The amount of free porn on the web today is difficult to exactly measure. With a single click, people of any age can access the most hardcore, extreme content imaginable. Think about this: today, it actually more challenging to avoid finding porn online than it is to actively seek it out.

It used to be that consumers had to physically walk into a store, and show an ID to prove they were over 18 to purchase an explicit magazine or movie that was likely produced in a professional studio. Even in the early 2000s, as the internet was growing in popularity and accessibility, consumers had to subscribe or pay fees to enter porn sites. Sounds way different than porn today, right?

With the rise of the internet, and as more and more porn sites began to emerge, pornographers felt pressure to compete and reach more consumers. Much of the porn industry has since shifted its business model to host content on free tube sites while it cashes in big time on advertising.

Related: How Does The Porn Industry Actually Make Money Today?

This seems like a pretty good deal, right? Consumers get unlimited access to a vast sea of graphic content whenever and wherever they please, never paying a dime—no strings attached—unless they want to go “premium.”

But here’s the dark truth: porn always comes with a cost, and falling for the idea that consuming free porn is completely harmless and cost-free is exactly what the porn industry wants consumers to think.

It’s tough to believe that an estimated $97 billion global industry isn’t making a profit somehow, and that someone, somewhere isn’t being exploited in the process.

So what’s the real cost of free porn? And who really pays in the end?

Performers Pay The Price For Extreme Content

In order to meet the demand and provide content that’s free, producers have to keep their costs low. This means porn studios don’t make as much money as they used to, and porn performers are making less money than ever, respectively.

As profits in the industry have fallen, porn performers are under pressure to film more extreme acts because they pay more. A “standard” scene may pay $1,000 or less, while a violent or more extreme scene can pay up to $4,000 in some rare cases. It’s not difficult to see why performers are pressured to book extreme scenes even if they don’t feel comfortable, because they can’t risk losing popularity in the industry and not making enough money to survive.

Many performers today are young amateurs, lured in with the promise of making bank and having complete control of the scenes they participate in. But that’s not exactly how it goes for most.

Related: Ex-Porn Performer/Radio Host Lisa Ann Talks Extreme Abuse Of New Performers

As consumers’ demand for fresh, more extreme content escalates, performers can sometimes be manipulated into producing films far beyond what they originally agreed upon in order to meet the demand. These scenes take such a toll on their bodies that many are drugged, beaten, and hospitalized in the process.

There have even been multiple unexplained deaths in the porn industry in recent months—some of which are mental health related—making it clear that there is obviously more going on behind the scenes than producers let on.

Related: The Tip Of The Exploitation Iceberg: 5 Real Stories Of Sex Trafficking In The Porn Industry

It’s apparent porn producers show very little, if any, regard for the mental, physical, and emotional toll they take on their performers. Not only are the conditions and demands placed upon porn performers harsh and heavy while they’re in the industry, but it can also be very difficult for performers to leave the industry or lead a normal, healthy life long after their careers in the industry end.

The price of porn, whether accessed for “free” or not, can be the lives and health of real people. How is the acceptable?

The Cost To Consumers Is High, Even If the Content Is Free

The goal of the porn industry is to get consumers hooked young. They want to be the go-to when it comes to learning about sex and getting a sexual release—as unhealthy as that may be—and turn consumers into a lifetime customer.

The cost of porn to consumers is their sexual health. Research shows that when a consumer views porn, a rush of pleasure chemicals is released in the brain, reinforcing that behavior. Over time, the reward pathways in the brain can become rewired, causing a consumer to go back to porn time and time again and even lose or lessen the ability and desire to connect with a real partner.

So basically, the goal of the porn industry is to increase consumers’ appetites for more porn and make them committed to their content, not a real person. This is their recipe for turning consumers into perpetual customers, with such a powerful dependence on porn that real relationships pale in comparison to the unrealistic, unattainable fantasy expectations porn creates. Yeah, not cool, and not healthy.

Related: 6 Ways That Watching Porn Can Cost You More Than You Realize

The cost of porn to consumers is harmed relationships. Many partners report feeling betrayed, angry, and confused when they find out their partner has been consuming porn. This can lead to a deterioration of trust in a relationship, and even a consumer’s sexual function with their partner.

Related: Being Pro-Sex Is Not Only Possible, It’s Necessary

Porn alters consumers’ perceptions of themselves and others. It sets an expectation that to be deserving of love, first and foremost you have to be deserving of sexual desire, and sexual desire equals acting and looking like a porn performer. Can you see how this leads to decreased self-esteem and prevents healthy relationships?

Related: 5 Surprising Mental And Emotional Costs From Having A Porn Habit

The emotional, social, societal, physical, and mental cost of porn is high, even if the content is free of charge. The porn industry uses consumers and their loved ones as currency in their business of exploitation. To them, it doesn’t matter how unhealthy their content is for customers or how much it costs those left in the wake, so long as their own agenda is met and they financially gain from clicks, views, and downloads.

Why This Matters

People’s clicks, views, and downloads are also currency in the trafficking world, and serve to “legitimize” or “normalize” the real abuse people face for the cost of entertainment.

Related: Would Fixing The Porn Industry’s Shady Business Practices Make Porn More Acceptable?

People are not products, and yet the industry sells the idea that it’s “acceptable” to purchase a person with every replay and every view. Real human beings are seen as the supply to meet an unhealthy demand for explicit entertainment.

It’s time we stop buying the porn industry’s lies, and refuse to consume the violent content they produce that’s harmful to performers, individuals, relationships, and our world as whole.

Porn will never come without an expensive cost. We believe that real people, real love, and real relationships should never have to pay the price, and will always be worth more than what porn sells on a screen.

We’re sending out this message to the porn industry as a whole: you might be selling, but we’re not buying. We’ll continue fighting to stop the demand. Are you with us?

Get Involved

Expose the porn industry for what it really is and SHARE this article. Porn doesn’t only harm those who watch it, it harms those who take part in creating it.

If you’re interested in working directly with sex trafficking survivors, HELP International and FTND are offering an all-expense paid volunteer trip to Nepal to the grand-prize winner of our #StopTheDemand campaign. Our Co-Founder and President Clay Olsen is volunteering at the Nepal Shelter in June, and the #StopTheDemand campaign winner will work alongside our Executive Director Natale McAneney during the 11-day August volunteer trip being given away.

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