• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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A Note on the Unherd “War Rape Videos” Claim

A sensational allegation from Julie Bindel on Unherd:

Pornhub has a new category: “Ukrainian girls and war rape videos”; it is dominated by Russian soldiers documenting disgustingly brutal crimes.

The quote also appears on Unherd‘s Twitter stream.

Unfortunately, Bindel does not provide any source for her allegation, and it is astonishing that such material could be uploaded anywhere (let alone to a commercial website in the US) without coming under immediate and intense global scrutiny. Russia’s war atrocities in Ukraine are many, but crimes against humanity of rape and sexual assault are particularly egregious and would provoke universal outrage and disgust. We would expect front-page headlines, statements from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and extensive commentary from OSINT activists. Yet there is nothing.

The most likely explanation is that Bindel has extrapolated carelessly from the observation made by the anti-sex trafficking activist Tom Farr in late February that “trending searches” listed on Pornhub recently included “ukrainian” and “ukrainian girls”. Farr’s commentary on this was that

The absolute depths of human suffering and misery is just another “category” for the porn industry. It takes every aspect of our humanity, turns it into the most depraved and dehumanised product imaginable, and then sells it back to us. It is a truly horrific industry. 

This comment was later incorporated into an article posted by an anti-trafficking site called Exodus Cry, which added that

On Pornhub, terms such as “Ukrainian girls,” “Ukrainian porn,” and “war porn” have become trending searches in the week since Russian forces attacked Ukraine.

Certainly, the “trending searches” are both disturbing and repellent, but they do not mean that images depicting sexual war crimes in Ukraine (whether real or staged for fetishistic purposes) are available. Responses to the Unherd Tweet include a Tweet from a journalist who said that he “tried a search and got a warning such content would be illegal”. Someone else has posted a screenshot of a notice on the site stating that “Actual or staged depictions of coerced or non-consensual sexual acts… is not permitted on our site”.

Footnote

In 2015, Bindel wrote an article for Standpoint on “Britain’s Apologists For Child Abuse”, in which she segued polemically from the effusions of Tom O’Carroll to “a two-part investigation for BBC Radio 4’s Analysis” that “sought to question how what were described as the ‘bizarre ideas’ of Satanic abuse gained traction among police and social care professionals in the 1980s and early 1990s”. I discussed the radio documentary here.

Her article was written during Operation Conifer, and she also claimed that according to child protection campaigners it was “widely known” that Edward Heath “was involved in organised child abuse rings”

In April 2018, Bindel denounced Jeremy Corbyn for his failure to accept that Russia was responsible for the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury, although a few months later she appeared on a podcast produced by the Russian media outlet Sputnik, in which she discussed “the trans Taliban”.

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