xHamster’s fake ethics won’t stop rape or rape culture

xhamster

Porn giant xHamster recently announced they would no longer allow users to search the term “rape” on their site. The company is calling it the “Brock Turner rule,” in reference to the recent high profile case that saw a Stanford student given a depressingly light sentence for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Now, searching for terms like “rape,” “forced sex,” or “non-consensual” will result in the following message:

xHamster

xHamster spokesperson Alex Hawkins told The Huffington Post that the company was “shocked and appalled by the miscarriage of justice that transpired in the Brock Turner trial.” He added, “Our size and influence in the online adult world has proven to be a force for change, and we want to use it not only for the advancement of transgender rights but to end rape culture for good.”

What he’s referencing here is the company’s attempt to portray themselves as Good Liberals by joining opposition to HB2 (popularly referred to as the “bathroom bill”) back in April, announcing they would block any computer in North Carolina from accessing their videos. At the time, xHamster spokesman, Mike Kulich, told The Huffington Post, “We have spent the last 50 years fighting for equality for everyone and these laws are discriminatory which xHamster does not tolerate.” The site, in order to prove their longstanding support for trans people, bragged that “Shemale” was one of the more popular terms men were searching on their site.

So, we are to believe that seeking out porn featuring transgender women will result in “rights” for trans people and ensuring that men cannot search the term “rape” will discourage rape.

To be clear, xHamster has no plans to get rid of videos that feature, as Tracy Clark-Flory puts it at Vocativ, “actors simulating rough, coerced or non-consensual sex” because, she clarifies, “they are not videos of actual sexual assault.” Oooooh ok. Cool, cool. So dudes can still jack off to sexualized abuse and assault so long as those being abused and assaulted sign a contract agreeing to said abuse and are compensated. Also, as we all know, images and messages we see and hear in the media have zero impact on our behaviour or worldview. That’s why advertising fails to convince the public to buy various products and why racist or sexist characters and storylines on TV are totally harmless.

As Sam Berg noted earlier this month, rapists and porn consumers are not as different as they’d like to believe. Men who use porn share the same sense of entitlement to sex and to women’s bodies that rapists do and, in fact, have no idea under what circumstances the young women they are watching on screen consented to being face-fucked or called degrading, racist names.

In any case, it’s highly doubtful that xHamster believes that men who seek out pornography depicting rape are mentally ill. More likely, they agree with Clark-Flory and David Ley, a clinical psychologist she quotes as saying, “It is a gross exaggeration to suggest that all people who have a fantasy regarding rape or forced sexual behavior are at risk or psychologically ill.” I mean, even I don’t believe all men who get off to rape fantasies or to sexualized violence against women are in need of psychiatric help — because misogyny is not a mental illness.

Clark-Flory goes on to explain that “such interests — which are sometimes more accurately described as “forced seduction” fantasies… are incredibly commonplace, particularly among women.”

Wait. What?? Let’s get some moms in here because if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? I would like to offer some basic information to liberals today: Just because people do it doesn’t make it right. People are impacted by the society and culture they live in. They are impacted by the media they consume. They are impacted by the political climate that surrounds them. This does not mean people cannot think for themselves, but I wonder how it is that liberals believe, say, fashion trends or standards of beauty change depending on the time and place? Why is it that some decades and cultures view young, tall, thin blondes as the epitome of attractiveness? Is it because, across time and space, all people inherently find tall, thin blonde teenagers to be the most attractive beings? Because that makes you, uh, racist, for starters… But also ignorant to the fact that, in different cultures and in different periods in history, the characteristics that are understood to be attractive diverge. The fact that we in the West currently treat anyone who diverges from attractiveness norms (set, in large part, by media, advertisers, porn, and pop culture) like dirt isn’t ok simply because “but we like it.”

The fact that women, as Clark-Flory points out, “have fantasies of being ‘overpowered’ by a man” is wholly unsurprising to me. In fact, I have indulged in those practices and behaviours myself in the past, before I came to the realization that this was not a healthy thing and that I’d been socialized to see things like rape and male dominance as sexy and didn’t want to perpetuate that in my sex life. I also, in the spirit of full disclosure, want to eat pizza and cake three meals a day, but don’t. I would like never to have wrinkles or stomach fat but am not gonna get lipo or Botox. There are a lot of things I want to do that I don’t do. The things that I desire, inside my head, are not all innately “good” things simply because they are there. We are not obligated to indulge all our fantasies and, in fact, because we are living in a misogynist, racist, violent culture, questioning and challenging our desires makes far more sense than justifying them, mindlessly.

xHamster is not the first porn company to try glom on to a progressive cause. I mean, Playboy’s been in this game since forever and PornHub, a site that features numerous videos tagged “domestic violence” and “sexual abuse” claimed interest in fighting domestic abuse earlier this year, after porn actress Christy Mack was viciously beaten by her ex-boyfriend, War Machine. But the problem, today, is that this trend seems to go totally unchallenged by the masses.

The idea that pornifying transwomen somehow supports trans people is no different than saying that putting more racialized women in porn will combat racism (something, I suppose, many liberals actually believe to be effective). Preventing men from searching for the term “rape” does not address the male entitlement porn sells to men, nor does it address the larger issue and impact of sexualizing domination and subordination, violence, and dehumanization. If men don’t search for the term “rape” at xHamster, but can still jack off to a scene that shows an “uncle” sexually abusing his “teenage niece,” do images of sexualized incest become harmless? I mean, if we truly believe this, why place any limits at all on what we see on TV and in film? What’s wrong with advertisers using domestic violence or rape to sell their product? I mean, if the actual word “rape” isn’t in the ad, it’s all good, right?

Dolce-and-Gabbana

Separating “rape” from rape culture in this way is unhelpful, unless we plan on addressing men’s violence against women as nothing more than a mental health issue. Unfortunately, the problem of patriarchy can’t be fixed will a pill.

It’s pretty clear that this is nothing more than an attempt by a profit-driven porn company to use a woman’s actual rape as a means to gain publicity for their site. The most troubling part of this, though, is that people will actually buy it.

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.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $1