn’ policy http://t.co/RfBdAZvRoR there goes my damn near 60k followers ive cultivated! 🙁
— MyStacySweet.com (@MyStacySweet) March 7, 2014
Sadly, there’s a lot more where that came from.
So what can be done to either stem the tide or fight the problem? Or both?
Bacchus, owner of sex and adult biz blog Eros, feels that, as per usual, the industry is left to fight its own losing battle.
“In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin: ‘We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,’” he says.
“Nobody loves the adult industry. Nobody from outside is going to ride to our rescue. Even the most ardent and absolutist free-speech activists will typically shrug and choose a different battle when sexual
speech (especially commercial sexual speech, such as porn or sex worker advertising) is under threat. An internet where porn is deeply buried, hard to find, impossible to search, disparaged by every powerful media corporation, and excluded from all the most useful social media channels? It’s not the most likely future, but we don’t need much imagination to see it looming.”
It’s not for porn’s want of trying. It’s the big companies that are the real cockteases.
“Remember that #pornocalypse is a notion about the life-cycle of internet companies,” says Bacchus. “When they are small and cool and edgy, they typically allow (or at least don’t actively police) porn. And then at some point as they become larger, they seek to become more respectable. That’s when they purge the porn. So porn may always have niche channels, migrating from one to the next as the inevitable cycle of #pornocalypse progresses.”
But if it’s real, front-line, boots on the ground combat against the rising tide of censorship and disgust, then we need look no further than somebody like Ms Naughty. The Australian feminist pornographer has been forced to wage countless battles against any number of strong, well-financed opponents.
“YouTube totally deleted my account last year without appeal, even though the email said I was just getting a warning notice. I couldn’t find a real person to discuss the issue. I had a video there with 600,000 views. Gone.
“On Facebook I’ve had a couple of photos deleted though I try really hard to keep that account ‘clean’. One was an image of Jiz Lee where their nipples were showing. I asked Facebook why they would delete that when Jiz identifies as genderqueer and thus their nipples aren’t obscene according to FB policies (leaving aside the bullshit distinction where female nipples are censored but male nipples are fine). If Facebook is progressive enough to have multiple genders in their profile option, surely they won’t censor genderqueer nipples? No answer.
“In 2013 I submitted a total of six appeals to Google Plus, trying to get them to acknowledge that ‘Ms. Naughty’ was a legitimate business name. I wanted that so I could get authorship in Google search and thus get better results. No deal. When they finally relented on their “real name” policy authorship was downgraded and I wasn’t interested in them anymore.”
This is actually the tip of the iceberg. Ms Naughty has also endured tedious back and forths and deletions from Vimeo, Pinterest and Blogger. It’s a tide that you need more than strong flood defenses to repel.
The bigger picture is this: the mainstream behemoths that dominate the Internet seem to have shifted from dealing with the adult biz with a weary apathy and a sense of “Well, as long as don’t catch you…” to one of pure malice, designed to curtail people’s careers and leave them destitute. We’d rally around somebody being bullied by their landlord and facing eviction; the fact the same resistance options are not available to adult biz speaks volumes and remains a damning indictment on those who choose their battles.
However, Ms Naughty believes the problem has its roots elsewhere, as opposed to a sense of malice being applied.
“I’m not sure if I see malice in it. I just see the all-powerful influence of Visa and Mastercard. Many of the free social media sites are now looking to monetize and to do that they have to toe the line of the banks and CC companies. And there’s just no getting around the “high risk” rules that I can see. So the squeeze is on. It’s just what happens. A free site still costs money to run, they have to turn a profit and adult businesses are among the first to go. We’re the canary in the coal mine when it comes to approaching monetization.
“There is also the influence of conservative politics. When Google banned adult in Adwords, Morality In Media took the credit. It’s disappointing to me that there’s more censorship and conservatism than when I started 15 years ago. But there’s the ongoing moral panic that porn on the Internet is the bogey that causes harm and the people who push this idea are given free rein in the media, even though they don’t have any evidence to back it up.”
Bacchus states that problem is one of legacy. When Steve Jobs and his cohorts very publicly scoffed at porn, and implied its existence was one of shame, it laid down a seriously damaging precedent for the future of the adult biz and the Internet.
“The level of malice hasn’t changed, and some of that goes back many years. Frequently, even in the largest companies, it boils down to personalities. Steve Jobs was personally a prude who hated stinky porn and he didn’t want it anywhere in his (Apple’s) systems. This prudish legacy has (so far) even survived his death.
“No, I think we’re seeing more #pornocalypse in recent years because of a change in the way the tech industry works. The edgy young start-ups who typically used to tolerate porn in their systems are tending to be bought more rapidly by the old, stale, post-#pornocalypse titans like Google and Yahoo and Apple. So, instead of porn enjoying many years of access to each new network and social media site, porn is being evicted from most of them now within the first eighteen months. Newer start-ups are even *designed* for major corporate acquisition from day one, and these have porn-hostile terms of service from the start.”
But… but… but… we’re all adults here (that’s kinda the whole point, guys). Surely porn is big enough and crazy enough to effectively splinter and beat its own path into the Internet jungle?
Sure, to a layman that seems like a wonderful idea. Porn as a truly independent biz! Peace and fucking forevermore! Well… no, it’s nowhere NEAR that simple. The biz needs the listings, it needs the social media networks, it needs Google to wise up and realize sex and porn are real things. But it’s not as if the biz can all of a sudden become the cyber outlaw waving its dick in the hand at the authorities over the border. No matter how much pushing and pulling, and guerrilla net campaigns you run, it’s not enough to sustain a business with ambitions to make it bigger. Indy companies may thrive in some quarters, but if you want to be a big name, you need those social media networks, you need the listings. That’s why they call it the web.
“Porn cannot be buried, porn cannot be vanished,” says Bacchus. “But porn as a mass-market product and porn as a wealthy industry? Both of these require access to social media, search engines, and the financial system. Remember that #pornocalypse is a notion about the life-cycle of internet companies. When they are small and cool and edgy, they typically allow (or at least don’t actively police) porn. And then at some point as they become larger, they seek to become more respectable. That’s when they purge the porn. So porn may always have niche channels, migrating from one to the next as the inevitable cycle of #pornocalypse progresses.
“As for porn “going it alone”, I don’t think that makes much sense in a world where mainstream corporate social media sites dominate Internet traffic. We already have porn sites with social media functionality, and we already have porn-only search engines like Boodigo.com. What we don’t have is a critical mass of traffic to any of these sites, in an era when FaceBook and YouTube and Pinterest and Instagram and Google (all of them porn-hostile) are the gateways to the Internet for the vast majority of internet users.”
“I’m not sure how we can ‘stand up’ to the problem,” agrees Ms Naughty. “It all flows from the ‘high risk’ rules imposed by Mastercard and Visa. They aren’t interested in changing those rules because they’re massive and adult is just a fly in the ointment to them. With my business, I’m just a small fry. So I’ve had to just work with the shit hand I’m given. I’ll speak up about it but I’m a bit pragmatic about my chances of seeing change any time soon.
“The warning I would give anyone who deals with adult content is this: don’t trust your business to a third party. Because they will inevitably try to censor you. Buy a domain, host it yourself (on an adult-friendly host), make sure you have total control of that content. Your livelihood is too important to trust to a “free” service. There will always be someone who complains and then you’ll have someone on minimum wage making major decisions about what porn is.”
So what’s to be done?
Mass boycotting of social media? Good luck with that!
Not using Mastercard and VISA? Sure thing!
Please forgive the gloomy outlook of all this, but the deck is stacked against performers, workers, consumers, fans and any other adult affiliates. We are being marginalized in plain sight by companies who, on the glossy surface, talk about freedom of expression and the reach of modern communications. But they won’t let you look at some people fucking. If that isn’t the perfect landscape for a world gone mad then what is?
The Pornocalypse is here… but we all need to get out of our bunkers and make a stand.