Young Woman Sues Pornhub For Monetizing A Naked Video Of Her At 14 Years Old, Which Sent Her Into A Spiral Of Suicide Attempts And Homelessness

Serena Fleites was only 14 years old when Pornhub circulated a naked video of her without her consent. Years later, she is suing the company for monetizing the video, which caused her so much despair that she became addicted to drugs and became homeless.

By Gina Florio2 min read
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Not surprisingly, Pornhub gets more monthly viewers than Netflix does. It's becoming more and more common for teenagers to access porn from a young age and even share it with their friends. Sadly, this is resulting in many more videos being posted online without the person's consent. That's what happened to Serena K. Fleites, a young woman from Bakersfield, CA, who never imagined in a million years that she would have her naked body plastered all over the internet. She has taken a bold stand and decided to sue Pornhub and Visa for monetizing an intimate video of hers that was posted by a classmate.

Young Woman Sues Pornhub for Monetizing a Naked Video of Her at 14 Years Old, Which Sent Her into a Spiral of Drug Addiction and Homelessness

In 2020, Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times called "The Children of Pornhub," which shared the story of Serena's harrowing experience with the pornography website. She was only 14 years old and in 8th grade when a boy she had a crush on asked her to send him a naked video of herself. At that point in her life, she hadn't even kissed a boy yet. She obliged tohis request, and when he asked for more naked videos, she felt flattered and sent more. Serena says that's when she "started getting strange looks in school."

It turned out he shared the videos with other boys in school, and someone posted the videos on Pornhub. Serena says people threatened to send the videos to her mom if she didn't send them even more naked videos. That boy was suspended from school, and Serena was moved to a different school because of the shame it caused her. However, the videos followed her, and even after Serena's mother convinced Pornhub to remove the videos, someone uploaded them again.

Serena attempted suicide more than once, became addicted to meth and opioids, and dropped out of school to live on the streets. When she was 16 years old, she sold more naked photos and videos of herself on Craigslist in order to make money, and these also ended up on Pornhub. She was 19 years old when she was interviewed by the NYT, and she was living in her car with her three dogs.

“I was dumb,” she said. “It was one small thing that a teenager does, and it’s crazy how it turns into something so much bigger. A whole life can be changed because of one little mistake.”

After this article was published, many people reached out to help Serena get legal help and even housing. Serena's dream is to become a vet technician, but she couldn't go to school while living out of her car, so someone helped her by paying for the necessary education.

Serena didn't only barely share her story. She is suing MindGeek, the company that owns Pornhub, YouPorn, RedTube, and Brazzers. She also is suing Visa, which allowed MindGeek to process payments and monetize hugely off Serena's underage videos.

Initially, MindGeek and Visa tried to dismiss the case, but a federal judge in California named Cormac Carney rejected this motion and has allowed discovery to proceed. The judge also pointed out that MindGeek allegedly harassed Serena and that Visa was not innocent; in fact, Visa "knowingly took part in" the distribution and monetization of these videos.

"Why would MindGeek allow Plaintiff’s first video to be posted despite its title clearly indicating Plaintiff was well below 18 years old? Why would MindGeek stall before removing the video, which Plaintiff alleges had advertisements running alongside it?" the lawsuit reads. "Why would MindGeek take the video and upload it to its other porn websites? Why, after being alerted by Plaintiff that the video was child porn, would it allow the video to be reuploaded, whereafter advertisements were again featured alongside the reuploaded videos? And why did Plaintiff have to fight for years to have her videos removed from MindGeek’s sites? Plaintiff claims that MindGeek did these things for money, and Visa knowingly offered up its payment network so that MindGeek could satisfy that goal."

"If Visa was aware that there was a substantial amount of child porn on MindGeek’s sites, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, then it was aware that it was processing the monetization of child porn, moving money from advertisers to MindGeek for advertisements playing alongside child porn like Plaintiff’s videos," it continues.

This document is from July 2022, so her case is still pending, but Serena's actions have set a precedent that these pornography companies need to be held accountable, especially when it comes to minors.