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Exploitation Is Not Entertainment

If you've seen this billboard around your town, you might be wondering what it means. Allow us to explain.

“Exploitation is not entertainment.”

If you’ve seen this billboard around your town, you might be wondering what it means. Allow us to explain.

One of the biggest misconceptions about porn is that it’s personal, harmless entertainment. What many viewers don’t know is that sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are not uncommon in the industry, and nonconsensual videos are constantly uploaded to mainstream porn sites.

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

Unfortunately, image-based abuse, nonconsensual pornography, and child sexual abuse material are increasingly common issues on porn sites, which is especially concerning considering that many victims of image-based abuse experience severe and disruptive mental health effects including PTSD, anxiety, and depression.Bates, S. (2017). Revenge Porn and Mental Health: A Qualitative Analysis of the Mental Health Effects of Revenge Porn on Female Survivors. Feminist Criminology, 12(1), 22–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085116654565Copy  As an interesting yet tragic side-note, longitudinal research shows that porn consumers report a greater willingness to share sexts without consent.van Oosten, J., & Vandenbosch, L. (2020). Predicting the Willingness to Engage in Non-Consensual Forwarding of Sexts: The Role of Pornography and Instrumental Notions of Sex. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1121–1132. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01580-2Copy 

Get The Facts

Consent in porn production

But isn’t content created by official porn production companies and uploaded to well-known, mainstream sites more reliably consensual?

In an effort to soothe consumers’ worries about nonconsensual content and absolve the producers of liability, some porn production companies film “exit interviews” where the performers confirm whether they consented to everything that was filmed. But even these supposed confirmations of consent have proven to be deeply problematic. While exit interviews are presumably filmed after production has wrapped up, they are often filmed before the performers are paid. Even if they’ve already been paid, the guarantee that they’ll be booked for future jobs in the industry often depends on not “being difficult” or saying something they experienced was abusive, since production companies cannot use the footage if a performer states they were assaulted or abused.

One common argument in defense of porn is that professional performers are all “consenting adults” who “love their jobs.” But unfortunately, that is virtually impossible to guarantee. In the porn industry, the lines between abuse and consent are so blurred, that there’s no viable way to tell the difference. Performers can be coerced into participating and into lying about their experiences on set, and consumers wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell the difference even if they were watching something nonconsensual. Is it any wonder that if a performer has already been abused or pushed too far during filming, they might be afraid of inciting further abuse or industry scorn by speaking out?

Related: Why Consent Can’t Always Be Guaranteed in Porn

Then, of course, there’s the issue of the freedom to revoke consent even if it’s already been given. A former porn performer described her experience of being whipped and caned for 35 minutes on set, saying, “I’ve never received a beating like that before in my life… 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.”Conger, K. (2013 ). Gag order: Sex workers allege mistreatment at kink.com. SF Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.sfweekly.com/news/gag-order-sex-workers-allege-mistreatment-at-kink-com/Copy 

Did you catch what she 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. This is important: true consent can be withdrawn at any moment, yet many performers are required to sign contracts prior to the actual shooting, making it incredibly difficult to revoke consent even if the situation becomes uncomfortable or dangerous.

Is a “yes” truly valid if “no” is not a safe option? The fact that they won’t be paid or their industry reputation will be damaged if they do revoke consent in the middle of a scene is an element of coercion that invalidates their consent in the first place, and could even be legally defined as a form of sex trafficking.

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

Unfortunately, abuse in the porn industry is incredibly pervasive. And when you look closely, you find that there is virtually no formal system for reporting and addressing that abuse in a way that holds abusers accountable while keeping performers safe. What’s worse? Those who do publicly report or speak out about abuse are often blacklisted, threatened, dismissed, or further abused.Lange, A. (2018). This woman says authorities doubted her sexual assault claim because she does porn. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/arianelange/nikki-benz-porn-defamation-lawsuit-metoo#.ldPVz1Yg0YCopy Clark-Flory, T. (2018). Porn actors Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon allege abuse, violence, and boundary violation on set. Jezebel. Retrieved from https://jezebel.com/porn-actors-leigh-raven-and-riley-nixon-allege-abuse-v-1823677195Copy  Plus, many performers struggle to find work outside of the porn industry due to the stigma of being a former porn performer. Performers are punished inside of and out of the industry, the accused perpetrators walk free, and the cycle continues.

Of course, we’re not claiming that all porn contains abuse or nonconsensual content. But in order for consumers to make informed decisions regarding porn, we think it’s important to point out that some pornographic content isn’t consensual—and it’s virtually impossible to guarantee which is which.

BHW - The World

Consent on porn sites

In addition to porn production companies, most porn sites do not verify the age or consent of individuals who appear in the images and/or videos posted to their sites, many times freely uploaded by site users.

Not only is there virtually no standard system in place to confirm that all participants gave their consent and are of legal age, but even on the most popular porn sites, guaranteeing age and consent are not necessarily prerequisites to becoming a “verified” user. Even on sites who do verify users and allow those users to upload content, many often only require the account owner to verify their identity, and don’t require age or consent verification for the individuals depicted in the content. That means that virtually anyone can post anything—including image-based abuse. In fact, there have been many documented instances of verified accounts posting nonconsensual content, child sexual abuse material, or content made of sex trafficking victims.Pornhub sued by 40 Girls Do Porn sex trafficking victim. (2020). BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55333403Copy ParlVu. (2021). Meeting no. 20 ETHI— Standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics. Retrieved from https://parlvu.parl.gc.ca/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20210219/-1/34789?Language=English&Stream=VideoCopy 

Related: 7 Cases of Nonconsensual Porn and Rape Tapes Pornhub Doesn’t Want Consumers to Know About

There have been many public reports of underage content on popular porn sites, though there are certainly many more that haven’t been publicly reported. One 15-year-old victim, for example, had been missing for a year before she was spotted in a number of videos on a popular porn site—and yes, the account that posted the videos had been “verified”.McDonald, S. (2019). Florida man arrested after 58 porn videos, photos link him to missing underage teen girl. Newsweek. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/florida-man-arrested-after-58-porn-videos-photos-link-him-missing-underage-teen-girl-1467413Copy Cheong, I. M. (2020). Pornhub verified child sex trafficking. Human Events. Retrieved from https://humanevents.com/2020/03/01/pornhub-verified-child-sex-trafficking/Copy  In another incident, a young woman had to contact the police in order to get videos of her as a 16-year-old removed from a verified account on a popular porn site.Gallien, S. (2020). Tuscaloosa man charged for producing porn with a minor, uploading it to PornHub. ABC News. Retrieved from https://abc3340.com/news/local/pornhub-account-tied-to-tuscaloosa-mans-arrest-for-producing-porn-with-a-minorCopy 

And, as another example, videos of 14-year-old Rose Kalemba’s assault were uploaded to Pornhub after being raped at knifepoint. She explains, “I sent Pornhub begging emails. I pleaded with them. I wrote, ‘Please, I’m a minor, this was assault, please take it down.'” Pornhub apparently never responded. That is, until Rose got the idea to set up a new email and pose as a lawyer threatening legal action. Once she did, the videos were reportedly removed within 48 hours.Mohan, M. (2020). ‘I was raped at 14, and the video ended up on a porn site’. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-51391981Copy 

Countless others have had intimate images of them shared on porn sites without their consent. Many are not even aware that images of them have been recorded, let alone shared. In fact, research indicates that “hidden cam” videos are a common theme on porn sites,Vera-Gray, F., McGlynn, C., Kureshi, I., & Butterby, K. (2021). Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography. The British Journal of Criminology, doi:10.1093/bjc/azab035Copy  often exploiting real victims who had no idea they were being filmed or photographed.Thompson, C. (2019). Clandestine college locker room videos taken of visiting women athletes, uploaded to world's largest porn site. Deadspin. Retrieved from https://deadspin.com/clandestine-college-locker-room-videos-taken-of-visitin-1839273496Copy  These events often cause lifelong negative impact for those who experience it. According to one survey of nonconsensual pornography victims, 51% reported having suicidal thoughts due to the image-based abuse, and 93% reported experiencing severe emotional distress.End Revenge Porn (2014). Revenge porn statistics. Civil Cyber Rights Initiative. Retrieved from https://www.cybercivilrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/RPStatistics.pdfCopy 

Related: How Porn Can Hurt a Consumer’s Partner

Another deeply troubling trend in the world of pornography is “deepfake” porn—explicit videos which are digitally manipulated to include someone else’s face or voice. Deepfake videos can be made of anyone whose photos are accessible, and while most deepfake porn videos portray well-known celebrities, they can also be made using images of everyday people. One report shows that hundreds of deepfake videos are uploaded to porn sites each month and receive millions of views, yet it is incredibly rare that these videos are made consensually.Burgess, M. (2020). Porn sites still won’t take down nonconsensual deepfakes. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/porn-sites-still-wont-take-down-non-consensual-deepfakes/Copy 

Despite the fact that nonconsensual deepfake porn is a form of image-based abuse, many porn sites have been known to advertise which celebrity names were most searched on their sites throughout the year, and these names regularly coincide with nonconsensual deepfake porn.Lee, D. (2018). Deepfakes porn has serious consequences. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42912529Copy 

FTND Resources

Is it worth it?

How can you know whether the porn you’re watching is truly consensual? Well, the unfortunate truth is that in the porn industry, there is no guarantee. It is virtually impossible to know whether any particular content is consensual, ethical, or even legal. At the end of the day, is it worth it? Is it worth contributing to the demand that keeps afloat an industry that profits from nonconsensual content?

Is it worth the possibility of contributing to someone’s exploitation or re-traumatization? No one’s exploitation should be consumed as entertainment.

Who is Fight the New Drug

Decades of studies from respected institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. As porn becomes increasingly normalized, education on its well-documented harms becomes increasingly important. This grassroots movement was founded in 2009 by four passionate college students ready to change the conversation about pornography.

Fight the New Drug (FTND) is a non-religious and non-legislative nonprofit that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

Think of it this way: most people are exposed to porn at an early age before they’ve been educated on the decades of science and research demonstrating porn’s harms on consumers, relationships, and society. We exist to educate individuals on the harms of porn, so they can make an educated decision on whether they’d like to consume it or not.

How to get involved

First, educate yourself! The best way to educate others on the harms of porn is to become educated yourself! We have tons of free educational resources to help ramp up your knowledge of this issue, including our Get The Facts articles, Consider Before Consuming podcast, or Truth About Porn research database.

Related: Join the Movement: 10 Ways You Can Get Involved

Educate your community! If you’re looking for a way to help raise awareness on the harms of porn in your community, consider hosting a live presentation by Fight the New Drug! We’ll send one of our certified presenters to your school, company, or community event so they can present the harms of porn in an engaging and age-appropriate live event. As an organization, we’ve held thousands of live events, with over 1 million audience members, in various places across the globe. Learn more by requesting more information here.

Live Presentations

Not quite ready to book a presentation? You can still host a live event to educate your community on the harms of porn by hosting a screening of our documentary, Brain, Heart, WorldThis documentary features science, research, and personal stories demonstrating the harms of porn, but in a light-hearted, educational, and entertaining way. You can purchase a public screening license available for 30 days, 1 year, or lifetime access. Learn more about our public screening licenses here.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to get involved in this global grassroots movement, we invite you to explore our resources or find more ideas in this article.

Support the movement

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we rely on generous donations from our supporters to mobilize this movement! Throughout the years, and through the support of our Fighters, we’ve been able to educate countless individuals on the harms of pornography and sexual exploitation with our educational resources!

When you donate to Fight the New Drug, your donation goes directly toward helping us create free educational resources that help individuals make an educated decision regarding pornography.