Does Pornhub Really Care?

MaryAnn Uribe got the best Christmas present when Pornhub announced on December 18, 2015 that she was the winner of the company's first annual scholarship program. No, she's not a wannabe porn star but a San Antonio mother, aspiring lawyer and magna cum laude completing her bachelor's degree in political science and international politics at Troy University.

This scholarship is part of a larger giving campaign launched this fall by Pornhub, one of the largest free amateur porn websites (60 million daily visits), and called Pornhub Cares. The first initiative under this banner was this $25,000 college scholarship and next, the aptly titled "Save the Boobs" campaign. Pornhub reps have claimed these charitable efforts are just ways to give back to the community-at-large in appreciation for their continued support but many were skeptical.

This scholarship contest, which asked contestants to make videos answering one question: How do you strive to make others happy?" The question itself -- which coming from a porn company leaves A LOT to the imagination -- caused an uproar that Pornhub might be encouraging young girls to submit porn videos. But MaryAnn Uribe's video was nothing of the kind. The 48-year-old read heartfelt texts from her friends about how she impacted their lives. Her story is compelling too, and in the last half-decade; she was fired, and even allegedly had a hit out on her life by a former boss. Uribe is now traumatized, struggling with PTSD and desperate to finish her schooling.

"I'm blessed for this opportunity to pursue my dreams and aspirations," Uribe said of being selected. "The Pornhub community has rallied around me and provided the most encouraging words of support. I'm getting praise from people around the world! It's truly incredible."

Uribe's story is inspiring but I wonder if Pornhub really does care. As a longtime social worker and daughter of a man with more than 40 years in the adult business, pornography and helping others -- two seemingly disparate things -- are connected for me. And I've always secretly/not-so-secretly wished that the adult industry could play a role in making a positive difference in the world.

I want Pornhub to care and in emailing with company reps they seemed to have given this some thought. "The social problems we tackle will be decided based on whether we feel we can positively contribute to issues which have an underlying relation to Pornhub as a company," said Pornhub's V.P. Corey Price. "And whether or not our inclusion in that conversation makes sense on a genuine level. We are still finalizing upcoming initiatives but we are focused on the educational, environmental and medical research spaces."

Also in talking to the experts, the Pornhub Cares programs will need to prove they can make an impact. "Success will depend partially on Pornhub's goals and what effect their efforts will have on the causes they are supporting -- as well as on the company's reputation and bottom line," said Beverly Younger, PhD, a licensed social worker and Clinical Associate Professor and Chair at the University of Southern California School of Social Work. "As an industry standard, they will need to be transparent and provide an annual report verifying their actions and contributions that is accessible to the public."

While Pornhub may have good intentions they also know giving back is smart business. A company's purpose initiatives (i.e. charitable giving) are a growing factor for the purchase decisions of consumers -- whose preference to buy from such companies rose by a full 26 percent globally from 2008 to 2012, according to the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose Study. Corporate social responsibility initiatives very similar to the Pornhub Cares campaign have been used by big corporations such as Target and Tom's Shoes for years.

Tying orgasms to good causes might appall some people, but it's undeniable sex has always been a powerful driver of behavior. So why not harness Pornhub's website traffic and marketing prowess for a greater good? If they're successful, this could be a game-changer in charitable giving and corporate social responsibility programs; and serve as model for an adult industry struggling since 2008 to recover from major shake-ups. I will be watching to see if Pornhub can establish credibility -- and results - in giving back and to show they really care. Let's hope they don't blow it.