A 'Tribute' Porn Community Targeted a 14-Year-Old YouTuber

On a forum devoted to ejaculating on photos of women, YouTubers are a popular category.
June 2, 2020, 4:36pm
A young woman looking at a laptop.

There are places on the internet where people post photos of people they know in real life—coworkers, fellow students, relatives, almost always women—for others to degrade, without those women's consent. We've seen this with deepfakes and their low-tech Photoshopped predecessors, but there's another genre that's more crude: cum and cock tributes.

These "tributes" are images of men masturbating to and ejaculating on images of women and then sharing the semen-covered photo on porn forums or social media. They might be printed paper photos or ejaculating on iPads or smartphone screens, but the format is the same: cum on someone's photo, then share and brag about it.

Last week, on a forum dedicated to cum tributes, people posted images of a 14-year-old YouTuber named Makenna and described in explicit detail the sexual acts they wanted to do to her. (Motherboard is not identifying the website to protect the privacy of the people whose images are still on it.) Makenna makes ASMR videos on her YouTube channel, which has more than 1.6 million subscribers.

Motherboard viewed the posts and several screenshots that showed Makenna's images posted on the site with derogatory captions and comments. "They were so vulgar, and it went from wanting to rape me in the back of a van to cumming on my face and using me until I was bloody and crying," Makenna told me.

On the rest of the site, dozens of threads contain images of women users claim they found on social media or compilations of leaked nudes. The site's "rules" state that no images of minors, edited face-swaps or not, are allowed, and users posting them will be permanently banned. However, Motherboard viewed other recent threads sharing images of minors, images of celebrities when they were minors, and a thread from 2017 sharing YouTube videos of minors that users describe as "sexier." (Most of the videos in that thread were removed by YouTube).

I contacted the admin for the site Makenna's images appeared on, and they reiterated that non-consensual images and images of minors aren't allowed on their site. "These topics are closed/removed and users sanctioned upon discovery/reporting," they said. "In regards to a recent YouTuber appearing, her topic and images were urgently removed as soon as we received [a] report." Makenna told me she didn't contact the site herself; it's possible that a concerned follower reported on her behalf after seeing her tweet about it.

But Makenna is only one of many girls and women on the site, where images of other teen YouTubers are shared and similarly treated. Tributes are also a common and old practice across the internet. Communities on Reddit, Twitter, and Pornhub openly post images of women without their consent, and editing them into porn or requesting people reply with cum tributes of the images.

Makenna said that when she called her local police department in Fort Collins, Colorado, the police told her there wasn't anything they could do to help. The Fort Collins Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Dismissal by local police is a common experience for victims of revenge porn and harassment online: revenge porn experts suggest alerting law enforcement in order to keep a record of claims in case you decide to pursue an investigation, but don't expect the police to help you take down nonconsensual images.

"As a victim, it’s incredibly difficult to find out answers," Joanna McKeegan, a senior associate at McAllister Olivarius, a firm that specializes in non-consensual pornography, told me. "And that’s a problem we need to address, because the more confusing the law is, the fewer people who will seek out help. It’s all too common for police and other law enforcement to turn away victims, because they don’t have the expertise or technological resources to address the case. There needs to be a simple answer."

According to McKeegan, images of clothed minors, even if they're being sexualized, are difficult to prosecute under child pornography laws. Images can be "obviously offensive, lewd and against all moral decency," but not all lewd images are pornographic in the eyes of the law, McKeegan said.

"US laws regarding online pornography are out of touch with modern life," she said. "In most US jurisdictions victims of edited photos, including heavily edited videos like deepfakes, have little legal recourse. Some states don’t allow for prosecution under revenge porn laws unless a victim’s face is visible. Some laws require the victim to prove the intent of the defendant. This is inherently difficult to do, and for victims it doesn't make much of a difference if their privacy was violated for laughs, or out of anger."

Additionally, because there's no federal legislation on revenge porn, it's harder for victims with multi-state abuses to bring their cases. "This is a problem, because the internet doesn't neatly stay within state borders, nor does the abuse," McKeegan said.

Cum tributes aren't the problem with sites devoted to the specific fetish of ejaculating on a photo. The use and spread of people's images who didn't give permission for them to be used in any way, let alone for strangers on the internet to sexualize, is always the issue at the root of these forums. Until there are better federal laws supporting victims, and better education around consent online, these cases will continue.

"This is NOT a victimless crime regardless of what the police say," Makenna said. "My advice if this happens to someone is to speak up even though it’s embarrassing, humiliating and scary... and keep telling your story until someone finally listens and does the right thing. I wish there were better resources out there for kids/teens."

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