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5 Real Stories of Trafficked Performers in the Porn Industry

Not all performers are in porn by choice—some are forced, tricked, or coerced into performing in explicit videos that are shared online.

Trigger warning: The following post contains descriptions of disturbing situations and abusive scenarios, as well as descriptions of porn videos.

The porn industry and sex trafficking industry are inseparable. Surprised to hear it?

Many people who support porn claim that those in the industry wouldn’t participate if they didn’t enjoy it or want to. They argue that what’s available on mainstream or even ethical porn sites are the products from consenting adults making a living, doing what they love—having sex, there’s just a camera in the room.

But is that the case for 100% of performers, for 100% of videos available on every site that hosts porn?

Get The Facts

A trafficking victim in a porn video is not likely going to turn to the camera and announce they are being trafficked. In fact, even if the victim does register their distress, it’s still virtually impossible to distinguish, because rape and abuse-themed porn are so mainstream,Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065–1085. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866Copy  and producers can edit content any way they choose.

Even so, a lot of people have a similar mindset as this guy who messaged us on Facebook, or this woman who tweeted at us:

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“Porn hurts nobody.” “They do it because they like to do it.”

These are popular perceptions that many people in our society have when it comes to the porn industry. It’s understandable that the average porn consumer wouldn’t know about exploitation in the industry given how most performers who speak out about how they’re mistreated on set are shamed into silence or blacklisted from working bigger jobs.

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

However, perception is not always reality. The fact is, sex trafficking and porn are industries that fuel each other.

And while current porn performers rarely, if ever, speak out about negative experiences due to fear of not getting work, getting blackmailed, or being discriminated against, too many ex-performers end up speaking out on their experiences once they leave the industry.

Watch Alia’s story for an example of how trafficking can happen in porn.

One thing is certain, in too many cases—these men, women, boys and girls are tricked and exploited in response to a growing demand for more extreme porn, fueled by the globalized porn industry.

We’ve compiled a few select several personal accounts of real people who have experienced exploitation in porn production.

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Trigger warning: We did our best to find quotes that weren’t too explicit while still preserving the authentic nature of the stories. Regardless, many may find the following accounts to be graphic, disturbing, and/or triggering.

Linda Boreman, aka “Linda Lovelace”

Linda began her booming career in the porn industry in 1972, and much to consumers’ surprise, due to the coercion of her husband.

She starred in one of the most popular pornographic films of the era, but it was later revealed that she was reportedly coerced into appearing in this production.

Later in life, Linda became an advocate for the anti-porn movement, sharing her story around the world.

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

In the following quote, she shares the first time she participated in a porn shoot:

“My initiation…was a gang rape by five men… It was the turning point in my life. He threatened to shoot me with the pistol if I didn’t go through with it. I had never experienced anal sex before and it ripped me apart. They treated me like an inflatable plastic doll, picking me up and moving me here and there.

They spread my legs this way and that, shoving their things at me and into me, they were playing musical chairs with parts of my body. I have never been so frightened and disgraced and humiliated in my life. I felt like garbage. I engaged in sex acts for pornography against my will to avoid being killed. The lives of my family were threatened.”Catharine A. MacKinnon, Are Women Human? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007)Copy 

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Dozens of women in San Diego

It was 21 days after “Jane Doe’s” 22nd birthday when she boarded a flight to San Diego, California, that, unbeknownst to her, would change her life forever.

That day, she would become one of hundreds of young women who had been filmed for GirlsDoPorn, a wildly popular porn production company which garnered well over a billion views,Plaintiffs' trial brief (2019). Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6476547-Plaintiffs-Trial-Brief.htmlCopy  ranking around the 20th most popular channel on Pornhub,Cole, S., & Maiberg, E. (2019). How pornhub enables doxing and harassment. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/mb8zjn/pornhub-doxing-and-harassment-girls-do-porn-lawsuitCopy  and reportedly generating an estimated $17 million dollars in revenue.Shammas, B. (2019). The men behind GirlsDoPorn lured young women with modeling jobs, then tricked them into porn, FBI says. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/16/men-behind-girlsdoporn-lured-young-women-with-modeling-jobs-then-tricked-them-into-porn-fbi-says/Copy 

But what most of GirlsDoPorn’s millions of viewers did not realize was that Jane—and many other women involved with GirlsDoPorn—was actually a victim of sex trafficking.

See, Jane never agreed to do porn at all.Fight the New Drug. (2021). “I Didn’t know if they’d kill me”: What happened when this Jane Doe was trafficked by GirlsDoPorn. Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-happened-when-this-jane-doe-was-trafficked-by-girlsdoporn/Copy  She had flown to San Diego to participate in what she was told would be a fitness modeling job. But when she arrived, she was met by several men who took her phone, intimidated her into signing a contract she wasn’t allowed to read, plied her with drugs and alcohol, and trapped her in a hotel room where they told her she would be filmed for a porn video.

Even after she tried to run away, the men physically forced her to comply. With no way out, Jane was violently raped on camera for over 6 hours.

Related: How Porn Can Promote Sexual Violence

The nearly hour-long video of her abuse was then released on the GirlsDoPorn website and published on nearly every major porn site,Van Syckle, K. (2019). 22 women say they Were Exploited by porn producers. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/29/style/girls-do-porn-lawsuit-testimony.htmlCopy  even using her full legal name in the title.Fight the New Drug. (2021). “I Didn’t know if they’d kill me”: What happened when this Jane Doe was trafficked by GirlsDoPorn. Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-happened-when-this-jane-doe-was-trafficked-by-girlsdoporn/Copy 

GirlsDoPorn was a popular and well-recognized name in the porn world for years, and the victims were often forced to smile and pretend they were enjoying themselves.

Although the GirlsDoPorn owners were eventually charged with sex trafficking, they had millions of viewers and operated unchecked for 11 years, despite numerous victims’ desperate pleadings to have the content removed.Cole, S., & Maiberg, E. (2020). Pornhub doesn't care. Vice. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/9393zp/how-pornhub-moderation-works-girls-do-pornCopy  As Jane put it in our interview with her about her experience, “I didn’t know if they were going to kill me. Watching the video now, I can see it in my eyes. The quivering of my lips and my voice, I know exactly how I was feeling in that moment. But to anyone else who sees it, they see what they want and they think I was complicit.”Fight the New Drug. (2021). “I Didn’t know if they’d kill me”: What happened when this Jane Doe was trafficked by GirlsDoPorn. Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-happened-when-this-jane-doe-was-trafficked-by-girlsdoporn/Copy 

A woman named Jodi

For years, a woman named Jodi was held captive by Marcus, her former boyfriend.https://www.unodc.org/cld/case-law-doc/traffickingpersonscrimetype/usa/2007/united_states_v._glenn_marcus.htmlCopy 

Jodi lived in an apartment with other women who also acted as imprisoned persons, and at Marcus’ direction, she maintained a membership-only BDSM website that chronicled their exploits. When Jodi refused to recruit her younger sister, he inflicted severe physical punishment on her.

Marcus then directed Jodi to move to New York and required her to create and maintain a new commercial BDSM website. Jodi worked on the site approximately eight to nine hours per day, updating site content, including diary entries and photographs, and clicking on banner advertisements to increase revenue.

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

Marcus received all revenues from the website. Jodi said she did not want to continue working on the website, but was afraid of the consequences if she refused.

Marcus sexually punished Jodi when he decided her work on the website was inadequate, and these punishments were documented and published on the website. Some punishments were quite severe.

On one occasion, Marcus tied Jodi up, forced her onto a table, and then put a safety pin through her genitalia, while she screamed and cried. Marcus posted photographs from this incident on the website and directed Jodi to write a diary entry about it for the website.

When Jodi told Marcus she could not continue in this arrangement, he threatened to send pictures of Jodi to her family and the media. On the basis of these and similar occurrences, a jury found Marcus guilty of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

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Dozens of women from Southern Florida

A former Miami policeman spent “the majority of his waking hours stalking female models online” for a number of years.http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/emerson-callum-and-lavont-flanders-convicted-of-making-rape-porn-6559908Copy 

Using a laundry list of aliases, he contacted hundreds of women and lured a number of them to fake modeling auditions in South Florida.

Related: Why Today’s Internet Porn is Unlike Anything the World Has Ever Seen

Once they arrived, he secretly drugged them and took them to another location where a “heavyset, tattooed man” would rape them on camera. This footage was then sold online and to pornography stores. Some victims didn’t find out about the videos until they were alerted by friends or complete strangers.

“Some of the victims do not remember anything until the following day, when they awoke, half-naked and semiconscious, either in their own cars or in their hotel rooms, sometimes covered in vomit or urine,” prosecutors wrote in a court document.

These two men, Lavont Flanders, Jr. and Emerson Callum, were found guilty of sex trafficking and sentenced to life behind bars.

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A 17-year-old teen named F. V.

In 2007, a young woman was featured on the cover of a prominent pornographic magazine, with a full story and photo spread within.https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/kansascity/press-releases/2011/kc033011a.htmCopy 

However, she was not a willing participant in these proceedings. In fact, she had spent several years as a sex trafficking victim.

Related: I Stopped Watching Porn After I Learned About Trafficking in the Industry

Beginning before her 17th birthday, the victim (referred to as “F. V.”) endured 6 years of torture, sexual assault, genital mutilation, and being sold for sex at the hands of her traffickers. In total, six individuals were charged with varied degrees of involvement in those crimes. Her primary traffickers were Edward and Marilyn Bagley, a married couple.

F.V. first met Edward Bagley in 2002 when she was 16 years old and dating his teenage son. She visited his trailer residence on numerous occasions. During visits to Bagley’s residence, she was shown images and videos of pornography, including images and videos of bondage and sadomasochistic activities.

According to a federal indictment into the Bagleys’ crimes, they invited FV, who was 16 years old at the time, into their trailer after she ran away from home in December 2002. They promised FV, who had grown up in foster care homes, a “great life,” and promised that they would help her to become a model and a dancer, the indictment says.

The Bagleys told F.V. that she would love being a “slave” for them. Edward Bagley began a sexual relationship with F.V. shortly thereafter.

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

Over the course of the next six years, F.V. suffered the most brutal sadistic acts of torture possible, including genital mutilation, whipping and flogging, suffocation with plastic bags, strangulation, and being locked in a dog cage. Edward Bagley photographed and videotaped many of the acts he performed on her, and between February 2004 and February 2009, he tortured F.V. on live webcasts on the Internet. The Bagleys threatened F.V. if she did not do as instructed, many times showing her how they’d bury her alive if she did not comply.

To ensure that the victim would remain “obedient,” they tattooed a barcode on her skin, with the Chinese character “slave” for added measure.

The Bagley couple allegedly earned approximately $112,200 from F.V.’s work. According to the indictment, Edward Bagley punished F.V. with torture and physical and sexual abuse for failing to be a top earner at the adult entertainment clubs where he had her dance and strip.

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Why this matters

The vast majority of human trafficking victims come from vulnerable populations, and of the approximately 24.9 million victims of forced labor, an estimated 4.8 million—about 19%—are trafficked for sex. Even more disturbingly, more than 1 in 5 sex trafficking victims—an estimated 21%—are children.International Labour Organization. (2017). Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage. Geneva: Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdfCopy 

According to one report, of the domestic minor trafficking victims who had been forced into porn production, the average age they began being filmed was 12.8 years old.Bouché, V. (2018). Survivor insights: The role of technology in domestic minor sex trafficking. Thorn. Retrieved from https://www.thorn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Thorn_Survivor_Insights_090519.pdfCopy 

There are all kinds of connections between pornography, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking. Often, they’re one and the same. But pornography and sex trafficking are connected in more ways than just one.

Related: Real Stories of Sex Trafficking Victims in Porn

Modern sex trafficking shares a variety of symbiotic connections to pornography:

  • Sex trafficking victims can be forced, tricked, or coerced into pornography production
  • Porn performers can be trafficked into acts they didn’t consent to
  • Porn can be used to groom trafficking victims and “train” them on what is expected of them
  • Porn can normalize sexual violence and objectification to the extent that in some cases, the desensitization of consumers can manifest in more willingness to buy sex, thus increasing the demand for sexual exploitation and sex trafficking

You can read this much more extensive research-packed article to learn about each connection.

And in addition to all of this, consider that there is no formal system of support or reporting for those who have been forced, tricked, and coerced into shooting even one porn scene, and blacklisting outspoken performers is currently the informal industry standard.

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As long as there’s a demand for porn—especially porn that is extreme, abusive, or degrading—the porn industry will continue to exploit vulnerable people to meet that demand.

Not clicking isn’t always easy, since porn is everywhere and so many people struggle, but it’s an action that we can all take, and it’s an action that matters.

You can hate something. You can be outraged by it. But if you continue to sustain and engage with an industry that helps give it life, what is your outrage worth?

Make it count—be a voice against sexual exploitation and help stop the demand for sex trafficking by refusing to consume pornography.

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