Money Shot and the Transactional Nature of Sex and Dating

Money Shot and the Transactional Nature of Sex and Dating

Like a lot of people, I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Money Shot: The Pornhub Story. It was fascinating, and sometimes eye-opening. Pornhub, the successful porn site, is actually owned by a Canadian tech company called MindGeek based in drab offices in Montreal. In its early years, it provided a platform for adult content creators to provide a consensual and legal service online to paying customers, and to escape the “sleazier side” of sex-related work in the real world.  

Pornhub became one of the most popular websites in the world. But the site was cracked down on after a 2020 New York Times story exposed some of the child-abuse videos, rape trafficking and other objectionable activities that some Pornhub users were engaged in, and new sex trafficking laws were passed. As a result, a lot of the adult content creators on the site moved to OnlyFans, where the videos are more closely monitored, and many have thrived there, making a good living as creative entrepreneurs without most of the risks associated with traditional sex work.

The documentary focuses on how these creators and performers on the service are trying to prevent themselves from being marginalized even as efforts are made to protect potential victims of trafficking and other abuse. Money Shot does a good job of showing all sides of this complicated issue and dynamic. Overall, I side with the performers and sex workers and feel that they should be able to pursue their professions and autonomy in a safe way, provided that restrictions and rules are in place to prevent trafficking and other misuse of the service.

Services like Pornhub and OnlyFans, along with the growth of online dating services like Tinder and Bumble, reveal an uncomfortable truth about how transactional modern sex and dating has become. Some dating app users (usually men) use the services to pursue sex, others (usually women) use it to pursue experiences like fancy dates and dinners. And while a large number of users are legitimately seeking long-term relationships and romance as well, those things take time, and so often the transactional nature of these interactions, and the large numbers of users who are seeking transactional benefits, overwhelms the entire system. And, let’s be understood here – you are free to pursue whatever you want so long as it doesn’t harm others (or break the law – within reason).

It takes time to get to know someone and the only way to do this is to spend time with them. But, of course, the whole industry is designed to keep you on the app and in the service, pursuing short-term gains over and over again. There’s no profit to be had—at least for the services—if you are off-app and out of the online ecosystem while you are spending time seriously getting to know someone. [Maybe this should be seen as a human necessity or fall within “basic human needs” (ie: should the algorithms and profiteering be monitored due to the loneliness pandemic and mental health issues we are facing?).]

One of the positive side effects of a safe and flourishing system for adult content and sex workers, whether it is prostitution or services like Pornhub and OnlyFans, is that it has the potential to siphon off some of the more transactional customers (usually men) from the dating marketplace, the ones who are corroding the system for many other users. If done well, legalizing sex work can alleviate not only some of the problems in the dating world, but broader society as well by reducing the black market for sex services that leads to trafficking and other sex crimes and protecting sex workers who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. They could even enjoy employee benefits and legal protection, retirement, etc. Perhaps, if someone had more access to getting “release” mental health could benefit. Especially, (often white) hetero males who have difficulty gaining the company of a lovely woman – they might be able to “scratch that itch” instead of stalking, rape, domestic abuse, and maybe even shootings.

Albeit it’s not a “clean” or “perfect” solution, but there might be a way (and a necessity) to provide people with healthier ways to get what they want and need.As Money Shot shows, the human sexual appetite is varied and complicated, and does not always map onto traditional social norms of monogamy, courtship and commitment. In the future, I can imagine a society that has safe easily-accessible and legalize sex work alongside long-term relationships. One where an allowance is made for side transactions that help provide an outlet to keep partners faithful, but don’t compromise relationships the way adulterous affairs can. Maybe there is a way for sex, lust, love and romance to peacefully coexist in a manner that allows for some transactional elements but does not allow those to dominate our relationships and interactions. Especially when you consider we humans are visually stimulated (think about the filters and what most social media presents). If we truly want to lead with our hearts and minds, maybe we need some literal shifts in policy and systems in order to allow for the societal shift to take root for a kinder, nicer, safer, and healthier human experience tomorrow.