Racism, violence against women, child abuse, and incest are all issues that are generally unacceptable in our society. And yet, porn not only justifies these issues within explicit content, the industry is profiting from promiting them. Not okay.

Let’s think for a minute of things deemed unacceptable in our society today. Not the little annoyances like someone cutting the line or opening super loud candy wrappers in movie theaters, but the big ones—things like racism, violence against women, child abuse, incest.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these all have one thing in common. While society denounces them, there’s one place where they thrive:

Porn.

In an age of political correctness, world leaders, public figures, and the media generally try to use language that won’t offend and will navigate issues with sensitivity to all parties involved. But in pornography, offensive content is a given, and it’s even encouraged. But why does this estimated $97 billion dollar industry get away with it?

Part of this is because the world has a mixed up relationship with porn. Sitcoms make jokes about how normal it is to watch porn (“Friends,” anyone?), and the stats show how about 90% of guys have seen porn before the age of 18. But at the same time no one wants to raise their hand actually admitting they do.

This is part of the reason why our society can make progress with movements like #MeToo, but turn a blind eye to the treatment of women in porn.

Related: 5 Popular Porn Categories That Are Considered Sexy Online But Are Disturbing In Reality

The other reason why these damaging themes and ideas aren’t held to the same accountability in porn is that they are pitched as an exciting sexual fantasy. They are seen as something “kinky,” fun, even harmless. But as we’ll see, they are far from it.

In Pornhub’s 2017 report, we noticed four issues among the site’s highest searched terms, showing that society generally speaks out against these issues while also simultaneously consuming porn that depicts these scenarios (and worse). Porn gets an obvious free pass on these unacceptable fronts:

1. Violence and objectification

After so much progress from the #MeToo movement with activists now asking where we go from here, porn holds us back. Harvey Weinstein may be disgraced, but people still search for “gangbang” porn. Terry Crews may have given a voice to men who get assaulted, but people still search out “groping” porn.

These terms speaks for themselves. They shows the hypocrisy of what society opposes in real life, but enjoys behind closed doors. The problem is, the effects of watching normalized depictions of abuse and violence don’t just stay behind closed doors within the browser window.

Now, watching porn that fetishizes abuse and assault doesn’t guarantee to make a person a predator, while denying that watching such violent and degrading content has any affect on a person’s brain is ignoring the facts.

Take this, for example: a nationwide survey found that 46% of adults believed “sexual acts that may be forced or painful” in porn are not “wrong.” Yikes.

This shows how we can become desensitized to the material we watch. What we once believed to be acceptable can shift. It’s an effect that not only hurts you and your perceptions of other people, but potentially those people who you interact with. And we don’t give porn a free pass to mess with people’s lives like this.

2. Incest

Sexual activity between a parent and child, or between siblings, is one of the only widespread cross-cultural taboos. No one thought it was acceptable in the past, no one thinks it is now. (There is the exception of ancient Egyptian pharaohs who were trying to keep their royalty line “pure,” but it didn’t work out for them healthwise. Overall, it’s a universal no-no.)

Yet, what shows up in 2017? “Step mom,” “step sister,” and “mom” porn searches. No doubt a part of the appeal of “fauxcest” is the fact that incestual relationships are forbidden.

This must be where advocates for pornography say this kind of explicit content provides a safe place where people can “live out their fantasies.” But what happens when a fantasy is reinforced over and over, retraining what the consumer finds sexy? After all, porn can distort a person’s sexual desires to the point where what was once considered unacceptable can become exciting and attractive.

Usually, a forbidden behavior was prohibited for a reason. In the case of incest, it is to protect vulnerable people from potentially abusive relationships. A high number of searches of incest porn is too close to leading to dangerous and disturbing family relations.

3. Racism

On any mainstream porn site, it doesn’t take long to stumble upon any number of racist titles that promote offensive and unwarranted ethnic and racial stereotypes. In a report titled Racism in Pornography, (trigger warning: link leads to explicit descriptions of porn) Alice Mayall and Diana E. H. Russell provide examples of blatantly racist titles including, “Animal Sex Among Black Women,” “Geisha’s Girls,” “Gang Banged by Blacks,” and the list goes on.

“The racism of the industry is so pervasive that it goes largely unnoticed,” according to a report by Gail Dines and Robert Jensen (FTND note: this report focuses on political issues on which FTND has no position as a non-legislative organization). “In an interview with the producer of the DVD ‘Black Bros and Asian Ho’s,’ one of us asked if he ever was criticized for the racism of such films. He said, ‘No, they are very popular.’ We repeated the question: Popular, yes, but do people ever criticize the racism? He looked incredulous; the question apparently had never entered his mind.”

Dines and Jensen note that, “Pornography vendors have a special category, ‘interracial,’ which allows consumers to pursue the various combinations of racialized characters and racist scenarios.”

Isn’t it interesting how in porn, so many things are normalized that wouldn’t ever be tolerated in any other setting? Why should porn get a free pass to capitalize off of this toxic content?

4. Child abuse

Sitting within the top ten most searched terms is “teen” porn. This is extremely worrying because it glorifies child pornography. In most countries, that’s illegal. But of course, teen porn is a little more difficult to identify because the actual age the performer is not always clear, and even if they are over 18, they’re often portrayed as being much younger.

Also, consider how this search term proves again the link between porn and sex trafficking. How so? A definition from the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 is as follows:

“Sex trafficking 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.”

In other words, just as child abuse is obviously out of bounds, teen porn is too.

Related: How Child Sexual Exploitation & The Adult Entertainment Industry Are Linked

Take disgraced Team USA gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, for example. Recently, his name made headlines for finally being sentenced to prison after over 140 women (a few of them gold medal gymnasts) testified that he sexually abused them. Also he was sentenced on child porn charges in a separate case, when 37,0000 images and videos of child pornography was found at his home.

The bottom line here is that if we want to tackle societal issues like sexual abuse and trafficking of children, then we can’t turn a blind eye to porn. We have to look in the places where such behavior is normalized, and even promoted. The same kind of behavior that Nassar was on trial for is easily accessible for anyone with wifi to watch. How is that acceptable?

Why this matters

Just as people in all roles within society are increasingly held to account for their words, actions, and behavior, porn should be too. How are racist stereotypes acceptable in porn simply because they are under the guise of a fetish? How can “gangbang” be a top search term in porn and there’s no outrage? Stigma or no, porn gets away with completely unacceptable content, contributes to huge issues we’re facing today, and it’s time we talked about it.

What YOU Can Do

Porn shouldn’t get a free pass that allows them to continue sharing unacceptable content. SHARE this article and raise your voice!

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