To viewers, pornography can appear a fantasy world of pleasure and thrills. To those who create and participate in making pornography, however, their experiences are often flooded with drugs, disease, slavery, trafficking, rape and abuse.


 

I got the &*%$ kicked out of me …. Most of the girls start crying because they’re hurting so bad …. I couldn’t breathe. I was being hit and choked. I was really upset and they didn’t stop. They kept filming. [I asked them to turn the camera off] and they kept going. –Regan Starr [1]

The pornography industry works hard to keep up a glamorous image, but behind the camera is a reality of violence, drugs, and human trafficking.

With some editing and off-screen coercion, pornographers can make it look like what’s happening onscreen is being enjoyed. But the un-cut version is a different story. Porn actors are constantly threatened and emotionally and verbally abused by agents and directors to force them into doing things they don’t want to do. [2]

“You’re viewed as an object and not as a human with a spirit,” wrote Jersey Jaxin, a former porn star that left the industry in 2007. “People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they are being treated. Seventy five percent [of porn performers] and rising are using drugs. Have to numb themselves. There are specific doctors in this industry that if you go in for a common cold they’ll give you Vicodin, Viagra, anything you want because all they care about is the money. You are a number. You’re bruised. You have black eyes. You’re ripped. You’re torn. You have your insides coming out.” [3]

Not only do pornographers crop out the severe physical and emotional pain actors experience, but in many cases they also hide the fact that some “performers” aren’t given any choice at all.

Part of the lie porn producers want customers to buy into is that porn is legitimate entertainment made by glamorous people who are doing it because it’s what they want; it’s OK for the user to enjoy it because the people they’re watching seem to be enjoying it. What they don’t say is that some of those people look like they’re having a good time because behind the scenes they have a gun pointed at their head. And if they stop smiling, it will go off. [4]

Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics hard to come by. But the facts in cases that come to light are chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the violence, and sell it to pornography stores and businesses across the country. [5]

That same year a couple in Missouri was charged with forcing a mentally handicapped girl to produce porn for them by beating, whipping, suffocating, electrocuting, drowning, mutilating, and choking her until she agreed. One of the photos they forced her to make ended up on the front cover of a porn publication owned by Hustler Magazine Group. [6]

Those cases are just the tip of the iceberg; many more like them exist, and for each victim discovered, countless others suffer in silence. [7]

Still others are victimized by being forced into prostitution.

Given that pornography makes prostitution and sexually exploiting others look normal, [8] it’s not surprising that there’s a strong association between pornography use and going to prostitutes. [9] In fact, men who go to prostitutes are twice as likely to have watched a porn film in the last year compared to the general population. [10] It’s also not surprising that when these customers show up, many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting—many of which are human trafficking victims controlled by pimps—what they’ll be forced to do. [11]

And they’re not the only ones using porn as an illustration. “Pimps and traffickers use pornography to initiate their … victims into their new life of sexual slavery,” says Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a former UN representative and a senior fellow at the Beverley LaHaye Institute. Through exposure to porn, these victims “get hardened to accept the inevitable and learn what is expected of them.” [12]

In a study of 854 women in prostitution across nine countries, 49% said that porn had been made of them while they were in prostitution, and 47% said they had been harmed by men who had either forced or tried to force their victims to do things the men had seen in porn. [13]

In the end, porn fuels prostitution; and porn and prostitution are the products the sex trade exists to deliver. [14]

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[1] Amis, M. (2001). A Rough Trade. The Guardian (U.K.), March 17.

[2] Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon, 70–73; Amis, M. (2001). A Rough Trade. The Guardian (U.K.), March 17.
[3] Lubben, S. Interview with “Jersey Jaxin,” https://www.shelleylubben.com/former-porn-star-jersey-jaxin-story
[4] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., and Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography. In M. Mattar and J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society 5: 1-21.
[5] U.S. Department of Justice. (2012). Two Men Sentenced to Multiple Life Sentences for Enticing Women to South Florida to Engage in Commercial Sex Acts and Distributing Date Rape Pills. Press Release, Feb. 17.
[6] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., and Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography. In M. Mattar and J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society 5: 1-21; U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri. (2010). Woman Tortured as Slave, Victim of Trafficking and Forced Labor. Press Release, September 9. http://www.justice.gov/usao/mw/news2010/bagley.ind.htm
[7] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., and Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography. In M. Mattar and J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society 5: 1-21.
[8] Lederer, L. (2010). Four Links between Sex Trafficking and Illegal Pornography. Presentation at a Capitol Hill Briefing on Pornography Harms. Washington, D.C, June 15.
[9] Arevalo, E. and Regnerus, M. (2011). Commercialized Sex and Human Bondage. Public Discourse. Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute. February 11; Malarek, V. (2009). Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It. New York: Arcade, 193–96; 202–4; Monto, M. A. (1999). Focusing on the Clients of Street Prostitutes: A Creative Approach to Reducing Violence Against Women. Paper submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice.
[10] Monto, M. A. (1999). Focusing on the Clients of Street Prostitutes: A Creative Approach to Reducing Violence Against Women. Paper submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice.
[11] Poppy Project. (2004). When Women are Trafficked: Quantifying the Gendered Experience of Trafficking in the UK. London: Eaves; Globbe, E., Harrigan, M., and Ryan, J. (1990). A Facilitator’s Guide to Prostitution: A Matter of Violence against Women. Minneapolis, Minn.: WHISPER.
[12] Crouse, J. S. (2008). Pornography and Sex Trafficking. Statement at the National Press Club. Washington, D.C., May 19.
[13] Farley, M. (2007). Renting an Organ for Ten Minutes: What Tricks Tell Us about Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking. In D. E. Guinn and J. DiCaro (Eds.) Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking (p. 145). Bloomington, Ind.: Xlibris.
[14] Arevalo, E. and Regnerus, M. (2011). Commercialized Sex and Human Bondage. Public Discourse. Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute. February 11.