The Pornhub Awards smashes the stigma of porn with humor and Kanye

Nothing has driven home just how far the VMAs have fallen from grace quite like the first annual Pornhub Awards. Who would have imagined a show with categories like “Top Blowjob Performer” and “Hottest Female Ass” would have been a multimedia spectacle featuring the biggest, and maybe the most controversial, rapper in the world. Co-directed and designed by an unannounced-until-after-showtime Kanye West, who also performed, the Pornhub Awards was like the site itself: You visit with expectations and walk away shocked at how much they were surpassed.

Singer Teyana Taylor’s barn-burning kickoff performance was a joyful surprise in its own right, but when West walked out to join her, the building exploded. His time onstage was brief, but his influence was felt throughout the night.

The presenters were also reportedly styled by West, which explains the mix of out-front sexuality and high fashion found onstage. The show was also a technical achievement; the Pornhub Awards was broadcast in 3D 360-degree VR, a first for any awards show. But if the artistry of a porn accolades show was a surprise, the onstage nudity throughout the night was not. Host and fan favorite Asa Akira led the evening with humor and no top. 

first_pornhub_awards_asa_akira Photo by John-Michael Bond

Unlike the industry’s current biggest award show, the AVNs, the Pornhub Awards were focused less on celebrating scenes and films than the stars themselves. Not a single film won at the show. Instead, awards went to individual superstars, based on streaming data and voting, for how fans appreciated their body of work in the past year.

For performers like Lena the Plug, a social media celeb turned amateur porn star who won “Celebrity of the Year,” Pornhub has proved an unlikely source of success. “I think Pornhub is the No. 1 thing associated with nudity on the internet. So I feel like in many ways my porn is synonymous with Pornhub,” she told the Daily Dot.

Lena says her Snapchats got leaked on Pornhub so many times, that people kept coming to the site to look for them, which in turn, opened doors for her career. “It’s definitely helped me in that way,” she says. “And the fact that they’re calling me a celebrity is just super insane.”

first_pornhub_awards_lena_the_plugs Photo by John-Michael Bond

No doubt, as much as Pornhub is synonymous with free online porn, it is also known for users uploading pirated content—even if that content has helped expose performers like Lena to millions of people. However, according to Natalie Mars, winner of “Most Popular Trans Performer,” Pornhub has helped her reclaim lost money from stolen work.

“I claimed all the videos that people had pirated onto the site, and Pornhub gave me all the revenue,” Mars explained to Daily Dot. “I think it’s awesome they gave me all the back pay that had accumulated over however long.”

first_pornhub_awards_natalie_mars Photo by John-Michael Bond

Pornhub’s commitment to becoming a more performer-friendly company might explain the general sense of joy the permeated the night. Silly jokes were met with generous laughter, and performers like Blackbear found a rapturous audience before them. It often felt like any other awards show, just with far more naked people. Then a performer would be presented with one of the West-designed awards, which look like a sex toy out of a David Cronenberg film, and you’d be reminded the Hub was aiming for more.

first-pornhub-awards-kanye-awards Photo via Twitter

In that way, you could say the awards were a showpiece for what the site is trying to accomplish not just for the industry, but for the culture at large.

“I hear in a lot of DMs and emails that Pornhub really helps with people’s sexuality in general,” industry superstar Bonnie Rotten, back from a short-lived retirement, told the Daily Dot. “I’m from Ohio. So I know what it’s like to be kind of sexually depraved and put in like a corner about what you’re interested in. [Pornhub] gives people the opportunity to go out and do whatever they want, whenever they want, and I respect that.”

first_pornhub_awards_riley Photo by John-Michael Bond

With 97 million hits a day, Pornhub was already mainstream before the awards happened. It was just mainstream in the way that pot is mainstream—a thing everyone does or at least tries but lies about in front of their parents. Having West direct the evening might have been a stunt, but it was a stunt that gave the Pornhub brand a social cache that it never had before.

Seriously, MTV, don’t air the VMAs next year. Just figure out how to air a safe-for-work version of the Pornhub Awards. We hear James Gunn is looking for work. Let him help, he has experience with such things.

first-pornhub-awards-dana-dentata Photo by John-Michael Bond

Here is a complete list of the winners for the 2018 Pornhub Awards:

Realer Than Reality — Top VR Performer

Megan Rain

Up Close and Personal — Top POV Performer

Mark Rockwell

Top Channel

Brazzers

Most Popular Network

Team Skeet

Blowjob Queen — Top Blowjob Performer

Miss Banana

Splash Zone — Top Squirting Performer

Abella Danger

Back Door Beauty — Top Anal Performer

Danika Mori

Most Popular Parody Channel

Wood Rocket

Most Popular Cinematic Channel

Blacked

Most Popular MILF Channel

Moms Teach Sex

Most Popular VR Channel

BaDoink

Most Popular European Channel

Fake Taxi

Most Popular Gay Channel

Family Dick

Most Popular Trans Channel

She-Male Idol

Tantalizing Twinkie — Top Twink Performer

Joey Mills

Glorious Grizzly — Top Bear Performer

Colby Jansen

The Whole Squad — Top Gay Group Performer

Johnny Rapid

Blowjob King — Top Gay Blowjob Performer

Darius Ferdynand

Most Popular Male Performer by Women

Johnny Sins

Top Comment on Pornhub

PhatCockRocket

Get Your Freak On — Top Fetish Performer

Prettykittymiaos

Mrs. Dressup — Top Cosplay Performer

Mattie Doll

Visionary Director

Young M.A

Best Chest — Top Big Tits Performer

Lena Paul

Big and Beautiful — Top BBW Performer

Jade Jordan

Full Mast — Top Big Dick Performer

Manuel Ferrara

Highly Experienced — Top MILF Performer

Brandi Love

Girl Who Likes Girls — Top Lesbian Performer

Vanessa Veracruz

Solo Siren — Top Female Solo Performer

lilcanadiangirl

Best Dick (Fan Favorite Winner)

Johnny Sins

Nicest Pussy (Fan Favorite Winner)

Dillion Harper

Nicest Tits (Fan Favorite Winner)

Kendra Sunderland

Hottest Female Ass (Fan Favorite Winner)

Mia Malkova

Hottest Male Ass (Fan Favorite Winner)

Johnny Sins

Best Cumshot (Fan Favorite Winner)

Danny D

Hottest Inked Model (Fan Favorite Winner)

Karmen Karma

Favorite MILF (Fan Favorite Winner)

Brandi Love

Favorite Trans Model (Fan Favorite Winner)

Natalie Mars

Favorite Gay Model (Fan Favorite Winner)

William Seed

Favorite BBW Model (Fan Favorite Winner)

Marilyn Mayson

Favorite Fetish Model (Fan Favorite Winner)

Mandy Flores

Cam Performer of the Year (Fan Favorite Winner)

Jenny Blighe

Favorite Channel (Fan Favorite Winner)

Brazzers

Funniest Performer (Fan Favorite Winner)

Jordi El Niño Polla

Best Premium Snapchat (Fan Favorite Winner)

Dani Daniels

Best Porn Twitter (Fan Favorite Winner)

Riley Reid

Instagrammer of the Year (Fan Favorite Winner)

Nicolette Shea

Most Popular Female Performer by Women

Mia Malkova

Celebrity of the Year

Lena The Plug

All at the Same Damn Time — Top DP Performer

Adriana Chechik

Three’s Company — Top Threesome Performer

Lady Fyre

More the Merrier — Top Gangbang Performer

Riley Reid

Most Popular Verified Amateur

Lindsey Love

Most Popular Verified Professional Model

Bryci

Most Popular Verified Couple

LeoLulu

Most Popular Trans Performer

Natalie Mars

M4M — Most Popular Gay Performer

William Seed

Most Popular Male Performer

Jordi El Niño Polla

Most Popular Female Performer

Riley Reid

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.