Cover photo retrieved from Daily Mail. 5 minute read.
There are areas of life where you want to see innovation, creativity, and new methods of doing things—as in music, art, business, and hobbies.
And then there are industries where you never want to see any of that ever again. Probably most of all: sex trafficking.
It is unsettling every time another news story pops up of new trafficking schemes or shocking abduction stories. Unfortunately, sex traffickers stay creative, but spreading awareness of their latest scams can keep others safe and further authorities’ fight against this shady underground problem.
Traffickers try to exploit makeup artists
A recent elaborate scam involves fraudulent emails to makeup artists, attempting to lure these aspiring professionals to cities in the US and Australia by promising well-paying work for reputable brands’ magazine photoshoots.
Brooke Luke, a 20-year-old makeup artist from Sydney, Australia, received an email from the “Editorial Assistant” of Brides Magazine offering her a job as a makeup artist at an upcoming photoshoot. Brooke would get an all-expenses-paid trip to Melbourne and an additional $2,000 salary with $200/hour overtime pay.
The emailer told Brooke that her Senior Editor was impressed with her work shown on social media. Suspicious that such a prominent company would seek out someone with a small following, Brooke responded to the email questioning its legitimacy.
In response, the so-called Editorial Assistant assured her that Brides has “never been involved in anything illegitimate or fraudulent” and followed with a detailed job description and compensation terms. What’s more, both emails to Brooke ended with a formal confidentiality notice.
Still unsure, Brooke shared screenshots of her correspondence with makeup artist groups on Facebook and found other artists with the same experience. One artist, Rachel, had reached out to the actual team at Brides and received a shocked reply warning her not to respond, that their security team would work on addressing the scam right away.
Brides then published a notice about the scam on their site.
Brooke was shocked when other makeup artists told her the scam was linked to a human trafficking ring trying to trick artists out of thousands of dollars, or even more likely lure them to hotel rooms to be sexually exploited. Because of the thorough, seemingly professional emails and her family’s support of her dreams, Brooke was excited and might have moved forward with the offer.
“It actually made me very upset that I could have possibly fallen into this trap and who knows what could have happened to me,” she said when she figured out the trafficking agenda.
Porn normalizes exploitative scenarios like Brooke’s
So what does this have to do with porn?
Firstly, porn normalizes situations like this by portraying rape and abduction as some sort of dark fantasy. This kind of elaborate, shocking scheme to lure people into situations of abuse, violence or manipulation are some people’s real-life nighmares. But within the seedy world of the porn industry, this type of scenario is marketed as erotic and exciting.
How does this translate to reality?
Research shows that porn can make consumers more likely to think that women actually enjoy being raped. Why? Because scene after scene shows people responding positively to violence. One study found that in porn’s 50 most popular films, 95% of the violence recipients—mostly women—were either neutral or responded with pleasure to abuse.
See how consuming images over and over of these scenarios can skew someone’s perception of reality and what’s acceptable?
Entire genres are created around seemingly unsuspecting victims being lured into dangerous or exploitative situations and eventually enjoying it. For example, casting couch porn plays out fantasized scenes of (mostly) women arriving for what they think is a legitimate job interview—they instead find themselves coerced into sex with their “interviewer.”
See the similarity to Brooke Luke’s situation? In porn, these scenarios are marketed as an ultimate fantasy specifically because those being exploited have no idea what they signed up for.
There are a ton of porn scenarios that would never be tolerated in real life. Rape as an illicit dark fantasy? It’s a recurring theme in these vids. And not just rape—porn also glorifies abduction.
One video on a popular porn site is called “Girl fantasizes about being abducted, held captive, and f***ed.” See how this is problematic?
Doing our part to stop exploitation
Porn directly fuels human trafficking and so creates demand for schemes like this one.
Research and countless personal accounts from survivors show the disturbing connections between the porn and trafficking industries. People are often trafficked onto porn sets to be performers, or existing porn performers are forced, frauded, or coerced into performing scenes they aren’t comfortable with.
Porn is also used by pimps and traffickers to groom and train their victims in how to behave and perform sexually. Consider how the world of porn is full of victims brought into it and/or held there by physical, financial, emotional, and sexual coercion.
Given all of the available existing information about how adult entertainment world and trafficking overlap, it’s become clear that porn makes the existing trafficking issue worse.
Thankfully, Brooke Luke is safe and helping to spread awareness about this particular makeup artist trafficking scam. But the unfortunate truth is there will be other scams, and there will be victims who might not be as lucky as Brooke.
The human trafficking issue is huge and multi-faceted. But we can each do our part to combat the world of exploitation—one way to do this is by choosing to ditch porn and spread awareness of its tight link to victimization around the globe.