Trigger warning: Money Shot is Not Rated on Netflix. The film contains explicit material, including nudity and mature subject matter. Accordingly, this article contains some graphic descriptions of sex. Reader discretion is advised.
Fight the New Drug is an awareness organization educating about the harms of pornography on individuals, relationships, and society. We share research, facts, and personal accounts to help promote understanding for various aspects of this multi-faceted issue. Our goal is to maintain an environment where all individuals can have healthy and productive conversations about this issue, while acknowledging that this issue can impact any person or relationship differently.
Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization. Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively focused. Including links and discussions about these legislative matters does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug. Though our organization is non-legislative, we fully support the regulation of already illegal forms of pornography and sexual exploitation, including the fight against sex trafficking.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Netflix documentary “Money Shot: The Pornhub Story.” As you can imagine, as an organization that raises awareness on the harmful effects of pornography, we at Fight the New Drug have a few thoughts.
While “Money Shot” doesn’t address the decades of research from respected academic institutions demonstrating significant impacts of porn consumption for individuals, relationships, and society or the countless personal accounts that support that research, the film does highlight some problems associated with the mainstream porn industry, specifically with regard to the platform Pornhub.
Pornhub is one of the world’s largest porn sites owned by the Montréal-based company MindGeek, which has received increased media attention since 2020 for reportedly hosting nonconsensual content and knowingly profiting from sexual exploitation and abuse. Through a series of interviews with porn performers, pro- and anti-porn advocates, journalists, lawyers, and even former MindGeek employees, “Money Shot” sheds light on these allegations made against Pornhub’s exploitative business practices that many anti-exploitation advocates have been speaking out against for years.
Pornhub’s “rise to fame”
The documentary introduces many of the films’ pro-porn advocates and performers by seemingly normalizing the various types of porn they first remember seeing. Noelle Perdue, a former porn scriptwriter who worked at Pornhub for three years and is heavily featured in “Money Shot,” is quoted saying, “I was 11, and I went onto Pornhub, and I wanted to be surprised, and I really was. The first piece of pornography that I watched was an eight-person, geriatric gang bang.”
The film continues to contextualize how Pornhub gained the reach and power it has today by running through a brief history of porn’s evolution in the early days of the internet. This includes how tube sites like Pornhub ultimately changed how porn was produced and distributed on the internet, quickly rising their way to the top-ranked porn tube website.
After detailing Pornhub’s “rise to fame,” porn performer Cheri DeVille introduces how unverified users could upload exploitative content to the platform without consequence, saying, “…if you let just anyone upload anything, you’re going to get anyone uploading anything. And that’s not okay.” DeVille refers to content that drove Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof’s “The Children of Pornhub” in the New York Times in December 2020.
Nicholas Kristof shares what sparked his investigation into Pornhub, “When I started reporting this, my hope was that there would be nothing to write about. That I would look into it, and it would turn out to be murky or exaggerated, and that there really wasn’t a story there. But the more I looked, the more I felt this was something that the public should be aware of and that if the public were aware of it, you know, people would not like the idea of a major company behaving in this way.” Pornhub executives refused to speak with Kristof for this piece.
Kristof highlights the story of Serena Fleites’, one victim featured in his 2020 New York Times article who was exploited on Pornhub. When Fleites was just 14, nude videos of her were uploaded to Pornhub, with one having over 400,000 views. Despite her painstaking and often-ignored efforts to get the videos removed, the videos were frequently re-uploaded to Pornhub. Kristof says that he noticed Serena’s and similar underage and nonconsensual videos were being profited off of.“…Pornhub made money off this. They ran ads on this. That was what drove me to write this piece,” says Kristof.
A spotlight on problems with Pornhub
Kristof’s bombshell article titled The Children of Pornhub, which highlighted anti-exploitation efforts like Traffickinghub gave visibility to Pornhub’s problematic business practices, including the allowance of nonconsensual content on the platform.
“Money Shot” goes on to show a series of porn performers and pro-porn advocates responding to Kristof’s three recommendations to combat these exploitative issues, including that Pornub only allows videos to be posted by verified users, prohibits downloads, and increases video moderation on the platform. While pro- and anti-porn advocates agree with these recommendations, the documentary highlights how problematic implementing these recommendations would be to individuals working in the porn industry if payments could no longer be processed on the platform—which is exactly what happened. Mastercard, Visa, and Discover suspended their payment processing services on Pornhub’s site just days after the New York Times reported that the platform included videos of child sexual exploitation material and nonconsensual content.
Money talks and “Money Shot” shows the power payment processors have over Pornhub, as they responded by removing over 10 million uploaded videos from unverified users just days after Mastercard, Visa, and Discover suspended payment processing. In the documentary, Journalist Martin Patriquin speaks to MindGeek’s questionable principles to prioritize profit above people by saying, “…less content equals less profit. So, the fact that [Pornhub] did that when they did it suggests to me that that’s the nuclear option. You get rid of this stuff when it’s absolutely necessary. Before then, let it ride ‘cause we’re making money on it.”
“Money Shot” then briefly covers the Canadian House of Commons Ethics Committee (ETHI) investigation into MindGeek that began in February of 2021. You hear MindGeek executives Feras Antoon and David Tassillo defensively respond to questions from members while doing their best to avoid taking responsibility for Pornhub’s exploitative practices including reportedly hosting and profiting from child sexual abuse material and nonconsensual content.
Sidenote: The Canadian government wasn’t the only one coming after MindGeek, as a series of survivor-focused lawsuits against MindGeek shortly followed.
A whistleblower from Pornhub speaks out
In one of the most compelling interviews in “Money Shot,” an anonymous whistle-blower from Pornhub’s content moderation team says: “I think the company could have done more to prevent certain things and chose not to. And only really changed some things after it got in trouble. I was a moderator. I worked for less than two years… When I worked there, there was a little over 30 moderators. Every moderator had to review, um, 700 videos per day, but it was expected for us to do more… We were scrubbing through videos as fast as we could. Even if we thought that we were being diligent with our work, we would still miss a few videos every now and then.”
He continues, “I can’t really tell from a video the age of somebody. It’s a really hard thing to determine if a 17-year-old is more than 18. They could be 14, or they could be 19. Basically, we would just guess, and the manager would decide if the video would be taken down for good or if it would go live again. The rules constantly changed…”
Dani Pinter, Senior Legal Counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, put into perspective how severely under-staffed Pornhub’s moderation team of 30 was by comparing it to Facebook’s team of over 15,000 moderators and said, “Each of these moderators were tasked with viewing 800-1,000 videos per eight-hour shift. And that’s impossible. So, of course they’re fast forwarding, skipping through. No sound. Which, is key because sometimes the women or children in the video are crying, yelling, saying “No,” saying “Stop,” and they’re not catching any of that.”
As if it couldn’t get any worse, MindGeek’s whistle-blower confirms that exploitation victims were unable to get the immediate help they deserved in any reasonable amount of time, stating, “We have thousands of take-down requests. We don’t really go through them in time. Many videos that should have been taken down stayed up for months.”
“Money Shot” does shed light on what actually happens when a video is removed from Pornhub. When a video is removed, a message displays in its place saying “video was removed at the request of NCMEC,” and the video page would still exist so it would continue to appear in search results, show a history of comments, and, worst of all, would recommend similar content. So, in essence, Pornhub would still capitalize on the traffic directed to the pages that had featured these videos of real child sexual abuse material (legally defined as “child pornography”) and nonconsensual material.
What is “Money Shot” really trying to accomplish?
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s Dani Pinter is quoted in this film saying, “It’s irrelevant what your faith background is, what your political beliefs are. Everyone can be unified on this issue that no one should be sexually exploited.” While the overall tone of “Money Shot” seems to favor the perspective of those who work in or advocate on behalf of the porn industry, the film does portray all sides as united against sexual exploitation.
While many of the controversial incidents surrounding Pornhub portrayed in “Money Shot” aim to hold the platform and its parent company MindGeek accountable and financially responsible for profiting from the exploitation, many pro-porn advocates note that anti-exploitation measures have primarily hurt individuals working in the mainstream porn industry more than they hurt platforms like Pornhub. After all, even with payment processors suspending payments on Pornhub, the company still profits from banner ads and affiliate sales (processed outside of Pornhub’s website), while individuals are unable to profit from their own self-generated content.
At the end of“Money Shot,” we see a porn director and porn performers creating a video where the characters in the scene are encouraged to demonstrate consent in the video. Several pro-porn advocates discuss how they believe consent is mandatory and there isn’t such a thing as “nonconsensual pornography” because that would be rape. Unfortunately, first-hand accounts from porn performers show how frequently consent was ignored in the porn industry, even after filming had begun, and that nonconsensual content still gets uploaded. Research and personal accounts also show that porn often ignores consent and teaches viewers to ignore it as well.
What we can do
The events discussed in “Money Shot” have been years in the making. Countless anti-exploitation advocates and survivors of trafficking, child abuse, and image-based abuse have worked tirelessly to expose the questionable business practices of the porn industry and the proliferation of nonconsensual content on porn sites.
There is plenty of room for change in the porn industry to ensure the consent and age of individuals featured in videos, but even if extensive improvements did take place, research still shows the harms of porn itself and its significant connection to sex trafficking. Ultimately, no measure could be put in place to guarantee the safety and consent of individuals in porn. Lasting change will only come when society understands the proven harmful effects of porn.
To learn more about porn and exploitation, we invite you to read our research-based articles and survivor stories, and checkout our free documentary series “Brain, Heart ,World.”
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