Please note that this article is creative speculation and does not reflect the beliefs of Woman to Woman
With 2020 being a challenging year for masses of people all over the globe, especially those under the Gen-Z umbrella, in terms of obtaining employment stability and, consequently, ensuring personal wellbeing, many women (a group, who often struggle from discrimination in the workplace) have turned to give online innovations a go. To earn, in some cases – marginal income, in others – enough to stay afloat and sustain a decent living.
‘I’m going to try out OnlyFans’ or ‘I’ll probably end up looking for a sugar daddy online’ are just a couple of commonly outspoken comments made by young girls, usually high-school students, that are often intended to be an innocent joke, but somehow, become seriously considered, looked into and tried out.
Many girls that start with something as mild as signing up for an account on OnlyFans for extra cash, end up unconsciously getting involved in the adult industry, either by the means of that same OnlyFans account or by becoming so used to earning money by showcasing their bodies that they step down from online platforms and start looking for ‘better’ opportunities; opportunities that frequently take them to very dark places from which there’s no way out.
Though the adult industry has handed over a multitude of chances to many young girls looking to reach financial independence, kick off a career, expand their network, or simply to self-affirm, it has also altered the lives of millions of hopeful, naive young women, who jumped into this multi-billion dollar business too willingly, or in some cases, unintentionally; exploiting and making a name for themselves, which has later negatively influenced their future perspectives due to their ‘imperfect’ reputation. So, is the adult industry worth it?
In her recent interview with the BBC, Mia Khalifa has spoken out about her experience with the 21st-century adult entertainment culture and explained the aftermath of working directly with Pornhub. For those that don’t know her, Mia Khalifa is a former porn actress, who garnered worldwide notoriety when she appeared in a sex video wearing the Islamic hijab. Though she has been heavily judged for cultural impropriety and accused of blasphemy, Mia’s motives were anything but sacrilegious or racist; driven solely by personal insecurities.
“Low self-esteem doesn’t discriminate against anyone” assures Mia. “I struggled with my weight since childhood and I never felt attractive or worthy of male attention. By the time I graduated, I lost a lot of weight […] and I was ready to make a bigger difference.” Mia also notes that even after having noticeably altered her physique, she still felt extremely self-conscious about the size of her breasts, since it was the first thing to diminish during her weight loss journey. Having undergone a surgical procedure, she suddenly found herself receiving an overwhelming amount of validation and male attention, which she was nervous to let go of.
Therefore, when she was spotted on the street by a marketing agent and offered a job on the spot as a ‘model’, turning down the offer seemed like refusing herself the self-empowerment she believed she deserved. Of course, she was also positively persuaded by the common assumption that her identity would remain under wraps – just as any one of the other girls whose names were rarely announced online. She says, by the time she understood that her “modelling job” required more than what she’d be comfortable with doing, it was too late. However a strong sense of intimidation has convinced her not to speak up about not wanting to film her first-ever porn video. Despite the coercion, she did express her concern about her role, stating that it may get her killed. However, her cry for help was taken in jest.
Mia proceeded to take part in similar projects before finally quitting the industry. She clarified that, throughout her career, she was always perceived as a money machine, but money-making wasn’t her motive as, in reality, the pay is much lower than people believe. Instead, it was the adrenaline that kept her going and self-deception that she was wanted by people who, as she feels, would’ve never spared a second of their time for her before.
In a podcast with Sophia Amoruso, Mia Khalifa speaks candidly about her insecurity fuelled decision to take the job at Pornhub. “I couldn’t see that that was temporary validation and that was going to be unhealthy for me in the long run, whereas working on myself and going to therapy […] would be better for me” she tells listeners of GirlBoss Radio. “I did feel validation in the moment and then I would go home and it would start to [fade]”, following which, she describes “the shame sets in”. When asked if she regrets working in porn, she immediately says “Yes.”
And, though Mia only partook in contracted work for Pornhub for three months at the age of 21, the site – unhappy with her decision to leave – continued to post videos of her as though she still worked for them. Repurposed content she cannot control and the actual rights to the site MiaKhalifa.com owned by another, it’s easy to see why these women feel they have signed their life away. Mia says to those young women signing contracts for the first time, she ‘would have not signed it when they handed it to [her], [she] would have taken it home and found someone to look it over’. The ramifications of these three months have announced themselves in unsightly ways; her family disowned her upon seeing her work, the largest terrorist group in the world, ISIS, had put out a fatwa on her by means of a death threat circulated on Twitter, she has struggled to find a normal job since acting in porn and, at the age of 27, still seeks therapy for those three months.
Now, years later, Mia shares her story to spread that the Adult Entertainment Industry gives a false sense of empowerment and, is in fact, sexual objectification which results in “all right to privacy” being lost.
Caroline Heldman, a leading advocate for spotlighting how the mainstream media contributes to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in America, offered a startling look at the objectification of women in society at her TEDxYouth@SanDiego ‘The Sexy Lie’. She illustrated how sexual objectification has escalated, how people have become inured to its damaging effects, and what can be done individually and collectively to demolish the paradigms that keep people back from a better world. She defines sexual objectification as “the process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another’s sexual pleasure”, supporting that statement with vivid examples of sexual objectification on a day-to-day basis and in the new objectification culture. Her speech enlightens its audience to the multi-faceted creative industry, by means of TV, movies, video games, music videos and magazines, which results in increased hyper-sexualization and violence.
She explains that sexual objectification, which appears to falsely entice many women, is not empowering due to the fact that – when one thinks about sex objects, they’re thinking about the object-subject dichotomy (division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: black & white; yes & no). Moreover, sexual identification results in self-objectification in women (“A key process whereby girls [and women] learn to think and treat their bodies as objects of others’ desires” (Zubriggen et al., 2007:2), which leads many women to depression, habitual body monitoring, eating disorders, body shame, sexual dysfunction, lower self-esteem, lower GPA, lower political efficacy, and female competition.
All in all, women’s decisions about involvement in the Adult industry should be completely personal and non-biased, however, it is the duty of these industries to ensure the safety of women and the duty of women to be kept very well-informed, so as to make porn acting as risk diversified as possible, for which some in-depth research will help!