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Bushfires have destroyed more than 15 million acres in Australia, and officials say some blazes could continue for months. | Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The viral campaign of a 20-year-old “naked philanthropist” is an example of charity porn.

A series of devastating wildfires have burned millions of acres in Australia. Across the continent, an estimated 1 billion animals have been killed, and fire officials say some individual blazes will continue burning for months. As the crisis garnered global attention this past week, a 20-year-old model has gone viral for incentivizing her followers to donate to approved Australian charities — by sending fans explicit photos for every $10 they give, provided they send her confirmation of the donation.

Kaylen Ward, a California resident who calls herself the Naked Philanthropist, has raised, by her estimates, more than $1 million in contributions to Australian charities and evacuation centers, such as the Australian Red Cross and WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund). Ward told the Guardian that since she had a dedicated follower base from modeling and selling nude content, she hoped to urge them to contribute money to the fire relief efforts.

Ward’s viral campaign is an iteration of charity porn, a philanthropic effort that aims to capitalize on people’s horniness for a good cause. Her Twitter post — which is a censored image of Ward alongside a list of charities — attracted more attention than she initially expected.

Within hours of Ward’s post on January 3, she started receiving an influx of direct messages with donation receipts totaling up to $5,000. Two days later, Ward announced the amount had gone up to $300,000, and on January 6, donations had surpassed $1 million. (Ward did not respond to an emailed request for comment from Vox and is no longer accepting any more donation verifications.)

Ward said on Twitter that she paid a team of people to help filter through messages and verify the thousands of donation receipts she’s received. She has discovered some duped images, and some of her nudes have been publicly leaked, but Ward has received massive online exposure for her fundraising strategy.

She has gained more than 250,000 Twitter followers and launched a partnership with OnlyFans — a platform where fans can pay a monthly fee to view special, sometimes not-safe-for-work content — where 20 percent of her earnings will be donated to the Australian fires. Ward is the first influencer that OnlyFans has partnered with for a charitable cause, according to Steve Pym, the platform’s head of marketing.

“While other platforms have shut Kaylen Ward down, we decided to step in and give our full support towards this great cause,” Pym wrote to Vox in an email. “This also felt like the right thing to do as a company. We care about the environment and the bushfires in Australia are also directly affecting members of our extended global OnlyFans family.”

(Public attention also led Ward’s Instagram to be deactivated over the weekend, as a result of posting sexually suggestive content.)

Ward’s charitable campaign has been praised for its “uniqueness” — a euphemism directed at her NSFW content. Her ingenious idea, which has inspired other sex workers to exchange nudes for genuine donations, isn’t quite new. The porn industry has a demonstrated history of launching charitable campaigns for a variety of causes, and it has the money to fuel it: The industry is worth an estimated $6 billion to $15 billion in yearly revenue.

Pornhub, a popular porn video site, has a page titled “Pornhub Cares” that lists its altruistic efforts dating back to 2012. Its latest campaign, “The Dirtiest Porn Ever,” raised money for ocean waste cleanup, bringing awareness to the harms of single-use plastic. For each view of the uncensored campaign video, which was shot on one of the most polluted beaches in the world, Pornhub said it would donate an unspecified amount to the Ocean Polymers project.

“We really enjoyed giving back to the community through those initiatives and found that the response from our fans was incredibly positive, which is why we decided to expand our philanthropic work and officially launch Pornhub Cares in 2015 with our first ever Pornhub Cares Scholarship,” Corey Price, the vice president of the site, wrote to Vox in an email. (Pornhub appears to have last awarded the $25,000 scholarship in 2017.)

On the internet, there are a handful of smaller pornography sites or organizations created by sex workers that are attempts at a charity porn business, with names like Fuck for Forest, Hump the Bundle, Benevidz, and Come4. Most of these sites, as Fiona Zublin reported for Ozy, appear to be a tough sell. In some cases, donors — from charity porn sites to sex workers — have struggled to find nonprofits willing to accept these gifts.

While their mission is to bring in charitable donations, there are also certain overhead costs of running a streaming business that make it difficult for a porn service to be sustainable. The ethics behind sourcing porn for indie sites is also difficult, Zublin noted: “There can be a tricky ethical line to walk when it comes to making and sourcing their product and how they dispense that cash.”

Perhaps that’s why most charity porn setups quietly fade away (Come4 has since shut down) and few manage to stay lucrative — likely because they aren’t tied to an urgent cause, but rather encourage a monthly subscription. Charitable giving tends to spike when people are confronted with a tragedy they’re unable to contribute to directly, David Karpf, a researcher on digital political advocacy at George Washington University, previously told Vox.

The psychology behind what motivates a person to give money is complex. The severity of Australia’s wildfires has inspired millions in donations, but these dollars aren’t able to directly relieve the impacts of climate change — which created the harsh tinderbox conditions that worsened the fires. Donations are likely helping residents who are affected, wildfire conservation efforts, and firefighters on the front lines.

Ward’s individual fundraising success could be a result of multiple factors, including her popularity on Twitter, the timing of her post, and the dire reports on the state of Australia’s wildfires.

Her $10 nudes create an incentive for a quick donation, an action that doesn’t require as much commitment as, say, a monthly charitable subscription to a porn site. Her OnlyFans partnership, however, might open the door to future naked philanthropic efforts, as she has hinted at in her tweets. Ward announced that she plans to start an organization where all proceeds would go to charity, and she’s looking for people who want to sell their nudes for a good cause.

As users on Twitter like to point out, not all heroes wear capes. Some don’t even wear clothes.

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Author: Terry Nguyen

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