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How Porn and Sex Trafficking are Connected

Virtually every major porn site has reportedly hosted and profited from trafficking, child sexual abuse material, image-based abuse, and/or degradation. 

Sex trafficking is legally defined as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCopy 

That means that sex trafficking doesn’t always involve kidnapping or physical force.

As an example, if a porn performer shows up on set to discover that the scene is much more aggressive or degrading than they’d been told, and their agent threatens to cancel their other bookings if the performer doesn’t go through with it, that’s trafficking.Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCopy 

Related: By the Numbers: Is the Porn Industry Connected to Sex Trafficking?

If someone is tricked or manipulated into the production of porn, that legally qualifies as sex trafficking.Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCopy 

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  • “I was threatened that if I did not do the scene I was going to get sued for lots of money.”Hughes, D. (2010). Sex trafficking of women for the production of pornography. Citizens Against Trafficking, doi:https://www.academia.edu/4847671/Sex_Trafficking_of_Women_for_the_Production_of_PornographyCopy 
  • “I tried to stop the scene but [the director] told me I was ruining the flow and to just put my head back in the frame.”Blaustein, M. (2018). My 'big break' in porn was a nightmare. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2018/08/29/i-was-treated-like-a-piece-of-meat-adult-actress-waits-for-metoo/Copy 
  • “He told me that I had to do it and if I can’t, he would charge me and I would lose any other bookings I had because I would make his agency look bad.”Hughes, D. (2010). Sex trafficking of women for the production of pornography. Citizens Against Trafficking, doi:https://www.academia.edu/4847671/Sex_Trafficking_of_Women_for_the_Production_of_PornographyCopy 

Situations like these are commonplace in the porn industry, but accountability is rare, unfortunately. When victims speak out, they are often dismissed, blacklisted in the industry, or even threatened.Clark-Flory, T. (2018). 'The fallout to my career was devastating': Speaking out amid the porn industry's #MeToo. Retrieved from https://jezebel.com/the-fallout-to-my-career-was-devastating-speaking-out-1829501779Copy 

Related: How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking (VIDEO)

In another recent example, the owners of a wildly popular porn channel were charged with sex trafficking after reportedly tricking and manipulating dozens of girls and women into appearing in porn. Some of the women were originally told they would be modeling swimsuits or fitness apparel.BBC News. (2020). GirlsDoPorn: Young women win legal battle over video con. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50982051Copy 

As one of the trafficking survivors from that case told us, “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.”Fight the New Drug. (2021). “I Didn’t know if they’d kill me”: What happened when this Jane Doe was trafficked by GirlsDoPorn. Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-happened-when-this-jane-doe-was-trafficked-by-girlsdoporn/Copy 

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On the other side of the equation, traffickers often use porn to groom victims, normalize sexually abusive behavior, and train victims on what buyers expect of them.Lanning, K. V. (2010). Child molesters: A behavioral analysis for professionals investigating the sexual exploitation of children. (No. 5). National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Retrieved from https://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/missingkids/pdfs/publications/nc70.pdfCopy International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (2017). Online grooming of children for sexual purposes: Model legislation & global review. ( No. 1). Retrieved from https://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Online-Grooming-of-Children_FINAL_9-18-17.pdfCopy 

Porn often normalizes and perpetuates the abuse that victims experience.International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (2017). Online grooming of children for sexual purposes: Model legislation & global review. ( No. 1). Retrieved from https://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Online-Grooming-of-Children_FINAL_9-18-17.pdfCopy 

Related: Crypto is Increasingly Used in Human Trafficking, Report Says

These issues aren’t rare. Virtually every major porn site has reportedly hosted and profited from trafficking, child sexual exploitation, image-based abuse, and sexual violence.Kristof, N. (2021). Why do we let corporations profit from rape videos? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/opinion/sunday/companies-online-rape-videos.htmlCopy Burgess, M. (2020). Deepfake porn is now mainstream. and major sites are cashing in. Retrieved from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/deepfake-porn-websites-videos-lawCopy Kristof, N. (2020). The children of Pornhub. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/opinion/sunday/pornhub-rape-trafficking.htmlCopy Meineck, S., & Alfering, Y. (2020). We went undercover in xHamster's unpaid content moderation team. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCopy 

Sex trafficking shares a variety of symbiotic connections to porn. Often, they’re one and the same. But as long as there’s a demand for porn—especially porn that is extreme, abusive, or degrading—the porn industry will continue to exploit people to meet that demand.

Consider before consuming, and stop the demand for sex trafficking.

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