The end is nigh. And the proof lies in Breast Cancer 'Awareness' Campaigns

Well this is it. The end is upon us.

By now you’re probably near-bald from tearing your hair out over the effed-upedness that we are subjected to every time Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around. Suddenly we’re inundated with pink crap as every company around tries to glom on to the breast cancer epidemic in an offensively opportunistic fashion.

From makeup, to laptops, to Swiffers (clean for the cure!), to ugly-ass jewelery, to one million stupid pink candles, it’s fair to say that pinkwashing has gotten totally out of control. And as if the feminizing pinking of absolutely everything (because breast cancer is so soft and delicate and lady-like) and the concerted efforts to make breast cancer all about consumerism directed very specifically at women (because effecting change can only be done by buying more stuff), there must also be, of course, the pornification of women’s cancer diagnoses (because why the should anyone care about women unless they’re fuckable?).

First we get these idiotic ‘Save the Tatas‘, ‘Boobies Rule‘, and ‘Touch Some Breasts‘ campaigns/businesses which sexualize breast cancer by making women’s suffering about the male gaze (classy!). Then there’s this horrible video which came out of Chile recently that tries to get men on board by reminding them that breasts exist only for male pleasure. Which is, of course, why they matter. Get it? Women don’t matter — it’s their sexualized body parts that are important (are we starting to understand how objectification hurts women now?).

And finally, I somehow managed to miss the worst of them all earlier this month (clearly I’ve started blocking this stuff out as some kind of coping mecanism) — the icing on the porn-culture-is-everywhere cake — having realized that they weren’t exploiting absolutely every aspect of women’s lives, jumped on board (not linking to the campaign page, nope, no way) the breast cancer awareness train.

While originally the company tried to partner with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the organization (which is capable of making ethical decisions every once in a while, apparently) refused to align themselves with Pornhub and said they wouldn’t accept any donations from them. Apparently they are still looking for a charity to donate to.

Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub says, pervily: “Our viewers will be raising money and awareness by doing something they already love: watching porn.”

Uh huh. Right. For sure all those dudes are “raising awareness” about breast cancer via masturbation – the cure for everything.

So now porn is being presented as something that saves women’s lives. Or at very least cares about them. I’m thinking this is what the end of the world looks like.

The problems with awareness campaigns have been well documented. Most of these campaigns either don’t actually do anything and some of the companies who use ‘breast cancer awareness’ in order to sell products are actually part of the problem. Awareness campaigns tend to focus on unproductive solutions that ignore and distract from the root issues.

Organizations like Breast Cancer Action point out that “despite better treatments and increased access for many women, 40,000 women still die from the disease each year. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. In the 1960s, a woman’s lifetime risk for breast cancer was 1 in 20. Today it is 1 in 8.”

What the hell is going on here? Is it possible that we all just aren’t watching enough porn?

Well, no. In fact porn is not the missing link.

While awareness campaigns and pink ribbon crap are on the rise, so is breast cancer. The reality is that we still have minimal understanding around causes of breast cancer, though we do know that “involuntary exposures to toxins in the environment” are a factor. Toxins and environmental factors are not addressed by awareness campaigns or pink ribbons. I assume this is because these issues have nothing to do with masturbation or profit. If only there were a way to sex up carcinogens.

Pornhub hates women. Which makes it all the more sickening to read statements such as this one,  from their actual press release:

It doesn’t matter if you’re into itty-bitty-titties, the perfect handful, jumbo fun-bags or low-swinging flapjacks, what matters most is that your kind and selfless gesture will go a long way towards helping our sisters to find a cure.

“Sisters”?? Go die.

Porn culture is the beginning of the end. If we aren’t talking about the objectification and sexualization of women as a key issue in the feminist movement then we may as well give up.



Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • ARGH! I am horribly enraged that Pornhub would even dare do that! Fuck them!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Some nerve, eh?

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  • Don’t give up, whatever you do. They WANT us to believe it’s all hopeless, that porn is everywhere so we can’t fight it.

    But anything that is everywhere also makes people sick of it. Even non-feminists are getting tired of living in a world where everything is coated in sleaze.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I won’t give up. It’s all just too crazy.

  • Jane Salmon

    The best part of HAVING breast cancer is removing the fun bags, gentlemen! It is enjoying a jog without having to worry about a bra. It is taking off that harness and never ever having trouble attracting eye contact again. It is turning those dresses around and showing off your back wing cleavage instead. Mind you, that temporary lack of hair is also a bit of a challenge …

  • stephen m

    Meghan, thank you for your coverage of this issue. I am sure there are many of us who agree with you.

  • Heather k

    Even my freaking eggs had stupid pink ribbons stamped on them. Gross pinkwashing to the extreme.

  • ARGH! Can’t. Even. Aguh.
    I’m so glad you’re Meghan Murphy.

  • This is so upsetting. They truly do hate women. It’s so clear.

    Nice reporting, Meghan.

    In other news, if you like Feminist Current, go vote for her blog here:

  • Having lived in Santiago, Chile, for several months back in 1996 and falling in love with the country, it is upsetting to view a video that sexualizes breast cancer. For the most part, I have to save that I was probably treated with more respect by men there than here in the United States. Not to mention, they are more well-mannered. However, Chile is also a culture of men who believe that men have a biological imperative to have sex with more than one woman(their excuse for cheating on their wives, which is pretty rampant there), while at the same time arguing that it is not okay for women to cheat since they do it for emotional reasons. The Chilean man (this guy was actually living in the U.S. at the time) who explained this messed up reasoning to me, received the following response from me, “That is the biggest load of crap that I have ever heard!” I am not so sure that men hate women, as that they are afraid of us. The male ego is so fragile, evidenced by their constant need to be reassured that they are “well-endowed” enough, that they need to oppress us to keep us down because they are afraid we might figure out that our male-dominated society is “full of it” and they made up all of the rules that subjugate women just to control us. I think it is fear more than anything else, that rules their actions. I remember my ex-boyfriend telling me that one of his coworkers refused to see Thelma and Louise when it came out, because the premise of the movie intimidated him. God forbid women should strike back when men’s repulsive actions become too much. I think any woman (or girl) who has had a man hang out of his car window, and stick out his tongue and wiggle it at them believing this is a fantastic come-on, can relate to Thelma and Louise blowing up that guy’s semi-truck.

  • Grackle

    So depressing. 🙁

  • lauren

    What do you want to do about it? I see lots of women talking about this, but no one is willing to take the reins. I go from being inspired to disheartened in seconds flat everyday.

    • Well, what is needed is to stop supporting pinkwashing, esp. in those products that contain cancer-causing ingredients. THEY really only do it because they think it means greater profits. That’s really all there is to it.

      Every time I see a product with a pink ribbon on it, to me it’s a sign not to buy it. I am sick of pinkwashing.

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  • Andrew Pari

    One difficult part of this is that for years people have been told that if you buy this product or click on this website, you’re doing a good thing. Asking most people to separate out which are actually the decent products who genuinely support the cause versus exploiting it will be futile.

    Easiest and best way to support is simply to donate directly to the cause, whether its Komen, assuming you still support them after the PP debacle, or directly to a breast cancer research institute. And there are several.

    I also look for companies that donate regardless of whether people buy the product or not.

  • Lafaye

    This is so disgusting. Before I realized I was a “cRaZy feminist” I was a natural health nut and knew those cancer awareness campaigns were BS. It’s always a good idea to run, run far in the other direction from anything big biz and big med/big pharma get behind. Now that porn is behind it? Yeah, end of the world.

    Great reporting Meghan.

    • river

      You’ve outdone yourself Meghan.

      It was toilet paper on Tuesday. Seriously. Toilet paper. Purex I think. I bought no name.

      Today, I heard a radio interview about these dynamic marketing and cutting edge awareness campaigns. Putting a new spin on Breasts. It’s not all sad you know? All scar tissue and no more sexy? Somewhere they are holding a Booby Ball fundraiser. 🙁

      Then, there was the swooning mention of a commemorative (!!) coffee table picture book with the women exposing their mastectomy, all arty lighting and silk. See, you can still objectify yourself! I bet there were no double mastectomies included. Bet.

  • Vouchsafer

    In my municipality there is an organization that people can donate to directly that benefits people undergoing cancer treatments in the area. The money goes to helping putchase things like expensive medications, prosthetics, even supplementing expensive hospital parking fees. I’d suggest that there are likely organizations such as this one everywhere. If people are interested in donating to breast cancer maybe suggest they do a search for something like that.
    Purchasing heavily processed, wastefully packaged products doesn’t benefit anyone besides the capitalist owners of the companies that make them, no matter what marketing ploys they use to try to sell them to you. Capitalism itself is the problem with the way things are in the world right now. Porn is it’s tool – what greater way to occupy the thoughts and energies of the people that are so absorbed by it to prevent them from focusing on the fact that thanks to rampant capitalism we are sitting complacently by and watching the decline of something beautiful – namely, a world in which fresh air and clean water exist.
    Women are not just the enemies of pornhub – we are the scapegoats that big business has chosen to cast in the role of ‘other’ so that society itself will become so embroiled in the battle between the sexes that we will lose sight of the real villains – corporations who are rabidly gobbling up resources in the name of the almighty profit.

  • I am too old and tired to get outraged about people using porn to justify protecting women from breast cancer, but I enjoyed your rant nonetheless. Someone needs to get mad.

    Not to diminish your argument, but why do you have naked women in your article photo? (I realize this is a photo taken for a campaign, but still.) The issues of consent are just as dodgy in the performing arts (modelling, acting, dance) as they are in “sex work” (prostitution, porn, stripping), albeit the things workers are expected to do without complaint are less extreme in the performing arts. They’re still over the line, though, and in addition minors in the performing arts don’t have the same (theoretical) legal protection as they do in “sex work”, so exploitation of minors happens openly in the performing arts. (How old are the women in that photo?)

    • Meghan Murphy

      The photo is from a MAC ad campaign so the consent issues are moot. The women in the photos are models that were hired for the campaign. The reason I used it was as an example of what I was trying to talk about re: sexing up breast cancer.

      • I found it triggering, and since I didn’t catch any discussion of the photo in the article I missed your intent. What I saw was a video of partially covered women’s breasts, and a photo of partially covered women’s breasts (faces missing in both cases), and somehow the assumption that one was worse than the other, which I don’t really agree with.

    • vouchsafer

      “using porn to justify protecting women from breast cancer”?
      How about you comment on the actual theme, which was using breast cancer to sell porn.

      • I didn’t get that. I don’t read a lot on these issues so maybe I missed a layer or two.

    • I don’t understand… are you arguing it’s wrong to show pictures of an illegal act? Or is it because they are naked? (they probably aren’t naked, but they appear to be) The image is not pornographic in nature, although it does serve a system (pinkwashing) that has illegitimate purposes, including the objectification of women.

      • I was trafficked into prostitution when I was 12, and I took acting lessons and went on auditions when I was in my 30s and early 40s, and I really don’t see any difference between paying someone to take their clothes off or pucker up in one situation or the other (in kind – obviously they differ in degree). Employers in both situations use the same excuses most of the time to get you to cooperate. They are the ones who decide if someone will do it or not, and (in situations where you actually have a choice) if you don’t like it and refuse, you lose work.

        I find it very triggering when abolitionist feminists use sexualized material in their blogs – it seems like a double standard. Where, exactly, is the change going to start? And why abolish some sexualized jobs and not others? I had the same problem with Amanda Kloer’s posts over at a couple of years ago. 🙁

        It’s hard when people to get it in one context suddenly don’t get it in another. Does that make sense? And, yes, I hope for more from people whose blogs get my hopes up.

  • vouchsafer

    The image IS pornographic in nature. It’s saying, we realize that we need to show a little T&A in order to attract your attention. Now that we have it, here’s our message: support breast cancer awareness.

    The reason its problematic is that T&A is once again being used as commodity. The reason its pornographic is because those are idealized male fantasy body types which hardly anyone has. When you saturate the media with the idealized image of what the female body’s supposed to look like, ie – rail thin sexpot, it is oppressive to women because it reduces the worth value of anyone who doesn’t look like that.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Of course. It’s objectifying and sexualizes women AND breast cancer. That’s the whole point.

  • I shared this without the pic. Wonder if anybody will bother to click the link & read your great rant without a pic of naked women to attract them?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, thousands of people come to this site and read blog posts regardless of the image attached. So I’m going to say yes. This isn’t nearly the most viewed post on the site.

  • There’s nothing wrong with Pornhub wanting to help the cause, but there’s EVERYTHING wrong with connecting it with what they do.

    If Pornhub cared about actually fighting with cancer, they’d find a way to donate for the cause anonymously.
    Linking lethal tumors with sex is just despicable.

  • Perhaps the worst thing about sexualizing breast cancer is that it might make women less apt to choose mastectomy. They’d rather risk dying than get rid of their breasts. How perverted is that?