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Hey Bella Thorne, the Porn Industry Isn’t as Sex-Positive as You Think It Is

By October 18, 2019 No Comments
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Cover image retrieved from The Independent. 7-minute read.

Hey Bella,

We saw you recently received an award at the PornHub awards for the explicit short you produced with Pornhub called “Her & Him.” In a behind-the-scenes video on Pornhub’s YouTube channel, you had some interesting things to say about people who don’t like porn and we’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

First, we want to introduce ourselves. We are Fight the New Drug, a non-religious and non-legislative nonprofit that gives people the opportunity to make an informed decision about pornography by sharing the science, research, and personal accounts that demonstrate its negative effects on individuals, relationships, and society. We aren’t out to ban porn or shame people to keep them from watching it. We’re simply here to share facts and spark conversations about this often ignored topic.

This brings us back to your comments. So there isn’t any confusion, here’s the quote we’re talking about at the very end of the interview you did about “Her & Him” (link trigger warning):

“If you think that porn is uncomfortable, I’m sorry that you are uncomfortable. But don’t make other people feel uncomfortable for being OK with it, because at the end of the day, it is sex. It is something that the human body wants, it needs, it constantly craves for it. And it’s just a very understandable thing. If you’re scared of it, that’s fine. To each their own. But don’t tear somebody else down because they’re confident with their sexuality and they’re okay to admit that.”

Now, we know you weren’t directly thinking of us, Fight the New Drug, when you made these comments. But we also know that many people who support the porn industry share your opinions about people who are anti-porn, and often look at organizations like ours assuming we are made up of sex-hating prudes who are scandalized by porn’s explicit portrayal of sex.

But that’s exactly who we are not, and neither are many others who also recognize the harms of porn. This issue as a whole is more complicated than painting people who don’t like porn as anti-sex.

Let us explain.

We’re an anti-shame, pro-sex movement for real love

We’re bringing awareness to this topic exactly because porn is often awkward and uncomfortable for people to talk about in our society (regardless of their stance about porn). We’re here to change that and take away that stigma and shame, not to add to it. We can’t speak for everyone who shares our stance about porn, but our cause is not motivated by discomfort with sexuality. In fact, we are anti-porn because we are pro-sex.

As a grassroots global movement of over 5,000,000 people and counting, we want to make it clear that our motivations for educating others on the harmful effects of porn aren’t embedded in hatred of sex and the human body. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Porn is not sex, and sex is not porn. We agree with you, Bella, that sex is completely natural and something to be desired by everyone. But porn is an extremely exaggerated and highly-produced display of sex—it isn’t natural, at all. Real sex shouldn’t have to compete with something synthetic, and yet this is exactly what happens in countless relationships around the world that are affected by the caricature of sex that porn displays.

Consider how porn, especially the content on Pornhub, isn’t produced with the intention of showing accurate displays of sexual encounters, or even only consensual ones. It’s created to entertain and manifest fantasies, no matter how violent or violating. For example, consider the top-most searched porn categories on Pornhub last year that not only heavily featured incest fantasies, but also scenarios with minors in the “teen” category. How is this at all sex-positive, at the core?

The truth is, research shows that pornography heavily distorts people’s perceptions of sex, intimacy, body image, sexual performance, and much more. The research on how porn affects how consumers view themselves, their partners, and relationships generally, has demonstrated that porn doesn’t embody pro-sex ideals that inspire confidence in viewers—even though that’s commonly how the porn industry markets itself. Consider the alarming spike in painful and invasive genital cosmetic surgeries for both men and young women because of the unrealistic bodies portrayed in porn.

Hear what Dr. Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies, has to say for those who equate the anti-porn movement with being anti-sex:

To assume that if you are against pornography you’re against sex, is to assume that anyone who criticizes McDonald’s is anti-eating… Why can’t they see that it is the same thing when it comes to pornography and sex?

Porn is cheap, unhealthy, and destructive to our culture’s perception of what consent is, and what a safe and healthy sexual encounter is. Given the vast amounts of research, it cannot be denied that porn is collectively harming our generation’s ideas about what sex should look and feel like.

So, we’re not uncomfortable with sex. Rather, because we are pro-sex, we believe porn does a huge disservice to it by commodifying it, objectifying it, and twisting it into a synthetic product aimed at enticing consumers to have more and more extreme tastes that result in harm to themselves and others. Porn, in essence, is anti-sex and inspires shame in so many consumers, which are the very issues you criticized with your statements.

Porn and exploitation

Bella, while some performers claim they choose to be in porn because they’re confident in their sexuality and love sex, many of those shown in porn videos aren’t there by choice.

According to anti-trafficking nonprofit, Rescue:Freedom, in 9 countries, 49% of sexually exploited women said that pornography was made of them while they were being sold for sex. One female survivor, whose captor slept on top of her at night to prevent her escape, watched her through a hole when she went to the bathroom, and listened to her phone calls with a gun pointed at her head, was forced to appear in a porn video. Later the film made the Sinclair Intimacy Institute’s list of “sex-positive productions,” but this woman knew the truth.

There are countless reports of this same thing happening all over the world—images and videos are taken of sexual slaves from all over the world and that content ends up on porn sites, some of them the most popular websites in the world.

But this doesn’t only happen to trafficked individuals—sometimes well-established and popular performers are exploited on set, without realizing the seriousness of the abuse they’ve endured because of the huge popularity of violent porn today on mainstream sites.

Consider that even performers’ expressed consent in a post-shoot exit interview is not always truthful because performers are massively pressured into not reporting abuse. We cannot emphasize this enough: even a mainstream, professional porn performer’s consent can be violated during a shoot, or coerced into doing sex acts they are not comfortable with, and the viewer would never realize they’re consuming images of exploitation.

We are not claiming that all porn is non-consensual, but rather, raising awareness that there is often no way to tell if the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or produced with coercion.

Just read this Jezebel.com story, this story on Daily Beast, this story on Complex.com, this Rolling Stone story, this Daily Beast story, this Bustle.com story, this story on CNN, this NY Post story, this Gizmodo.com story, and this UK Independent story for further proof that the mainstream porn industry features nonconsensual videos, and videos of trafficked individuals.

You might remember, earlier we said we were anti-shame—and we meant it. Which is why we believe that performers never deserved to be shamed for their choices or victim-blamed when they’re exploited.

We exist to shine a light as a global community on their stories of what it’s really like to be exploited and abused by an industry that claims to champion their sexuality. It’s an unfortunate fact that performers are stigmatized because of what they do, making it more difficult to get the medical and psychological treatment they need, and we don’t want to be part of contributing to that.

Since there is no formal reporting system in the porn industry that holds the accused accountable and keeps the abused safe from professional backlash, we give visibility to the stories of inhumane and unethical treatment in order to help the average person truly understand what they’re contributing to with their clicks, views, and downloads.

If you don’t agree, that’s okay

We know you might not agree with all of that, Bella, and that’s okay. As part of our organization’s Fighter Pledge—our supporters are called “Fighters”—we strive to be open-minded, accepting, understanding, and encouraging. We also strive to be strong, bold, true lovers, rebels, and real. All of that means that we’re okay if you don’t agree with real stories or the established science and research that illustrate the harmful effects of porn.

That also means we don’t wish harm on you as a porn director, and even in the other issues you’re connected to. For example, it really wasn’t cool that you were blackmailed by hackers who stole your personal images and threatened to expose them. We’re fighting for a world that is free from objectification and the commodification of people, and we’re so sorry you experienced all of that.

We see all the ways porn is connected to dehumanizing people and weaponizing objectification, and we’re here to stop the demand for content that inspires and even fetishizes such violations of privacy. Which is why we continue to raise awareness about this issue, so that others have all of the information they need to make an informed decision about pornography.

We wanted to write you this letter, Bella Thorne, to explain why there are people in the world who choose to give visibility to the existing science, research, and personal accounts that show how porn is harmful to individuals, relationships, and society. We do all of this because we are pro-sex, and we think everyone deserves the opportunity to make an informed decision about pornography.

We hope, in time, you can understand this and maybe even join the cause.

All the best,

Fight the New Drug

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