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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SnoQap, any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not necessarily reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are subject to change and revision.

The Fight Against Human Trafficking Begins at the Computer

The Fight Against Human Trafficking Begins at the Computer

The Inseparable Relationship Between Porn and Human Trafficking

The seventh episode of the fifth season of the Emmy-Award Winning TV series Friends features a conversation between Phoebe Buffay and Joey Tribbani while sipping coffee in the famed Central Perk. In jest, Phoebe challenges Joey’s masculinity during the scene to which he responds defensively, “Hey, I am secure with my masculinity… You’ve seen my huge stack of porn, right? (Friends). His response represents a similar theme echoed throughout the series, modern popular culture, and society as a whole: male consumption of porn is both universal and representative of how “real men” should act. Meaning, if you fail to fulfill this expectation, you have forfeited an integral element of your manhood.

This underlying message portrayed through the TV show underscores the wide acceptance of porn as an ethically neutral media throughout popular culture. Ethically neutral media refers to its presentation as neither good nor bad, but simply another activity to engage in that can increase one’s personal pleasure without any negative consequences on the consumer. The television show did not demonstrate any negative effects of porn on the characters’ relationships and offered porn as proof of one’s masculinity. The TV show even praised another character, Monica, as “the best wife” for buying her husband pornography. Not only should people accept the pornography consumption of others, but we are encouraged to facilitate its growth. The TV show broadcast these lessons to millions of viewers across the globe, reaching 52.5 million viewers with its finale in 2004. Focusing in on this particular TV show illustrates the overall projection of the industry across all communication mediums, such as music, movies, news outlets, and television shows.

The normalization of viewing porn through the media coupled with the instantaneous access facilitated by the internet resulted in the astronomical growth of the online porn industry. The 2018 Year in Review Report released by Pornhub cited that 63,992 new visitors arrived at the site every 60 seconds within the last year. The site experienced an increase of 5 billion visits from 2017 to reach a grand total of 33.5 billion visits in a single year. Every day in 2018 an average of 92 million people visited the Pornhub website. In context, a number of people equaling the combined populations of Canada, Poland, and Australia accessed this single pornography website every 24 hours.

The intersections between pornography and human trafficking make the two inseparable. First, manipulative human traffickers force their victims to create pornographic images and videos. Thorn, a non-profit dedicated to eliminating child abuse material from the internet, conducted a survey that reported that 63% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online (Thorn). Another anti-trafficking non-profit, Rescue: Freedom performed a survey in 9 countries, which uncovered that “49% of sexually exploited women said that pornography was made of them while they were being sold for sex” (Rescue:Freedom). Both of these studies reveal that increasing demand for pornography incentivizes human traffickers to use their victims in this way. A viewer can never be certain that the subject displayed in a pornographic image or video has given his/her consent absent of any form of coercion. By purchasing pornography produced by human traffickers, the viewer rewards criminals for enslaving other human beings with profits in the millions.

Another connection between the two lies in the damaging effects of pornography on the brain that causes an increase in violent thoughts and actions as well as an increase in the demand to purchase sex. Dr. Victor B. Cline, in his monograph Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children, describes the changes that occur with pornography in four phases: the addiction-effect, the escalation effect, desensitization, and an increase in the likelihood to act out the behaviors demonstrated in pornography. Viewers become addicted to pornography like a drug, resulting in increasing usage. To attain the same “high” as the previous viewing, a person searches out more extreme versions of pornography. In a survey of 1,500 young adult men, 56% said their tastes in porn had become “increasingly extreme or deviant. Dr. Cline conveys desensitization as, “material … which was originally perceived as shocking, taboo-breaking, illegal, repulsive, or immoral, in time came to be seen as acceptable and commonplace” (Slave and the Porn Star). A majority of pornography exhibits scenes of physical violence or verbal aggression and in almost all cases towards women. A 2010 study reviewing 50 of the most purchased or rented pornographic films found that “95% of the victims (almost all of them women) either were neutral to the abuse or appeared to respond with pleasure” (Fight the New Drug). Pornography serves to normalize violence against women, making viewers less compassionate towards them and more likely to act violently or aggressive themselves. Beginning to develop a “tolerance” towards extreme pornography and not seeing prostitution as taboo any longer, porn-consumers desire to act out the scenarios they see in pornography. Consequently, a person in this position resorts to purchasing someone to have sex with them in this deviated way. This is where human trafficking comes in again. Traffickers or johns regularly use pornography as a method to show their victims how they are expected to act. The two industries, along with prostitution, exist in an endless cycle where each fuels the demand for the other two.

Considering its intrinsic relationship to human trafficking, the statistics highlighting the shift in public opinion on explicit media, especially among young people, is cause for alarm. A Gallup Poll performed in 2018 reported that 43% of Americans classify porn as “morally acceptable”, which represented the highest percentage since the poll began in 2011. Furthermore, the percentage of males ages 18 to 34 who view porn as “morally acceptable” jumped 14 points to 67% (Gallup). By considering these polling results or simply tuning into popular television, the practice of watching pornography is becoming widely accepted and normalized, especially for the youngest generation. This group experienced access to porn in an entirely different way due to its instantaneous accessibility on the internet. Finding porn became as easy as typing a few words on a computer and scrolling. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children performed a study in 2016 that surveyed over 1,000 children ranging from 11-16 years old. The survey revealed that by age 15, “children were more likely than not to have seen online pornography” (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). Even more alarmingly, the study uncovered that “children were as likely to stumble across pornography via a ‘pop up’ ads to search for it deliberately or be shown it by other people” (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). The accessibility of pornography thorough the internet has reached a distressing level where children find these explicit websites without even looking for them.

Agreeing to support the fight against human trafficking is easy, but speaking out against one of its primary drivers, pornography, presents a difficult challenge to contradict the cultural norm. However, in order to combat modern day slavery, every catalyst that stimulate its growth must be extinguished. We must be willing to stand against the crowd and help our peers understand the destructive effects of pornography on our biology, relationships, and human trafficking.

Works Cited:

A Report on the Use of Technology to Recruit, Groom, and Sell Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims. Thorn. January 2015. https://www.thorn.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Survivor_Survey_r5.pdf

Bridges, Ana J., Robert Wosnitzer, Erica Scharrer, Chyng Sun, and Rachael Liberman. Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women. 26 October 2010. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210382866

By The Numbers: Is The Porn Industry Connected To Sex Trafficking? Fight the New Drug. 26 July 2019. https://fightthenewdrug.org/by-the-numbers-porn-sex-trafficking-connected/

Dugan, Andrew. More Americans Say Pornography Is Morally Acceptable. Gallup. 26 August 2019. https://news.gallup.com/poll/235280/americans-say-pornography-morally-acceptable.aspx

Martellozzo, Elena, Andy Monaghan, Joanna R. Adler, Julia Davidson, Rodolfo Leyva and Miranda A.H. Horvath. NSPCC Pornography Report. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. May 2017. https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/media/1187/mdx-nspcc-occ-pornography-report.pdf

Not All Porn Is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers. Fight the New Drug. 11 April 2019. https://fightthenewdrug.org/these-performers-expose-abuse-consent-issues-on-porn-set/

Ward, L. Monique, Rita C. Seabrook, and Soraya Giaccardi. Less Than Human? Media Use, Objectification of Women, and Men’s Acceptance of Sexual Aggression. Psychology of Violence.. 2018. https://truthaboutporn.org/study/less-than-human-media-use-objectification-of-women-and-mensacceptance-of-sexual-aggression/

11 To 14-Year-Olds Want To Mimic Sex Acts Shown In Porn, Study Finds. Fight the New Drug. 14 August 2019. https://fightthenewdrug.org/massive-study-reveals-what-kids-are-watching-learning-from-online-porn/

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