capitalism and porn

Capitalism and Porn

Learn about how the porn industry operates as part of capitalism and why the system should probably change.

As I’ve been writing about on here for ages, there are a lot of problems with porn. A lot of it is is racist, and sexist, and ableist. Just like the rest of society, it tells should stories about gender, sexuality, and sex itself. Also, depending on the employers, and other porn performers, sometimes the workers are treated poorly and non-consensually. 

Another problem with porn is how it is part of capitalism. In the endless drive to make profit, just two companies have bought up most of the market. They have created a monopoly which either eats up the competition or squeezes them out. To make profit they drive down the pay (and conditions) of the workers. They also rely on the viewer to upload their own content, which is sometimes stolen, or non-consensual, or illegal. Their profits also depend on the information they extract from their users. When people go on porn sites they give data about what they watch, who they want to watch, and who they are. 

This is about what has happened in porn but you will also see lots of similarities with music, video, and social media. 

Tube sites for porn

Free porn streaming websites (I’ll call them ‘tube sites’) are some of the most popular in the world. They get hundreds of millions of hits per day. They’re around as popular as social media websites, amazon, Netflix and the most popular news websites.

I’m not going to name these sites but you probably know what I’m talking about. They usually have the following combination of words: porn, red, x, you, hub, tube, video, porn, and hamster. 

When these websites started out, they were competing with each other with content that was uploaded by the user. Just like YouTube and Vimeo and Daily Motion are now. These companies were all then bought by their rivals. Not necessarily the most successful, but the ones who could borrow enough to finance the deal. This has resulted in just two companies: Mindgeek and WGCZ Holding, owning nearly all the popular porn tube sites. 

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Porn production companies

These two companies also own (or have bought) hundreds of the most popular porn production companies. Again, I won’t name them here but have some anagrams. ‘Razzrebs’, ‘bronbags’, and ‘irk teasingly’. The most popular porn stars all regularly shoot scenes for these companies. They make clips out of the porn films which they put on the free tube sites, which they own, to try and get more subscribers.

The viewer of the tube sites give them a lot of information about what people like, who they want to see, and what they want to see. So this means they have a huge amount of market research about what kind of porn they should make. 

Mindgeek also owns the advertising business which they run on their platforms. They also own one of the leading age identification services. This was even in the running to be in charge of the UK government’s plan to restrict under 18s from visiting porn sites (that policy has gone now). 

Try my Teach Yourself Sex Ed course. It’s free and has a module on the Sex We See, which includes a porn quiz.

Monopoly

This is called a monopoly, where a small number of companies control a huge portion of the market. If someone looks at porn for free, or wishes to subscribe to porn, then it’s extremely likely that the platform and the porn studio will be owned by Mindgeek or WGCZ Holding. It’s actually pretty hard to avoid clicking on anything that isn’t ultimately owned by them. 

If you find it difficult to get your head around this, imagine a high street. Almost all the shops are owned or run by two companies. The shop windows, the staff, the buildings, the products, and even the billboards. Also they get free market research information from you even if you don’t buy anything.

In capitalism there is meant to be a free and fair market where companies compete with each other to provide the best product at the best price. Consumers are meant to benefit because they get to buy good products at reasonable prices. Companies that do this can make profit and invest in their business and staff. This is no longer happening as the competing porn companies simply were bought up by the others. So any profit in porn goes to fewer and fewer people (and to the companies and institutions that lent them the cash to grow their business).

Profit

These two companies don’t make anything like the profits that other big company owners of other websites make, eg facebook, or Amazon. This is thought to be because of the debts they may have (according to this article in the Financial Times) but also perhaps because there are a lot of disincentives for people to buy porn. However the profit that they do make is taken away from the people who make the products: the porn studios and performers.

It’s been alleged by some journalists that the complicated corporate structure of these porn companies, based in lots of different countries, are set up to (let’s say) pay as little tax as possible. Just like other big company owners of other websites.

For porn studios that are not owned by these companies it’s very very difficult to compete. Independent porn producers don’t have the power of owning the free porn tube websites for people to browse their porn and to maybe buy it. So they are reliant on people searching out their content through other methods. 

Many independent porn producers are committed to making porn that isn’t racist, or sexist, or ablelist. Some also try to subvert the should stories about sex and gender that I talked about at the top. Some are also anti-capitalist.

Squeezes out the small companies

When so much of the space for selling and buying porn is taken up by these two big companies, there’s little space for other companies to do the same. There’s little choice for them but to put some of their clips up on the free porn tube sites and hope to get subscribers that way.* If an independent company does well, they might be under a lot of pressure to sell their company to one of the big two. 

*I have also put some of my sex ed videos on these Tube sites. This is because I want them to get better sex ed on porn sites and so people can find this website. My policy is that I don’t link to porn sites but I use them to promote Bish. So I’m not endorsing them, just as I’m not endorsing twitter when I post things on there. Interestingly the videos get many many more views (millions) at porn tube sites than they do on YouTube. YouTube have now age restricted many of my videos btw. Thanks YouTube.

Pirated content

Monopolies are not good and even capitalist governments have laws which are meant to prevent monopolies and mergers from happening. So this is all bad enough even if you believe that capitalism is good (which I don’t)

Here’s the killer though – just like with YouTube, the porn streaming sites allow users to upload content from their own hard drive. Often these are copyrighted videos that are put up without their permission. This really affects the producers of independent porn. According to the Financial Times: “Every day, roughly 15 terabytes worth of videos get uploaded to MindGeek’s sites, equivalent to roughly half of the content available to watch on Netflix.” Much of this is stolen, or pirated, from other porn sites. Indie porn producers have to constantly search for their own content on the pirate sites to see entire scenes have been uploaded. 

Harmful content

The other kinds of content that users upload is their own ‘amateur’ material. Sometimes (maybe the most of the time, but we don’t know) this is done consensually, where everyone in the video says ‘yes I would like to put this video up on a porn site.’

However, as I’ve covered here, this isn’t always the case. This is often called ‘revenge porn’ but really it’s someone abusing others by posting images of something without their consent. It doesn’t matter why they do it. And, in my view, it’s not porn if it’s not consensually made or published – it’s abuse. There are also images of under 18s on these websites and other illegal images too. You can report these via the Internet Watch Foundation. If there are images of you, Childline or this helpline can help get them taken down.

Recently the tube companies started to take steps to prevent these non-consensual images from being hosted on their platforms. It’s often really difficult to get images taken down quickly and this is because there are so many images and videos and they don’t have enough staff. Allegedly one of the porn tube sites has a ‘couple of dozen’ members of staff (though they say it’s inaccurate). YouTube are estimated to have around 10,000 members of staff screening content. Clearly this isn’t enough. 

What can we do about it? 

Well, not a lot! Governments are not that keen on holding huge corporations to account, for some reason. They are especially not going to go after porn companies. Because then we will have to have a real conversation about how porn plays a big role in society. Also the people who own Mindgeek or WGCZ Holding are pretty private and journalists have a hard time getting answers out of them. 

If you are old enough to look at porn, you could seek out some of the independent porn production companies. You could look at some stuff on their website. They might put some free stuff on their website or on their social media. A lot of porn performers have also gone onto another platform which directly gives them much more profit. Have another anagram: fan lyons. 

Subscribe or follow the website on social media. Here’s an article about how this monopoly might affect our relationship to pornography, desire, and sex. 

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© Justin Hancock, 2021

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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. Find out more about Justin here

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