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This Simple Rule Could Stop the Demand for Sexual Exploitation

It’s a rule of kindness and respect: act in a way toward others that you’d like them to act toward you. Through this, exploitation could end.

Cover photo by Taylor Bryant. 5 minute read.

A lot of times, the discussion about why porn is unhealthy focuses on the science, the numbers, the violence, and the relationship problems that can stem from porn.

These are all valid, thoroughly discussed, and worth considering. After all, Fight the New Drug is an organization with an educational platform that raises awareness on the harms of pornography, but together all that information can sometimes be a little overwhelming—what’s the most important factor to pay attention to?

The answer, of course, is the most quality science, but it’s also whatever you can relate to the most in a lot of cases—there’s no illegitimate reason to understand that porn can be harmful, and if you find any particular idea compelling, then that’s awesome.

Related: 15 Basic Facts About Human Sex Trafficking

But you don’t have to dive fully into a particular issue or have a complex understanding of the underlying science to join the fight, either.

Instead, you can focus on something much simpler, a principle to live by:

Act in a way toward others that you would want them to act toward you.

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If you don’t want someone to steal your sandwich, don’t steal theirs.

If you don’t want a stranger to punch you, don’t punch them.

If you want someone to include you in something, invite them to hang out with you, too.

It’s a rule in society that favors both people involved, and if we all followed it, we would be living in a much more healthy, welcoming place.

Fighting for love doesn’t have to be complicated

Many people learn that concept of treating others well when we’re young, and file it away in the messy and disorganized file cabinet of our brain as something that’s useful from time to time, but not important enough to intentionally consider every day.

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

It’s a pretty general rule, after all, and easy to apply selectively—you don’t take up two parking spaces, because you remember that time you needed a spot and someone parked right on the line. You have your friends’ backs because they’ve always had yours. You hold the door open for the person right behind you who has their hands full because that’s what you would want.

This principle is easy to apply in practical and personal situations like these, where the benefits are clear, the consequences are obvious, and making the decision to respect and care for others is usually pretty easy.

Get The Facts

How can this apply to watching porn?

What about when the situation is more complicated?

It’s a lot tougher to follow this simple, important rule if it isn’t obvious that an action is actually hurting somebody, or if it’s tough to imagine that you might be on the other end of a similar action someday.

That’s why it can be challenging to think about porn as a situation in which treating others like you want to be treated even applies, but it absolutely does.

On the most basic level, dignity and respect are basic human rights. Porn, in its focus on profit over people, its exploitation, and its deception, takes dignity and respect away from performers and consumers alike. It doesn’t take a deep dive into the details to understand that porn reduces people to objects or products, often takes away their ability to live the lives they want, and can lead to and fuel exploitation and violence around the world.

In short: the industry itself, the content it produces, and its effects on consumers all break the very simple but important principles of respect and kindness that holds society together.

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

The chain reaction of basic respect

Even knowing all that, though, it can be tough to see how porn violates the rule we all know to treat people well—consuming porn isn’t really “treating” anybody one way or another, right?

Consider this: the prevalence of violence in porn has been well-documented, as has porn’s links to human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and mental health issues.

Pornography is the 3rd-most common form of sex trafficking, according to cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.Polaris. (2020). 2019 data report: The U.S. national human trafficking hotline. Retrieved from https://polarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Polaris-2019-US-National-Human-Trafficking-Hotline-Data-Report.pdfCOPY  Also, qualitative research with current and former porn performers suggests thatsexual exploitation and trafficking are common experiences in the porn industry.Donevan, M. (2021). “In this industry, you’re no longer human”: An exploratory study of women’s experiences in pornography production in Sweden. Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence. 6(3) doi:10.23860/dignity.2021.06.03.01COPY 

Without an audience, though, porn doesn’t exist, because there is no money without clicks (and yes, the porn industry profits a ton even if people consume porn without paying for it on free tube sites). Without demand, the business of human exploitation crumbles.

Fast Facts

So, if clicking porn sites helps perpetuate site owners and producers making money, and money ensures that the porn will continue to get produced, which ensures that many of those depicted in porn will continue to be abused, mistreated, and exploited—this means not clicking can perpetuate the opposite. If consumer demand enables and fuels the demand for exploitation, the lack of demand will do the opposite.

Imagine that the tables were turned, and that you were in a situation in which huge numbers of people you’d never met (and most likely a lot of people you do know) contributed to your exploitation. Even if they did so unknowingly, it still would feel like a violation. That’s how porn goes against the simple rule of respect and kindness toward others.

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

Take it from one sex trafficking survivor who endured the videos of her exploitation being shared to mainstream porn sites for years:

I was really scared. I didn’t know if they were going to kill me. Watching the video now, I can see it in my eyes. The quivering of my lips and my voice, I know exactly how I was feeling in that moment. But to anyone else who sees it, they see what they want and they think I was complicit.”

It doesn’t take a lot to be potentially complicit in the mistreatment of others—just a few clicks.

The good news is, now that you know sex trafficking, abuse, and exploitation can happen in porn, you can do something about it. While most porn consumers are generally unconcerned about the potential mistreatment of porn performers, about 70% of porn consumers who do learn about mistreatment in the porn industry take some form of action to combat it, including changing their porn habits.Tollini, C., & Diamond-Welch, B. (2021). American adult pornography consumers’ beliefs and behaviors related to pornography studios mistreating their performers. Sexuality & Culture, doi:10.1007/s12119-021-09872-3COPY 

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Real love is worth the fight

And let’s not forget about love, either. Porn and healthy love can be incompatible. If porn contributes to exploitation, it also takes away from real love. If we value love and want it in our lives—which, if you’re human, you do—we should treat others in a way that lines up with that desire.

This way, by doing something as simple as treating everyone with the same kindness and respect you desire and not contributing to exploitation, it’ll help ensure that everyone is treated fairly and has the chance to experience real love. And we think that’s something worth fighting for.

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