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Money Shot: The Pornhub Story review – doc can’t find a point of view | Movies

Documentaries about pornography are usually building to one of two different climactic conclusions: that porn is actually a hateful enabler of rape, or that porn is actually a sex-positive celebration of sensual pleasure. It seems to me that Suzanne Hillinger’s uncertain documentary about Pornhub isn’t exactly sure what its money shot should be.

Pornhub is the colossally successful porn site, owned by a Canadian company with the airily tech-bro name of MindGeek; for years it provided a lucrative and arguably enlightened outlet for adult content creators and models who were providing a consensual, legal service to paying customers, and who were thus able to get away from the sleazier and more exploitative side of studio-based porn and sex work. But a 2020 exposé by New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof revealed that alongside this perfectly respectable material, people were uploading rape videos and child-abuse videos and the outrage meant that Pornhub’s activities were severely curtailed.

Moreover, the Fosta-Sesta laws brought in in the US against online sex trafficking in 2018 potentially incriminated all employees. So many of the user-generating performers migrated to OnlyFans, where the videos are more closely monitored. The film shows that Pornhub’s so-called moderators had to watch nearly 1,000 videos a day and could not meaningfully regulate the content in any way. But it also shows that some of the campaigners against Pornhub are far-right Christian evangelists who simply want to stamp out pornography and all sex outside marriage.

The film interviews – and is on the side of – the models and the performers as creative entrepreneurs and heroes of consenting sensuality. Fine. But so what? The film doesn’t interview the big players (including anti-Pornhub activist Laila Mickelwait), while for me it never gets to grips with the real issue for Pornhub, OnlyFans or indeed Facebook: are these sites publishers or platforms? If they derive profit from the content they host, then should they be responsible for it, or not?

Money Shot: The Pornhub Story is released on 15 March on Netflix.

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