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Porn Industry Commits Extensive Trafficking, Rape, and Exploitation, French Senate Report Reveals

A report by the French Senate emphasizes that “sexual, physical and verbal abuses are widespread in porn, making them systemic. They are not simulated but very real for the women who are being filmed.”

By October 25, 2022No Comments

Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization. Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively-affiliated. Though our organization is non-legislative, we fully support the regulation of already illegal forms of pornography and sexual exploitation, including the fight against sex trafficking.

Trigger warning: The following article contains descriptions of abuse and exploitation that may be disturbing to some. Reader discretion advised.

The porn industry in France is being called out for massively exploitative and abusive business practices—here are the details.

Four French senators recently presented an incriminating report on the porn industry titled “Hell Behind the Scenes,” sparking a movement many are calling a #MeToo moment for the porn industry—and it’s a big deal, to say the least.

Related: Four French Porn Performers Charged with Rape, a First for France’s Adult Industry

The 150-page report shines a spotlight on the horrific conditions some porn performers are subjected to, the volume of pornographic content accessible to all, as well as the sexual violence perpetrated and conveyed by the mainstream porn industry—particularly its normalization of abuse against women. The senators say the porn industry is “predatory” and linked to “modern slavery.”

The report also calls for action by public authorities, making several recommendations to address the issue (more on that later).

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Systemic violence against women

Interviews and testimonies from performers, sociologists, organizations, and numerous others in the report make it clear that since the emergence of widely accessible, mainstream porn sites like Pornhub in the mid-2000s, the vast distribution of porn has “contributed to an upsurge in increasingly violent content, without any control or consideration for the conditions in which this content is produced.”

The report paints a bleak picture, but one that’s important to be more widely known by the public. It calls out a system that “generates systemic violence against women, both those who find themselves in these productions and those who suffer from the sexuality modeled on the norms of violence conveyed by porn.”

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

As the report describes, there are “absolutely no rules or checks, not even regarding the use of condoms” and mainstream porn sites offer categories that include rape, with unambiguous keywords like “anal surprise,” “unintended facial,” “torture,” and “kidnapping.”

Clair Charles, a spokesperson for Les Effronté.es, says that these categories, and particularly those related to “confinement” aren’t pretend. Referring to videos available online, she said, “When the woman cries, she really cries.”

The report authors emphasize, “Sexual, physical and verbal abuses are widespread in porn, making them systemic. They are not simulated but very real for the women who are being filmed.”

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

In other words, there are very real rape videos and real videos of abuse on porn sites everywhere.

Ongoing investigations of the The French “amateur” porn industry

The French Senate report is timely with recent buzz over the last two years about France’s biggest ever trial over sexual violence—a moment of reckoning for the French “amateur” porn industry and it’s predatory, abusive practices.

This is the first time that porn performers in France have been charged with rape. Several investigations are ongoing—specifically targeting the “amateur” porn site “Jacquie et Michel” and also the platform “French Bukkake.”

So far, at least 50 abuse victims have been identified.

Related: Real Stories of Sex Trafficking Victims in Porn

Just last month three actors and a director were taken into custody for aggravated human trafficking, gang rape, and aggravated pimping in the “French Bukkake” investigation which began in October 2022. Authorities have allegedly uncovered evidence of extensive abuse of vulnerable women subject to sexual violence and coerced into performing sex acts on and off camera by actors, directors and producers—in large part, an effort to satisfy consumer demand for an endless supply of new actresses and graphic video content.

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A group of gender equality associations in support of the Senate’s report commented on the “French Bukkake” trial, saying, “These legal proceedings reveal the barbarity, violence, sexist and racist hatred of the French pornographic industry.”

Police investigations found evidence in multiple online videos of women protesting agains sex acts they were then forced to perform. Khadija Azougach, a Paris-based lawyer specializing in violent crime and spokesperson for Lawyers 4 Women, says, “They were forced to do things without their consent because, it seems, there was a demand for this type of film… We can’t describe them as fictional films because the women in them were subjected to rape.”

He continues, “Some girls have said they were illegally confined, others say they were fed dog food. [The perpetrators] did everything they could to make the girls even more vulnerable and to wield power over them.”

Related: 10 Ex-Porn Performers Reveal the Brutal Truth Behind Their Most Popular Scenes

In the “Jacquie et Michel” investigation, four men, including the site owner Michel Piron, are being accused of pimping, organized human trafficking, rape and accessory to rape, and rape-involving torture.

The young victims, many of whom were aspiring actresses, were interviewed by the senators for the French Report. They described being “ideal prey” in a calculated recruitment system by means of false Facebook or Instagram profiles.

One young woman explained, “We are spoken to every day. The person presents herself as an escort, she tells me that it’s wonderful, that it’s magic, that she has money… Behind this false profile of a girl, there was a man.”

“They knew I had money problems. I was the ideal prey for them, that’s how you get in there… I needed the money right away. I had to pay my bills and rent or I’d lose my flat.”

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

Investigators say the women were lured into participating under false pretenses—like being told the videos would only be accessible on private Canadian websites, then later discovering they were viewable in France. Producers demanded large sums of cash (between €3,000 and €5,000) when the women requested the videos be taken down. And for those who did pay, their images continued to circulate online.

By legal definition, this is sex trafficking.

One woman described being forced into sex acts that left her in pain, another was allegedly coerced and forced to engage in a sexual act with a man who was not wearing a condom—the man lied about testing negative for sexually transmitted diseases and actually had herpes, the woman said.

Other women recounted multiple experiences where they were forced by directors to accept scenes that were not discussed or agreed upon prior to filming.

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The French Senate’s recommendations

The report urges 23 recommendations for public authorities, including ways to help prevent minors from accessing porn like age verification requirements on devices and imposing fines on porn sites accessible to minors, strengthening legal means to better protect performers, and the facilitation of deleting online videos.

The report also emphasizes that although two-thirds of young people under the age of 15 have already been “heavily exposed” to pornographic content, education is still crucial—that the “commodification of bodies” and pornography should be addressed in schools as part of education on sexual and emotional health.

The Senate’s report found that out of an average 19.3 million individual visitors to adult sites per month in France, 12% are minors.

Related: 20 Stats About the Porn Industry and its Underage Consumers

Professor Neil Thurman from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany says, “The technology [to keep minors from accessing porn sites] is reasonably well advanced. It’s just that porn sites don’t want to reduce their numbers by putting on a block on visitors if they don’t absolutely have to.”

Report authors said they aim to alert the government and the broader public to the massive scale of this issue, and the “massive, ordinary and toxic” viewing of porn by children despite French law requiring viewers to be at least 18 years old.

Annick Billon, a co-author of the report and president of the senate’s delegation, said, “We must stop having an old, distorted, watered-down view of porn. Porn today includes violent, degrading, humiliating contents… Scenes in which a man, most often several men, up to 50, are inflicting physical and sexual abuse to women have become standard.”

Be part of the solution

Questions arise about how effective attempts to block access to porn sites by minors could be. It can be pretty simple to circumvent restrictions. Plus, 30% of French 15 to 17-year-olds find pornographic content through social media, which would not be restricted.

Dr. Emily Setty, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey, UK, emphasizes that requiring age verification on sites like Pornhub isn’t enough, and that a lot of the ways young people are exposed to sexually explicit content without any sort of intentional act on their part won’t be blocked.

Related: “I Bought Sex from a Sex Trafficking Victim Without Realizing It”

She goes on to say that, “In some places the thinking goes that it’s not porn that’s the problem, but children’s access to it. Whereas what France is trying to say is there’s something deeply problematic about the porn industry itself.”

What’s happening in France is a reality check that while performers—particularly women—have long been portrayed and assumed as consenting to all of the content they’re in, that this simply isn’t the case.

Sexual exploitation can have many forms, and when you become familiar with the actual definition of sex trafficking by the TVPA— “a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age”—it opens your eyes to just how predatory the porn industry really is.

Presumably consenting performers are too often anything but. Consent can never be assumed. In fact, sex trafficking most commonly happens when performers are coerced, forced, and manipulated to endure more for a scene than they were initially informed about or agreed to. And, as the investigations in France are revealing, performers are even blatantly abused, dehumanized, and degraded to the level of commodities to be consumed.

Related: 5 Real Stories of Trafficked Performers in the Porn Industry

The fact is, exploitation happens in every country, in every corner of the world—France isn’t the only place where the porn industry needs to be under investigation. This is a global issue that can negatively affect performers, viewers of all ages, society as a whole, and impacts how we as humans interact with one another in various relationships.

Each area of the world is part of the problem, and can also be part of the solution. A great place to start is at the core of the issue: holding the industry accountable. When it comes to sharing the facts and giving a voice to those who have been victimized by the industry, we’re here for it—are you?

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