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      These Porn Stars Fisted for a Charity Science and Tech Scholarship

      By Neha Chandrachud

      January 22, 2015

      Just a group of friendly women getting ready to do some charity work. All photos courtesy Mercedes Carrera

      One of the most evocative things about the Internet is its uncanny ability to connect seemingly random things in joyous cacophony. If you want to see a substitute teacher terrorized by Lebron James, it's here. If you're in the mood to watch a group of grandmas get stoned for the first time, here you go. And let's say you have the sudden desire to watch porn stars live-stream a sex show for an education scholarship. Well, god bless the internet because that exists too.

      The Porn Charity is the brainchild of California porn star and former aerospace engineer Mercedes Carrera. Along with Toronto-based venture The Fine Young Capitalists, Carrera just held a live cam show to establish the first porn-funded STEM scholarship.

      STEM programs, which loosely refers to studies in either Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, have gained particular importance in the last five years as the need for a tech-savvy workforce grows at an exponential rate. Tech companies, education coalitions and school boards alike have emphasized the importance of STEM—particularly with women and certain minority groups who are less likely to pursue studies in these areas. Recent studies have shown that Canada, compared to its peer countries, has something of a STEM problem.

      Inspired by Carrera's own engineering career as well as her love of gaming, The Porn Charity's merit-based scholarship is open to any student pursuing a STEM program degree in the United States or Canada. "Tuition is like $40,000 [a year] nowadays at a state school," Mercedes emphasized. "I don't know how these kids are doing it." The application process is handled by The Fine Young Capitalists, a group of specializes in working with underrepresented groups looking to break into the technology sector. Prospective students will be able to apply for the scholarship this February and will be required to submit school transcripts and a short essay outlining why they should be chosen for the program.

      The group's fundraising model was simple: top cam site Webcams.com donated free airtime to Carrera's team of five porn stars, which included well-known actresses like Paisley Parker and Holly Heart. As with most cam shows, subscribers were able to request specific sex acts for a fixed donation amount. Webcams.com charitably agreed to double all tips and donations.

      VICE asked Carrera about the most outlandish thing she was asked to do on camera during the three-hour show. She said that much of what the performers did was standard cam repertoire: solo masturbating and playing with dildos and, of course, one another. But there was one exception.

      "Well, Paisley and I did fist Holly for a thousand-dollar donation," she laughed. "And it was Paisley's first time fisting anybody. So she lost her fisting virginity on a live stream in front of a few thousand people. That was pretty funny."

      Their performance was dubbed "The View of Sex" and, despite conjuring up some very traumatic images of Joy Behar, raised over $5,000 in a mere few hours. The group received donations from across the world, with the biggest sums coming from the United States and Canada, respectively. Coupled with an Indiegogo campaign that sold Vivian James merchandise, The Porn Charity's inaugural campaign raised $11,280 in less than two weeks.

      While the effectiveness of such a project seems like a no-brainer, similar sex- and porn-based initiatives have been riddled with controversy and clashing feminist politics.

      Before deciding to build her own scholarship, Carrera initially tried to partner with Ablegamer—a foundation that works to make gaming accessible for people with disabilities. When the group learned of her plan to raise funds through a live cam show, they withdrew from the project. And famously, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation snubbed Pornhub.com in 2012 by rejecting the reported $30,000 tube site's breast cancer campaign raised.

      And while the rejection of funds in certain cases might be justified (see: motorboating bros with misogynistic ends), money fundraised as a result of sex work appears to still be viewed by charities as controversial and "dirty." Which is interesting when you consider that Goldman Sachs—a company whose image is far from squeaky clean—maintains a steady philanthropic relationship with dozens of universities, including here in Canada, where they've awarded scholarships at both The University of Western Ontario and Queen's University in recent years.

      But when I asked Carrera if she would have any hang-ups accepting donations for The Porn Charity from potentially nefarious sources. She replied, "I would take money from Hitler himself if it was to fund something I believe in."

      The near-overnight success of The Porn Charity's first project proves the indisputable weight of porn consumers and just how easily they can finance charitable endeavours. It also highlights a persistent cultural discomfort with pornography and shows how our views about sex remain woefully antiquated.

      "The mainstream still sees porn as it was in the 1970s... they think we're doing coke off each other's buttcracks," said Carrera.

      I wasn't able to view a copy of the live-stream prior to writing this article, but the photos I saw were almost disappointingly banal. Sure, everyone was naked, but there was something so reassuringly familiar about a group of girlfriends playfully hanging out in front of a computer screen. In fact, I've spent many nights in a similar situation. Swap out the self-deprecating jokes for some dirty talk, add some double penetration, and you've got yourself a (raunchier) version of my Tuesday night.

      I quickly realized that The Porn Charity also plays an important social function. Carrera and her team challenge the dominant narrative that sex workers are inherently oppressed and unable to practice self-determination. The women I saw in those photos seemed sly and funny. The kind of ladies you could easily open up to about an embarrassing sexual experience.

      "The porn industry is full of very empowered women," said Carrera. "I'm on set and I'm talking to these women who are accountants and who have master's degrees—it's our dirty little secret from the outside world."

      The Porn Charity is currently in the process of registering as a 501(c)(3) organization in the US and Carrera hopes to expand its reach to other educational areas. Her next project is to establish an education grant specifically for people in the adult entertainment industry who want to go on and pursue other fields.

      "I would even love to see some adult performers apply for the STEM scholarship," Carrera said. "There are some brilliant people in porn and a lot of them are students."

      If the success of The Porn Charity's first campaign tells us anything, it's that the future of fundraising is looking creative. And a hell of a lot less puritanical.

      Follow Neha Chandrachud on Twitter.

      Topics: Neha Chandrachud, Neha Chandrachud VICE, Canada, US, STEM, porn, pornography, Mercedes Carrera, cam girls, The Fine Young Capitalists, Paisley Parker, Holly Heart, The View of Sex, Indiegogo, Ablegamer, Susan G. Komen, University of Western Ontario, Queen's University, scholarships, Goldman Sachs, charity

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