Trigger Warning: Mentions of sexual assault, r*pe, torture, and other potentially distressing content.

It’s a taboo subject, but one that needs to be addressed at times: porn. Though whatever people do or watch in the privacy of their own space may seem harmless, there actually are risks involved with certain areas of the porn industry. I’m not talking about the concept of “sin,” the myths of health issues that masturbation could cause, or anything like that. We’re going to be discussing the growing violence shown in the porn industry, and what connections it can have to rape and sex trafficking.

Let’s backtrack first though. In order to understand the extent of risk, we must understand the reach of porn. PornHub is one of countless porn websites. They also release a yearly review every year. In their 2019 Year in Review (1), they stated that their website received over 42 billion visits, over 39 billion searches, and had 1.36 million new hours of footage uploaded to their site. That’s equal to 169 years of porn footage, or 2.8 hours of footage being uploaded every minute during 2019. They also shared that their website featured over 98,000 “amateur models.” The website’s top three topics were Japanese, Lesbian, and Amateur.

Now we add in the violence part of the equation. BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominant/submissive, sadism/masochism) has grown more popular and discussed in recent years. According to Psychology Today, “between five and ten million Americans are, at least to some extent, into this form of sex play” (2). That interest is what made 50 Shades of Grey, an erotica novel where a business man convinces a younger virgin to sign a sex contract with him, a bestseller in multiple countries, with four films made off of it. This is, generally speaking, not a big issue. If two consenting partners wish to add in some handcuffs or even go so far as to act out sexual assault fantasiesthey aren’t hurting anyone else by doing so. This can become an issue when applied to pornography though.

People may watch violent pornography with the viewpoint of “it's not hurting anyone.” We often don’t actually know that thoughespecially when viewing more amateur films. Anyone can upload videos to many of the porn websites out there, which means that the actress role-playing might actually not be.

In 2004, mirroring the 50 Shades scenario brought up earlier, a man named Edward Bagley convinced an eighteen year old to sign a “sex slave contract” with him (3). He then went on to not only sexually assault the girl, but torture her, mutilate her, kill beloved animals in front of her, threaten to bury her alive, and “brand her” with a barcode tattoo. Bagley also put out live web streams on the internet of his torture of the girl.

Another case, which took place between 2006 and 2011, featured two men named Emerson Callum and Lavont Flanders. They held fake auditions for beverage commercials, and would have the women pose with and drink the beverage, which was drugged. “Once the drugs had taken effect, Flanders would drive the victims to Callum, who had sex with the victims while Flanders filmed. The defendants then edited, produced, and sold the footage of the sex acts over the Internet and to pornography stores and businesses all across the country” (4).

Those are just two of many cases where such combinations of rape and porn have occurred. The reality is that people can’t know where the videos are coming from, or whether the situations portrayed are faked fantasies or real abuse … and the idea of watching actual abuse and assault by accident is rather terrifying. There’s several ways of addressing this problem, including supporting movements to limit what can be put on sites and add more protections for those featured in the videos. There’s also switching to lighter materials or erotica. Then there’s just knowing where the video comes from and only watching content from trusted sources. Regardless of which option works best for you, or if you have another one in mind, we must prioritize the victims and survivors.

 

(1)

https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2019-year-in-review

(2)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201606/how-much-porn-depicts-violence-against-women

(3)

“Woman Tortured as Slave, Victim of Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor.” FBI, FBI, 18 May 2011, archives.fbi.gov/archives/kansascity/press-releases/2010/kc090910.htm.

(4)

“Two Men Sentenced to Multiple Life Terms for Enticing Women to South Florida to Engage in Commercial Sex Acts While Under the Influence of Date Rape Drugs.” FBI, FBI, 17 Feb. 2012, archives.fbi.gov/archives/miami/press-releases/2012/two-men-sentenced-to-multiple-life-terms-for-enticing-women-to-south-florida-to-engage-in-commercial-sex-acts-while-under-the-influence-of-date-rape-drugs.  

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