Sometimes, our society tends to only look at the symptoms of a problem instead of examine the deeper causes. For example, if you had an old, broken-down car, would you fix the problem just by giving it a new coat of paint? Probably not. The problem is much deeper than the visible flaws of the car. To properly fix the car, you would ideally focus on the deeper issues that prevent it from working.

We see a similar confusion when it comes to pornography. Many people believe that fixing all the visible issues within the industry—ensuring all performers are there willingly, everything that happens on set is consensual, protection against STDs is used, there are no drugs on set, etc.—will make all the problems related to porn go away. While there are serious problems with the industry that absolutely need to be addressed, like sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, these problems are merely the symptoms of a deeper issue. And that issue is the nature of porn, in and of itself.

Porn Is Connected to Sex Trafficking

As internet porn continues to rise in popularity, the demand for content has shot through the roof. With the market expanding like crazy, its becoming increasingly difficult to regulate the conditions and practices of porn studios around the world. Porn is an estimated $97 billion global industry, according to Kassia Wosick, assistant professor of sociology at New Mexico State University, and money comes first in this industry. The bottom line is much more important than any concern for the well-being of viewers or performers. Just take into account this quote from former porn actress Anita Cannibal:

“I have been a performer now for 14 years in the adult film industry in many countries, states . . . all over the place. I have worked for most of these companies, and I was around for the once-a-month HIV-positive outbreak in ’98. Yes, I was, and I got to see those performers that nobody knows about—that nobody claims that got HIV, that are not a part of the statistics—walk out the door as non-performers, not to be counted.

Yeah, there are a lot of cover-ups going on. There is a lot of tragedy. There are a lot of horrible things.”

K.

The porn industry is a sketchy industry to begin with, but it takes a really dangerous turn when porn involving sex trafficking victims is made and distributed. Countless women have been kidnapped, abused, drugged, threatened, and coerced into doing porn; this is, by definition, sex trafficking/slavery.

But how does this tie back to the average viewer at home? The truth is, there is no way for him or her to tell if what they are watching was made illegally or if all parties are there willingly. And even if they’re there willingly, performing on camera, were they coerced or threatened into agreement? For this reason, clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling video of their sex slaves to porn sites.

Regulating the industry may seem to protect the performers health and safety, but in reality, no lasting difference will be made until we protect the men, women, and children that are kidnapped and trafficked daily by the porn industry.

Porn Sexualizes Violence

People look at the industry and say that the lack of respect for sex workers is what makes their job difficult. One of the most common criticisms we hear is that porn stars like what they are doing, and that if they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be doing porn. Regardless of all the overwhelming research and countless personal accounts exposing the dark reality of the porn industry, many still buy into the fantasy that the porn industry works hard to build.

The truth is, the actresses employed by the industry suffer very real emotional, mental, and sexual abuse, but many endure the suffering because of the steady money. Countless teens are tricked into porn through alluring “modeling contracts,” or easy cash. The industry doesn’t care though—as far as they’re concerned, performers are merely objects to be used and abused, and discarded once they refuse to shoot more extreme scenes.

All of these ideas of abuse, aggression, and domination are learned, at least in part, from porn. A few years ago, a team of researchers looked at the most popular porn films—the ones bought and rented most often. [1] From that group, they randomly picked 50 and analyzed them. Of the 304 scenes the movies contained, 88% contained physical violence. On top of that, 49% contained verbal aggression. In total, only one scene in 10 didn’t contain any aggression, and the typical scene averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks. One action-packed scene managed to fit in 128.

One of the porn industry’s most popular stars has spoken up about how the growing appetite for abuse porn is damaging new female performers who are being required to take part in increasingly extreme scenes in order to get work. Formerly the most searched porn star on the world’s most popular porn site, Lisa Ann left the industry in 2014 and is one of the few who has successfully transitioned into mainstream media. Ann is now talking about how she’s witnessed that the industry is leaning more and more heavily on extreme and hardcore videos. Speaking to The Guardian, she claimed the difficulties some porn stars face after leaving the adult industry often relate to the growing demand for extreme porn, and performers abusing drugs:

“There were times on set with people where I was like, ‘This is not a good situation. This is not safe. This girl is out of her mind and we’re not sure what she’s going to say when she leaves here,’” she said. “Everyone’s a ticking time bomb, and a lot of it is linked to the drugs. A lot of this new pain comes from these new girls who have to do these abusive scenes, because that does break you down as a woman.”

The problem is, much of even non-violent porn portrays a power difference between partners where men are in charge and women are submissive and obedient. Viewing this type of dehumanizing submission makes dominance seem normal and can set the stage for eventual acceptance of verbal and physical aggression. [2]

And even worse, consistent viewing of porn can impact how an individual views sex, violence, and aggression. Porn insists that violence is sexy and that everyone is a willing sexual partner, even if they resist at first. The symptom issue is that porn performers are often mistreated, and the industry is saturated with abuse and exploitation. Even if performer abuse and coercion magically disappeared from the industry instantly, the underlying problem would still exist—porn sexualizes violence and abuse, even if it’s all a fantasy, and it can harm viewers’ perception of what’s healthy.

Porn Warps Sexual Tastes

Many porn supporters say that being into sexual violence is a personal preference, and while we aren’t here to police people’s sex lives, we are here to warn about the possible harm in consistently viewing and becoming aroused by that kind of abusive content.

Think of it this way. The most popular porn searches on the internet today are situations and scenarios that are so extreme and deviant, that they would never be acceptable (or legal) in real life. Categories such as “gang-rape”, “teen abuse”, and “incest” consistently rank as some of the most popular genres in porn. What kind of implications does that have in our society?

Even more concerning than the availability of these violent genres, is their growing popularity and demand among viewers. What can make somebody increasingly aroused from videos of rape, sexual assault, and incest? The answer lies in the neurological impacts of porn on the brain.

Many leading brain researchers now believe that once a porn user’s brain starts cutting back on dopamine receptors, to get the same excitement and arousal they used to feel, many porn users need an even larger surge of dopamine; to get it, they have to look at more porn, look at porn more often, or look at more hardcore material. [3] You see, it’s not just arousal that gets dopamine pumping. The brain also releases it when it sees something novel, shocking, or surprising. [4] That’s why consistent porn users often find themselves looking for harder and harder images. [5] On top of that, because they’ve built up such a high tolerance to arousing material, to feel excited many users have to combine sexual arousal with the feeling of aggressive release.  That’s why so much of hardcore porn is full of images of women being physically harmed. It’s also the reason that many porn addicts quickly find themselves looking at things that used to disgust them or that they used to see as morally wrong. [6]

Porn is a toxic influence on our society, and it can rewire a viewer’s arousal template to be increasingly deviant. It can cause viewers to see people as objects, and accept behavior they never normally would. Porn teaches viewers that violence can be sexy, and it promotes the idea that “no” means “maybe,” or “persuade me.” We can address the porn industry’s practices all we want, but until we address our society’s acceptance of and demand for these practices, we’ll never truly get to the source issue.

Why This Matters

The porn industry is a corrupt, broken, and flawed system built on sexual exploitation and abuse. It lies to its clients, mistreats its “employees”, and sexualizes disturbing acts such as rape and incest. However, attempting to correct and repair these obviously dangerous problems would be about as effective as giving a broken down car a new paint job.

Beneath the obvious flaws of the industry lies the deeper cause of these problems— pornography is harmful. Porn lies to its viewers, normalizes sexual violence, and pushes heavier and more disturbing content. Not to mention that the increased demand for mainstream adult entertainment leads to an increased demand in the globalized black market for more harmful and questionable content. We can take measures to fight the porn industry all we want, but lasting changes will only come when society understands the harmful effects of pornography, and begins to fight for love.

What YOU Can Do

Meaningful change will only come when society understands the harms of porn. SHARE this article to add your voice to this important cause.

Citations

[1] Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Chyng, S., And Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression And Sexual Behavior In Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women 16, 10: 1065–1085.
[2] Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence Of Unrestrained Access To Erotica On Adolescents’ And Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal Of Adolescent Health 27, 2, 41-44.
[3] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect On Interpersonal Relationships. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Bergner, R. And Bridges, A. (2002). The Significance Of Heavy Pornography Involvement For Romantic Partners: Research And Clinical Implications. Sex And Marital Therapy, 28, 3, 193-206; Zillmann, D. And Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s Impact On Sexual Satisfaction, Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 5, 438-53.
[4] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., And Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development 45:119–131; Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., And Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure To Pornography And Acceptance Of The Rape Myth. Journal Of Communication 45, 1: 5–26.
[5] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Cline, V. B. (2001). Pornography’s Effect On Adults And Children. New York: Morality In Media; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence Of Unrestrained Access To Erotica On Adolescents’ And Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal Of Adolescent Health 27, 2: 41–44; NoFap Survey Http://Www.Reddit.Com/R/NoFap/Comments/Updy4/Rnofap_survey_data_complete_datasets/
[6] Angres, D. H. And Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease Of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, And Recovery. Disease-A-Month 54: 696–721; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence Of Unrestrained Access To Erotica On Adolescents’ And Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal Of Adolescent Health 27, 2: 41–44.
Other sources not cited:
Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. New York: Henry Hold And Co., 75; Caro, M. (2004). The New Skin Trade. Chicago Tribune, September 19; Brosius, H. B., Et Al. (1993). Exploring The Social And Sexual “Reality” Of Contemporary Pornography. Journal Of Sex Research 30, 2: 161–70.
Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography To Porno To Porn: How Porn Became The Norm. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.
Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767; Paul, Pamela. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. New York: Henry Holt And Co., 145.

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