What are your go-to porn websites? Don’t worry, you can tell us. It’ll be our secret.

PornHub? RedTube? YouPorn? No matter which one you pick, chances are you’ll end up on a tube site owned by MindGeek, the Luxembourg - based media giant.

Much like it’s PG-rated counterparts Nestlé, Coca Cola, or Danone, MindGeek has obtained a potentially sexier but never less ethically questionable monopoly. However, where hard questions about exploitation and human rights have been asked about the likes of Nestlé and Coca Cola, outrage against MindGeek has remained mainly flaccid, despite outcry last year.

“Pornography has always been something that people consume in private and has a lot of stigma attached to it,” Erika Lust wrote to us. “People are not willing to talk about porn and even less about the ethics of it as openly as they do with regards to fast fashion or the meat industry for example.”

Erika Lust (left) behind the scenes of 'Safe Word' (Lust Cineam, credits: Monica Figueras)

Lust is a Swedish-born, Barcelona-based porn director creating a future in which porn is inclusive, diverse, and ethical. In many ways, she and her production company Erika Lust Films are everything that MindGeek isn’t. She positions herself as “challening mass produced mainstream pornography” with a set of values outlined on her website; equal pleasure, diversity, and fair pay are just a few of them.

Still from 'Carpe Diem' (XConfessions, credits: Arnoldo Porta)

We reached out to her to talk about the New York Times PornHub exposé, the MindGeek monopoly, and the way porn is changing for the better.

“When the news [of the NYT story] broke, I invited my followers to have a look at Kristof’s piece because it shed light and (re)opened a necessary debate on something that I’ve been critical about for years; the MindGeek monopoly that makes profit by giving a platform to millions of videos depicting sexual violence, coercion, child abuse, even virginity testings, and generally presents non-consensual sex as the norm,” Lust wrote.  

Opening PornHub (or RedTube or YouPorn or Brazzers or XTube or - you get the point), Lust is easily proven right. It’s ‘hardcore’ this, ‘hardcore’ that but space for genuine pleasure, connection, and anything but male gratification is rare if not nonexistent.

Still from 'Primary' (Lust Cinema, credits: Anne Demarco) 

“Mindgeek pushes a view of sex, sexuality, and women that is geared exclusively to elicit pleasure in men with its overrepresentation of male pleasure compared to female pleasure through excessive depictions of male-dominant sex acts,” Lust explains. “This porn may only be a part of all that is there but it's a massive part (90%) whose existence overwhelms all else in the porn universe.”

Behind the scenes of 'Heidi And The Dough Boy' (XConfessions, credits: Adriana Eskenazi)

What Lust refers to in terms of the violence on the platform goes even deeper than surface-level porn tropes; last year’s New York Times article revealed how PornHub was hosting and profiting from sexual abuse and child exploitation uploaded to their website. After this came out, PornHub deleted all its unverified content but companies such as Visa and Mastercard already reconsidered their collaborations with the porn tube.

“When Visa and Mastercard finally decided that their cards would no longer be accepted on Pornhub [last December], this has left Pornhub with no way to process payments other than with cryptocurrencies, [and] at the end of the day, the people who've been affected the most are the sex workers and adult creators who make their living out of paid content on this platform,” Lust wrote.

Still from '360 Of Lust' (XConfessions, credits: Aleix Rodón)

Right now, sex workers reliant on the tube site for their livelihood are most affected by the changes but rarely considered in the conversations. All this while porn consumption has only increased during the pandemic. “Being critical about Mindgeek’s model shouldn’t have to mean becoming anti-porn and strengthening the already existing stigma on sex work,” Lust explains.

Even though anti-sex work, anti-PornHub, and anti-porn movements might imagine that banning porn and sex workers from working will mean a happy ending to the demand for sex work and sexual content, this will not be the case. Sexual innuendos aside, the bottom line is that removing porn does not remove the desire for porn.

“Porn is always going to exist,” Lust said. “So it's clear that the real solution to bad porn is not a ban but making porn with clean values and from diverse perspectives.”

Still from 'Let Me Sit On Thy Face' (XConfessions, credits: Aleix Rodón)

So where can we find this dirty content with clean values?

“There is MindGeek's monopoly, and then there are several porn studios and performers’ own channels that promote gender equality, intimacy, diversity, affirmative consent, safety, pleasure, and sexual freedom and exploration,” Lust said.

So, if you want to watch some filthy films and actually feel good about what’s on your screen post-climax and horniness, here are some suggestions:

  • Lust Cinema: home to all Erika Lust Films originals. (Also: XConfessions and Else Cinema).
  • Bellesa Films: focussed on shifting the female role in porn; “fantasies by women, written by women, produced by women.”
  • Holly Randall: website of photographer, podcaster, and director Holly Randall bringing a feminist perspective to porn.
  • MakeLoveNotPorn: a platform celebrating the reality of sex versus what we see in porn.