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, more real, 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, we see:

  • Porn, oftentimes, is recorded evidence of that 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:

What (exactly) is sex trafficking?

We very well might only think of scenarios shown in “Taken” when we 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.”

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.

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.” Wow—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 a former performer:

“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.” –Former porn performer, Michelle Avanti

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:

“’The worst scene I ever did was during my first couple 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.’” –Former porn performer, Michelle Avanti

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.

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 exploded by more than 200% in the last decade.

-There was a 774% increase in the number of child pornography cases reviewed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from 2008 to 2011.

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

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.

Consider how porn is the “tease” that leaves consumers longing for more. Catherine Mackinon, a professor at Harvard Law School, says that “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex” and thus it creates a hunger to continue to purchase and objectify, and act out what is seen.” [1]

Researchers of porn addicts 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.

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.

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 porn 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.

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.

Get Involved

Make a commitment to fight sexual exploitation. SHARE this article and raise awareness that fighting against sex trafficking means fighting against porn, too.

Spark Conversations

This movement is all about changing the conversation about pornography and stopping the demand for sexual exploitation. When you rep a tee, you can spark meaningful conversation on porn’s harms and inspire lasting change in individuals’ lives, and our world. Are you in? Check out all our styles in our online store, or click below to shop:

Citations

[1] Farley, Melissa. Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. San Francisco, CA: Prostitution Research & Education, 2007. Print, 153.

Send this to a friend

Like all websites, we use cookies. By continuing on this site, you agree to our use of cookies. More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close