Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-legislative, non-political nonprofit. If you’re interested in getting involved with the political side of this issue, check out our friends at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

It’s not often that you hear official recognition that porn and sex trafficking are connected, especially on an official state level. Until now.

According to recent reports, the state of Minnesota has passed a bill recognizing pornography as a contributing factor in human trafficking. State legislators have affirmed that pornography, like sex trafficking, is a commodification of the human person and should be studied as a cause on both the supply and demand side of the problem.

Related: We’re An Anti-Porn Organization, But We’re Not Out To Ban Porn. Here’s Why.

It’s important to note that this bill doesn’t ban or censor anything, while it does pave the way for law enforcement to have more information as it relates to porn as a contributing factor to the commercialization of sex. This bill also directs any fines collected for child porn possession to the Safe Harbor Program, a human trafficking task force. Here’s the breakdown from Covenant Eyes as to what the bill does and doesn’t do.

What bill SF 2554 (Benson)/ HF 2967 (Lohmer) does:

  • Publicly recognizes the link between pornography and human trafficking
  • Adds language to include the use, prevalence, and involvement of pornography in the crime of human trafficking to the list of data that may be collected, thereby providing law enforcement better information to fight the commodification of human persons
  • Directs fines collected for the offenses of child pornography and the dissemination and display of harmful materials to minors to the Safe Harbor Program

What the bill does not do:

  • Make porn illegal
  • Limit free speech
  • Redirect funds from any existing program

This Minnesota legislative effort took a little over two years of study and collaboration before any bill was passed. According to reports, the bill passed unanimously in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature.

But is porn really connected to human trafficking?

We are a nonreligious and non-legislative organization, however, we support global efforts to fight the contributing factors to human trafficking and we support more research being dedicated to this focus. (We think even the most pro-porn advocates would have to agree that human trafficking is an issue worth addressing.)

If you’re scratching your head, confused about the role of porn in the issue of trafficking, let’s bring you up to speed.

Firstly, it’s been widely claimed that porn somehow reduces sex trafficking. Take this tweet, for example:

This is untrue, and not backed by any research we’re aware of. Here’s what we do know.

In the year 2000, in response to reports of international human trafficking, one of the broadest bipartisan coalitions in history came together to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA. [1] The landmark legislation identified “severe forms” of human trafficking, imposed harsh criminal penalties for offenders, and provided support systems for the victims. [2]

The TVPA defines sex trafficking 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.” [3]

Related: How Teen Girls Get Tricked Into Doing Porn

That word, coercion, is important. It means that a commercial sex act can be sex trafficking even if no one was physically assaulted, even if no one was tricked or defrauded. All it takes is coercion. The moment a victim is coerced or intimidated into a commercial sex act against his or her will, sex trafficking has occurred.

This is where the connection between porn and sex trafficking often exists.

The truth you won’t hear in our sex-obsessed and porn-saturated society is this: there are all kinds of connections, big and small, between pornography and sex trafficking. There are incidental connections, like the fact that exposure to pornography has been shown to make viewers less compassionate toward victims of sexual violence and exploitation. [4] (See How Consuming Porn Can Lead To Violence.) There are “supply-and-demand” connections: the simple fact that pornography—especially when viewing habits and fantasies involve violence or other fetishes—increases the demand for sex trafficking, as more and more viewers want to act out what they see. There is the “training manual” connection: the well-documented fact that porn directly informs what goes on in trafficking. Traffickers and sex buyers get ideas from porn, and then make their victims watch as a way of showing them what they’ll be expected to do, so that the violent fantasy concocted by some porn director and his or her actors becomes the reality for some trafficking victim. [5] And then there is the risk factor connection: the fact that, along with poverty and substance abuse, a child growing up in a home where pornography is regularly consumed is far more likely to be trafficked at some point in his or her life. [6]

Related: How To Spot (And Rescue) A Sex Trafficking Victim

But what’s the biggest, most surprising connection between pornography and trafficking? It’s this: they’re often the same thing. We can spend hours and hours pointing out these cause-and-effect, symbiotic relationships between trafficking and porn. Those connections are real, and that’s an important conversation to have. But let’s not allow that to entrench the idea that porn and sex trafficking are always separate. Far more often than people realize, they’re not.

“But trafficking only happens in countries far away from my own.”

Not exactly.

This isn’t an isolated issue, and it isn’t one that’s only located in faraway countries. Not only that, but this also isn’t an issue that’s completely separate from pornography.

Related: Where Are Human Trafficking Hotspots, And How Can Victims Be Identified?

It is a sad reality that the porn industry fuels (and fantasizes) real situations of sexual exploitation: real people being sexually abused and exploited at the hands of family members, traffickers, and pimps. Each click to porn content directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling videos and images of their sex slaves to porn sites. But what about major porn studios and porn sites—aren’t they completely separate from the sexual exploitation issue?

Absolutely not.

After all, when someone is sex trafficked, there are often videos and images taken of them for commercial purposes, like advertising them online. Consider how, in one survey, 63% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online.

Sometimes, ending human trafficking can feel hopeless or too big to handle by yourself. But being aware and making others aware is the first step to making a difference. Together, our voices are loud.

Get Involved

Consider before you consume. SHARE this post to show your support for officials recognizing porn as a contributing factor to trafficking.

Spark Conversations

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Citations

[1] Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) Of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(A), 114 Stat. 1464.
[2] Trafficking Victims Protection Act. (2009, November 29). Retrieved From Https://Fightslaverynow.Org/Why-Fight-There-Are-27-Million-Reasons/The-Law-And-Trafficking/Trafficking-Victims-Protection-Act/Trafficking-Victims-Protection-Act/
[3] Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) Of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(A), 114 Stat. 1464.
[4] Zillmann And Bryant, “Effects Of Massive Exposure To Pornography” In Pornography And Sexual Aggression, Eds. Neil M. Malamuth And Edward Donerstein (New York: Academic Press, 1984 And J. V. P. Check And T. H. Guloien, “The Effects Of Repeated Exposure To Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, And Erotica,” In Pornography: Recent Research, Interpretations, And Policy Considerations, Eds. D. Zillmann And J. Bryant (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1989)
[5] Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, Ph.D. Interview || Truth About Porn [Video File]. (2016, December 28). Retrieved From Https://Vimeo.Com/190317258
[6] Countryman-Roswurm, Karen (2017). Primed For Perpetration: Porn And The Perpetuation Of Sex Trafficking. Guest Blog For FTND, Retrieved From Https://Fightthenewdrug.Org/Fighting-Sex-Trafficking-Absolutely-Includes-Fighting-Pornography/

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