Why Did YouTube Temporarily Block This Gay Porn Star’s Sexual Abuse Story?

"It’s almost as though [YouTube] is saying, ‘Stories like this should not be told.'"

A YouTube video in which gay porn star Calvin Banks came out as a survivor of sexual abuse garnered more than 67,000 views in its first 36 hours on the site. In a February 16 interview with the popular gay vlogger Davey Wavey, Banks claims his father was his “first blowjob.”

When he was “7 or 8 years old,” Banks recalls that his sister was at gymnastics practice while he was at his father’s house for weekend visitation. His parents were divorced.

“We were alone for a couple hours, and it just led to a string of abuse,” he claims.

The piercing honestly with which Banks recalls his childhood trauma attracted the attention of LGBTQ sites like Queerty and Towleroad, which called the CockyBoys performer’s admission “brave.” But just hours after the video went live, it was gone.

Himeros TV/YouTube
From left: Wavey and Banks.

Wavey says the video was locked on his account, meaning only he could view it.

When the interview was first published, survivors of sexual assault emailed to say that it encouraged them to share their own stories of abuse. After the video was effectively erased, many of these same people asked why it had been removed.

“I feel really honored to be able to tell Calvin’s story, and I feel a level of responsibility to do it justice,” Wavey tells NewNowNext. “When you’re trusted with a story and then that story immediately gets silenced, it feels like someone’s sticking a knife in your side and twisting it.”

When Wavey reached out to YouTube about the issue, the platform claimed his video was blocked because of “misleading tags.” He maintains the keywords he used were accurate—including “Gay Porn, “Porn,” and “Gay Sex.” Wavey was “furious.”

“I know YouTube doesn’t personally believe this, but it’s almost as though it’s saying, ‘Stories like this should not be told. Voices like Calvin’s like should not be heard,’” he claims. “It’s the message the policy sends when a video that legitimately should exist in the platform gets removed for no good reason.”

The incident is merely the latest in a long series of controversies regarding how YouTube monitors LGBTQ-focused videos.

The hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty began trending on Twitter in March 2017 after LGBTQ content creators discovered that many of their videos were hidden from search engines. Other videos were demonetized, meaning that vloggers were no longer to make money off them through ad revenue.

Although YouTube claimed the segments had been flagged by an algorithm designed to filter sexually charged content, one offending video included a lesbian wedding.

The problems only got worse from there. During Pride Month in June 2018, many channels reported that commercials for anti-LGBTQ hate groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel were being broadcast before their content. One such ad featured conservative radio host Michael Brown lambasting “sinful desires” like “same-sex attraction.”

After months of dragging its proverbial feet, YouTube admitted it had “let the LGBTQ community down” and vowed to “do better.”

LGBTQ content creators say that hasn’t happened. Amp Somers, who runs the kink-oriented channel Watts the Safeword, claimed he has “nothing positive to say” about YouTube’s help desk.

“Our channel has been blacklisted in search features, where they completely strip the custom pictures and thumbnails you put up to entice people to watch,” Somers tells NewNowNext. “We were gaslit for a few months when we tried to ask them for help. We were told that nothing was wrong and there wasn’t an issue.”

Wavey says Banks’ video being removed was yet another sign YouTube hasn’t done nearly enough to address the concerns of LGBTQ users.

After sending a “strongly worded email” its support team, a YouTube partner manager claimed she would investigate the complaint. Wavey claims her response was telling: “I understand the sensitivity. Let me see if there’s someone or a particular team I can track down internally who would benefit from hearing the feedback.”

“It’s almost like, ‘While I hear that you have a problem, the reality is no one cares,’” he adds. “‘You’re just a flea on the giant elephant that is YouTube.’”

The video was eventually reinstated after Wavey reached out to the project manager of an internal LGBTQ panel of creators he has sat on for the past year and “expressed [his] concern.” After being offline for a day and a half, all 17 minutes of the interview with Banks is currently available on Wavey’s channel.

But Wavey says he’s the exception, not the rule. Given that he commands a platform 1.5 million followers, he’s in a “privileged position.” Other vloggers aren’t so lucky.

“They certainly don’t have contacts at YouTube they can email directly,” he claims. “I can get my video relisted on YouTube, but how many other people can? What stories haven’t we heard and what voices aren’t we hearing? It’s overwhelming when you start to think about how this could be affecting marginalized communities.”

YouTube did not respond to a request for comment for this story, and Somers is used to that. He claims he doesn’t have to wonder how its content policies are affecting LGBTQ people—he experiences it every day. In fact, Somers doesn’t even see his own videos when he searches for them.

“Many creators of our size have moved to other sites like Patreon to get money to help fund the content they’re creating, but it’s just gotten ridiculous—to where we can’t even have content visible on the site,” he says. “At the moment, we all feel like we’re yelling into a void that doesn’t care about us.”

Nico Lang is an award-winning journalist and editor. His work has been featured in INTO, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Esquire, and the L.A. Times.