LOS ANGELES — Pornhub is considered by many inside and outside the adult entertainment industry as the quintessential porn brand. That’s why the world took note when New York Times opinion contributor Nicholas Kristof wrote the highly controversial “The Children of Pornhub” column that dealt with accusations of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking lodged against Pornhub by members of the anti-porn movement. Namely, Laila Micklewait of the “TraffickingHub” movement went viral on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube alleging that the company behind Pornhub, MindGeek, is nothing more than a criminal enterprise for supposedly “profiting” off of the distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and other non-consensual porn content.
However, the accusations outlined by Kristof lacked context. Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, faced significant criticism from other journalists and professionals in the adult industry for relying on a one-sided reportage that fed Micklewait’s claims and further emboldened one of the anti-porn movement’s biggest hitters, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). In a clear shortcoming in Kristof’s reporting, he relied heavily on anti-porn activists like Micklewait and religiously-motivated individuals at NCOSE as “experts” on this supposed crisis of exploitation.
After the publication of Kristof’s column, the real pain of the controversy was felt by performers who use Pornhub as a revenue stream. Credit card companies like Mastercard blocked financial transactions at Pornhub leading to a financial disaster for thousands of independent adult content creators who rely on monetization as a means to pay their bills and support their families. As a response, an organized effort of adult performers and other industry professionals took to social media to set the record straight and reveal that adult entertainment has nothing to do with illegal activity, like CSAM production and distribution. One of the most vocal individuals during this time was Mike Stabile. Stabile is the director of public affairs for the Free Speech Coalition (FSC).
FSC is the chamber of commerce that represents the adult entertainment industry in the United States. The coalition has actively worked to defend the rights of industry professionals, including during the aftermath of the Kristof column. Noticing this, Emmy-winning documentarian Suzanne Hillinger embarked on featuring the human costs of the anti-porn movement and how moral panics surrounding Pornhub and the industry in a general cause much more harm than good. The end product was the premiere of Money Shot: The Pornhub Story, a Netflix documentary film featuring adult industry performers and professionals like porn stars Asa Akira, Cherie Deville, Siri Dahl, Gwen Adora, and Natassia Dreams. Hillinger also interviewed the multi-award-winning adult director and chief creative officer for Adult Time, Bree Mills, and former employees of MindGeek who gave a very intimate look inside the company during the aftermath of Kristof’s column.
Kristof was also featured in the film, as were representatives from NCOSE and the highly-reputable National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Stabile was also prominently featured with a well-informed, dedicated defense of the adult entertainment industry and skewering of the anti-pornography movement for their disregard for the rights and wellbeing of online sex workers.
Released early last month, Money Shot is currently certified ‘fresh’ by review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Noel Murray wrote for the Los Angeles Times that Hillinger gives a “thoughtful look at a controversy unlikely to fade away, so long as modern technology and prurient interests continue to exist.”
In an exclusive interview with YNOT, Mike Stabile discussed the importance of Money Shot and his reaction to participating in the documentary film.
YNOT: What was it like sitting for a documentary interview that was actually informative and even considering the impact of anti-porn movements on the adult industry?
Stabile: Long before I sat for the interview, I’d discussed the project with Suzanne Hillinger, the director. Early on, she told me that she wanted to focus on performers and how they are the ones most impacted by the attacks on porn sites. This was a project that certainly arose because of the Kristof piece but was heavily influenced by the MasterCard regulations that followed.
When I actually sat for the doc, it was September 2021, just a month after banks almost threatened OnlyFans into pulling adult entirely.
YNOT: How was the whole process? Are you pleased with the outcome of the documentary?
Stabile: I am. Netflix wanted me to be available for press, and so I first saw a screener in February. At that point, I was concerned that too much attention was paid to the antis, and that not enough was done to combat their claims. (I think it would have made a huge difference to have MindGeek sit down and really talk about the realities of moderation, but I also understand that it’s hard to do so in the middle of a lawsuit.) I was worried that people wouldn’t understand the complexities, or would totally swallow the claims of the antis, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
People really seem to get it.
YNOT: What was the best part of the documentary to you? What was the worst part of the documentary to you?
Stabile: The best thing the doc does is to center performers’ voices and experiences. That’s something you rarely see on a platform as big as Netflix. I also love when NCOSE’s Dani Pinter struggles to reconcile her virulently anti-sex work position with her alleged concern for sex workers. Obviously, I have issues with some of the broad and misleading claims made by the antis, and would have loved more context. But as I discussed with Suzanne, that’s not entirely on her. She’s just starting the discussion, so after it came out, I pulled together the context that I thought was missing.
YNOT: Do you think that Money Shot can describe in greater detail the actual human side of the anti-porn versus pro-porn debate as it relates to the presence of Pornhub in our world and more?
Stabile: I think that Money Shot gives a massive audience an unprecedented look at how anti-porn campaigns have hurt the very people they claim to want to save. It gives them not just a voice, but a personality and a sense of who they are as humans.
YNOT: Do you have any particular reactions to Pornhub (MindGeek as a whole) being acquired by Ethical Capital Partners?
Stabile: From what I’ve seen and heard, I’m optimistic. Despite conventional wisdom, Pornhub has been a leader in the fight against child sexual abuse material, and I’m glad to have a team that seems willing to talk about that.
YNOT: Should everyone watch Money Shot?
Stabile: If you want to see my dog, yes!