CESE Online Global Summit: Inherent exploitation in porn industry cannot be wished away in guise of 'free speech'

One of the many concerns around the porn industry is the spread of sex trafficking within it


                            CESE Online Global Summit: Inherent exploitation in porn industry cannot be wished away in guise of 'free speech'
(Getty Images)
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TW: Sexual abuse, violence

With the advent of newer and faster technology, access to pornography on the Internet has been made easier over the past few decades. While nearly half a century ago physical barriers would have made access to pornography harder, today, at the press of a button, many forms of pornography are easily accessible. Illegal pornography -- like child abuse images -- is available on the dark web for those who wish to find it. 

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One of the many concerns of the pornography industry is the spread of sex trafficking within it. For instance, reputed porn website Pornhub may have a flair for philanthropy, however, it has been accused multiple times of supporting content that features unwilling and trafficking victims. One of the sessions from the virtual Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation (CESE) annual online global summit by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) focuses on the prevalence of sex trafficking in mainstream pornography. The session was given by Christen Price, who serves as Legal Counsel for the NCOSE. Price explored the human rights framework for thinking about pornography and presented some possible strategies for legal accountability for the sexual exploitation industry.

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Price hoped that society could eradicate all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation, and began by "exposing the links between" pornography to sex trafficking - often referred to as "modern slavery." She noted that a 2010 analysis of top pornographic videos found physical violence in 88 percent of the content. She said, "The violence included slapping, biting, hair pulling, gagging, electrocution, and penetration of a woman by three or more men at the same time." She also noted the presence of pornography that clearly depicts rape, "such as where the woman is obviously unconscious or extremely impaired by alcohol or drugs." Price noted that violence in pornography is racialized and gendered - in the past few weeks, mainstream sites have featured "police brutality" as a theme in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests.

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Price also noted that pornography use is linked to increased sexual violence, largely against women. She noted that survey data collected between 1973 and 2010 showed that pornography use among men had increased gradually, which she says provides "scripts for sexual activity where emotional intimacy and affection are absent, and aggression and physically risky practices are prevalent."

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The video also features Price talking about the myths regarding pornography. The first one she tackles is that it is fantasy. She says that this is false, "not least because of the recent rise of amateur pornography." Another myth that she talks about is that pornography is free speech and noted that "free access to women's bodies, free use of women's lives," among other activities were passed off under the guise of free speech. 

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With this, Price linked the exploitation of women to slavery. She also noted that the Mann Act -- a United States federal law passed in 1910 which made it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose" -- had its history in the abolishment of slavery. Price noted that the pornography industry engages in sex trafficking -- she said that a commercial sex act is always present in pornography even when it is free because it is monetized through online ads. Price then went on to say that many cases involve force, fraud, or coercion.

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To end the impunity, Price suggests that there must be legal and cultural strategies for holding the industry accountable, adding that there is a massive need for increased prosecutions and proper enforcement of already existing laws to protect victims.