The PR of the pornography industry

By Gemma Kelly, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, CEASE

Just do it. I’m lovin’ it. Because you’re worth it.

We don’t even need to mention the brand names because the multi-million dollar advertising and PR campaigns for these companies is so effective.

The same is true for the pornography industry. Although they don’t have instantly recognisable slogans per se, their advertising and PR spend is just as sophisticated, clever and well-funded as other global brand families.

Recognising this and being ready to take on the pro-pornography PR lobby, is probably one of the most difficult parts of my job.

Imagine a world where the most heinous and depraved violence is committed against women and girls, and then that violence is recorded, packaged and sold as entertainment. No, not just entertainment – sexual freedom and enlightenment.

Now imagine, that that violence is mainstreamed into every home, school, campus, workplace, people’s pockets via a smart phone, and ultimately into sexual encounters and relationships. Then imagine, that when people – children, parents, teachers, parliamentarians, charities – start to question this violence disguised as entertainment, they are told that it isn’t violence, it’s freedom. Not just sexual freedom for the women and men involved, but also for the consumers who have a right to free speech, freedom of expression, and privacy.

Is this starting to remind you of the double-speak in George Orwell’s 1984? Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Then imagine, still not quite content with this explanation, that those same concerned people – the children, parents, teachers, parliamentarians, charities – say to their governments and online regulators that they have concerns about this ‘entertainment’ and that it isn’t really representing sexual freedom. In fact, they are raising concerns that it is having a devastating physical, psychological, neurological, and emotional effect on women and girls, as well as men and boys. Furthermore, they voice concerns that the industry that creates this violent material wilfully ignores the rule of law and all forms of regulation, is actively involved in human trafficking, sexual exploitation, organised crime, racketeering and more.

And in response, the governments and regulators agree with the concerns raised but say their hands are tied because the pornography industry is just like any other industry they work with. And the people in the videos are like workers in any other industry.

I think by now you can see where I am going with this. The PR for the pornography industry is smart. It has brought Pornhub and its ilk out from the shadows into the mainstream and bagged the industry not just a seat at the table, but the driver’s seat that sets the zeitgeist and cultural mores.

All the while, the consequences of the violence it sells leaves devastation in its path. This is an industry that knows what it is doing. Not just in how to hook people onto its product, but how to sell it so it is accepted, legalised, and almost revered in mainstream society.

But the good news is we are smarter, and we are on the right side of history. Parents, teachers, children, students, parliamentarians, advocates and activists – we see through the lies. We see through the veneer of legitimacy, the platitudes and the false promises, and we won’t rest until this violent industry is not just exposed but dismantled. We are calling it as we see it and we won’t be silenced.

One day society will look back with horror at what was allowed to happen under the banner of freedom of speech and self-expression. The PR job on the pornography industry will take its place among the old advertisements we balk at now which sold cigarettes as healthy, sugar as an appetite suppressant, and fizzy drinks being good for babies.

Join us as we create a movement to hold the pornography industry to account and end sexual exploitation in all its forms.