We all know this: Just because you read something on the internet does’t mean it’s true. And just because your read said something on a mainstream, (allegedly) feminist focused newsy-blog, well, that doesn’t make it true either.*

Never was this more apparent than in the case of Bellesa.co — a piracy-based tube site that was masking itself as a feminist-focused, ethical lady porno space, the sublime stupidity of which was being echoed left and right by lazy, uninformed/misinformed/uninterested mainstream media.

Let’s trace!

First we have this glowing, breathless profile of Bellesa and its CEO Michelle Shnaidman on Bustle, the previously mentioned mainstream (allegedly) feminist focused newsy-blog — “Bellesa, A Free Porn Site For Women, Is Changing How We View Sex.” Here’s a snippet:

It’s hard enough to find porn that isn’t totally degrading to women. And then, when you finally come across porn for women, it’s usually behind a paywall. There’s a good reason for this: It’s hard to produce porn ethicallywithout charging customers. But Michelle Shnaidman, founder of Bellesa, has found a way to bring women porn they’ll actually enjoy without draining their bank accounts.

Here’s how it works: Bellesa’s community of female users share videos from all over the web that appeal to them (and don’t make them feel like objects — unless that’s what they’re after). They also share erotic stories, sexy photos and GIFs, and feminist blog posts. Then, anybody can scroll through and enjoy them.

(Bustle has since heavily edited their original lede, one that initially described paywalls as “pesky” — because fuck if it isn’t a pain in the ass to have to pay for products you consume.)

The story hung out for about a week before the members of the porn community noticed it — and boy did people rage.

On September 19, Takedown Piracy’s Nate Glass wrote on op-ed on Ethical.porn explaining to the civilian world exactly what Bellesa was. Here’s a snippet:

Bellesa.co is essentially a piracy curator. This site subsists, if not entirely, off of pirated videos. Those videos have been uploaded to other piracy-based tube sites, and then a person or persons at Bellesa.co curates them into the single biggest piracy site focused entirely on female-centric videos. This site is absolutely no more ethical than The Pirate Bay or any number of piracy sites designed to exploit producers and performers for financial gain. This site puts ZERO DOLLARS into the pockets of female producers or performers. This site only perpetuates the financial exploitation of female producers and performers.

Though the first wave of criticism came from performers on Twitter, this piece from Glass started a tidal wave of essay responses (I even wrote one for AVN here. It essentially says stealing is still stealing, even if it’s “stealing for the ladies.”), all of which resulted in Bellesa taking down their site on/around September 21.

Bellesa issued an explanatory statement via Twitter, which you can read in full here. Here’s a snippet:

By empowering women to embrace 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 the sex space. We are unendingly sorry for this.

There’s a lot to be said about attempting to learn and grow, as well as attempting to apologize for previous oversights —  but there’s also a lot to be said about a standpoint that allows you to take the steps Bellesa took in the first place. I am very curious as to what will happen next.

*Yes, I realize the irony of me telling your truths about “truths” on the interwebs.

UPDATE: It was announced on October 18 that Mile High Media (a respectable adult content producer) and Bellesa have partnered to create Bellesa Productions. The platform will offer original, female-friendly erotic content to adults visiting the site, the company reported. Read more here.

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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com.

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