File photo | Mia Khalifa | Twitter/@miakhalifa
File photo | Mia Khalifa | Twitter/@miakhalifa
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Mia Khalifa, who willingly became a part of the porn industry as an adult, now wants her videos to be removed from the internet.

The Mia Khalifa issue brings to light the debate about consent yet again and is expanding our notion of what it means. Do porn stars have the right to be forgotten, a concept that Europe and Argentina practice, or the right to withdraw consent?

Remember when journalist Bhupendra Chaubey, in an infamous interview, just wouldn’t let actress Sunny Leone forget her past as a porn star and harangued her with sexist questions?

Khalifa, an American-Lebanese social media influencer who rose to fame after a three-month stint as a porn star, reacted strongly this week to an article published by RT. The article suggested she owes her fandom to her career as a porn star and “should own the mistakes of her past”, not push for her videos to be deleted.

An online petition called ‘Justice for Mia Khalifa’, floated by one of her fans demanding a porn website take down her videos, received 1.5 million signatures in support.


Also read: Most youths turn to porn to seek information about sex, says rights activist Vithika Yadav


‘Less than perfect’

The RT article by American journalist Helen Buyniski goes on to say: “Why should Khalifa get to wipe her indiscretions from the internet when so many other women don’t have that option, including women who were forced into sex work by economic necessity or an abusive partner?”

“Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone’s mistakes make them world-famous. If Khalifa wants her videos wiped from the internet, maybe she should consider relinquishing her social-media empire as well,” she said.

In an interview with the BBC last year, Khalifa had spoken up about her experience in the porn industry, claiming that despite becoming one of the most-viewed performers on Pornhub, she had made a mere $12,000 out of some 11 videos posted over a span of 3 months.

In a number of interviews, and through her social media posts, Khalifa has repeatedly said that being young and naive, she was taken advantage of and ended up signing unfair contracts.

Of late, Khalifa has been wanting to disassociate from her past. And who are we to stand in her way?

The arguments of the American journalist are similar to the kind of scrutiny that ‘less than perfect’ rape victims often face.

Owing to her popularity from her stint as a porn star, Khalifa established quite a clout on social media. She does not fit perfectly into the definition of a ‘victim’.

When there are ‘worse’ victims of the porn industry — those who had their videos posted by rapists, blackmailers or abusive ex-boyfriends — why does Khalifa get to demand to erase her videos, Buyniski asks.

I know Khalifa consented to her videos. But she made a choice that she now regrets. And it remains online for voyeurs to watch, download and share.


Also read: Why it’s time for India to have its own porn star


A thin line

Somehow, the thin line that represents consent becomes extremely blurry when we talk about any type of sex work. If sex workers or porn stars have the right to withdraw consent in the middle of a sexual act, then the same principle of consent should extend to their videos.

Khalifa made a choice, but at 21, did she understand the full implications? Did she understand that her parents would disown her, that the world’s most dreaded terrorist organisation, ISIS, would send her death threats, and that for the rest of her life the ‘porn star’ tag would remain. Khalifa also pointed out she did several things apart from porn videos, which no one seems to care about.

Now, years later, if people watch her videos despite her withdrawing consent, it becomes a form of sexual violation.

But if all porn stars had a right to take down their videos despite having given consent to shoot and publish — and having been paid for their work — how would porn websites run a successful business?

If you ask me, it is disturbing to think that any business should be willing to make money out of porn that is not consensual, but I understand that it is utopic to expect businesses to run on losses for the sake of individual rights.

But imagine a world of porn where consent was sacrosanct. Imagine it had this little extra element known as ‘respect for women’.


Also read: Ban or not, Indians love watching desi college girls have sex in HD, says Pornhub


Hit delete

Like it or not, most men start watching porn in their teens. In many countries such as India that is probably the only form of ‘sexual education’ they get. What they watch is likely to shape how they treat women. If disregard for women’s consent is the basis of the porn industry, we end up normalising various degrees of sexual violations and assault. It leads to a world where sex is expected from women regardless of how she feels about it. In 2018, India’s National Family Health Survey showed that “83% of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 who have ever suffered sexual abuse cite their current husband as the perpetrator”.

Not just men, porn has an influence on women too. The expectation of what sex should be, how men should treat women in bed, and importance of teaching a woman that she has the right to withdraw consent in the middle of an act — all of this can be shaped by porn.

If logging on to a porn website came with the inherent guarantee that the website only has consensual videos, would the platform not simultaneously be in the best interests of the employers, actors, viewers and society?

It is unlikely that Khalifa will ever see all of her videos completely wiped off the internet. Twitter users are already claiming to have downloaded her videos ‘just in case they get taken down’.

Nevertheless, she has started a debate on whether porn stars have a say in their work post-production, and when they are no longer comfortable with it. Her story has lessons for young girls, as well as the porn industry on what consent is. Mia Khalifa’s fans owe her the right to withdraw consent.

If you are deleting your embarrassing Facebook posts from 2009, can you even imagine what Khalifa is possibly going through?

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Being a pornstar is hell on its own, and all male and female pornstar knows that. They cannot live their lives like normal people because they have taken the money, time and energy of so many people and turned them into sexholics who want only sex in their lifes they don’t understand the meaning of relationship now.
    Porn industry is changing this world very fast and making very person unenergetic and dumb.
    If you was or is or going to become a pornstar trust me. You are going to regret this for your whole life like an rapist or murderer.
    And i am not telling this without proof their is pornstars own confessions and normal people confessions on youtube go watch that.

  2. One of the dumbest articles I have read. I remember my first girlfriend and I together. Should I have those memories erased through a lobotomy if she withdraws consent today?

    This is why there is an age limit of 18 years … If make a choice as an adult, the world doesn’t need to bend over to make you feel better.

    If she did it out of her own volition, she was old enough to make that decision then no nothing should be deleted.

    If bangbros have to delete their videos, is mia going to buy them out at today’s market value? Probably not. Someone who went into this without thinking long term probably doesn’t save or invest for long term either.

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