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Liberalism has a blindspot when it comes to pornography. Liberals see it as a freedom issue – adults should be free to watch porn if they want, so long as no-one is harmed in the making of it. Adults should also be free to make porn if they want. Companies should be free to sell porn. No one wants to oppose pornography, for fear it will make them look Victorian and repressed, like Mary Whitehouse. To oppose porn might be seen as ‘weird’ – to accept it and giggle at it is normal.

In fact, just about the only male journalist I can think of who has raised any concerns about the massive global pornography industry and its effect on all of us is Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent who has become something of a moral voice in journalism. In his 2008 book, Empire of Illusion, he asserted that porn is a particularly vicious form of corporate slavery, in which women are commodified, abused and traumatised for the pleasure of male consumers and the multi-billion-dollar profit of corporations. You can read an excerpt here.
When I was a teenager at boarding school, there was – as you can imagine – a fair amount of porn around. This was in the days before internet, when the porn industry was dominated by top-shelf magazines like Hustler or Playboy. Now, a teenager has instant access to aggregation sites like PornHub or YouPorn, which directly promote hardcore or ‘extreme’ porn. That’s what teenagers are growing up on now: extreme, often violent pornography. It’s no wonder they get into things like sexting, where they text photos of themselves naked to their partners (often regretting it if their partner shares it with their friends). Pornography is the darkside to the YouTube culture of narcissism. You’re only valued if someone is watching you, clicking on you.
Sites like YouPorn have moved the mainstream of pornography to the extreme. The mainstream now would have been considered extremely hardcore 20 years ago. Go onto one of the main hub sites, and there are adverts on the homepage showing women being violently abused – choked, strangled, slapped, thrown across the room, forced to crawl on all floors. Their faces show they’re clearly in agony and distress, because that’s what apparently gets the consumer off. I thought Japanese cartoon pornography, with its rape and even murder fantasies, was pretty sick – well, it’s become normal in our culture too. The sites are called things like PunishTube, Pornstar Discipline, AbuseWeb. They sell rape fantasies, pure and simple, right on the homepage of the biggest porn websites in the world.
You might think ‘well, it’s the internet, we can’t control it’. But we can. There are two ways we can control it. By putting pressure on the companies who create the content and websites, and by getting governments to change the regulation of internet porn.

[Update: since writing this piece, I’ve discovered that the British government made ‘extreme pornography’ – including the glamorisation of rape – illegal in 2009. So YouPorn should be shut down in the UK for taking advertising from sites like PunishTube ]
Much of the violent content is made by a company called Brazzers, whose slogan is ‘Our girls like it rough’. The same company also owns sites like YouPorn and RedTube. It’s perhaps the biggest porn company in the world.
Brazzers was set up by some Canadian students in around 2005: Ouissam Youssef, Youssef and Stephane Manos, Feras Antoon and Matt Keezer. The name was a joke of their mainly (Christian) Middle Eastern origins – Brazzers as a foreign pronunciation of ‘Brothers’. They then set up the sites PornHub, YouPorn, RedTube and others, and before long these 20-something geeks were the kings of porn – their sites were the number one Google search result for ‘porn’ and ‘sex’, and were in the top 100 websites in the world.
Brazzers moved porn from the Hugh Hefner ‘old duffer in a velvet jacket’ model of pornography to a Porn 2.0 version made by younger IT nerds who knew what IT nerds wanted: more cartoon fake boobs, more hardcore sex, more older women with younger men fantasies, more ‘reality porn’ or ‘Gonzo porn’ where frat-boys ‘pick up’ women off the street, put them in van and screw them; and more violent and abusive sex. The flipside of the frat-boy solidarity (‘hey, us guys are all ‘brazzers’, right? High five!’) is a fear / hatred of women, a sense they must be made to kneel, suffer, submit.
But these young guys saw themselves as internet entrepreneurs first and foremost, and they were clearly concerned about their reputations. Ouissam Youssef’s website, for example, makes no mention of his success in the porn industry, but does declare his support for charities – perhaps revealingly, he wants to set up a foundation for autism, and he also supports World Vision, a Christian charity. Matt Keezer says he supports Unicef, the children’s charity. Stephane Manos is a member of a strange Christian organisation called AHEPA, and also supports a bipolar association and a ‘children’s telethon’.
Obviously somewhat conflicted souls. Perhaps because of this, they sold all their businesses – Brazzers and the sites like YouPorn – to a 32-year-old German called Fabian Thylmann (shown on the left), for an estimated $140 million. All the porn assets are controlled by the appropriately-named Manwin, now one of the biggest web companies in the world, and probably the biggest porn company (it recently signed a deal to take over the running of Playboy’s TV channels). Thylmann has been called one of the ‘global power brokers’ of the porn industry. Once again, the company makes a big thing of its ‘social responsibility’, and support for child protection laws and safe sex. You would never guess, looking at its sleek website with its image of a gleaming glass skyscraper, that the company makes profits from rape fantasy sites like PunishTube. If ever Patrick Bateman ran a company, I think it would look and act like Manwin.
Well, here’s some social responsibility for you Fabian. Stop making money from the glamorisation of rape. Cut that shit out. Close down and stop advertising sites like PunishTube – they’re dangerous, they’re immoral, they’re toxic. Tweet Fabian to tell him to #banrapeporn, email Manwin’s media team here to tell them to take those sites down, and to take down any videos that glorify violence against women. Extreme pornography is illegal under UK law – this company should either clean up its act or be closed to UK ISPs.