Donate to RNS

Porn star Mia Khalifa tackles death threats with humor after hijab sex scene

The Lebanese-American adult actress, raised Christian, recently donned a hijab to get down and dirty. The stunt secured her porn star status while prompting a flood of threats and slut-shaming online. Now she’s responding to hatred with humor.

Pornography is one of my greatest passions — not for what it contains, but for what it represents.

I got a master’s degree from Oxford for hanging out on Grindr in Dubai, but also for looking at how and why countries across the Middle East and beyond censor the Internet.

Think of porn as a canary (or maybe a tit) in the coal mine. Where online and offline pornography is heavily restricted, you’re likely to find other serious constraints on freedom of expression.

Some governments use porn as an excuse to greatly restrict all internet access, blocking sites that have little or nothing to do with “obscene” content. Others use the “porn” label to block anything related to LGBT or even political material.

“On the Internet, 50 percent is porn material,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in 2010, one year after his own shirtless horse riding photos surfaced.

That estimate is high (…Putin has no idea what he’s talking about…) but porn certainly exists online, presumably even porn of Putin and horses if Internet Rule #34 is anything to go by:

“If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.”

Hijabs exist, bringing us to the latest controversy.

In late-December, a young Lebanese-American woman who goes by Mia Khalifa became the most popular adult film star on PornHub, the Internet’s largest porn site.

Several of Khalifa’s most popular video clips feature her and another actress, both described as Muslim in the scenes, wearing hijabs and servicing a male actor.

Khalifa called the scenes “satirical,” but some Twitter users aren’t laughing.

One damned her to “Hellfire,” to which she responded, “I’ve been meaning to get a little tan recently.”

Another wrote, “ur head will be cut soon inshahallah,” prompting, “long as it’s not my tits. They were expensive.”

One user even posted a screenshot from an ISIS beheading with Khalifa’s head superimposed over the hostage’s body.

https://twitter.com/UsainAnnan/status/552214742715338753

Threats, damnation and disapproval are also peppered in news reports from her native Lebanon, where last September six porn sites were blocked by order of the Minister of Telecommunications.

“What I once boasted to people as being the most Westernized-nation in the Middle East, I now see as devastatingly archaic and oppressed,” Khalifa told the Washington Post.

Am I surprised that some people are offended by hijab porn? No. Am I surprised that some people have resorted to death threats? Not in the slightest. I’ve received death threats on Twitter for things far less controversial.

Whether or not I agree with the filmmakers’ decisions, I am pleased with Khalifa’s use of humor to combat hatred and threats. I needed a laugh after this terrible week.