Kate Sinclaire, owner and director of Cine Sinclaire, a Canadian pornography producer, is photographed in her office in Winnipeg, Saturday, March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Kate Sinclaire, owner and director of Cine Sinclaire, a Canadian pornography producer, is photographed in her office in Winnipeg, Saturday, March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Sex workers say their voice is needed at Commons committee studying Pornhub

The committee is investigating the Montreal-headquartered pornography website Pornhub

When Kate Sinclaire was 19, an ex-boyfriend posted explicit images of her online without her consent.

The pictures, and the comments about them, made her feel embarrassed, angry and ashamed.

That feeling of shame led her to question why she was feeling that way when she had done nothing wrong.

“Why am I ashamed about this?” she said in a recent interview.

Sinclaire, who is from Winnipeg, decided to confront her abuser and to begin making pornography that she said celebrates all genders and sexualities and helps people take pride in themselves. But she worries a parliamentary committee in Ottawa studying the porn industry could make it more difficult or impossible for people like her to keep working.

The committee, which is studying how to protect the privacy and reputations of people who appear on pornography websites, isn’t interested in hearing from people who have a nuanced view on the topic, Sinclaire said, adding that she worries about what recommendations will come out of its work.

“I’m worried that it will make my work less feasible,” Sinclaire said. “That elements of it could become illegal, or I could become criminalized.”

Sandra Wesley, director of Stella, a Montreal advocacy group for sex workers, said when she asked to testify, “the response that I got back is that sex workers are not relevant to this conversation.”

The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, she said, is “only interested in hearing about instances of non-consensual videos or non-consensual sex being put on those platforms.”

The committee is investigating the Montreal-headquartered pornography website Pornhub, which has been accused of hosting explicit videos of people posted without consent — including videos of alleged rape and child sexual abuse.

Executives of its parent company, MindGeek, have denied any wrongdoing and said their company is a “world leader” in preventing the distribution of content showing child sexual abuse and non-consensual acts.

Wesley said some of the people who have testified before the committee have ties to religious groups that oppose sex outside of heterosexual marriage or are anti-pornography activists.

Committee chair Chris Warkentin, a Conservative MP in Alberta, said he has received “dozens and dozens and dozens” of requests to testify.

“Committee members have prioritized those who they have wanted to hear from initially,” he said. “This study is ongoing and to my knowledge, nobody has been formally told that they will not appear.”

The committee is encouraging people to file written briefs, he said, adding that those briefs will be considered as testimony.

Wesley, however, said she thinks those briefs won’t get attention.

“For us, the need to testify verbally in front of the committee is extremely important,” she said. “We know that our brief will be ignored.”

Traffickinghub founder Laila Mickelwait has recently appeared before the committee.

In an email, Mickelwait said her organization is not religious and aims to hold online porn giant Pornhub “accountable for enabling and profiting from mass child exploitation, sex trafficking and non-consensual content.”

Traffickinghub describes itself on its website as “powered by” Exodus Cry, a Christian organization that opposes the “commercial sex industry” on religious and moral grounds.

Until 2016, Exodus Cry was listed as a ministry of the International House of Prayer, an evangelical church in the United States, famous for its 24 hours a day, seven days a week prayer room in Kansas City, Mo. Exodus Cry spokeswoman Lexie Smith wrote in an email that the group is not formally affiliated with the International House of Prayer.

Jenn Clamen, the national coordinator for the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, an organization of more than 20 groups from across Canada that represent workers in the sex industry, including Stella, said she fears the committee will recommend regulations requiring online sex workers — including those who work alone — to provide more identifying information to websites where their work appears.

Multiple briefs filed with the committee have called for pornography companies to be required to use third parties to verify the identities of people who appear in videos.

Clamen said she’s concerned about how that kind of data would be stored.

“There’s a lot at risk when people work in the industry,” she said.

“There’s all kinds of people, in all different kinds of professions that have started to do online sex work,” she said. “Should any of their employers ever find out they’re working in the industry, they are obviously risking their straight jobs.”

Websites with identifying information about sex workers have been hacked in the past, Clamen said.

“It is absurd to even consider additional regulations without understanding how those regulations impact on the people in the industry in terms of health and safety,” she added.

Warkentin said the committee’s next steps haven’t been decided.

“That will be determined by the consensus of the committee members and that has yet to be finalized,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sinclaire said because her work appears in the United States, she’s required to have identifying information about performers on file. The physical location of those files is legally required to appear on her website and in every video she makes. On multiple occasions, she said, men have used that information to find her studio. She said one time she had to call police.

She said she hopes the committee will recommend that steps need to be taken to help victims of sexual crimes feel comfortable coming forward and that sex education needs to focus on consent and boundaries.

But she said she isn’t hopeful that will be the result.

“A lot of the time, people make well-intentioned laws or rules that end up hurting more people,” she said.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Parliament

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Participants are encouraged to light a candle and watch the streamed event from home as speakers honor the lives of those lost to overdose from Gyro Bandshell in Penticton April 14, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Vigil for 5th anniversary of B.C. overdose crisis to be held in Penticton

To honor the lives lost to the overdose crisis and bring a call of action to policymakers

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will speed up the process for hospitality businesses looking to set up patios during the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Under the most recent restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited, but patio dining is allowed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen speeds up patio permit approval

Initiative to help hospitality businesses affected by latest COVID-19 restrictions

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

The Town of Oliver’s Town Offices, which the town wants to get designated a heritage site. (Black Press)
Oliver council to weigh nixing alerts for water leaks

Staff say the policy has served its purpose in fixing the majority of leaks

A small wildfire near Apex Mountain was added to B.C. WIldfire’s dashboard April 8, 2021. (B.C. Wildfire)
Small wildfire near Apex Mountain under control

2021 has seen an early start to the wildfire season

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Vernon Secondary School. (Google Maps)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

VSS exposure announced late Friday, April 9

The Royal’s 1951 visit to Revelstoke. (Photo by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #17)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip visited Revelstoke – twice

The prince died April 9 at the age of 99

Nolan's Pharmasave in downtown Vernon received 200 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines Friday, April 9, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
AstraZeneca vaccines arrive at Vernon pharmacies

Four pharmacies in the city received doses of the COVID-19 inoculant Friday

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on Thursday, April 8. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

An East Hill resident had their leaf bags torched in front of their home overnight April 8. Less than two weeks prior their garbage can was lit on fire too. (Taryn Allen photo)
Garbage, leaf fires spark fear in North Okanagan

First an East Hill residents’ trash can, then bagged leaves were lit on fire

Okanagan-based All Are Family Outreach Society, which provides support to those struggling from Armstrong to Kelowna, is in need of a new headquarters after leaving a Winfield church in June 2020. (All Are Family Outreach photo)
Okanagan outreach society in ‘desperate’ need after storage unit break-in

All Are Family Outreach had $4,000 in tools stolen from its donation shipping container

Firefighters responded to a house fire on Banks Crescent in Summerland on Friday afternoon. The fire began as a stovetop fire but resulted in significant damages. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Fire results in damage to Summerland home

Crews called on Friday, April 9 following stovetop fire

Most Read