Porn is a Social Justice Issue

The problems with porn go beyond just morals.

BY MARNEY MCNALL GLOBAL / CURRENT April 07, 2016

The moral arguments against pornography are well-known, and recently, several big-name celebrities and sources like Time magazine have been warning about the effects porn has on the brain.

However, even apart from questions of fidelity and objectification, there is an inescapable justice problem with porn.

The truth is, porn performers might have far more in common with victims of human trafficking than you might think. A growing body of evidence suggests that pornography fuels demand for prostitutes—and therefore, human sex trafficking victims, who often end up ensnared in both trades.

The porn industry is tightly intertwined with the “industry” of sex trafficking, as the Johns Hopkins’ Protection Project has recently investigated. Their research has identified several links:

1. Forced Participation in Film Production

If force, fraud or coercion is used to compel performers to perform for the camera, this can constitute sex trafficking.

Multiple cases document performers promised legitimate jobs, say as models, only to find themselves in front of a camera and told to perform sexual acts. This is known as fraud. And if they are not given the choice to walk away, this becomes sex trafficking. Even if initial consent was given, a performer is within her rights to change her mind. Sadly, in such cases, threats of contract violation—plausible coercion—cause the victim to give in (possible coercion). Many girls have given testimonies of becoming scared once on the film set, but their wishes to stop were ignored and followed with brutal treatment. That is force, and that is sex trafficking.

Too often, victims of human trafficking do not self-identify because they don’t know the law. So, here it is.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”

The term, “human trafficking” can confuse people into thinking movement or crossing borders is necessary, when it’s not. Human trafficking is about exploitation. It can happen next door.

Forced Participation in Prostitution

Traffickers may exploit their victims through prostitution as well as on film. There have been cases where underage girls, under a pimp’s control, were forced to provide commercial sex in addition to performing in pornographic videos filmed by the pimp.

According to Laura Lederer of the Protection Project and Global Centurion, an anti-trafficking organization, over 25 percent of child sex traffickers take pictures or video recordings. Regarding child pornography, there is no gray area: “Any child under the age of 18 is considered a victim of human trafficking if they are induced to commit a commercial sex act. This can include prostitution or pornography. No child can ‘consent’ or choose to be involved in any form of commercial sex.”

Runaways and children kicked out of their homes are some of the most vulnerable to sex trafficking. The U.S. Justice Department’s National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrown-away Children estimates that as many as 1.7 million children run away from home each year. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, it is estimated that 1/3 of these children are lured or recruited into prostitution and pornography.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the annual number of images and videos of suspected child pornography reached over 17 million in 2011.

Forced Exposure to Porn

Pimps and traffickers sometimes use pornographic films as grooming tools, forcing new victims to watch repeatedly, so they become hardened and learn what is expected of them. This is a corruption of the teaching technique of “translating image to action.”

Additionally, a significant percentage of prostitution survivors say they encountered buyers who used pornography to show them what was wanted. Since sex trafficking victims have no ability to choose, they are particularly susceptible to the more deviant buyers.

Sustained exposure to pornography has long-standing effects, and can create a skewed sense of “normalcy.” Mary Anne Layden of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania, states, “The large body of research on pornography reveals that it functions as … a permission-giver for, and a trigger of many negative behaviors and attitudes that can severely damage not only the users but many others.”

The path to porn addiction described by clinical psychologist Dr. Victor Cline shows how easily viewers can find themselves in a place they never thought possible:

Addiction: Porn consumers get hooked and often keep coming back for more.

Escalation: Increased levels of exposure are often needed to stimulate to the same degree.< Desensitization: Over time and exposure, the witnessing of certain acts can lose its shock factor and becomes more “normal.”

Acting out: Viewers may have an increased tendency to act out behaviors seen in pornography

Evidence suggests frequent viewers tend to be more frequent purchasers of prostitutes—an illegal behavior that often involves victims of sex trafficking. Pornography can be a vehicle by which people become objects to view and to use, and a catalyst to fuel demand. And you can bet, traffickers will answer it.

What Can You Do?

Alter Your Perspective. Don’t automatically assume people in the sex industry are there by choice.

Learn the signs of human trafficking.

If you think you have witnessed trafficking, call the National Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or text INFO or HELP to BeFree.

And finally, don’t support industries that fuel demand in the sex trade.

This article has been updated from an earlier version.

Marney McNall

MARNEY MCNALL

Marney McNall writes for Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. She loves writing for nonprofit causes and crafting stories that put us in othersÕ shoes. She believes stories help us empathize and try harder to do life together. Follow her on Twitter @MarneyMcNall or visit her blog at marneymcnall.com.

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