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Do Some Videos on Mainstream Porn Sites Actually Show Sex Trafficking?

If someone is forced, manipulated into, or threatened into performing any sex act in exchange for money, safety, or to evade punishment, this is trafficking. It can be situational—it doesn’t have to be a lifetime of sex slavery.

TRIGGER WARNING
The following post contains descriptions of abusive situations that might be triggering to some readers.

What’s the difference between the movie “Taken”—an epic fictional film about sex trafficking—and the porn industry?

Less than most people realize. When sex trafficking and porn are placed side by side, the common thought is that they are miles apart. However, all it takes is a look at the research and survivor stories to give us a much different conclusion.

Part of our campaign to raise awareness on the harmful effects of porn includes shining a bright spotlight on porn’s relationship with human trafficking. But how could this be true? Because, thanks to an increasing number of studies on the connection and more survivor stories, we see:

  • Porn can sometimes be the recorded evidence of sex trafficking.
  • Porn directly fuels the demand for exploitation and sex trafficking.

Pretty bold statements, right? Before you exit from this article in disbelief, let’s look at the stats and info that backs this up. To understand exactly what we’re saying, we need to cover a few basics first.

Related: “I Didn’t Know If They’d Kill Me”: What Happened When This Jane Doe Was Trafficked By GirlsDoPorn

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What (exactly) is sex trafficking?

Many people might only think of scenarios shown in “Taken” when they think of sex trafficking. But there’s much more to it than that.

Victims don’t have to be chained up, or physically “trapped” to be trafficked, though that still is a reality for too many. In fact, being a trafficking victim doesn’t even have to necessarily entail “physical restraint, bodily harm, or physical force.” There doesn’t have to be a gun pointing to someone’s head for them to experience trafficking. A sex trafficking victim can even pick up a check at the end of the day and sleep in their own bed.

Related: How To Report Human Trafficking When You See Something Suspicious

Here’s the breakdown of what trafficking actually is, according to the legal definition:

“Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”

For anyone who doesn’t know, a commercial sex act means “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.”

In other words, if someone is forced, manipulated into, or threatened into performing any sexual act in exchange for money, safety, or to evade punishment, this is sex trafficking. A trafficking victim doesn’t have to be “moved”—that’s smuggling—or trapped in a daily lifestyle of exploitation to be considered a victim of trafficking.

And if someone is under 18 and experiences those same conditions, that is sex trafficking, no further proof of coercion, force, or fraud needed.

Related: 10 Celebrities Who Use Their Platforms To Help End Sex Trafficking

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Porn and sex trafficking can often be the same thing

Unfortunately, we see from countless survivor stories and experiences that porn is often nothing more than recorded evidence that trafficking took place.

How so? According to one report, performers “are subjected to violence and coercion during filming. They protest and try to stop the filming…their protests are ignored or they are pressured by their agent or director to continue.” That’s a textbook scenario of force.

But what does coercion look like in a real scenario that would deem it a situation involving “trafficking?” It would look something like this, as told by former performer Michelle Avanti:

“I tried backing out and wanted to go home, not do porn at all. I was threatened that if I did not do the scene I was going to get sued for lots of money.”

Sometimes, victims are caught off-guard, expecting to film a scene doing a particular set of sex acts, and then experiencing something completely different than what they agreed to in the midst of filming. This is fraud.

But what does fraud look like in a real scenario that would deem it a situation involving “trafficking?” It would look like this, according to Avanti:

“‘The worst scene I ever did was during my first couple of weeks in the business. The agent who handled all my bookings called me the day before the scene and said it would be similar to a solo…scene.’ …Once inside the studio, Madelyne learned that the men lined up outside had been recruited by an ad in the LA Weekly to come and ejaculate on a young porn actress’s face. She called her agent and protested… ‘My agent told me that I had to do it and if I can’t, he would charge me and I would lose any other bookings.'”

Related: How This Woman’s Tinder Relationship Became A Sex Trafficking Nightmare

Or, consider this story of a real sex trafficking victim who was cast for a fitness shoot but was raped for hours on tape instead. Her violation, her experience of being tricked and forced into sex on camera, was broadcast for the world to see along with her real name on mainstream porn sites like Pornhub. Here’s one quote from her interview with us:

“I was really scared. 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.”

How is this acceptable?

It’s pretty clear these performers and performers like them are victims, not just the rich, glamorized, and sex-obsessed actors the industry would like you to believe them to be.

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Trafficking situations inside of a glamorized industry

The name of the game here is force, fraud, and coercion. It’s clear that within the industry, sex trafficking is a serious, yet often unrecognized issue.

This sad reality doesn’t even take into account the minors involved in pornography production, where they are considered victims of sex trafficking according to that legal definition above. Consider that it’s estimated about one in five pornographic images online is of a minor. Not okay. Yet we see the demand for content featuring “younger” subjects reflected in these numbers:

-Child pornography offenses have spiked by more than 200% in the last decade.

-There was a 774% increase in the number of child sexual abuse material—also known as “child pornography”—cases reviewed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from 2008 to 2011. Over 9 years later, that increase is even worse.

-Reports of child sex trafficking have almost doubled in ten years.

Related: 5 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Sex Trafficking In Your Daily Life

Why is all of this happening? Economics 101 tells us the demand fuels the supply. And, unfortunately, the demand for younger performers is living up to that principle, simultaneously creating porn “stars” and sex trafficking victims.

Porn can be the “tease,” buying sex can be the main objective

Pornography fuels the global sex trade by driving demand into the mainstream of society. And since porn consumers do not and cannot distinguish between trafficked individuals and porn performers, they can often reinforce and drive the demand for exploitation through clicks and downloads without realizing it.

Or it can be a more direct reinforcement, like porn-obsessed consumers actually purchasing sex from trafficked individuals.

Related: Private Photos Of These Women Were Shared Non-Consensually To Pornhub, And Now They’re Fighting Back

In fact, some evidence suggests that this desensitization toward sexual violence through the consumption of porn can then manifest in more willingness to buy sex. And when more people are buying sex, that increases the demand for individuals being trafficked for sex.Who buys sex? understanding and disrupting illicit market demand. (2018). Demand Abolition.COPY Herrington, R. L., & McEachern, P. (2018). “Breaking her spirit” through objectification, fragmentation, and consumption: A conceptual framework for understanding domestic sex trafficking. J.Aggression Maltreat.Trauma, 27(6), 598-611. doi:10.1080/10926771.2017.1420723COPY 

Researchers of those who struggle with unwanted porn habits have noted that an increasing tendency to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in the pornography includes frequenting massage parlors. In other words, the consumers looking at porn at home are often the same ones exploiting real people, ready with porn images in hand to show the person they’re exploiting what they want to do.

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The issue of consent

Wait—what about the issue of consent? Many of these performers or exploited people seemingly agreed to sex acts for money beforehand, and they are being paid, right?

Here’s the catch: to be considered a victim of sex trafficking, according to this report, “even if a victim initially consents to sexual activity, [they] always has the option of withdrawing [their] consent and the activity should stop. If [their] wishes are ignored, sex trafficking is occurring.”

In other words, true consent can always be revoked. Always. If there’s a situation where consent can’t be withdrawn for any reason, it’s not real consent. So if a performer consented to a certain sex act, and they begin going through with it but decide they’re uncomfortable, they should have the right and freedom to stop what’s happening otherwise it is not a truly consensual situation.

Related: Meet The Researchers Developing Apps To Educate People About Sex Trafficking

And if they do not have the freedom to revoke consent without fear of consequences, or their “no” is not listened to and respected, by definition, that can turn into a sex trafficking situation.

Still think “Taken” and the porn industry are totally separate from each other?

So what do we do?

We know a lot of this info flies in the face of what most people think they know or understand about the porn industry. We get that it can be really shocking to learn the facts behind such a normalized, glamorized, and promoted industry.

But consider how every download, click, and view not only reinforce this industry’s influence and power in our society, but also serve to legitimize the violence and exploitation trafficked individuals or performers suffer at the hands of their exploiters.

Related: This Anonymous Performer’s Reddit Post About The Realities Of The Porn Industry Is Chilling

This is why we raise awareness on how supporting the industry means supporting sex trafficking, and why fighting porn is essential to fighting trafficking. In the end, the temporary pleasure of porn is not worth the price of all the exploited people who are used in the creation process.

Stop the demand, and refuse to click exploitation.

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