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Mia Khalifa’s Story Shows How Predatory the Porn Industry Is

She’s a household name in the porn world. But what is lesser known is how Mia Khalifa first entered the industry, and how porn companies continue to profit from images of her against her consent.

Cover image credit to Mia Khalifa’s Instagram. 7-minute read.

Trigger warning: FTND note: Mia’s social media content may be triggering to some. We do not recommend looking her up if you currently or previously struggled with porn.

Mia Khalifa has become a controversial name both inside and out of the porn world.

Near the end of 2014 at just 21 years old, she performed in about a dozen explicit adult films, made $12,000 in total before exiting the industry, and yet remains one of the “most-watched” performers in the world to date with videos that are now over five years old.

The problem is, she never wanted that title.

Mia has explained that her brief porn career was an “impulsive act of rebellion,” but after one of her videos went viral, she realized the reality of her decision: What is shared online, specifically on a tube site like Pornhub, lives forever.

Consider that one of the world’s most searched-for porn performers of all time, Mia Khalifa, is a woman who was active in the industry for just three months, but she’s still famous today because of an overtly racist video she was reportedly coerced to perform in. What does that say about the porn industry and our culture as a whole?

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

Mia has been vocal before about her regrets about getting into porn. In the last couple of years, she has garnered media attention when she revealed how little money she made in comparison to her fame as the second most popular actress on Pornhub.

Initially, the public shock was simply over her earnings, but the more Mia spoke, the more it became clear that her experience in professional porn is an example of how the industry “preys” on young women.

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A note on victim-blaming

There is no room for shame in this movement for love, even for those who voluntarily perform in and participate in the porn industry. We don’t need to tear other humans down to give visibility to the harmful effects of pornography.

No matter the industry, no matter the person, no one deserves to be sexually harassed or assaulted. Mistreatment should never be expected because of a job, even for those who voluntarily enter the porn industry. We can do better than blame abuse victims—they deserve better than that. Consider porn’s glamorous perception in society, and how people likely didn’t fully know about or understand the often exploitative nature of the porn industry before signing up to perform in porn.

Related: Why Mia Khalifa is Done with Porn Producers Trying to Recruit Her Back Into Porn

As we discuss Mia and her brief porn career in this article, note that she has worked to intentionally distance herself from the mainstream adult entertainment industry, even though her social media content may be triggering for some who struggle with porn. Regardless of her past involvement with the mainstream porn industry, her experiences and perspective are worth listening to and considering, especially in a world where the porn industry is endlessly glamorized and celebrated.

It is not necessary to agree with all of Mia Khalifa’s personal choices, past or present, to see that she has been and continues to be exploited by the porn industry. Fight the New Drug does not exist to control or shame any person for their sexual choices, we exist to shine a light on the exploitation of the porn industry and the harms of pornography using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

Mia’s story

So what is Mia Khalifa’s real story? How did she end up in porn?

Mia Khalifa was born in Lebanon and raised in Maryland. As an immigrant child, she worried about fitting in and struggled with her weight until college. She looks back on these years of her life as a period when she didn’t know or value her self-worth.

Related: Shaming and Victim-Blaming Porn Performers Adds to Their Mistreatment

While living in Florida, Mia was approached by a man who complimented her beauty and talked to her about modeling opportunities. When she visited the Bang Bros’ studio offices, she was showered with compliments and felt validated in a way she had been craving. The company, which actually produces explicit adult films, talked to her about performing in porn and gave her a contract.

“I was approached at a very vulnerable point in my life,” Khalifa said in an interview. “I went back and shot a scene, and it was terrifying and temporarily validating, but afterwards I felt a little empty. Though I still had that pit in my stomach where I wanted to chase that validation again… I think what made me go back and do it again was that the attention I was receiving, I was afraid it would go away if I didn’t do what I was asked to do.”

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Mia has explained that it wasn’t about money or fame. She called it her new side gig her “dirty little secret” and wanted to keep it quiet. With so much porn on the internet, her family, friends, and people she knew would never find out, right?

After a film of Khalifa performing sex acts in a hijab sealed her fame in Pornhub history, her secret was no longer her own. She reportedly received threats from ISIS sympathizers, her private information was shared online (known as doxxing), and she was alienated by her family, a relationship that is still slowly mending.

Mia said that deciding to leave the industry in 2015 after only a few months and a few videos was an easy one. The title “porn star” became one she couldn’t shake off, and she realized that her three-month decision would have lifelong effects.

The unexpected fame of Mia Khalifa

Even though Mia Khalifa only spent a total of three months in the mainstream porn industry, a quick Google search of her name could lead anyone to misjudge that she was much more active and prolific.

Page after page of videos tagged with her name pop up as well as a website registered as her name to appear like a personal porn website. But Mia only initially starred in a dozen videos, so how are there now thousands?

Related: Former Porn Performer Reveals the Damage Caused by Abusing Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

When a performer attracts a lot of attention, production companies can capitalize on that popularity by releasing remixes and repurposed video compilations, attaching a well-known name to whatever clips they can. The tube sites also benefit from these practices. Many porn  tube sites have a download function, allowing consumers to easily save a video and re-upload it later with any tag or name they want. Even though they may be duplicates, this continuous loop of videos dupe consumers into thinking Mia has performed in new content.

This cycle continues without Mia’s renewed consent. While she admits that she initially agreed to the contract, she said that she would now go back and change that decision if she could.

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Rewriting her story

Consider how many people in the world experience regret for past decisions. That’s most people, right?

The difference with the porn industry, though, is the impossibility of Mia being able to erase those three months from her past. And she’s not alone. Three of the top actresses on Pornhub are now retired or inactive in the business. They have no ability to claim compensation for the infinite recycling of their content or have those videos removed.

This is something most performers don’t realize before signing on the dotted line. Make no mistake, it’s been reported that many producers intentionally write complicated contracts that performers are pressured into signing before they fully understand them.

Related: Porn Performers Do Not Deserve the Abuse Many of Them Experience, Here’s Why

It’s clear that Mia is focused on changing the narrative of her life and scrubbing her image, and her experience highlights the unethical practices some people within the porn industry use to convince young people to perform.

Again, she stated that she made her own decision to sign her performer contract, but Mia admitted she didn’t have the tools to identify that she was being taken advantage of.

“[Porn] corporations prey on callow young women and trap them legally into contracts when they’re vulnerable,” Mia said.

 Exploitation in the porn industry

Perhaps the most important part of Mia speaking out, is her acknowledgment that while she wasn’t physically abused, many women and girls have since contacted her and shared their stories of exploitation.

Some of those girls had been victims of sex trafficking, some were coerced to perform in porn, and others pushed to sign contracts they didn’t understand.

The porn industry is so large that there are varying experiences from within, and Mia’s story is just one of those stories. Not every performer experiences abuse on set, but some do. Not every performer is motivated by the money, but most are, leading them to stay silent through painful and degrading acts in order to pay their bills. Some producers are considerate of their performers, but there are plenty who prey on young adults for money.

Related: 10 Ex-Porn Performers Reveal the Brutal Truth Behind Their Most Popular Scenes

Some porn is made consensually, but some absolutely is not. This is perhaps one of the porn industry’s biggest secrets.

The most difficult part of all of these scenarios is deciphering which is which—what’s exploitative, and what’s coerced? The fact is, it is impossible to tell the difference.

As people in the world grow more aware that this exploitation exists everywhere around the world, what can be done? The power is in your choice, in clicks, in what you choose to or not to view.

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Our society tends to be hypocritical when it comes to the porn industry. Ex-performers like Mia are shamed when they try to distance themselves from porn, but she’s victim-blamed either way she goes. Laws criminalize nonconsensual images like revenge porn and yet they rank in searches on porn tubes. Our culture values sexual assault survivors but is deaf to the outcries of abused performers.

Columnist Yomi Adegoke noticed how our society brushes off the exploitation in porn. She wrote:

“Sexual abuse at the hands of music managers is a scandal; in porn, it is seen as a hazard of the job. We chastise the film industry for racially stereotyping characters, but barely blink at the wildly racist caricatures in porn… as though sexual desire mitigates any type of responsibility.”

It’s time we stop the demand at the source and refuse to fuel this exploitative industry.

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