Cover image from Jonathan Koppenhaver’s Twitter. 5 minute read.
Trigger warning: The following post contains descriptions and images of abuse that could be triggering to DV survivors.
Not long ago, “PornHub Cares,” the so-called “charity” department of one of the world’s largest porn sites, teamed up with porn performers for a campaign against domestic violence.
This is super ironic, and we’ll tell you why in a moment.
The campaign revolved around a particularly brutal case involving a couple of popular performers. In 2014, performer Christine Mackinday—a.k.a. “Christy Mack”—was all over the news after being brutally beaten and sexually assaulted in her Las Vegas home by her ex-boyfriend, an MMA fighter and former male performer, Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver.
During the 2017 trial after the violent assault, Mackinday testified that she and War Machine met on a porn set of and their relationship grew from that point. Mackinday told the courtroom that the relationship began to get abusive after “three or four months.”
Although Mackinday was unable to fully recall the first abusive incident, she testified a few incidents that were vivid in her memory.
“He broke my phone in half, picked me up by my throat, brought me downstairs to my bedroom and threw me down,” Mackinday said of one incident. Another incident she recalled was when she tried to jump out of War Machine’s car after being abused.
“He said now I have to take you into the desert and kill you,” said Mackinday.
War Machine ended up being sentenced in 2017 to 36 years in prison for felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from the pinnacle incident in 2014—involving kidnapping, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, battery, and coercion, to name a few things—involving Mackinday and a male friend of hers while they were in her home.
Pornhub….tried to “care?”
In response to the case when the news first broke, “Pornhub Cares” immediately teamed up with Mackinday and claimed to want to raise awareness on the serious issue of domestic violence. To do so, they put graphic images of Mackinday on tees, and said all the proceeds would go to a domestic violence charity of her choosing.
Obviously, we can’t show you what they looked like entirely, but you get the picture:
We understand that it’s a smart PR move for Pornhub to jump on an opportunity to give visibility to this serious issue, but it’s extremely problematic and we’ll tell you why.
Raising awareness on DV while selling abusive content
Pornhub is one of the world’s leading porn sites, which means that it is one of the world’s leading promoters of fetishizing sexual abuse, including domestic violence.
The site features entire categories such as “wife abuse,” “painal,” “domestic discipline,” “crying in pain,” “extreme abuse,” and “sleep assault.”
In other words, Pornhub profits from clicks, downloads, and views of sexually abusive and violent content, all the while selling tees that apparently raise awareness on the very same issue they’re capitalizing off of. We can’t be the only ones seeing the unbelievable amount of irony in this. Pornhub cannot have its domestically abusive cake, and eat it too.
Porn sites have truly become experts on marketing sexual exploitation, further exploiting Mack by using her as a tool in their own agenda to appear concerned for DV survivors, when in reality, they not only glamorize abuse but they also fuel it.
Mackinday did not in any way deserve what happened to her, nor does any victim or survivor, and her abuser deserves to be in prison. Fellow survivors of domestic violence absolutely need support.
The glaring irony here is that the consumption of porn sexualizes the same violence many survivors endure. And in fact, in some instances, it can sometimes fuel it.
Porn fuels violence
Many studies have found that even those who consume non-violent porn are more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to push partners into sex.  That doesn’t mean every consumer will use these tactics, of course.
Those who consistently consume non-violent porn are also more likely to agree with statements that promote abuse and sexual aggression against women and girls.  A meta-analysis of 33 different studies showed that watching both violent and non-violent porn increases aggressive behavior, including having violent fantasies and actually committing violent assaults. 
If you’re wondering how sitting in a chair consuming porn can actually change what a person thinks and does, the answer goes back to how porn affects the brain (See How Porn Changes The Brain). Our brains have what scientists call “mirror neurons”—brain cells that fire not only when we do things ourselves, but also when we watch other people do things.  This is why movies can make us cry or feel angry or scared.
Essentially, mirror neurons let us share the emotion of other people’s experiences as we watch. So when a person is looking at porn, he or she naturally starts to respond to the emotions of the actors seen on the screen. As the consumer becomes aroused, his or her brain gets to work wiring together those feelings of arousal to what is seen happening on the screen, almost as if he or she was actually having the experience. 
So if a person feels aroused watching a man or woman get kicked around and called names, that individual’s brain learns to associate that kind of violence with sexual arousal. 
Consider how creating a line of porn-inspired tees is not going to help victims of domestic violence in the long run, but it will normalize porn even further—even porn that romanticizes nonconsensual situations and fantasized abuse.
In order to truly raise awareness of domestic violence, we need to call out the industries that normalize and even capitalize on this behavior. We won’t stand for it, or stay silent, but we will speak out for real love and healthy relationships. Are you with us?