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Is Porn Production a Form of Sex Trafficking?

Last Updated: March 21, 2014

by William Payne

The title of this post is a bit controversial. There are many who would react to it with a strong “no.” Porn, they claim, is just an expression of free speech. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s just a bit of “adult” fun. They argue that the suggestion that porn production and sex trafficking are one and the same is nothing more than a distraction from the problem of sexual slavery.

Justice Week 2010But do those positions stand up to scrutiny? Is the production of pornography just a business like any other? That is, of course, what the pornography industry would like us to believe for the sake of its own financial interests – a belief pornographers have spent millions of dollar

s to foster over the past decades. Is it rational to subscribe to that belief?

The word “pornography” derives from the Greek pornographos, which means “writing about prostitutes.” Pornography is inherently tied to prostitution. In fact, it is prostitution. Former FBI agent Roger Young said, “What happened to common sense? The fact that there is a camera filming the prostitution doesn’t change the fact of the prostitution.” What also doesn’t make much of a difference is whether prostituted women are being paid by a morally-deficient man or a pornography production studio (though you’ll find plenty of the former in the latter). It’s still payment for a commercial sex act, and therefore still prostitution, which is why porn production is illegal in most of the country outside of California.

But porn production isn’t just prostitution. Just take a look at the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which is a federal law first signed by President Clinton in 2000 and reauthorized by President Bush in 2003, 2005, and 2008. According to the TVPA, sex trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” If any of these elements are present in the production of pornography, then it’s sex trafficking. Is that a controversial idea? Perhaps. But that’s what the law says.

Certainly, most porn production that doesn’t involve minors probably will not be prosecuted under the TVPA, unless the presence of “force, fraud, or coercion” can be demonstrated. If they can, then what has occurred is considered a “severe form” of sex trafficking. And despite a lack of many prosecutions of porn producers, those elements are far from unheard of in the pornography industry. Just ask former porn performer Shelley Lubben. She says that “women are lured in, coerced and forced to do sex acts they never agreed to do… [and given] drugs and alcohol to help [them] get through hardcore scenes…The porn industry is modern-day slavery.”

So in short, porn production is prostitution is sex trafficking. Consuming porn is consuming commercial sex performed by “trafficked” individuals, however you slice it. To protect women and children from commercial sexual exploitation, and to avoid the damage to ourselves that porn consumption creates (plenty of research available on that these days), we must refuse to consume, and certainly refuse to purchase, the products of the commercial sex industry.

– – – –

This post is by William Payne. William served as an intern for pureJUSTICE this summer. He is a senior at Pittsburg State University where he is studying communications and advertising. He has also studied at Georgetown University’s Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service.

  1. N

    This is Just sooo true! Thank You for sheddign light on this!!!

    God Bless you!

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