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Porn site solicits students’ videos with lure of scholarship fund

A new college scholarship has focused attention on the uneasy relationship between pornography and philanthropy

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BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

Since its launch in 2007, Pornhub.com has grown into one of the biggest adult sites in the world; its videos rack up nearly 79 billion views per year. Now, the company is trying to boost its reputation with a new philanthropic initiative, “Pornhub Cares.”

Last week, the company announced that Pornhub Cares will be offering a $25,000 college scholarship to the winner of a student competition. As with most academic contests, applicants (who must be enrolled in college or graduate school) will be assessed based on their GPA and transcripts — it’s the video requirement that has been controversial. Students are required to submit a short homemade video responding to the question, “How do you strive to make others happy?” The films — which will be posted publicly on the company’s website — won’t be disqualified for nudity, but applicants are discouraged from sending in straight-up porn, a spokesman for the company told The Washington Post.

“We work hard to help make millions of people feel happy every single day,” is how Pornhub describes its mission on its scholarship website. “In turn, we would like to help support the recipient of the first annual Pornhub Cares Scholarship to realize their goal of doing the same.”

Feminist anti-porn groups like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Women Against Violence Against Women have jumped to condemn the scholarship, arguing that women shouldn’t collude with an industry that degrades them. The education issue is particularly fraught in light of reports of a recent uptick in women getting into porn to pay their way through school.

This is not Pornhub’s first foray into charitable work. In honor of testicular cancer awareness month in April, the site launched a campaign called “Save the Balls,” complete with a PSA featuring a porn star teaching men how to check their testicles.

Last year, the company sponsored a reforestation campaign, “Pornhub Gives America Wood”; for the week surrounding Arbor Day, the site committed to planting a tree for every hundred views of videos in its “Big Dick” category. (They ended up planting more than 15,000 trees.)

Does porn have a favorite cause?

Unsurprisingly, sex education, safe sex and free speech rank among the most popular issues for porn companies. Hugh Hefner established an eponymous foundation in 1964 — just a decade after launching Playboy magazine—to promote “progressive values,” according to its website. The Foundation offers grants to programs and organizations “that seek to alter public policies and the discussion on controversial topics like drugs, sex, free expression, and the rights of the individual.”

REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Playboy publisher and free-speech advocate Hugh Hefner. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Since 1979, Hefner has also hosted the flashy annual “First Amendment Awards,” which recognize journalists, politicians and public figures who’ve promoted free speech or defied censorship. (Recent recipients include journalist Glenn Greenwald and “All in the Family” producer Norman Lear.)

Adam & Eve, a North Carolina-based company that has been selling sex toys for more than 40 years, has been supporting charitable causes for almost as long. In 1989, the company’s co-founder, Phil Harvey, launched DKT International to promote condom distribution and HIV prevention in the developing world. (It’s funded by the sale of condoms in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as a portion of Adam & Eve’s profits.)

Charity is also central to the business model of Benevidz, a porn site relying mostly on user submissions. Performers are encouraged to donate 10 to 15 percent of their earnings, which are pooled at the end of the month and donated to a charity they help select; Benevidz then contributes an amount up to 50 percent of its users’ donations.

But charities aren’t always keen to collaborate with well-meaning pornographers. In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness month in 2012, Pornhub pledged to donate a penny to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for every 30 videos viewed in certain breast-focused categories. But Susan G. Komen rejected Pornhub’s offer; the company ended up giving the $75,000 it raised through the “Save the Boobs” campaign to a few lower-profile breast cancer charities. Porn star James Deen was also turned away from major organizations fighting breast cancer; like Pornhub, he managed to find small charities willing to accept his money.

There’s nothing unusual about big companies and individual celebrities making significant contributions to charity. For funding a single college student or planting a few thousand trees, conglomerates like Pornhub also enjoy plenty of free publicity. When it comes to giving, in fact,the multi-billion-dollar porn industry could do more.

Related:

In porn, white women charge higher fees for scenes with black men

Behind the scenes of “Hot Girls Wanted,” a searing expose of the amateur porn industry

 

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