Is France’s porn industry having its #MeToo moment?

·4-min read

Four French porn actors have been charged with rape in what’s being called the French porn industry’s #MeToo moment. Feminist organisations are calling for “the end of impunity” in the sector.

Over the course of a year-long police investigation, 53 women have come forward to recount their experiences of abuse on porn sets in France. They have described a culture of sexual violence in the industry, including being drugged and forced to carry out humiliating and degrading acts. Thirty women have filed a formal complaint with police.

Now, for the first time in France, four male porn actors – one of whom is primarily a cameraman – have been charged with rape. Three of the men who were charged on October 29 are currently in detention pending trial, while the other man remains under legal supervision.

“These are women who weren’t believed, by the police but also by their colleagues,” explained Marjolaine Vignola, a Paris-based lawyer representing two of the victims, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “Particularly because some of them had contracts – contracts that had questionable legality, and sometimes were even totally legally void. But in the world of pornography, as soon as someone has a contract, people aren’t going to dig deeper or check if it’s valid or not.”

It’s the latest development in an investigation into the French amateur porn website ‘French Bukkake’ that began in March 2020. Four people were charged last October with aggravated pimping and human trafficking, including the porn director, actor and producer who set up the French Bukkake website and who goes by the pseudonym of ‘Pascal OP’. Pascal OP is notorious in the porn industry for his violent, gonzo-style of pornography. Both he and another porn producer with the pseudonym ‘Mat Hadix’ are now in prison.

‘If you’re in your bedroom or a porn film, the law is the same’

French daily Le Parisien reported how even the men who have been charged found it difficult to rewatch the pornographic videos in the courtroom. One actor was asked to rewatch a scene in which he violently forced an actress to fellate him, and a judge asked him how he would describe the scene. He replied, “In this case, I’m guilty, I don’t have an excuse. From what you’ve told me, it’s rape, because the girl’s consent isn’t …” before bursting into tears.

“It’s a good thing that actors are being charged as well,” said Vignola. “If you have a woman in front of you who is crying and you carry on having anal sex with her – whether you’re in your bedroom or acting in a porn film, the law is the same. Consent has to be constantly reiterated during a sexual act.”

‘A vast pimping network’

Mouvement du Nid is an organisation that campaigns against prostitution and supports women who are or have been in situations of prostitution. In a press release, the organisation said that the investigation has “laid bare how the criminal porn industry is organised: a vast network of pimping and human trafficking, subjecting women to prostitution, rape and acts of torture”.

A spokesperson for the organisation, Sandrine Goldschmidt, told FRANCE 24, “This is a very important case because it shows that impunity [in the industry] can be challenged, it’s not a foregone conclusion.”

A parallel investigation was opened into the French porn website ‘Jacquie et Michel’ in July 2020. That investigation was launched after the three feminist organisations Osez le féminisme, les Effronté-es and Mouvement du Nid reported a video by the French media Konbini to the police, in which two women revealed the abuse they received when filming porn videos for 'Jacquie et Michel'.

In response to the accusations, in November 2020, 'Jacquie et Michel' and the French porn giant Marc Dorcel said they would draw up an ethical charter for the porn industry in France. The guidelines were published in April 2021 after months of consultations with people working in the industry.

But the charter has been slammed by feminist organisations as “phony”. The French journalist Robin D’Angelo, who spent a year undercover investigating the amateur porn sector, told France Inter that “these charters are just a marketing gimmick, opportunistic if not downright cynical”.

For the lawyer Marjolaine Vignola, simply bringing out a charter “isn’t a response to accusations of pimping, gang rape and human trafficking. A charter can’t change a whole system. It’s an attempt to try and redeem themselves".

The French porn industry is not the only one under scrutiny. In the United States, the porn actor Ron Jeremy was indicted with 30 charges of rape or sexual assault against 21 women in August and is currently in jail awaiting trial.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting