LOS ANGELES — CEO and founder of Bellessa.co, Michelle Shnaidman, announced via Twitter that she is taking down the video portion of the controversial site following industry backlash.
In an op-ed for XBIZ.com, the team behind Ethical.Porn discussed the blatant hypocrisy exhibited by Bellessa.co, which mainstream media claimed was “a free porn site for women.”
The op-ed read, “Launched in February 2017, Bellesa is populated with erotic GIFs, images, stories and porn clips. A letter on the site from CEO Michelle Shnaidman claims that the future is female and Bellesa is taking back what’s theirs (ours?) — only, what they are actually doing is taking from other women because Bellesa is a tube site largely, if not exclusively, populated with pirated porn.”
Bellessa.co received opposition from all sides of the industry — including directors, performers and, of course, trade publications.
Adult star Casey Calvert, who found her work distributed on the site illegally, tweeted her (rightful) outrage.
Just because you're stealing *for women* doesn't make make it ethical. This is repulsive. https://t.co/a6xDj0o6jv— Casey Calvert (@caseycalvertxxx) September 19, 2017
Many others followed suit, tweeting further confirmation that the site had, in fact, simply uploaded stolen videos.
In her apology, Shnaidman acknowledged the accusations and said, “By empowering women to embrace and celebrate their sexuality, we were simultaneously disempowering the women who helped to create the great content that we were sharing in the first place. This was never our intention.”
Though many in the industry are still wary, notable stars have since accepted the apology, deeming the ordeal a "teachable moment."
this is a teachable moment. thank you to everyone in the industry who spoke out about the exploitation happening here. we matter. https://t.co/OunUXyQ1MK— jessica drake (@thejessicadrake) September 21, 2017
The full tweeted apology is as follows:
Hi, My name is Michelle Shnaidman and I am the founder and CEO of Bellesa.
I feel it is necessary to respond to some of what has been going on the past few days.
Bellesa was built with a relatively simple mission: Give women a website that feels safe in order to celebrate their sexuality online.
There is no denying that there are other websites that cater to women. There are a lot of people out there- producers, performers, etc- doing truly amazing things. These are people that we, as a company, respect, support and look up to.
The focus of Bellesa was, and is, three-fold:
- Share original erotice written by talented women
- Create a community of women that write articles on topics such as relationships, sexuality and women's health in order to spark insightful, open and shame-free conversation
- Provide a highly accessible video platform for women to engage with that aspect of their sexuality
I want women to be able to share and watch porn that they liked. Stuff that tums them on, stuff that makes them feel empowered and unashamed of their sexuality.
I want to make sure women could access this porn without having to undergo an experience that would make them feel unsafe/unwelcomed. I created this platform for them to do that.
A lot of the negative reactions over the last few days challenging our existence hurt simply because our mission was and remains to empower women around the world to embrace their sexuality. This is not a marketing tactic- this is what I and everyone at Bellesa lives and breathes.
With that said, it has become soberingly clear to me that the goal with which I created this platform has regrettably become in direct conflict with supporting and respecting the women of the sex-space. The way this platform ultimately ended up being used is not a reflection of the reason it was created.
By empowering women to embrace and celebrate their sexuality, we were simultaneously disempowering the women who helped to create
the great content that we were sharing in the first place. This was never our intention. We've displayed a massive amount of ignorance with regards to the adult entertainment space and have unintentionally hurt women who work in the sex space. We are unendingly sorry for this.
What everyone has written on Twitter and sent to our inbox was heard- loud and clear. I am sorry. I am sorry to those who feel like Bellesa disempowered them, disrespected them, or placed our interests above theirs. This is something that we must change if we want Bellesa to be the great platform for women that we know it could be.
Words are only half the battle.
I am making a firm commitment, right now, to transition the entirety of the vid. section of Bellesa to feature exclusively videos that are in direct partnership with studios, and that compensate all fairly for their contribution.
For those that are open to working with us, we would love nothing more. To those that do not because it's too little, too late, I understand and I'm sorry.
Until such a point, we are taking down our entire video section.
To those that we have offended or who feel wronged by our operation up to this point; I can't stress this enough, I am deeply sorry. Myself and Bellesa are looking towards the future with our sights set on making Bellesa.co a platform on which all women can be inspired to participate, including and especially those that are directly involved in the industry.
Thank you for taking the time to listen.