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10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About the Porn Industry

In reality, porn doesn’t add any lasting health or positivity to consumers’ lives, relationships, or the world. If you’re yet to be convinced, consider these points before consuming.

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This month, we invite you to educate yourself and others on how the porn industry normalizes and fuels the demand for exploitation in various forms. Together, we can stop the demand. Learn More

We’ve been told that there are tons of plastic in the ocean. In response, countries are saying no to non-recyclable materials. It’s also been publicized that many fast-fashion companies use unethical labor practices in production. Now, many consumers want to know by whom and if the person who made their clothing was paid a fair wage.

All of this effort is in the hopes of having a healthier, more ethical world, right?

Nowadays, average people are more likely to wonder how each product or service we use affects us and the world. We haven’t completely fixed any of these or the thousands of other issues yet, but there is a shift in knowledge, and thus a shift in demand.

So why not porn, something hundreds of millions of people on the planet have experience with whether by their own interest or the interest of a partner or loved one? Considering that an estimated 91.5% of men and 60.2% of women consume porn, let’s take a few moments to examine how porn may be affecting its consumers.Solano, I., Eaton, N. R., & O'Leary, K. D. (2020). Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. Journal of sex research, 57(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488COPY 

Decades of studies from respected academic institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption for individuals, relationships, and society, and yet it is widely accepted as healthy or harmless. But is it actually healthy, or harmless?

Here are ten facts you may not have known about porn and the industry that produces it.

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1. Porn is linked to sex trafficking

Of all the millions—possibly billions—of porn consumers in the world, not many know this fact: porn, sex trafficking, and sexual exploitation are all inextricably linked.

Keep in mind that someone can be sex trafficked even if they receive a paycheck at the end of the day and sleep in their own bed. Being chained up or transported across state lines is certainly part of what can happen during a trafficking experience, but extreme elements like that are not required for trafficking to take place. All that is required for a situation to be sex trafficking is that something of value is exchanged for a sex act—”a commercial sex act”—and that act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion.

Related: “I Didn’t Know If They’d Kill Me”: What Happened When This Jane Doe Was Trafficked By GirlsDoPorn

So how do videos of trafficked individuals end up on popular porn sites? There are a few different ways:

Not all videos on porn sites feature trafficked individuals, and not all porn is nonconsensual. Even so, there is often no way to tell if the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or produced with coercion.

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2. Porn is linked to child exploitation

Truly seeing the issue of child sex trafficking includes not turning a blind eye to the role pornography plays in sex trafficking and exploitation.

From normalizing abuse and sexualizing children to being used as a tool to groom victims, research and survivor accounts show that porn is interwoven in virtually every facet of sex trafficking, and vice versa.

While child sex trafficking is a complex issue, the role porn plays in it is undeniable. What many consumers view as a passive, private act can actually contribute to the exploitation of real people—even real kids. There have been many cases recently exposed of underage kids having explicit images and videos of them posted to porn sites, either in exploitative cases, cases involving “revenge porn,” or cases involving trafficking.

Related: 34 Trafficking And Abuse Survivors Sue Pornhub For Reportedly Profiting From Their Exploitation

Consider that the world’s largest porn companies, XVideos and MindGeek, are currently being sued by multiple child sex trafficking survivors who say these mainstream porn companies profited from their exploitation.

3. Porn performers are often exploited, trafficked, or abused

The porn industry doesn’t exactly take the best care of performers.

Of course, many performers report having positive experiences, but many others have endured abuse on and off set by other industry professionals. The porn world doesn’t have measures like a formal system for reporting abusers that can keep performers safe, and even where it does, abuse still happens.

That is, perhaps, the porn industry’s biggest secret: it’s not all consensual.

If you’re not convinced content on mainstream sites isn’t all consensual, read this viral New York Times storythis BBC reportthis Jezebel.com storyanother story from the New York Timesthis story on Daily Beastthis story on Complex.comthis Rolling Stone storythis Bustle.com storythis story on CNNthis News.com.au storythis Buzzfeed News profile, or this UK Independent story for further evidence that the mainstream porn industry features nonconsensual content and videos of trafficked individuals. Unfortunately there are many, many more stories like these. And again, this is happening on virtually every mainstream porn site.

Related: Not All Porn Is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers.

Of course, we are not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual, rather, we’re raising awareness on the unfortunate reality of the porn industry—that there is often no way to tell whether the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or if it was produced with coercion.

Popular and award-winning porn performer, Nikki Benz, was one prominent mainstream performer to come forward about her own abuse and call it out back in 2016. Describing the surprise attack she endured while filming a scene, she said that the director/performer and male co-star stomped on her head and choked her, even after she yelled “cut” during the filming. Keep in mind that she consented to rough sex acts prior to filming, but her calls to stop the scene were not heeded. Her consent was clearly violated.

Sadly, Benz’s story is just one of many, but thanks to her allegation, a handful of performers have spoken out against other performers, directors, and even production companies despite the risks to their careers.

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4. Consumers can’t truly tell if porn is consensual

Many people believe that if a person is performing in a porn film that consent was confirmed. This is an assumption that cannot be truly confirmed.

No doubt, achieving and confirming continual consent would be a huge step forward in protecting and respecting performers, but this is really difficult in practice.

Consider this. In an attempt to establish consent between performers and producers, many shoots begin and end with performer interviews. On camera, they describe and agree to the acts that they will participate in, and after the shoot is complete, they film an agreement that all went according to their consent or else the day’s footage is trashed (and they don’t get paid or booked again).

Related: How To Tell If Someone In A Porn Video Is A Trafficking Victim

The problem with these interviews, particularly the exit interviews, is that performers have admitted to lying at times.

There is, unfortunately, a lot of incentive to do so. If they feel they’ve been abused during the shoot, it would be unsafe to address those complaints with their assailant in the room. Also, agreeing that the shoot went according to their consent ensures they are still paid for the work and saves their reputation in an industry that often blacklists performers who are “difficult” or develop a reputation for saying anything but positive things about their experiences.

5. Porn can become difficult to quit

When it comes to the topic of porn, one of the most common questions is whether or not it can actually be addictive. According to many addiction experts, it absolutely can be.

This brain science is complicated and detailed, so read our research-based articles about porn and the brain to learn more about this particular aspect of porn’s harms.

Just remember this: not everyone who watches porn is or will become addicted. Also, watching porn does not make someone a bad person.

Related: Why Porn Can Be Difficult To Quit

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6. Porn consumption can escalate to more extreme content

Porn not only becomes an intense habit, taking up your time and attention from your daily life, it is also an escalating behavior.

Research indicates that porn consumers can become desensitized to porn, often needing to consume more porn, more extreme forms of porn, or consume porn more often in order to get the same response they once did.

It’s not uncommon for a consumer to eventually begin exploring what was previously considered unacceptable or “disgusting” to them. This can ultimately influence the consumer’s sexual tastes.

In a select few extreme cases, child abuse experts have said that extreme mainstream porn was the start for a consumer down a more illicit path.

Experts are seeing that many men who abuse children aren’t “natural-born pedophiles” or molesters already interested in children. Some have started out consuming abuse-themed porn readily available on popular porn sites, which has proved as a sort of stepping stone to have an interest in child abuse content or, in some cases, actually abuse children.

Don’t mistake what we’re saying here. Not everyone who consumes mainstream porn will end up abusing children, but this is information we can’t ignore.

7. Porn changes how consumers see other people

Sexual objectification occurs when people perceive others as sex objects, rather than complex human beings deserving of dignity and respect. In fact, in a review of research on sexual violence, two leading experts called sexual objectification the “common thread” that connects different forms of sexual violence.Gervais, S. J., & Eagan, S. (2017). Sexual objectification: The common thread connecting myriad forms of sexual violence against women. The American journal of orthopsychiatry, 87(3), 226–232. https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000257COPY 

Related: How Porn Can Normalize Sexual Objectification

Research consistently shows that porn can play a big role in teaching viewers to consume people as products for their own personal sexual satisfaction, which can ultimately have unhealthy consequences for individuals, relationships, and for the cultures in which we live.Skorska, M.N., Hodson, M.N., & Hoffarth, M.N. (2018). Experimental effects of degrading versus erotic pornography exposure in men on reactions toward women (objectification, sexism, discrimination). The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 27, 261 - 276.COPY Seabrook, R. C., Ward, L. M., & Giaccardi, S. (2019). Less than human? Media use, objectification of women, and men’s acceptance of sexual aggression. Psychology of Violence, 9(5), 536-545. doi:10.1037/vio0000198COPY 

Obviously, porn is not an accurate representation of how everyday people look or how sex and intimacy work in real-life relationships, yet the research shows that porn can, and does, shape the way that consumers think about others and about sex.

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8. Porn chips away at consumers’ self-confidence and mental health

Research suggests that porn may actually fuel mental health issues, rather than help them.

Studies have found that when people engage in an ongoing pattern of “self-concealment,” which is when they do things they’re not proud of and keep them a secret, it can not only hurt their relationships and leave them feeling lonely, but can also make them more vulnerable to mental health issues.Laird, R. D., Marrero, M. D., Melching, J. A., and Kuhn, E. S. (2013). Information Management Strategies in Early Adolescence: Developmental Change in Use and Transactional Associations with Psychological Adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 49(5), 928–937. doi:10.1037/a0028845COPY Luoma, J. B., et. al. (2013). Self-Stigma in Substance Abuse: Development of a New Measure. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 35, 223–234. doi:10.1007/s10862-012-9323-4COPY Rotenberg, K. J., Bharathi, C., Davies, H., and Finch, T. (2013). Bulimic Symptoms and the Social Withdrawal Syndrome. Eating Behaviors, 14, 281–284. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.05.003COPY 

Related: “No Harm In Looking, Right?” A Study Of Porn’s Impact On Self-Esteem

In fact, a number of peer-reviewed studies have found a link between pornography consumption and mental health outcomes like depression,Harper, C., & Hodgins, D. C. (2016). Examining Correlates of Problematic Internet Pornography Use Among University Students. Journal of behavioral addictions, 5(2), 179–191. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.022COPY  anxiety,Wordecha, M., Wilk, M., Kowalewska, E., Skorko, M., Łapiński, A., & Gola, M. (2018). 'Pornographic binges' as a key characteristic of males seeking treatment for compulsive sexual behaviors: Qualitative and quantitative 10-week-long diary assessment. Journal of behavioral addictions, 7(2), 433–444. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.33COPY  loneliness,Butler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018). Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601COPY  lower life satisfaction,Willoughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B., & Leonhardt, N. D. (2018). Exploring trajectories of pornography use through adolescence and emerging adulthood.55(3), 297-309. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1368977COPY  and poorer self-esteem and overall mental health.Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY  These studies have found that these links are particularly strong when pornography is consumed to try to escape negative emotions, and also when pornography consumption becomes heavy and compulsive.Levin, M. E., Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2012). When is online pornography viewing problematic among college males? Examining the moderating role of experiential avoidance.19(3), 168-180. doi:10.1080/10720162.2012.657150COPY  According to another study performed in the United States, researchers found a significant bi-directional association between pornography and loneliness, prompting them to conclude:

“Results revealed that the association between loneliness and viewing pornography was positive and significant…those who viewed pornography were more likely to experience loneliness, and those who were experiencing loneliness were more likely to view pornography. These findings are consistent with research linking pornography use to negative affect.”Butler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018) Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 44:2, 127-137, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601COPY 

9. Porn can harm real relationships

Research has consistently shown that porn consumers tend to struggle in their relationships. From poorer relationship quality to an increased likelihood of cheating, research suggests that porn plays a major role in fueling unhealthy relationship dynamics.

For example, dozens of studies have repeatedly shown that porn consumers tend to have lower relationship satisfaction and lower relationship quality.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108COPY Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7COPY Perry, S. (2017). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-YCOPY  Porn consumers tend to experience more negative communication with their partners, feel less dedicated to their relationships, have a more difficult time making adjustments in their relationships, are less sexually satisfied, and commit more infidelity.Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing sexually-explicit materials alone or together: associations with relationship quality. Archives of sexual behavior, 40(2), 441–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4COPY 

Related: Let’s Talk About Porn. Is It As Harmless As Society Says It Is?

Research also shows that porn consumers tend to become less committed to their partners,Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The Effects Of Sexually Explicit Material Use On Romantic Relationship Dynamics. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. Doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078COPY Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A love that doesn't last: Pornography consumption and weakened commitment to one's romantic partner. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410-438. doi:10.1521/jscp.2012.31.4.410COPY  less satisfied in their relationships,Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108COPY  and more accepting of cheating.Rasmussen, K. (2016). A Historical and Empirical Review of Pornography and Romantic Relationships: Implications for Family Researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141COPY 

Whether porn is the original culprit of a couple’s relationship problems, or whether it becomes a coping mechanism for existing problems, many couples find themselves caught in an unhealthy cycle of porn and relationship issues, each fueling the other.

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10. Porn is harmful, and it simply isn’t worth it

Porn is not harmless. Decades of research and hundreds upon hundreds of studies indicate that porn can have serious negative consequences for individuals, relationships, and society as a whole.

While the multi-billion dollar porn industry may try to sell porn as harmless entertainment, the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise. Help build a healthier world by rejecting porn and its toxic narratives.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your compulsive behavior, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

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