Pornography’s link to sex trafficking and forced abortions, though much of mainstream media tries to hide it, is undeniable. Secular and faith-based organizations alike are exposing the connection, and you can help.
Warning: Some readers may find the facts in this article disturbing.
Human trafficking victims are forced into sex slavery—at the average age of 13—in a number of ways. In some cases, girls are promised jobs in foreign countries, smuggled over borders, and then told that they have a “smuggling debt” to pay. In other cases, young runaways get picked up by pimps who promise to house them. Some also report willfully modeling or “porn-acting” only to be swept up into sex trafficking. Others still are recruited by “broken-in girls” who are promised a profit or freedom for getting their traffickers more “talent.”
Regardless of their origins, virtually all sex trafficking survivors tell the same horror story of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. An astounding 99.1% report physical health problems such as malnutrition and memory loss due to forced drug abuse, beatings, and poor living conditions (see section three of this Annals of Health Law study). One study says, “All but two of those [former trafficking victims] who responded to the survey (104/106, 98.1%) reported at least one psychological issue during their captivity and survivors noted an average of more than a dozen [psychological issues] (12.11).” One porn actor-turned-victim says that there are now only “pieces of skin, bone, the brain of a robot” where there used to be “a huge and warm heart.” Interviews with 854 women in trafficking across nine countries showed that 68% of the women had PTSD.
How does porn come into this? As the latter study acutely notes, “Pornography is cultural propaganda which drives home the notion that women are prostitutes.” Accordingly, porn fuels the sex trafficking industry; 80% of people who survived sex trafficking said that their “clients” showed them pornography to illustrate the acts that they wanted performed. A shocking 52% of survivors said that they were forced to watch pornography in order to “groom” them to their buyers’ tastes.
Still, many claim that porn use is a victimless crime. Maybe they think, contrary to the evidence of sociological studies, that no one is hurting on their side of the screen; however, they fail to consider the reverse of this X-rated coin. Major pornography providers do not produce, but buy most of their content. Where is their largest source of cheap porn? Traffickers. The same 854-woman survey referenced above showed that almost half (49%) of the women had pornography made of them while they were being trafficked. Traffickers use porn as a blackmail to keep their victims in the slave trade and as a marketing tool to attract new clients—porn is not victimless.
If these “stars” seem happy and willing on screen, it is because, as survivors report, they are beaten, drugged, and coerced into submission. Porn industry survivor Jessie Rogers notes her former co-stars’ aversion to the ‘adult industry,’ “None of them liked doing what they were doing. They were just doing it for the money, and they dreamed of getting out.” Pointing out porn’s connection with prostitution, she says the following:
“What I quickly realized was that the porn industry is kind of like a ‘cover up’ to run prostitution rings, where the agents who are actually pimps make even more money sending their ‘girls’ out to those type of gigs.”
Perhaps more sickening is that, for traffickers, the younger the girls are, the higher their price tag, making underground child pornography a lucrative market. In fact, the most searched for material of the $13 billion per year pornography industry is “teen,” as a Fight the New Drug Report evinces. (The estimated annual revenue of the sex trade on the whole, mostly gained by exploiting young girls, is $33.9 billion.)
How does forced abortion come into this? Women who have escaped the sex trafficking industry report having forced, often unprotected sex 12-30 times daily; some say that had as many as 50 buyers in a typical day. That frequency of intercourse often leads to pregnancies. Confirming this notion, a study by the Annals of Health Law noted the following:
“Even without accounting for possible underreporting, forty-seven of the sixty-six women (71.2%) who gave an answer for the number of pregnancies they had during trafficking reported at least one pregnancy while being trafficked; fourteen of these (21.2% of respondents) reported five or more pregnancies.”
As pregnant women cannot make their pimps money, the women are often forced to have abortions. One victim noted, “In most of [my six abortions,] I was under serious pressure from my pimps to abort the babies.” Another woman of the same study reported seventeen abortions while being trafficked, at least some of which were not her choice. A study by Annals of Health Law study reported that 55.2% of 67 respondents reported at least one abortion while being trafficked. 29.9% reported multiple abortions.
What can I do?
1. Refuse to look at pornography. Before anyone can become a part of the solution to this problem, he must see that he is not a part of the problem. As a Fight the New Drug Campaign video states, “Fighting human trafficking and then watching porn is like protesting a corrupt politician and then donating to his campaign.” Porn and sex trafficking are inseparably linked. Refuse to watch.
2. Protect your family and yourself. Explaining the problem of easily accessible porn, the U.S. Department of Justice stated, “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” Companies such as Covenant Eyes and X3 Watch specialize in keeping devices from accessing pornographic content, and free versions of their software are available. Internet users, especially parents, should be taking advantage of these filters.
I myself—a nineteen-year-old, single male—use a free version of X3 Watch. My friend and accountability partner lovingly agreed to “restrict” (meaning eliminate) my ability to access my phone and tablet’s normal browsers, and I did the same for him. Being accountable to each other allows us to counsel others on the tough topic of porn use without reservation.
3. Be vocal. If you are a parent, sites like CovenantEyes.com have a myriad of resources on how/when to talk and how/when not to talk to your child(ren) about pornography. Parent or not, you can join the ranks of those who are fighting pornography use by exposing its harmful effects on your college campus, on social media, and/or in your circles. You do not have to be crass, just be honest. Porn is not a victimless crime, and our errotomaniacal world needs to know that.
If it is not enough that watching porn leads its users to devalue commitment, dehumanize women, diminish their own sexual satisfaction, become desensitized to cruelty, and desire more and harder pornography (which starts the cycle over), then it should be enough porn fuels the sex trafficking of women and girls worldwide and causes tens of thousands of forced abortions per year. Stand with me and fight!