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Would Fixing the Porn Industry’s Sketchy Business Practices Make Porn Healthy to Watch?

By July 15, 2019 July 16th, 2019 No Comments

Sometimes, our society tends to only look at the symptoms of a problem instead of examining 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 often 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.

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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, it’s 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 consumers 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.”

Related: How Sex Trafficking And Exploitation Blend In With Today’s Violent Mainstream Porn

The porn industry is sketchy to begin with, but it takes a really dangerous turn when porn involving sex trafficking victims is made and distributed. But how does this tie back to the average consumer 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 an agreement? For this reason, clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers or porn producers to make money by selling videos of their sex slaves or coerced performers to porn sites.

Regulating the industry may seem to protect the performers’ health and safety and thus make porn safe and acceptable to consume, but in reality, it’s much more complicated than that. The practice of recording “do’s and don’ts” videos pre-shoot, and the “consent exit interview” post-shoot actually make coercion and lying about consent more prevalent. (Don’t believe us? Just read this article.)

Consider Before Consuming

Porn sexualizes violence

One of the most common criticisms we hear is that porn performers genuinely 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 and trafficking and/or exploitation, many still buy into the fantasy that the porn industry works hard to build.

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

The truth is, the performers 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.

And, meanwhile, performers can’t usually leave the industry because of the stigma surrounding their profession, or the trauma they’ve endured while in the industry. It’s a vicious cycle, perpetuated by the need to pay bills and put food on the table. What’s worse is that, as the porn industry adopts more extreme and aggressive sex acts to be more mainstream, performers must say “yes” to increasingly physically traumatic jobs involving extreme anal, BDSM, or “kink” scenes.

Consider this: 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.

Related: Why Do Some People Fight Against Sex Trafficking But Unconditionally Support Porn?

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 performer 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.”

But even if this violence is simply scripted and actors are all consenting, porn still normalizes situations that would be considered sexual assault if they happened in reality.

Much of even non-violent porn portrays a power difference between partners where men are in charge and women are submissive and obedient. Continually consuming 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 porn consumption can impact how an individual views sex, violence, and aggression.

Related: 9 Serious Issues Porn Culture Fuels In High Schools

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 consumer’ perception of what’s healthy.

Normalizing Abuse Isnt Normal

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 consuming 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, they would never be acceptable (or legal) in real life. Categories involving teen exploitation, “gang-rape,” and “incest” consistently rank as some of the most popular genres in porn. What kind of implications does that have in our society?

Related: How Porn Is More Violently Dehumanizing And Sexually Objectifying To Women Than Ever

Even more concerning than the availability of these violent genres, is their growing popularity and demand among consumers. What can make somebody increasingly aroused from videos involving scenarios 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 consumer’s brain starts cutting back on dopamine receptors, to get the same excitement and arousal they used to feel, many porn consumers 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 consumers often find themselves looking for harder and harder images—they’ve been desensitized to the harder stuff. [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 avid porn consumers quickly find themselves looking at things that used to disgust them or that they used to see as morally wrong. [6]

Related: How Countless Porn Videos Normalize The Sexual Abuse Ellen DeGeneres Survived

Porn is a toxic influence on our society, and it can rewire a consumer’s arousal template to be increasingly extreme. It can cause consumers to see people as objects, and accept behavior they never normally would. Porn teaches consumers that violence can be sexy, and it promotes the idea that “no” means “maybe,” or “persuade me.”

We can address the porn industry’s business practices all we want, but until we address our society’s acceptance of and demand for violent sex, we’ll never truly get to the source issue.

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Why this matters

The porn industry is a corrupt, broken, and flawed system built on profiting from sexual exploitation and abuse. But beneath the obvious flaws of the industry lies the deeper cause of these problems—pornography is harmful.

It lies to its clients, mistreats its “employees,” and sexualizes disturbing acts such as rape and incest. Not to mention that the increased demand for extreme mainstream adult entertainment leads to increased demand for content that can permanently injure or traumatize performers. 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.

We can take measures to fight the porn industry all we want, but lasting changes will only come when society understands the proven harmful effects of its product.

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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