“Save The Boobs”!

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008, whilst breast cancer is the principle cause of death from cancer among women globally.

According to Cancer Research UK, more than 48,400 women were diagnosed with breast cancer – approximately 133 cases per day. It is also the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 7% of all cancer deaths. According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer accounts for around 15% of female deaths from cancer, and is the second most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, after lung cancer.

Despite lifesaving developments, we are still no closer to a cure today, than we were two decades ago. Therefore, we regularly witness cancer charities releasing donation appeals; emphasising the importance of supporting their research.

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in support of America’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, PornHub, the world’s third largest porn site, has launched a somewhat controversial fundraising venture by announcing that it would donate 1 cent to the Susan G Komen Foundation breast cancer charity, for every 30 breast-themed video viewed on the site. The company claims they receive about 70 to 90 million clicks per month, which would amount to a donation of approximately $23,333-30,000.

However, the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Foundation has said that it wanted no part of the campaign, stating: “We are not a partner, not accepting donations, and have asked them to stop using our name”. This raises the question as to why, when bearing in mind the reliance upon charitable donations for important research. Furthermore, is it ethical for the Komen Foundation to turn down potentially life saving donations, particularly as the foundation has faced much criticism for threatening to pull funding to Planned Parenthood, leading to a significant drop in participants for their “Races for Cure” events? I question whether a charitable donation from a pornographic website is really so unethical, that it is worth rejecting money that may save lives.

The pre-controversy press release from Pornhub states:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re into itty-bitty-titties, the perfect handful, jumbo fun-bags or low-swinging flapjacks, what matters most is that your kind and selfless gesture will go a long way towards helping our sisters to find a cure.

This isn’t the first time Pornhub has taken action to combat breast cancer. Six months ago, the website brought their “Save the Boobs” bus to NYC to rescue Manhattan’s mammories by spreading awareness. So how can you help save the boobs this time around, you bravely ask?

Simply visit the landing page on Pornhub’s site (link available upon request) and follow the prompts, or head to the ‘categories’ tab on Pornhub.com’s home page and choose either “Small Tits” or “Big Tits” videos, then sit back and let the good times bounce.

The Save the Boobs web page will keep track of the total unique visits for the month so be sure to encourage your red-blooded friends and family (yes, tell your fathers too) to become a hero of the headlamps and a champion of the cha-cha’s!”

One major problem with the press-release is insensitive and disrespectful language. The final paragraph even goes so far as encourage the partners of breast-cancer patients to leer at attractive young women with healthy breasts, whilst their wives/girlfriends may be undergoing the trauma of a mastectomy. When a charitable campaign potentially makes women feel insecure about their bodies, therein lies the problem; but, had the press-release been less insensitively worded, by perhaps omitting the final paragraph, would the source of the donation really be so unethical?

There is no denying that a large percentage of men and lesbian women are attracted to breasts, and pornographic websites and images have always been irrefutably popular. A high demand for pornography, and sexualisation of breasts will always exist in our society, whether we like it or not, and breast cancer awareness is unlikely to make pornography anymore (or, indeed, any less) sexualised than it already is. Whilst promoting and exploiting the sexual objectification of breasts may seem inconsiderate when so many breast cancer patients are undergoing mastectomies, and losing their hair as a side-effect of chemotherapy, sexual objectification exists regardless of breast cancer campaigns.

Yet, breast cancer charities readily accept donation money from a number of junk-food manufacturers, ranging from Cadbury’s to KFC, who have also taken the opportunity to exploit the breast cancer Pink Ribbon campaign. Ironically, charities are accepting donations from the sale of the very foods that the cancer charities and health officials advise us to avoid. Scientific studies have long acknowledged that cancer cells thrive on glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index (GI), which causes a sharp rise in blood glucose, trigger the secretion of insulin and insulin growth factor (IGF-1), thus promoting cancer growth. Yet, we have witnessed Cadbury’s produce a pink ‘Flake’, McVities produce pink packaged Jaffa Cakes, and Lucozade produce a pink drink – All are foods that are high in sugar and fat, and have donated their proceeds to a readily accepting breast cancer charity. If cancer charities are accepting donations from an, arguably, unethical source that is contributing to a serious public health issue and costing lives, why is a donation from PornHub considered any more unethical? After all, welcoming donations from the manufacturers of potentially carcinogenic foods, is perhaps akin to a lung cancer charity accepting donations from a cigarette company.

Perhaps the issue has more to do with the discrimination of male sexuality, than it has to do with ethics. Surely, it is more unethical to refuse a donation that could potentially help to save lives, particularly when donations from foods that potentially contribute to cancer are welcomed, just because of an inherent discrimination of male sexuality. Yet, a number of nude or imposed nude calendars have been sold over the years – including calender pictures that objectify men to fund raise money for cancer charities, which, arguably, is not any more ethical than money donated from a pornographic website.

Australian Rugby Player, Dene Halatau, poses nude for a Breast Cancer calender

Newcastle’s female students pose naked for charity

Despite any good intentions, critics of Breast Cancer Awareness Month have complained for some time that the campaign has become a form of commercial exploitation. L.A. Times writer Rosie Mestel published a blog post in 2010, on so-called “pinkwashing”, and writer, Christie Aschwanden has reported on “the downside of awareness campaigns.” Suzanne Reisman wrote in her blog post: “Why I Don’t Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”:

“Where are the campaigns to figure out why, once diagnosed, black women have longer delays in getting diagnostic results than white women? TheTheologiansCafe is soliciting topless photos to raise money for free mammograms for low-income women and asking women if they would pose nude for a good cause. (I’ll pause for a moment so I can be polite.) While that’s a nice idea — helping women get a mammogram — the real question is how are these low-income women supposed to pay for treatment if they find out that they have breast cancer? Will there be more topless photos taken?”

Meghan Casserly wrote on her Forbes.com blog:

“Breast cancer awareness month has bugged me for years–I imagine the cheap plastic factories overseas churning out all manner of things, rubbing their palms over how quickly American women open their wallets to anything pink or emblazoned with the Susan G Komen ribbon. I may be the biggest cynic in the free female world, but it’s a marketing charade I just can’t get behind”

Commercial exploitation of cancer awareness campaigns in an attempt to boost profits, may be unethical, but when so many lives are lost as a result of a cruel disease, surely we should all put our aside, and accept the much-needed charitable donations that such commercialism offers. Not everyone can afford to pay monthly donations to a cancer charity, and some may feel ashamed if they can only afford to contribute a small amount when they do contribute. Another issue is the questionable ethics of charities selling the details of their patrons onto other charities, and the regular mail from charities sending raffle tickets, and requesting more money once a charity have a person’s details on file. It would appear that charities are also guilty of exploitation.

Exploitation and capitalism may be unethical, but surely a charitable contribution through the purchase of a product or service that a number of people would have purchased regardless of a breast cancer campaign, is a cloud with a silver lining.

Had PornHub offered to donate to a Prostate Cancer charity, I question whether the donation would have faced the same refusal, or the same level of opposition from feminists. In response to my tweet, Men’s Rights Activist, Tony Chiaroscuro, from ‘A Voice For Men’, tweeted:

“If porn was viewed and funded donations to prostate cancer treatment/research, guys wouldn’t bat an eye… and given it receives significantly less awareness and funding for very real instances and deaths, maybe pornhub should.”

The prostate cancer charities that I contacted, have not yet responded to my question as to whether they would accept a donation from a pornography website, thus, we can only speculate.

Meantime, PornHub.com says it is now looking for a new recipient for what it classifies as a “significant” amount of money. It will be interesting to see if any charities will ultimately accept PornHub’s financial contribution.