Op-Ed: Bellesa.co — Piracy, Misrepresentation and Potential Positives

Op-Ed: Bellesa.co — Piracy, Misrepresentation and Potential Positives

LOS ANGELES — “Shit is changing. Because we’re changing it.”

Unapologetically bold.

This verbiage is just a sampling of copy setting the tone for Bellesa.co, a “free porn site” for women that — if you believe mainstream media coverage — is presumably changing how the general public views sex. 

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.

This week, the industry took Bellesa to task, a display of collective outrage sparked by coverage of the site published by Bustle.com. According to the piece, Shnaidman first came up with the idea for Bellesa after “feeling completely alienated by mainstream porn sites.” This was because “the market for services meeting women’s sexual needs is often neglected due to the myth that women are less sexual than men.” 

Aside from the heavily apparent combination of misinformation about adult content in general and personal bias, this piece of naive media coverage points to one of the most insulting aspects of Bellesa itself — the use of feminist and sex positive ideologies to mask piracy and the sustained trivialization and exploitation of adult content overall. And once performer Kim Cums began tweeting her outrage regarding Bellesa’s image manipulations, porn twitter erupted with a united front of aligned sentiments.

That tweet was followed up with:

... and on and on, from every corner of the industry.

There are many things about Bellesa that are frustrating. It’s frustrating to see egregious piracy, again. It’s frustrating to watch the mainstream media uncritically laud “free porn,” giving consumers tacit permission to steal, again. But as frustrating as it is to see these same old stories played out again, something about Bellesa may be different — the response.

By now, piracy is old news. United outrage from inside the industry, though — that’s new. And perhaps it’s because Bellesa drew so heavily on ideas and rhetoric related to feminisms, sexual empowerment and “porn for women,” but the mainstream media’s take on the aforementioned glowing coverage (and thus Bellesa itself) seems outraged too. This is important because, though we within the industry may implore viewers to compensate performers and producers for their work, it’s the mainstream media that has the power to bend ears.

We can only hope that a space like Bellesa may actually do some good. By jumping so far over the gender/sexualities line, perhaps the issue of piracy may actually begin to resonate with consumers. Further, this collective response from the industry may be a necessary and resonant notice for writers and pundits outside the industry — due diligence is mandatory. Porn will no longer abide by shoddy, inaccurate clickbait masking as reporting.  

Ethical.Porn is a platform for complex, critical, ongoing discussion of “ethical” as it pertains to adult content production — one that transcends notions of “correct” sexual expression or genre and emphasizes multifaceted standpoints, as well as consent.

The site curates statements regarding ethics related to adult content production from all members of the adult industry. To submit your statement, please contact EthicalPorn@yahoo.com or reach out via Twitter to @ethicaldotporn.