2022 has been one of the best and worst years to be a porn star. On the one hand, OnlyFans continued to help performers sell their content, driving a significant comeback for an industry that had nearly died because of online piracy. But while becoming a sex worker is less stigmatized than ever in some circles, backlash brewed in other arenas. Right-wing evangelical Laila Mickelwait teamed up with billionaire Bill Ackman to demand credit card companies stop processing payments on PornHub, and the protests worked. Instagram subsequently de-platformed the tube company’s account without explanation, and PornHub’s parent company, MindGeek, remains in court over several lawsuits.
The war on porn could get even worse in 2023 thanks to new Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, who has said he wants to ban porn nationwide. Vance’s proclamations come at a time when fringe extremists, including Ye (the rapper formerly known as Kanye West), are pushing for porn prohibition. Their demands may lack legal grounding, but they pose serious threats.
If you’re unfamiliar with Vance, here are the Cliff Notes: The Yale Law School grad rose to prominence with his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, about growing up poor and white in America. After the mainstream media embraced him (Netflix made a film adaptation of his life, starring Glenn Close as his grandmother), Vance pivoted far right, running as a MAGA Republican in Ohio and winning a Senate seat last month.
Among the several scary opinions Vance voiced during his campaign was his belief in a complete ban on porn. “I think the combination of porn, abortion have basically created a really lonely, isolated generation that isn’t getting married,” Vance complained to Crisis magazine in 2021. “They’re not having families, and they’re actually not even totally sure how to interact with each other.”
If Vance were a lone anti-porn senator, he would be frightening but less dangerous. Unfortunately, many other Republicans hold anti-porn views. According to The Guardian, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley blames feminism for driving men to porn (whatever that means), while West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice blamed porn for school shootings. Most frighteningly of all, these are mainstream Republicans. More fringe actors take things even further. In a recent episode of Vice Media and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes’ streaming show, Ye pushed a gross antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews operated MindGeek to poison people’s minds.