Cover photo by Natalia Figueredo. 8 minute read.
TRIGGER WARNING
The following post contains descriptions of abusive situations.

I first heard about your movement a year ago today, and it’s taken me nearly that long to have some freedom from my addiction to pornography. It’s been an uphill battle but I can finally say I’m getting a handle on it. I’ve gone from watching porn multiple times a day to having weeks, and now nearly a month free from it.

My addiction to porn began differently than what you hear most people say, and for the most part, society believes that it’s a man’s problem, not a woman’s, so there is even more shame and guilt added to an already guilt-ridden addiction.

RelatedI Thought Porn Would Help Me Cope With Past Sexual Abuse—I Was Wrong

When I was two years old, I was sold into human trafficking and was taught that children needed to allow grown men to use their bodies. The sexual abuse began when I was three years old, when 13 grown men raped me. From there, the assaults and the violence grew.

The 7 of us kids in the basement I was kept became currency. We were traded and sold for guns and drugs. We were raped multiple times a day. Videos were taken of us, and we were forced to perform with each other and with other adults. Those same videos were then sold as well as a “souvenir” for their time with us.

Related: Studies Show Sexual Aggression Can Be Linked To Watching Porn

I lived within the confines of human trafficking for over 15 years. When I finally escaped the physical prison, my mind stayed behind. Violence was the only thing that turned me on. I was too afraid to have sex because I had been hurt for so long and my body was badly scarred and branded with razors and knives and burns from my assailants. The idea of sex made me vomit. But there was still a twisted desire in me for pleasure.

I got married very quickly because I was alone and scared in the world. It didn’t make anything better. I had sex because I was obligated to, and terrified to say no. Between my past and pornography, I was taught “no” wasn’t an option. “No” simply made it hurt more. “No” just made my abusers more aroused. And outside of sex with my husband, my porn addiction grew, because he didn’t turn me on but I still needed to feel aroused.

RelatedWhy You Can’t Consistently Fight Sexual Abuse Without Also Fighting Porn

And so my porn obsession began because I wanted to feel sexy without anyone else. And the videos I watched got more and more violent. And I would intentionally search for videos of women being abused, raped, tortured, and crying because it was the only sex I could relate to. It was the only porn that turned me on.

I fell deeper and deeper down a hole where memories of my past would overcome me, and feelings and desires would take control of my body. And I hated the fact that my body responded to the memories of being abused, so I would try to drown them out with porn videos to justify my feelings. And the pornography I sought out got darker and darker—until I was at a place of suicide.

Related: Why I Turned To Rape Porn To Cope With Being Abused, And Why I Regret It

Thankfully, I reached out to the right person who has walked with me as I found professional help and fought this addiction with me. And while I can still see it in my rearview mirror, it’s behind me. I’m coming out from the darkness. It took realizing that my addiction was feeding the same human trafficking I ran from and that it was holding me bound to that prison.

There’s so much stigma surrounding women and porn and this false idea of female sexuality that’s compounded by complex feelings from sexual abuse and assault. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of help to not be ashamed that I can desire sex. I hope it can help someone.

I can honestly say that at this point in my life I’m owning my story and 100% comfortable with it being shared but probably for my own safety, since you are a national organization, anonymously. Thank you for your support!

F.

Common ties between exploitation and pornography

It’s not uncommon for abuse and/or trafficking survivors to turn to porn to cope with their trauma. What’s also tragically common about this Fighter’s story is that many child exploitation and trafficking victims are recorded and photographed while they’re abused, and this content is either sold to porn distributors or to individuals who end up uploading this content online.

The legal definitions get technical, but sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking, and human trafficking is exactly what it sounds like: trafficking in humans. If “trafficking” means buying and selling things, or moving things so they can be used for profit, then “human trafficking” means buying or selling humans, or moving humans so they can be used for profit. It’s the purest form of objectification—the literal commoditization of a person.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act more specifically defines sex trafficking as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” [1]

Trafficking and pornography are often the same thing

There are all kinds of connections, big and small, between pornography and sex trafficking. There are incidental connections, like the fact that exposure to pornography has been shown to make consumers less compassionate toward victims of sexual violence and exploitation.[2] (See How Consuming Porn Can Lead To Violence.)

There are “supply-and-demand” connections: the simple fact that pornography—especially when viewing habits and fantasies involve violence or other fetishes—increases the demand for sex trafficking, as more and more consumers want to act out what they see.

There is the “training manual” connection: the well-documented fact that porn directly informs what goes on in trafficking. Traffickers and sex buyers get ideas from porn, and then make their victims watch as a way of showing them what they’ll be expected to do, so that the violent fantasy concocted by some porn director and his or her actors becomes the reality for some trafficking victim. [3]

Related: How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking

And then there is the risk factor connection: the fact that, along with poverty and substance abuse, a child growing up in a home where pornography is regularly consumed is far more likely to be trafficked at some point in his or her life. [4]

But what’s the biggest, most surprising connection between pornography and trafficking? It’s this: they’re often the same thing.

We can spend hours and hours pointing out these cause-and-effect, symbiotic relationships between trafficking and porn. Those connections are real, and that’s an important conversation to have. But let’s not allow that to entrench the idea that porn and sex trafficking are always separate. Far more often than people realize, they’re not.

This is why we fight to give visibility to people stories like F‘s, and work to educate consumers on the realities of what the porn industry supports.

Citations

[1] Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) Of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(A), 114 Stat. 1464.
[2] Zillmann And Bryant, “Effects Of Massive Exposure To Pornography” In Pornography And Sexual Aggression, Eds. Neil M. Malamuth And Edward Donerstein (New York: Academic Press, 1984 And J. V. P. Check And T. H. Guloien, “The Effects Of Repeated Exposure To Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, And Erotica,” In Pornography: Recent Research, Interpretations, And Policy Considerations, Eds. D. Zillmann And J. Bryant (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1989)
[3] Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, Ph.D. Interview || Truth About Porn [Video File]. (2016, December 28). Retrieved From Https://Vimeo.Com/190317258
[4] Countryman-Roswurm, Karen (2017). Primed For Perpetration: Porn And The Perpetuation Of Sex Trafficking. Guest Blog For FTND, Retrieved From Https://Fightthenewdrug.Org/Fighting-Sex-Trafficking-Absolutely-Includes-Fighting-Pornography/

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