Cover image: Mesa County Sheriff’s Office

The owner of a business in an industrial area of Phoenix, Arizona, says he was running a legitimate porn studio where amateurs could rent cameras, lights and props to create their own sex scenes with the help of a model, reports AZ Central.

But after arresting owner William James Hartwell, authorities say it was nothing more than a cleverly disguised house of prostitution, sex trafficking, and sexual assault that raked in $40,000 a month in profits.

Hartwell, 56, denies running a brothel and accuses the government of violating his free speech rights as protected by the First Amendment.

The eight people arrested include: Hartwell, 24-year-old Michelle Marchetti, 20-year-old Shelby Dunn, 23-year-old Tammie Torres, 22-year-old Adrianna Aguirre, 20-year-old Danielle Bell, and 25-year-old Amber Mackenzie. Reportedly, one of these women was 9-months pregnant when taken into custody.

William James Hartwell being taken into custody in Tempe, Arizona (Image: AZ Central)

He will go on trial next week on charges of operating a house of prostitution, sex trafficking and sexual assault. Hartwell says the sex acts that were recorded and photographed at his business were protected free speech and practiced in the same way professional porn studios legally operate.

“All sexual conduct that took place at the studio was for the purpose of exploring and expressing an individual’s sexuality via safe and legal adult content creation,” Hartwell wrote in court records.

Police say customers would pay $140 per half hour to have sex with a female employee. The women would take customers into rooms and insist on shooting a minutes-long video or taking 10 photos with sexual content. Then, the cameras were shut off and discarded and they began to have sex. Prosecutors say those images were taken for no other reason than to guard against future prostitution allegations.

To get to the location of the business, men had to respond to an online ad and were given the address only after they called from a nearby gas station. Once inside, they had to show their genitals as a way to prove that they were not undercover police officers. (Police have to avoid the appearance of being participants in sex so they can maintain credibility when cases go to court.)

A screenshot from the business’ now defunct website, telling customers that their operations were legal.

The investigation was launched back in 2012 after police received a tip about the business. Authorities sent informants who posed as customers or prospective employees. One informant said Hartwell offered customers with porn production space, cameras, condoms and a “free porn girl.”

The business’ website said customers couldn’t give their money to anyone other than a receptionist, and that the money could only be for equipment rental and studio fees. Police say the sex workers were told they didn’t have to worry about the legal ramifications of prostitution because they didn’t handle any of the money. Customers were allowed to pick up a USB drive with still photos or videos a few days after their sexual encounter. About half the customers actually returned to pick up the images.

Several women who worked at the studio have pleaded guilty to related charges and are expected to testify at the trial. Hartwell is also charged with sexually assaulting two women at the business who said they didn’t want to participate anymore.

—————

The story above is just one case in countless others of people who have tried to legitimize their prostitution/trafficking exploits by writing it off as pornography. Many people don’t see porn and prostitution as the same thing, but the facts are showing otherwise.

Even the very meaning and origin of the word ‘pornography’ tells the true story. Taken straight from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

The word pornography, derived from the Greek porni (“prostitute”) and graphein (“to write”), was originally defined as any work of art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes.

That should sum it all up for anyone questioning the difference between porn and prostitution. But we’ll keep going just for argument’s sake.

Let’s talk about how it is now a popular trend in the porn industry for porn stars to auction themselves off to fans who will pay to have sex with them on camera. Yes, that’s a real thing. Last year, a porn website announced multiple auctions for fans to appear in a scene with popular porn actresses. With opening bids between $2,500-$3,500, the winners of the auctions were even required to pay for their own transportation to Las Vegas to claim their prize.

The porn industry is quick to dispel the idea that what they are doing reflects prostitution in any way. They claim that the people being filmed are “actors” and “actresses” that are getting paid for their time to be on camera, and that what they are doing on film is just the nature of their work.

The fact of the matter is that there is really no clear cut distinction between porn and prostitution, just an extremely thin line of small print and technicalities. In reality, the link between porn and prostitution is inseparable. Research shows that men who go to prostitutes are twice as likely to have watched a porn film in the last year compared to the general population. It’s also not surprising that when these customers show up, many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting what they want to do.

And they’re not the only ones using porn as an illustration. “Pimps and traffickers use pornography to initiate their … victims into their new life of sexual slavery,” says Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a former UN representative and a senior fellow at the Beverley LaHaye Institute. Through exposure to porn, these victims “get hardened to accept the inevitable and learn what is expected of them.”

Finally, in a study of 854 women in prostitution across nine countries, 49% said that porn had been made of them while they were in prostitution, and 47% said they had been harmed by men who had either forced or tried to force their victims to do things the men had seen in porn.

img-lovespeaks

There is essentially no difference between pornography and prostitution. Society needs to understand that fueling the demand for pornography can only be harmful for individuals, relationships, and the world as a whole.

What YOU Can Do

SHARE this article and raise awareness on the inseparable link between porn and prostitution. Spread the facts on the harms of pornography.

Support the cause by repping our Stop the Demand tee which highlights the link between porn and human trafficking. Click here to shop:

 

Send this to a friend