Arguments are made all the time in defense of the “harmlessness” of pornography. All it takes is one quick Twitter search to find consumers who aren’t afraid to express their love for XXX content and argue that porn is a personal issue above all else:
The trouble with these statements? They’re misinformed and wildly uneducated. Pornography’s harmful effects on the brain, relationships, and society are shocking and sad. For instance, there is building evidence that links child exploitation and the adult entertainment industry. Does that sound harmless to you?
The New Norm?
Here’s a sad fact: every single day, children are filmed or photographed while they’re sexually abused in order to create content that is then distributed for entertainment and arousal worldwide. The exploitation of minors is not discriminated by age, gender, or social status and the victims are all too often abused by someone they know and trust. Seriously, is there anything more heartbreaking?
The question is: why has child exploitation become so widespread and normalized? While the answer is no doubt deep and complex, the adult entertainment industry isn’t exactly blameless, here.
The shocking effects of “regular” porn on the attitudes and beliefs of its consumers have been revealed by recent studies. What they found was when the participants consumed pornography, they were significantly more immune toward child sexual exploitation. See the problem here?
Claiming to be a harmless porn consumer may sound acceptable, but even mainstream content normalizes the exploitation of children, and no matter someone’s intentions, that’s not acceptable.
As internet pornography has evolved to become more extreme, so has the sexual preferences of its consumers. Genres that weren’t necessarily the top choice twenty years ago are now the most sought-after materials. Words like “teen” now appear as one of the top search terms on popular porn sites, year after year. “Actors” portray underage tweens—or, for all the consumer knows, they are underage—and are often shown in a scenario where they are taken advantage of by an older male, which is clearly glorifying illegal and unacceptable situations. How is this sexy?
Here’s where “sexy” gets scary.
Research has shown that our brains learn better when they’re sexually aroused and countless studies have shown porn’s effects on rewiring people’s sexual template. “Normal,” softcore porn may be the consumer’s original genre of choice, but clicking from performer to performer, image to image, changes more than just what’s on the computer screen; it changes the brain as well. Because of this research, it’s safe to assume that consuming explicit material depicting underage teens is convinces the consumer to think that sex with teens is an acceptable fantasy, or worse, that it’s sexy.
This warped view creates a dangerous mixture of fantasy and crime—enter sexual exploitation.
Animated porn, like the crazy popular hentai porn that originated in Japan, has the ability to portray unrealistic or illegal scenes without any of the roadblocks that come with recording real footage. After all, with animation, you can create people to look and act however you want.
Because the bodies aren’t real, cartoon porn can show completely unrealistic people and animals in acts of extreme sexual violence as a form of sexual entertainment. A sub-genre of hentai called Lolicon is intended to make the subject of sexual attraction look like a young girl—or even a toddler. The children are often portrayed as frightened or resisting, and even sometimes are depicted to be enjoying the sexual abuse. Even if the consumer does not initially look for pictures of young girls, chances are, that they can eventually stumble across them.
But wait, it gets worse—now consumers can act out their sexual fantasies through interactive games. These virtual worlds allow the player to wander through a little girl’s room, where they can then touch and strip her while she sleeps. Twisted and not cool.
Effects On Exploitation
For the casual porn consumer, after some time, mainstream porn just doesn’t cut it anymore. Like other drug or behavioral addictions like gambling, research has shown that consuming porn can escalate dramatically.
For some people, an interest in softcore porn will eventually evolve into a curiosity for more shocking and violent material—or in some more extreme cases, child pornography. Child pornography, or child sexual exploitation imagery, desensitizes the consumer to the harm against the children depicted, and it begins to normalize a sexual interest in children.
A recent review or scientific studies, court cases and personal accounts conducted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation demonstrated the effects of adult pornography on the sexual exploitation of children. It showed that, for many, what initially began as a fascination or obsession with adult pornography, progressed to an involvement with child pornography.
Just listen to how pornography can lead to more extreme behaviors in this excerpt from one of the studies:
“One of the men arrested, [Defendant], who…allegedly abused his 18-month-old daughter—said he started watching child pornography after getting ‘burned out’ by regular porn. He needed something more titillating. Something a little sicker. That’s not that unusual for people addicted to internet porn.”
In this case, the defendant’s issue began with an attraction to mainstream pornography. Over time, the thrill of regular adult pornography wore off, so he pushed the limits to satisfy his need for more illicit material, eventually resulting in allegedly abusing his infant daughter.
Still think porn is harmless? The science and research show otherwise.
Why This Matters
There is an undeniable supply-and-demand connection between pornography and child exploitation—especially when consuming habits and fantasies involve violence or other fetishes. It increases the demand for the sexual exploitation of minors, as more and more consumers want to act out what they see.
A child, any child, should never be at risk of exploitation because of the sexual interest of another. “Harmful” pornography all too often escalates into a rampant desire for more shocking material—even if that means a child was taken advantage of in the process of creating content. Even one child being exploited for the entertainment of another is too much.
There is nothing sexy about exploiting the most vulnerable and defenseless members of our society for personal entertainment. No child abuse should be sold as a sexual fantasy.
Stop pretending that mainstream pornography is harmless when, in fact, is harms just about everyone in our society—including the consumer. Spread the word about how mainstream pornography normalized the exploitation of minors.
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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