Russia's winters just got a lot colder: last week, the government banned PornHub. Given that 92% of all Internet use in Russia involves porn this is great news for Netflix subscribers--streaming video is going to be a lot faster.
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Russia's winters just got a lot colder: last week, the government banned PornHub. Given that 92% of all Internet use in Russia involves porn (according to one estimate) this is great news for Netflix subscribers--streaming video is going to be a lot faster.


Russia is far from alone in blocking porn sites: it now belongs in the excellent company of Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Botswana, and Sudan. Still, there are plenty of compelling rationales for banning or restricting pornography: feminist arguments (about exploitation of women), sex-positive arguments (about providing unrealistic and even harmful models of sex to virginal minors), and even anti-chafing arguments (about the industry's role in driving pubic hair to the edge of extinction).

Sadly, none of these are the arguments invoked by Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor. Famous for its sense of humor, Pornhub's management tweeted @roscomnadzor on September 14:" if we give you guys a Pornhub Premium account, will u un ban Pornhub in Russia?."

2016-09-19-1474249680-9961202-Pornhub1.jpg @roskomnadzor's response: sorry, we are not in the market and the demography is not a commodity.


That's right: Internet porn is not a moral or ethical problem, but an existential threat to Russia's survival. Apparently, pornography lowers birth rates.

Babies 'R'us(sia)

This is not the first time demography has reared its sexy head in debates about public morality. Concerns about Russia's birth rates are a popular weapon in the homophobic arsenal as well. Just look at some of the statements made by Russia's most famous legislative crusader for sexual propriety, Elena Mizulina. To those who haven't heard of her, one might describe Mizulina as the love child of Margaret Thatcher and Dolores Umbridge, but imagining Mizulina's two mommies probably violates the gay propaganda law. As Mizulina told Vladimir Pozner, banning "gay propaganda" is not just a matter of values, but also of ensuring the existence of subsequent generations: "Well see if there'll be such a high birth rate in France after the legalization of same-sex marriage."

Tthere are plenty of obvious reasons why young Russians might not be breeding like rabbits, from housing shortages to poor economic prospects. But the gay propaganda law and the explanation for the PornHub ban are perplexing. They betray a shaky understanding of human sexual response, as well as a real lack of faith in heterosexuality. Apparently, people would rather do anything else--watch porn, have gay sex--than engage in heterosexual intercourse. Since when did straight sex become the erotic equivalent of eating your vegetables?

In the case of PornHub, it is as though policy were being made by green-blooded aliens who learned about hu-man sex from nineteenth-century marriage manuals (or maybe from an old B-52 song). How, exactly, is pornography a demographic threat?

Let's Meet and Have a Baby Now

I bring up the nineteenth century for a reason: Roskomnadzor's response assumes a sexual zero-sum game, a Victorian bodily economy in which precious life-giving fluids can be wasted. To put it bluntly, banning PornHub is a fight against masturbation. Masturbation has had a bad rap in modern Russian culture, even in Soviet times (when, as Frances Bernstein showed, it allegedly caused an epidemic of "nervousness" among young men()). Now, the question is posed differently. Witness this exchange between Roskmonadzor and "mrrborisova": Dear @roscomnadzor, if you're going to block PornHub, could you at least offer an alternative?" "Dear Lyolya, as an alternative, you could meet someone in real life."


It's an amusing response, but it once again suggests a complete misunderstanding of how sex actually works. Apparently, masturbating to Internet pornography somehow prevents people from having sex in real life, since meeting someone is such a bother. Never mind that studies show that even married people use pornography, that couples might watch it together, or that for most people, masturbation is a life-long habit.

Not to mention the fact that masturbation is still possible without pornography. Forgetting this fact is like fighting for morality with one hand tied behind your back. Clearly, it will only work if both hands are tied.

Epic Fap Battle of History

The saddest part of this story is that the guardians of morality and demography are missing a real opportunity. Here we might recall a short story written by Yulii Daniel (Nikolai Arzhak) in the 1960s: "The Man from MINAP." A man named Volodya catches the attention of the authorities for his numerous sexual partners. It turns out that Volodya can guarantee the pregnancy of any woman he sleeps with. Not only that, he can even determine the sex of his offspring: if his partner wants a boy, then, during sex, he pictures Karl Marx. If she wants a girl, he thinks of Klara Zetkin.

Why not update the story for today's era of traditional values and "spiritual braces"? If "The Man from ANTIFAP" wants a son, then during sex he can picture Vladimir Putin (but not, you know, in a gay way). For a girl, just imagine Elena Mizulina (you know, like you always do).

More to the point, consider the potentially positive role that pornography could play. After all, if the demographic crisis is not about couples choosing not to have children, but rather choosing not to have sex (the only implication that makes sense in this context), then shouldn't we treat Russian couples with the same care that zookeepers take with reluctant pandas? Clearly, this is a job for an educational video. With a soundtrack by that fan-favorite Russian rock group, Ruki vverkh! (Hands Up!).

Since no one else seems to be volunteering for the job (Chuck Tingle is busy elsewhere), allow me to step in.


starring in

"Block My Traffic"

The doorbell rings. It's ROSKOMNADZOR, wearing tight shorts, suspenders, and no shirt.

ROSKOMNADZOR: Did someone order a pizza? I mean, a pirog?

VIRTUOUS YOUNG LADY: My, aren't you nice hunk of heterosexual virility? And are those spiritual braces you're wearing? That's so hot.

ROSKOMNADZOR: Thank you. I, too, admire you're beauty. And I like your scent. What is it?

VYL: It's called "Traditional Values." Hey, you seem like a nice guy. Maybe your little green man would like to invade my peninsula?

ROSKOMNADZOR: Definitely. But let us first go register our union and get married in the Church. And then we can make hot, moral love in the missionary position, with the lights turned off.

VYL: Yes! Yes! And let's be sure not to use birth control!

ROSKOMNADZOR: I agree! Nothing turns me on like the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy!

That's just a taste, Roskomnadzor. If you want more, just give me your credit card information and your date of birth. The charge will appear under the name "Putin Family Values."

It'll be our little secret

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