Every Saturday we meet to discuss a topic decided upon the previous week. These are topics of humanist interest, from a humanist perspective.
This week’s topic is, “The Dominance of MindGeek in the Porn Industry” by HAT Member, Ryan Zhang.
According to a Slate article written in 2014, porn industry blogger Mike South told the magazine that the industry has undergone a major shake-up after the Great Recession (2007-2009) with porn production decreasing by 75% and DVD sales decreasing by 50% compared to pre-recession levels (8). This decline has been attributed to three major causes: the increased production/consumption of amateur porn, the effects of the Great Recession itself, and the proliferation of piracy on free porn sites like Pornhub. (8). Pornhub is owned by a Montreal-based company, MindGeek (8). In addition to Pornhub, MindGeek also owns three out of the top ten most visited free porn sites (a.k.a porn aggregator sites or “tube sites”) where porn is shared freely by its users while the site itself is funded by ads (8). Indeed, MindGeek has grown so big that it has a near monopoly in the porn industry (8). Not only does the company own numerous porn aggregator sites where piracy is rampant despite a nominal adherence to copyright laws, it has also managed to acquire numerous porn production companies (8). The extent of MindGeek’s dominance is described by a porn industry executive as such that “every major studio and star is now partnered with MindGeek or has worked for a studio that MindGeek purchased.” (8) One actress, Sia, stated that: “MindGeek’s goal is to own as much of the porn industry as possible, and so far, they are pretty successful with that.” (9) She described the company’s business practices, especially the rampant piracy seen on its sites, and how they negatively impact sex workers by making a comparison to the effect of Wal-Marts in small communities, stating that:
“It’s kind of like how Wal-Mart intentionally builds Wal-Marts in small towns and drives prices down to a level that no local business could ever compete with, thereby shutting down all of the mom-and-pop stores, and leaving the town with only one choice of where to shop: Wal-Mart. Except imagine that Wal-Mart did that, and then to top it off went into the mom-and-pop shops and literally stole all of their products to be resold at Wal-Mart.” (9)
Indeed, MindGeek is such a powerful force in the industry that performers who speak out against their practices risk being blacklisted (8).
Questions for Consideration
In light of the aforementioned background information, I offer the following questions for discussion:
1. Should Pornhub (which Kristoff describes as “Jeffery Epstein times 1000” (1)) and other porn sites that use a similar business model (i.e. hosting free, potentially pirated porn and making money through ads) be shut down?
2. How should the sex industry be regulated, in such a way that will improve the health and well-being of those who work in the industry and those who consume the services of sex workers?
3. How should consumers of the sex industry behave in a way that will benefit those who work in the industry? E.g. Should consumers boycott MindGeek affiliated sites and instead pay for porn from the producers/performers themselves directly?
4. Should Humanists work with religious organizations like Exodus Cry (whose organizers probably have vastly different political and social views to most Humanists) to address societal problems like sex trafficking?
5. Has society’s illiberal attitude towards sex and sexuality contributed to the problems that the sex industry currently faces (e.g. monopolization of the porn industry by one company, the precarity of work for workers, and the various health and safety issues faced by workers)?
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