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Would “Exploitation-Free” Porn Be Harm-Free for Consumers?

By June 3, 2020 No Comments

Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew that everything you consumed—from your coffee to your clothes—was made ethically, without any exploitation and was 100% fair-trade certified? Of course you would. So why is porn any different?

It happens all the time. Porn consumers can often justify their habit by believing the XXX material they are watching is legitimate, legal, and free of any exploitation. The problem with this seemingly sound mindset? There really is no reliable way to tell if what is being watched is free of exploitation, coercion, trafficking, force, or abuse.

The world wide web provides a way to make the click-happy porn-obsessed culture we live in today be able to consume new explicit content for hours on end, and with the way the porn industry dissipates its content, the amount of material you can watch is virtually endless.

That begs the question: how do you really know if the porn you’re seeing is exploitation-free? Well, you can’t. But even if you could, exploitation-free porn isn’t harm-free.

As porn becomes more normalized, we want to be a source of information pointing out that porn is not harmless. This isn’t a moral argument. This comes down to you and your personal relationships, and the opportunity to make an informed decision about what will make you indefinitely thrive.

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Let’s pretend “exploitation-free” porn exists

In order to explore this idea, for a minute, let’s pretend that exploitation-free porn exists and is readily available everywhere.

Let’s suppose that the consumer started watching pornography, made by people they absolutely knew were creating this content according to their own free will, and that they completely understood and agreed to everything that happened before, after, and during the filming.

Related: Not All Porn Is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers.

Now, if the consumer knew for an absolute certainty that this pornography was made free of exploitation, would watching pornography still be harmful? Absolutely.

Even if there was a way to tell that everything you clicked on was exploitation-free, there are still harmful effects pornography leaves on the consumer’s brain and relationships that make porn a public health issue for our society.

Harmful to your perception and expectations of reality

Even the myth of “exploitation-free” porn can change and rewire a consumer’s brain.

Pornography has been proven to be an escalating behavior, where a consumer may start by watching less extreme versions of porn only to find that they grow bored of it, resulting in the need to actively seek out more hardcore material to get the same level of arousal.

Related: The Harsh Reality Of Sexual Exploitation And Trafficking In Pornography

The consumer may think that they’re just being entertained and aroused by their increasingly extreme and explicit porn, but what their brain is busy doing is changing the connections between their feelings of arousal and whatever’s happening on their screen. Even if what’s happening is violent, degrading, capitalizes on racist stereotypes, and fantasizes non-consensual scenarios—even if the performers claim to have consented.

This is the reality of a lot of easily accessible, mainstream porn.

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Pornographic genres like “surprise anal” and “humiliated teen” and “painal” are the norm, not the exception only found on fringe fetish sites. One research study showed that 88% of porn videos contain violence, and the recipients of that violence usually have positive responses to being abused. So the consumer isn’t only rewiring their brain for more explicit sexual material, they are also conditioning it into thinking that violence is sexy and arousing.

Eventually, watching scene after scene of dehumanizing, violent submission will begin to seem normal for the consumer, altering their expectations or fantasies to be tried in real-life sexual scenarios.

Related: Sexploitation Stats: Over 6,000 Sex Trafficking Cases Reported In The U.S. In 2017

Multiple studies have found that exposure to both violent and nonviolent porn increases aggressive behavior in the consumer and, in rare and extreme cases. To make matters worse, when porn shows victims of violence who seem to get pleasure being hurt—as porn performers are often paid to do—the consumer is fed the message that people like to be treated that way, giving them the sense that it’s okay to act aggressively themselves.

That’s harmful for the consumer and for their victims, no matter what kind of exploitation or lack thereof is happening on screen.

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Harmful to relationships

If that wasn’t convincing, let’s set aside the individual and neurological impacts of porn.

Porn is often referred to as something that can help couples get out of a sexual rut in their relationships, but easily accessible porn isn’t intended to be an educational tool. In fact, it is a synthetic form of connection that shows little or no real intimacy between the people it shows on the screen.

Study after study has shown that contrary to popular belief, porn is bad news for long term relationships. It negatively affects satisfaction within the relationship and ultimately can lead a person to withdraw from a loved one.

Related: Does Porn With Your Partner Help Your Relationship In The Long-Run?

Back in 2012, a study reported that individuals who didn’t consume porn had higher relationship quality on every measure, including commitment, compared with those who consumed explicit material in private.

new study published in 2017 examined the impact of couples where one partner consumes more porn than the other, which is a pretty common pattern. The researchers concluded, “greater discrepancies between partners in pornography use were related to less relationship satisfaction, less stability, less positive communication, and more relational aggression.”

And these are issues research has shown to have an impact over the long run.

In one of the few studies to follow married couples and their pornography consumption for several years, researchers found that porn did in fact harm relationship quality and satisfaction. The researchers concluded:

“In general, married persons who more frequently viewed pornography in 2006 reported significantly lower levels of marital quality in 2012… Pornography’s effect was not simply a proxy for dissatisfaction with sex life or marital decision-making in 2006. In terms of substantive influence, the frequency of pornography use in 2006 was the second strongest predictor of marital quality in 2012.”

In other words, how often a partner (specifically, husbands in this study) consumed porn negatively affected the relationship quality, and even more interesting, the study discussed that porn was not a cover-up for some other marital issue. It was the source of the problem.

Relationship experts, Doctors John and Julie Gottman, explain it this way:

“When watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control… the relationship goal of intimate connection is confounded and ultimately lost.”

The truth is, in healthy relationships, you can’t have it both ways. Studies show consumers can’t perpetually have the instant gratification of thousands of virtual sex partners and a satisfying long-term relationship.

See how porn can be harmful, even in a hypothetical world of “exploitation-free” porn?

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“Exploitation free” porn is impossible

This may or may not be surprising, but exploitation-free, ethical porn is a fantasy, just like what’s on screen in porn films. It doesn’t exist, it’s not reality.

In fact, it is near impossible to know if what a consumer watching was created in a legitimate, safe, completely consensual environment. There is no way to tell if the performers on screen are there on their own will, or if they were forced or coerced into taking part in the film.

Related: Inside The Industry: Performers Speak Out On Trafficking And Exploitation In Porn

If you don’t believe us—or the many studies and personal accounts—believe this: pornography, no matter how “ethical” you believe it to be, is still harmful, and a public health crisis. No amount of “exploitation-free” porn can erase the facts.

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