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

“Now, when I see porn ads, it even makes me feel sick. The issue is, how can we simply put a price to belittle and exploit others?”

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

We received this message from a man who realized that the porn industry can exploit people and he decided he couldn't contribute to their exploitation. His message shows the value in realizing that porn performers don't often turn to porn out of desire, but desperation.

In one study, the majority of porn-consuming participants never looked for information about how studios treated their performers.Tollini, C., Diamond-Welch, B. American Adult Pornography Consumers’ Beliefs and Behaviors Related to Pornography Studios Mistreating Their Performers. Sexuality & Culture 25, 2176–2207 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09872-3COPY  But once they learned about how porn performers can be mistreated in the industry, 70% took action to combat it.

This study shows the importance of advocacy work and raising awareness on exploitation in the porn industry. The story below illustrates what it can look like for someone to be impacted by the knowledge of exploitation in the porn industry.

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My realization about the porn industry

FTND team,

I remember when I first saw the picture of almost naked women on the thumbnails of videos. I was 11 years old back then. I have always thought that porn was real enjoyment for the consumer and the performer, and it’d be like a fantasy. Even so, I fought with all I had in order to evade them because somehow I knew it wasn’t healthy.

Unfortunately, deeply in my brain, the rewiring started, the shifting started to happen to my brain. I had no idea what was happening, but I kept going back to these images from time to time until I started to engage more and more with this kind of content. I was being sucked slowly into an endless black hole. I tried to stop myself and to put some sort of borders but I failed in most of my attempts to get my freedom back.

Related: How Can You Know for Sure if the Porn You Watch is Consensual?

As I grew up, my attachment became stronger and stronger to pornography. Later, I started to notice my depression when I would decide to stop watching it.

The more I got away from it, the more depression I felt.

I started to educate myself about it and its negative side effects. I learned how harmful it can be.

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Once, when I was hovering with my mouse over a video, I thought about how each click helps to tie another human being into lifelong participation in the industry. I started to question my ethical standards and my very human values.

What was I really contributing to?

Step by step, I moved a few steps backward to see the whole picture. I started to build my anti-porn and anti-objectification mindset, which is what led me to the start of my freedom. I now see that when I point to someone’s body for my own enjoyment and entertainment, it’s a humiliation for both me and the other person. Especially if they never chose to be there in the first place.

How we can belittle a person’s mind from dreams, ambitions, creativity, emotions, and the whole universe within each body just for a fleeting, superficial feeling of joy and a superficial perception of other people?

Just like we are belittling the word “love,” a very beautiful word, we as a society now use it to point out to simple sexual attraction.

Love isn’t objectification. It’s sharing with a partner your mind, your ideas, your stories, and the understanding of one another. The whole thing isn’t about each one’s freedom to watch whatever they want.

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When I would start to forget all these things about porn, I would step back and think: when was the last time I heard a girl’s REAL dream is to get naked for money? Is saying “yes” to going into the industry real when they might not have the option to say “no?”

I knew that every single person I saw on screen likely had been exploited or abused to some degree, inside or outside of the industry, which could lead to this extent of depression and emptiness. Behind each video, there is someone who doesn’t need our exploitation of them.

I started to see everything now from that different perspective.

Related: Not All Porn is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers.

Now, when I see porn ads, it even makes me feel sick to think that you have to pay to get access to certain content. The issue is, how can we simply put a price to belittle and exploit others? It’s more than a scientific and psychological health issue, it’s a humanity issue.

I’m not perfect, but what I’m aware of now is that I’m fighting with all I have to get my freedom from this catastrophic perception of others. And as long as I’m fighting, I will never lose.

I want to finish my story with this quote: ”To be born as a male, it’s your destiny, but to become a man, it’s created by your own hands.” Really, my thoughts and actions reflect who I am as a person, and reflect what I am contributing to in this world. What are you contributing to?

Thank you, FTND!

A.

Why this matters

Porn promotes the idea that people are just body parts, nothing more. When a consumer sees pornographic images, research shows that they detach the performers on screen from their humanity, and see them as nothing more than objects.

Here’s how.

Not long ago, Princeton and Stanford psychologists performed a study showing a group of men two sets of pictures, some of fully-clothed women and others of women who had been sexualized and were barely clothed.Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J. L., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). From agents to objects: sexist attitudes and neural responses to sexualized targets. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 23(3), 540–551. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn.2010.21497COPY  The psychologists monitored their medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is the part of the brain involved in recognizing human faces and distinguishing one person from another. For the most part, the mPFC part of the brain was activated with each picture. However, when the subjects of the study were shown the pictures of sexualized women, this part of the brain was not activated. Basically, the automatic reaction in their brains suggested that they didn’t perceive the sexualized women as fully human, rather they saw them as objects, focusing on their bodies and body parts.

Related: How Porn Can Normalize Sexual Objectification

The researchers concluded, “sexualized women were perceived as having the least control over their own lives” and “this suggests that sexualized women are more closely associated with being the objects, not the agents, of action as compared to clothed women.Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J. L., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). From agents to objects: sexist attitudes and neural responses to sexualized targets. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 23(3), 540–551. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn.2010.21497COPY 

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What’s more, based on research and ex-performer stories, it’s clear that not all porn is consensual.

We are not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual, but rather, raising awareness that there is often no way to tell if the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or produced with force, fraud, or coercion.

If you’re not convinced that there are porn videos on mainstream sites that are real rapes on taperead these real experiences from porn performers. And read these real stories from famed performers like Linda Lovelace, who reminds consumers that they’re watching her rape on tape when they watch the films she starred in.

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

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

If you’re not convinced content on mainstream sites isn’t all consensual, read this viral New York Times storythis BBC reportthis Jezebel.com storyanother story from the New York Timesthis story on Daily Beastthis story on Complex.comthis Rolling Stone storythis Bustle.com storythis story on CNNthis News.com.au storythis Buzzfeed News profile, or this UK Independent story for further evidence that the mainstream porn industry features nonconsensual content and videos of trafficked individuals.

Unfortunately, there are many, many more stories like these. And this is happening on virtually every mainstream porn site.

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Of course, we are not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual, rather, we’re raising awareness on the unfortunate reality of the porn industry—that there is often no way to tell whether the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or if it was produced with coercion.

Sure, there are plenty of images and videos. that were produced with enthusiastic agreement from performers who were willing to do everything they did. Don’t mistake what we’re saying—there are videos that are produced consensually (though that doesn’t make them safe or healthy to consume).

Related: Crypto is Increasingly Used in Human Trafficking, Report Says

But as consumers, how do you confirm that? How do you know for absolute certain? The difficult fact is, you can’t know for certain.

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.

The world may consider porn as harmless entertainment, but research and science sincerely show otherwise. Sexual exploitation and objectification aren’t healthy for consumers, performers, and society—relationships built on love and respect are what really matter, and that’s what we’re fighting for.

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