The porn industry’s dark secrets

Fight the New Drug

Special to Valley News

Editor’s note; Reader discretion is advised. Readers may find the following content to be graphic or disturbing. This article is being reprinted with permission from FighttheNewDrug.org. Valley News is not an official representative of Fight the New Drug and does not resell merchandise.

Would you support a business if you knew that they abused some (but not all) of their female employees? Pornographers don’t want you to think about it, but even if some of the humiliation, degradation, and sexual violence you see in porn is consensual, some is not.

“I got the &*%$ kicked out of me … . Most of the girls start crying because they’re hurting so bad … . I couldn’t breathe. I was being hit and choked. I was really upset and they didn’t stop. They kept filming. [I asked them to turn the camera off] and they kept going.” – Regan Starr former porn actor [1]

In the spring of 2004, during the American occupation of Iraq, the world was shocked to learn that US soldiers were abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Hundreds of leaked photos showed Iraqi prisoners being made to crawl on the floor wearing leashes, wear panties on their heads, masturbate for the camera, touch other men’s naked bodies, and even more degrading behaviors that we are not comfortable mentioning here.

What horrified the public was not only the human rights violations themselves, but the fact that the soldiers recorded the abuse with obvious glee. In many of the photos, soldiers grinned and flashed a “thumbs-up” to the camera as they stood over their victims. After an investigation, several soldiers were dishonorably discharged from the military and others served time in prison for what they had done at Abu Ghraib. [2]

That same year, pornographers video-recorded and photographed thousands of women enduring nearly identical treatment and worse. Those images were published on the internet and viewed by millions of porn users. There was no public outcry.

Comparing porn to what happened in Abu Ghraib will ruffle some people’s feathers. A knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Those are totally different! In porn, women give their consent!”

But do they? Defenders of pornography make this argument all the time that no matter how a woman is treated in porn, it’s OK because she gave her consent. [3] But what if she didn’t? What if she really didn’t want to be painfully dominated, humiliated, and sexually used for the world to see?

The truth is, there’s often much more going on than what you see on the screen. That is, perhaps, the porn industry’s biggest, darkest secret: it’s not all consensual.

In some cases, it’s obvious when victims haven’t given consent, like when child pornography and human trafficking are involved. Pimps and sex traffickers often use porn to initiate their victims into their new life of sexual slavery, [4] and then they force their victims to participate in making new porn. [5]

Since child porn and human trafficking are an underground business, firm statistics are hard to come by, but the cases that come to light are chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. [6] They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the violence, and sell it to porn stores and businesses across the country.

That same year a couple in Missouri was charged with forcing a mentally disabled girl to produce porn for them by beating, whipping, suffocating, electrocution, drowning, mutilating, and choking her until she agreed. One of the photos they forced her to make ended up on the front cover of a porn publication owned by Hustler Magazine Group. [7]

So sure, you could say the disabled girl “agreed” to participate. You could argue that the women voluntarily responded to an ad. But do you really think those victims gave their consent? We all know that’s not real consent, that’s coercion.

In porn, the question of consent can be tricky (and the growing phenomenon of amateur porn makes it even trickier). For example, if one of the participants doesn’t know there’s a camera running, then the porn is not consensual, even if the sex is. Right? What if a person consented to be filmed, but not to have the film shown to anyone else? What if someone manipulated their partner into being filmed in the first place, like making him or her worry that they’d blackmail them if they didn’t cooperate? Or what if she agreed to have sex, but in the middle, he suddenly started doing something she didn’t expect? Did she still give consent?

The point is, when you watch porn, there’s no way to know what kind of “consent” the actors have given. You can’t assume, just because someone appears in a porn video that they knew beforehand exactly what would happen or that they had a real choice or the ability to stop what was being done.

“I’ve never received a beating like that before in my life,” said Alexandra Read after being whipped and caned for 35 minutes. “I have permanent scars up and down the backs of my thighs. It was all things that I had consented to, but I didn’t know quite the brutality of what was about to happen to me until I was in it.” [8]

Did you catch what Alexandra said there? “It was all things that I had consented to.” That’s the problem with treating consent like it’s “all-or-nothing.” She consented to do X. She didn’t consent to do X, Y and Z. [2]

We’re not claiming that all porn is non-consensual. We’re just pointing out that some of it is and some of it isn’t, and when you watch it there’s no way to know which is which.

So, would you buy from a company if you knew that some, but not all, of their products were made with child labor? Would you support a store that abused some, but not all, of their female employees?

How can it be ethical to say that “porn is OK because participants give their consent,” when we know for a fact that some—probably much more than you think—do not?

If you are looking for more information or need help fighting a pornography addiction, or are a parent, you can go to fightthenewdrug.org and go to the Parent’s Guide or look into the Fortify Program as a step toward recovery.

Citations

[1] Amis, M. (2001, March 17). A Rough Trade. The Guardian (U.K.), March 17. Retrieved From Https://Www.Theguardian.Com/Books/2001/Mar/17/Society.Martinamis1

[2] Whisnant, R. (2016). Pornography, Humiliation, And Consent. Sexualization, Media, & Society, 2(3), 1-7. Doi:10.1177/2374623816662876

[3] Whisnant, R. (2016). Pornography, Humiliation, And Consent. Sexualization, Media, & Society, 2(3), 1-7. Doi:10.1177/2374623816662876; Dines, G., (2010). Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston, MA: Beacon Press; Dworkin, A., (1980). Pornography: Men Possessing Women. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

[4] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., And Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave And The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking And Pornography. In M. Mattar & J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal Of Human Rights And Civil Society 5: 1-21. Retrieved from http://www.Protectionproject.Org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2012/11/TPP-J-HR-Civ-Socy_Vol-5_2012-W-Cover.Pdf; U.S. Attorney’s Office For The Western District Of Missouri. (2010). Woman Tortured As Slave, Victim Of Trafficking And Forced Labor. Press Release, September 9. Retrieved from http://www.Justice.Gov/Usao/Mw/News2010/Bagley.Ind.Htm

[5] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., And Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave And The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking And Pornography. In M. Mattar & J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal Of Human Rights And Civil Society 5: 1-21. Retrieved From http://www.Protectionproject.Org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2012/11/TPP-J-HR-Civ-Socy_Vol-5_2012-W-Cover.Pdf; Malarek, V. (2009). The Johns: Sex For Sale And The Men Who Buy It. (Pp. 202-204) New York, NY: Arcade; Farley, M. (2007). Renting An Organ For Ten Minutes: What Tricks Tell Us About Prostitution, Pornography, And Trafficking. In D. E. Guinn & J. DiCaro (Eds.) Pornography: Driving The Demand In International Sex Trafficking, (P. 145). Bloomington, IN: Xlibris. D. M. Hughes. (2000). “Welcome To The Rape Camp”: Sexual Exploitation And The Internet In Cambodia. Journal Of Sexual Aggression, 6(1-2), 29-51. Doi:10.1080/13552600008413308

[6] U.S. Department Of Justice. (2012). Two Men Sentenced To Multiple Life Sentences For Enticing Women To South Florida To Engage In Commercial Sex Acts And Distributing Date Rape Pills. Press Release, Feb. 17.

[7] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., And Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave And The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking And Pornography. In M. Mattar & J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal Of Human Rights And Civil Society 5: 1-21; U.S. Attorney’s Office For The Western District Of Missouri. (2010). Woman Tortured As Slave, Victim Of Trafficking And Forced Labor. Press Release, September 9. Http://Www.Justice.Gov/Usao/Mw/News2010/Bagley.Ind.Htm

[8] Collective Shout (2014, July 24) The Sex Factor: Mainstreaming And Normalizing The Abuse And Exploitation Of Women. Retrieved From http://www.Collectiveshout.Org/The_sex_factor_mainstreaming_and_normalising_the_abuse_and_exploitation_of_women

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