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

Wounded Warriors runners run along Beaver Creek Road towards the Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department hall. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni’s Wounded Warriors stage solo run

Vancouver Island-wide event was cancelled, but Maria Marciano and Dave Nesbitt ran anyway

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations celebrate legal victory in fishing dispute

Ha’oom Fisheries Society and T’aaq-wiihak Fisheries announce “major legal victory”

Winston Joseph, known as Mr. Positive Port Alberni, leads the 2019 Canada Day parade with his wife Sheila. Winston, who was integral in starting the July 1 folkfest, died April 11, 2021 at the age of 89. (PHOTO COURTESY SONJA DRINKWATER)
Community remembers Winston Joseph with Canada Day parade in April

‘Mr. Positive Port Alberni’ started Canada Day folk fest, lived a life of service and faith

Grade 5 Wood Elementary Students cycling on the powerline trail. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Wood School bicycles, equipment worth $8,000 stolen

Equipment was stored at Echo Fieldhouse in Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Kobe Assam battles for the puck despite being knocked to the ice during a physical first period against the Cowichan Valley Capitals on April 7. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs pick up second shutout against Cowichan

Braden Blace earns first BCHL goal and game-winner

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read