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Alia’s Story: How I was Sex Trafficked as a Popular Mainstream Porn Performer

“This was the lie I had been told: that in porn, for the first time in my life, I would have control over what I would or wouldn’t be asked to do sexually. I would have a say in what would happen with my body.”

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

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

My name is Alia. It’s a name I wasn’t known by for much of my life, but it’s now one I wear proudly.

I was born and raised in Southern California. At my truest self, I’m a creative. Art, music, fashion, they fuel me. I spend way too much time in thrift stores and live my life on FaceTime with the people I love.

An abusive start in life

Unfortunately, I had a rough start in life. I never met my biological father, and the father I did have was too preoccupied with his dreams of fame, rock and roll, and the drugs that came with it to protect me or even stay around for long.

My mother was young. Her worldview was distorted by her own trauma and experiences in the adult modeling world.

In a nutshell, no one was ready to be a parent and from my earliest memories, I felt unimportant and in the way. While I would have a safe place to lay my head at home, my own understanding of my value had already been created.

I started being sexually abused when I was about four years old. While most of these memories are fuzzy, I developed an understanding from these experiences that my body wasn’t something I was allowed to be in control of and that I wasn’t allowed to have a say in what I would or wouldn’t allow as far as physical touch. I took that understanding deeply with me into the rest of my life as I grew and found my place in the world.

Related: How OnlyFans Reportedly Facilitates And Profits From Child Sex Trafficking

People Are Not Products – Purple Starburst

My mother’s experience as a centerfold model was something she found great pride in. This, coupled with my stepdad’s explicit magazines and videos which were all over our home, began to normalize pornography to me early on.

The importance of beauty, sexuality, power, and the pursuit of money by any means was so embedded in my understanding of what it meant to be female. That was the lens with which I viewed the world. The porn industry was especially distorted for me to the point that, from a very young age, I saw women who were porn industry professionals as the epitome of femininity and success.

This understanding of the world and my place in it, along with my trauma from the abuse I experienced, made me vulnerable to predators as I got older.

My trafficking debut as a child

In my early preteen years, I was on a mission to reclaim the trauma I had undergone. I was reckless and sought validation, and at about age 14, I met a man on social media who was about twice my age.

I know now that he was grooming me from the start to comply with what he would ask of me later, but I couldn’t comprehend that because of the validation I received from him. He would tell me I was perfect, that I was valuable, that I was loved. He bought me things and took me places that made me feel like I was an adult, that I was finally old enough to be in control of my life. All of the things I was desperate to hear and feel, he gave me.

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

He told me that I had the power to take back control of my life and what happened to me. So, when he began to tell me that he was going to have friends come to a motel and that I was just to do what they said, I didn’t flinch.

Those motels always smelled like stale cigarettes and dust, and I spent the next four years of my life walking into that smell and giving up the illusion of control he promised. The first time I was sex trafficked as a teen was bad, the second was worse, but as I learned to dissociate from my body and numb myself, to shut off the link between my heart and my body, I cared less and less.

Brain Heart World

At 14, I was just doing what I was told by the one person in my life I believed loved me; and no matter how I felt, this was my place in the world.

While it happens occasionally, the vast majority of trafficking victims are never kidnapped and held in a basement. Real-life isn’t the movie “Taken.” Real-life is broken little girls, easy to manipulate and too exhausted by their lives to hope for something better. And then we grow up.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s easy for people to find compassion for children in these situations, but the problem is, no one stays little forever. These children become adults, and if girls like us don’t get the help and healing we need, we turn into broken women, repeating these cycles over and over again where that compassion fades away and is nowhere to be found.

Watch: Alia’s Story – Child Sex Trafficking Led Me Into the Mainstream Porn Industry

From child trafficking to adult exploitation

At 18, my trafficking experience evolved into working as a dancer in a strip club for the man who was exploiting me.

Just before I turned 20, I was approached by a customer inside the strip club who told me I’d be a great model—little did I know he was a porn producer. He gave me the number of his girlfriend and assured me I would make so much more money in this “modeling” job. He raved about the better hours where I could spend more time with my young daughter, and I was immediately excited about the opportunity.

I didn’t know it was porn that I was walking into, but when his girlfriend explained that’s what it was, I was already in. Even after what I had experienced as a child and adolescent, I still saw people as trustworthy. I didn’t think this “opportunity” could be anything other than what it was sold to me as—a way to change my life, elevate my status, and provide for myself.

At my start in the mainstream porn industry, I was guaranteed safety, control, and status. This was everything I had wanted and sought as an escape from my traumatic past. But what ended up happening was far from what I was promised.

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

From the beginning, my manager clearly told me that if I ever felt uncomfortable at a shoot, I could leave at any point. I believed him, and this convinced me to sign contracts with his agency.

I showed up at my first shoot in Santa Monica, which was a solo scene in a basement with one guy filming. When I called my manager, as he told me to do when I signed my contract, to tell him I felt uncomfortable and that something was off, he told me that I was being unprofessional. He told me I would not be able to work, I would not continue to get hired if I was going to be so “difficult.” This started a pattern where I realized how out of control I truly was in the industry, despite what I was promised.

At almost every shoot, I was asked to perform sex acts off camera. If I refused, it was implied that I would not be booked with that company again and my manager would get a call that I had been, once again, “difficult.” After a while, I just stopped saying no. I was coerced into compliance.

The community and friendships I sought in the industry were often weaponized against me. If I ever did refuse to do a scene or go to a shoot, the agents and managers at my agency would tell me that they’d offer that job to another performer in our agency, and she’d do it for less. My community was constantly turned into my competition—just another method used to coerce me into compliance.

Before every shoot, I felt nauseous. I would try to tell myself that “this was it.” That with each shoot I was climbing my ladder to success—but it never felt right.

Related: What Causes People To Choose To Go Into The Porn Industry?

Be A Lover And A Fighter - New Colors

There were certain shoots and sex acts I told my manager I was or wasn’t interested in doing at the start of my time in porn. This was something my manager had asked me, and decisions and boundaries I thought would be respected.

This was the lie I had been told: that in porn, for the first time in my life, I would have control over what I would or wouldn’t be asked to do sexually. I would have a say in what would happen with my body.

But I was repeatedly sent to shoots that were far over the line I had drawn for myself. I wouldn’t find out that this shoot involved an act, theme, or performer I didn’t want to work with until I arrived on set. Multiple times, I left a shoot crying, in pain, or just plain numb, but I would get a pat on the back and a call from my manager praising me for my “improving attitude.”

By the time I left the industry, because of the coercion of my agency, there was nothing left on that list of things I could refuse to do. I left the industry with my boundaries, my trust, and my body having been completely violated.

Related: Did You Know Men And Boys Can Be Victims Of Sex Trafficking, Too?

Outright trafficking as a popular performer

In the last six months of my time in porn, I was no longer allowed even a semblance of a say of where I would shoot or with who. On top of this, I was expected to have sex off-camera, at the drop of the dime, with whomever I was told. I could not say “no.”

Safety was something I never understood. I didn’t know that there were people who walked through life knowing with relative assurance that they wouldn’t die or be hurt that day. Although this time in my life was scarier, life up to this point had been scary enough on its own, so what was just a little bit more?

I didn’t understand at the time that I was being trafficked, and that what I had experienced in the industry—the force, the tricking, the coercion—was all trafficking as well. I had the same sensationalized understanding as so many. I understood trafficking as the kidnapping of young, innocent girls from good families or other countries. Just as I didn’t understand that I had been trafficked as a teen, I didn’t recognize it as an adult, either.

It wasn’t until I left the industry and was in therapy that I realized my situation was identical to so many other trafficking survivors.

Even though I didn’t understand I had experienced sex trafficking, by my last year in the industry, I was able to recognize that the idea of the industry I was sold was a lie—I had no control, I had no say, I had no safety. Even so, I figured I was too far in, and hey, at least I had money and recognition. But I knew I wanted to get out.

Watch: How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking (VIDEO)

I made a plan for how I could leave in three years and made steps to follow through with it, but I never got the chance. I made a choice that upset the man that was trafficking me and he left me stranded. Alone, in the dark, in a remote agricultural area of California with no phone, no shoes, and no jacket, he thought I would see what life looked liked without him. Instead, I saw, for the first time, what life really looked like with him, with porn.

Underneath all the jewelry, cars, and expensive clothes, I was broken. I was suicidal. Killing myself felt like the only way out, but I knew of one other option. I had known one girl who had left the industry and thrived. I would see pictures of her new life and think, “Whatever she did. If I can ever just do that, I’ll be okay.” But I knew it would be so difficult, and difficult things had never been my forte.

Finally, I found myself willing to do whatever it took to never live this life again.

After four years of being sex trafficked as a child, and ten years in the commercial sex and porn industry, I finally left California.

Related: If You’re In The Sex Industry And You’re Thinking Of Leaving, This Article Is For You

Get The Facts

Discovering the freedom I always wanted

I spent over nine months in an aftercare program for women leaving human trafficking or sexual exploitation.

At this place, with these women, I found true healing. The aftercare program helped to rewrite the narrative I had been told that I was not a substantial character in my own life.

After a time, I came to believe that I was worthy of love, of respect, and of control over my choices. I went into this place broken beyond recognition, immature, skittish, and alone. I left strengthened, equipped, determined, and part of a sisterhood.

I’ve lost friends from my past life to overdoses, murders, and suicides. The odds of leaving the industry and living a healthy and successful life are low. They’re low, but not zero! I knew right away that the new start I’d been given was a gift I couldn’t keep to myself, and I have since committed my life to being a part of the solution for others.

It is an amazing honor in my life to have the privilege of walking alongside young survivors of sex trafficking, exploitation, and abuse. If you had told me five years ago that I would get paid to help others heal, I would have thought you were out of your mind. I never saw healing as possible for me, let alone for me to be a part of the healing journey of others.

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

I followed a sisterhood of women who had left the industry for new lives, and they surrounded me, and I consider it an honor to do the same thing in the lives of the performers who have and will leave after me.

It still takes work to continue on this path of healing I’ve carved out for myself. Therapy, friends who understand me, a solid support system, and a life of service are all things I’ve found as essential to this new life I get to be a part of today.

For me, it takes a willingness to live in a whole new world, and making a choice every day to not believe the nonsense and lies I’d been fed for decades about my worth as a human.

Fighter Club

What I wish everyone knew about the industry

When I entered the industry, I truly believed the lie that what I would be doing in the industry was empowering, healthy, and fully within my control. In fact, I myself advocated for this lie. But the deeper I got, the more it became clear this wasn’t true, and yet, the more I had convinced myself I had made the right choice.

This lie isn’t just sold to those of us in the industry but to our entire society. When I meet young people who have been sold this same lie, my heart breaks. I want to tell them how dark the world of the commercial sex industry gets and how difficult it becomes to get out.

The thought that “I’ll just get in, make my money, and get out,” is never that simple. The money is never what you’d expect, the leaving is almost impossible, and even when one does, porn is forever.

For the rest of my life, no matter what choices I make or where life takes me, there will always be those videos and images of me in my lowest, most heartbroken moments, and people will always be watching them, watching me. The worst decisions of your life will be viewable for the rest of your life for the “pleasure” of others.

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

But, and this is my favorite part: that doesn’t mean you must stay the same as you were.

The videos are there—they will always be there, they will always be the same. But change in YOUR life is possible. Change, freedom, restoration, these are all things that are equally as accessible as the videos made of us survivors in our brokenness.

I love the moments when I get to tell people my history and hear them say that they have a difficult time believing that was really where I came from. To me, that says not only can survivors heal from what we went through in the industry, but that it’s never too late to become who we were always meant to be.

Those of us who leave the industry are some of the most resilient, smart, and resourceful people. The worst times of our lives may be documented on film forever, but they do not define us and we are not alone.

Alia

Object! Long Sleeve

Trafficking is more common than you’d expect

When it comes to consent, a “yes” is only valid if “no” is a legitimate option.

Of all the ways pornography and sex trafficking overlap, one of the most surprising elements of all might be this: even in the production of mainstream porn with popular performers, sex trafficking can still occur—and it happens more regularly than you might think. Sex trafficking doesn’t require kidnapping or threats of violence—all it requires is force, fraud, or coercion. Click here to learn more about how sex trafficking and porn overlap.

The fact of the matter is that sex trafficking in porn is a much bigger issue than most people realize. So, is there a truly viable way for a consumer to guarantee that the porn they’re watching is consensual and abuse-free? How can a consumer verify consent in the production of porn? What happens when performers are coerced to lie about a sex act being consensual when it actually wasn’t?

Listen: Alia’s Podcast Episode on “Consider Before Consuming”

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.

Every person who aims to call out trafficking where it thrives in our society can look to the porn industry as a prime example You can hate something. You can be outraged by it. But if you continue to sustain and engage with an industry that helps give it life, what is your outrage worth?

Make it count—be a voice against sexual exploitation and help stop the demand for sex trafficking by refusing to consume pornography.

About Alia

Alia was told from a young age that she would never be capable of surviving outside of exploitation, so she now works to help other trafficking survivors, and those leaving the commercial sex industry find their way to freedom.

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