That Time Russia Banned Online Porn (Again)

Photo: Pixabay.

Photo: Pixabay.

The two pornographic metropolises of the Internet, PornHub and YouPorn, were banned in Russia this week.

This wasn't the first time the Russian authorities targeted porn-streaming services: last year, state censors added the website’s Russian-localized version, ru.pornhub.com, to its blacklist. Officials later unbanned it.

At the time, the decision to block one of the most popular sites online provoked a flurry of jokes on social media, but genuine concern appeared to be minimal, as the site’s English-language version never went offline in Russia, and the drive for adult content was sufficient motivation to overcome the linguistic barrier.

But this time, Pornub has been blocked for real. Russian ISPs are required to comply with the state’s blacklist within 24 hours.

On the legal side, the decisions to block PornHub and YouPorn were made in Voronezh and Vladivostok, respectively. Both courts’ verdicts say PornHub and YouPorn “contain information that is forbidden to disseminate” in Russia.

The information in question apparently includes child pornography or anything “justifying the molestation of children.”

Russia’s definition of child pornography has always been strict. Videos where actors merely pretend to be underage, dressing in school uniforms and so on, can qualify, and judges have even said certain forms of illustrated and animated porn, such as Hentai, amount to child pornography.

When they searched for “hentai” on PornHub, Russian authorities identified more than 16,000 pieces of content that justified blocking the entire website.

The news site Meduza spoke to Vladimir Panasenko, the judge in Voronezh who says he doesn't remember the details of the case in which he banned PornHub. In the interview, he said he assumed that it “had something to do with children, maybe. There were no age restrictions [on the website].”

On social media, Russians were eager to discuss the consequences of life without two of the Internet’s biggest repositories of pornography.

Some people readily admitted their beliefs that marriage and procreation are the decent alternatives to watching porn and masturbating at home—a notion that surely brings a satisfied smile to the faces of conservative public figures like Yelena Mizulina, Vitaliy Milonov, and Anna Kuznetsova, whose passion for “traditional values” is itself almost primal.

One common thread in jokes about the censorship decision riffs on the concept of “import substitution” and protectionism.

Dmitry Medvedev requires the creation of a domestic equivalent to the foreign website PornHub.

By blocking PornHub and YouPorn, the authorities are supporting domestic producers.

The journalist Sergey Erzhenkov shared a personal aside:

Моя репортерская мечта – отыскать актеров из первого советского порно под названием “Ребята из Чертаново” (1990 г.). Работая на НТВ, я приложил много усилий к тому, чтобы их найти. Но единственное, что мне удалось узнать, – ребята вовсе не чертановские, как следует из названия, а выхинские. И сейчас им, по моим прикидкам, чуть за 50. То есть импортозамещать еще могут.

My reporter's dream is to find the performers from the first Soviet porn movie “Guys from Chertanovo” (1990). While working for NTV, I've made a lot of efforts to find them. The only thing I learned is that the title was misleading, and the guys were actually from Vykhino. They should be, according to my guesstimate, just over 50 now, so they are capable of import substitution.

Many online pointed out that Russia already has a thriving rival to big porn sites like PornHub: the social network Vkontakte, Russia’s Facebook equivalent, which hosts enormous amounts of pornography uploaded by ordinary users. Some say that the lion’s share of what exists on PornHub and YouPorn can also be found on Vkontakte.

A quick tip for those desperate souls looking for “lesbian orgy” or “naughty cop” on Vkontakte: you can't find these videos using the website’s search function; all the adult content is tucked away and uploaded to closed groups.

And there are several popular conspiracy theories now making the rounds, offering explanations about the truth behind the porn ban.

Sure enough, they blocked PornHub in Russia because of the site’s stats show that the most popular genre among Russians is anal.

Others on Twitter mixed in a little election humor, in light of Russia’s parliamentary elections this Sunday, September 18.

The word is that PornHub will only be available at the polling stations.

Now, with PornHub blocked, many people will have time to vote.

The good people at PornHub, known for their edgy presence on social media, tried their best to save the day. First they reached out to Russian censors. (The response was an awkwardly unfunny insinuation that masturbation threatens Russia’s demography.)

PornHub then appealed to Barack Obama with this bombshell:

The White House has yet to respond.

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