Britain’s International Slavery Museum has pulled an exhibition on human trafficking in the porn industry after a backlash over the “dehumanising” artwork and the involvement of a U.S. lobby group criticised for its hardline stance on the sex industry.
The museum in Liverpool, northern England, came under fire this week for partnering with Exodus Cry, which seeks to stop pornography and commercial sex work and has been denounced by activists for stigmatising sex workers and trafficking victims.
A tweet by the museum announcing the exhibition on Wednesday attracted dozens of critical responses, including from anti-trafficking campaigners and academics who said the artworks were “trauma porn” and “damaging, sensationalist and dehumanising”.
One of the artworks featured an image of a naked woman with tape over her mouth and abusive comments plastered on her body.
In a statement published late on Thursday, the director of National Museums Liverpool said the exhibition would be removed.
“We in no way support the reported views of this organisation (Exodus Cry) and apologise for any distress this may have caused our communities and visitors,” Laura Pye said.
“(We) will take this time to review and reflect on how we can continue to better highlight the dire state of modern slavery and anti-trafficking work.”
Exodus Cry said in a statement earlier this week that it was “honoured by the partnership” with the slavery museum, which opened in 2007 and focuses on the transatlantic slave trade.
The group’s chief executive Benjamin Nolot told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday that criticism of the exhibition was “unfortunate” and “unfair”, and said attention should instead be paid to websites that profit from child abuse videos.
Nolot was not immediately available to comment on the announcement that the exhibition would be removed.
Exodus Cry hit the headlines this month following a New York Times column which said Pornhub, one of the world’s biggest porn websites, included child abuse videos, which led Mastercard and Visa to stop payments on the site.
Pornhub responded by pulling content uploaded by unverified users and in a statement said Exodus Cry was targeting it for being an adult content site, comparing the lobby group to forces that demonise sex education and LGBT+ rights.