Why you should care

Because sometimes those warm, fuzzy feelings are hard to come by with porn-related giving.

When Slavina Perez started as community manager for Come4.org, a Web project that billed itself as a platform for ethically sourced pornography whose proceeds would go to noble causes, her first job was to find the right kind of porn — for free. She sent emails to her contacts in the industry explaining the website’s mission and asking them to donate their work. One production company wrote back: “The first thing that you have to do if you want to do ethical porn is to pay people for the porn.”

Although Come4 doesn’t really exist anymore — the website is still up, asking visitors to help start the porn revolution together — it’s just one of a growing number of projects that have tried to make the porn-for-charity business model work, with varying levels of success. The porn industry is a massive business, after all, one worth $13 billion in 2014, by some estimates. And more entrepreneurs are trying to capture a piece of that pie — some of them to help the less fortunate.

There’s no one business model for a porn site that donates its proceeds to charity. Hump the Bundle’s CEO, who goes by the pseudonym Humpy Leftnut, got the idea from the wildly successful indie game site Humble Bundle, which sells artisanal video games in batches and allows users to choose how much of their purchase price goes to charity. Hump the Bundle is similar, but with a few key differences: It features artisanal pornography rather than artisanal video games. Porn can, surprisingly, be a tough sell. For the consumer, similar products are available free in every corner of the Internet. Meanwhile, Leftnut says, it’s a lot harder to get charities to accept your money when you’re peddling hard-core porn: “They’re worried about losing their bigger donors,” he says.

The company got bogged down in the economics and ethics of the porn industry and eventually moved on to other projects.

Hump the Bundle has found partner donors in charities that have something to do with sex already, and with organizations like AbleGamers, which supports custom setups for gamers with disabilities. It raised $8,000 to fund relief after the April 2015 Nepalese earthquake, and it has an option called Charity by Choice, where the user lets the company decide which charity receives the money, a loophole that allows Hump the Bundle to partner with charities that don’t want to be associated with a porn site. Fuck for Forest, which bills itself as an “erotic, nonprofit ecological organization,” donates only to ecological charities like primate conservation in Peru and reforestation in Ecuador (it also bought a ranch in Mexico to serve as a “living art space” for activists).

Some organizations are crunchier than others. Come4 was co-founded by a philosophy researcher, and FFF’s website features whimsical drawings of penises sprouting leaves. But with the granola image comes a different business model: The group behind FFF makes pornography themselves — they also solicit donations of homemade porn from users — then sells it and gives the money to ecological charities. Unlike Hump the Bundle, both FFF and Come4 were set up to run selling donated porn. Hump the Bundle says it’s doing just fine, with $250 million in sales to date, partly because people are attracted to the charity aspect, partly because Hump the Bundle makes sure to source decent porn from small companies — such as those that Leftnut is worried could get subsumed in the massive machine of the porn industry. Meanwhile, after garnering a lot of publicity around its donation of proceeds to charity, which Perez believes was a fundamentally good idea, Come4 got bogged down in the economics and ethics of the porn industry and eventually moved on to other projects.

To be sure, some adult-industry stalwarts make an effort to do good in the world. Pornhub has donated thousands of dollars to charity, though some of its donations have been refused due to the taint of pornography. (The company says it has planted trees and established a $25,000 college scholarship, though it wasn’t founded with those initiatives in mind.) Porn stars who have tried to give money to causes such as cancer research have run into similar challenges. But for organizations whose founding principles are based on doing good, there can be a trickier ethical line to walk when it comes to making and sourcing their product, and how they dispense that cash.

Making charity the focus — the selling point — can have its advantages, of course. “In the adult industry, everybody does exactly the same thing as everybody else,” says Leftnut. Those rare deviations from the norm, then, can catch people’s attention, and perhaps their subscriptions.

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