- - Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Pornography has been aptly described as “prostitution in front of cameras.” Many users of pornography, however, have no clue about the huge industry behind porn, much less the abusive back story behind porn production.

For an industry that so obviously has such a profound negative impact on its users, as well as the broader culture, porn has become a staple of life for a broad swath of the public – many of whom never think of it as abusive of women, girls and children. Many users never question the objectification of the females, how it affects the way they view women (and hence, the impact it has on how they interact with women) or how porn might threaten all girls and women. Many never stop to think how the broader culture has changed because of the widespread use of pornography.

Porn is now big, BIG business. According to a study released in 2017 by the Seattle-based company N2H2, there are more than “1.3 million websites serving up about 260 million pages of erotic content.” Other estimates say the figure can be as high as 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).

Pornography is also a big, BIG bucks industry. A CBS report by Steve Kroft reports that porn is a $10 billion industry, making the selling of sexually explicit material “one of the biggest cultural changes in the past 25 years.” Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “We have an industry that is making billions of dollars a year, spreading to cable television and to the Internet, and yet their employees are considered to be throwaway people.” Corporations typically do not disclose their income from pornography, but Omni hotels stopped showing porn in its hotels because of their commitment to family values; they estimated their annual revenue loss at $1 million.

Aside from the obvious “bigness” of the porn industry, there is the brutality, longevity and the pervasiveness of pornographic images. I’ve summarized five ways that porn affects us all.

First, prostituted girls and women are frequently used to film pornography. Often those prostituted girls and women are trafficked – that is, they have been lured, forced, coerced or are in sexual slavery because of fraudulent manipulation. The victims are, typically, vulnerable either psychologically, physically or emotionally. They have no safety net or are in a midst of a personal or actual trauma or crisis. On the international scene the victims are poor or in a vulnerable population; in the U.S. they are typically runaways who are easily found by experienced predators who know where they usually go and how to gain their trust in order to capture them for the sex trade.

Second, the porn and prostitution industries abuse and objectify women. In a study of nearly 900 prostituted women from nine countries, 49 percent of the women reported that pornographic films of them were made while they were prostituting, and 47 percent of them reported being harmed while being forced to do things men had seen in the porn they viewed.

One aspect of objectification that is rarely mentioned is the matter of longevity. Porn “regularly chews up and spits out performers.” Very few make a career in the industry and newcomers rarely make more than $1,000 for a sex scene. Even directors of a porn film will likely make less than $1,500 per day of filming. While at first those amounts might sound good to a run-away teen, in the long term such careers do not compare with typical Hollywood film makers and stars. Plus, as already noted, the industry uses up participants in appallingly short time spans.

Psychologists repeat a common refrain that pornography has distorted many men’s view of healthy intimacy. Women, including college coeds, report “feeling manipulated and coerced” into sexual behavior they didn’t want and regretted. Perhaps some of the deluge of #MeToo reports stem from these differing views shaped by pornography of what is expected in intimate behavior.

Third, porn is used as a training tool for trafficking victims. Girls and women report being forced to watch hours and hours of pornography in order to break down their inhibitions and to learn what they must do for those who purchase their services or in the films in which they are forced to participate. Thus, porn becomes a training tool that translates images to action. The girls and women are expected to visualize, and then act out what they’ve seen. Such experiences and images are imprinted on the girls’ and women’s minds and psyches.

The other side of that coin is that pornographic images of the girls and women are used to threaten and control them, keeping them in bondage to the pimps and porn producers. With the Internet, images cannot be permanently erased. That gives the pimps and producers power over the victims who learn that the images stay there to haunt and humiliate them even if they manage to escape the “trade.”

Fourth, porn increases the risks of sexual crimes. Critics argue against “blaming porn” for crime because individuals must be held accountable for their actions and we should not shift blame or erase the consequences for bad behavior. Nevertheless, we all know that people are influenced by what they see (otherwise television advertising would not be so expensive!). Rory Reid, “Porn Use and Sex Crimes,” quotes James J. Kilpatrick, the newspaper columnist who long ago wrote, “Common sense is a better guide than laboratory experiments; and common sense tells us pornography is bound to contribute to sexual crime.”

Obviously, most porn users do not engage in violent behaviors, however, the parental control software-maker, Net Nanny, lists and quotes from more than a dozen famous violent offenders and serial killers (like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy) who were addicted to pornography. If a person has “aggressive or violence tendencies,” pornography can “exacerbate those tendencies” and prompt the viewer to put into action their fantasies or baser inclinations. There are academic studies that conclude that there are “associations between frequent pornography use and sexually aggressive behaviors … for men at high risk for sexual aggression.” Similarly, there is a study indicating more than 25 percent of rapists report porn addictions.

Fifth, pornography has moved from the street to the home via the Internet. The virtual brothel then affects all of culture. Time was, the consumer of porn had to go to the sleazy areas of town to satisfy their increasingly insatiable sexual appetites. With the move to the Internet, our living rooms became cyber brothels. It has become convenient to view perverted sexual acts in privacy.

This easy availability of pornography was bound to change cultural mores and men’s expectations. Elizabeth Harrington of The Free Beacon reported  last year that hundreds of federal employees in various agencies were watching up to six hours a day of porn on their work computers.

Porn frequently portrays sex with multiple partners as being more exciting than “plain vanilla” monogamous relationships. There is, of course, no mention of consequences, like an STD (which is near epidemic stage among 20 somethings). Further, Gail Dines, professor of Sociology at Wheelock College in Boston, describes an ominous shift in focus in more recent pornography – sex that brutalizes and glamorizes violent, cruel attacks on girls and women. The testimony of “Grace” in the Aziz Ansari allegations illustrates the contemporary sexual encounter lacking any romance, tender affection or basic communication before moving to “wham-bam” sex.

Finally, I can think of no person who is more reprehensible than one who considers girls and women to be commercial commodities to be used as disposable goods to be repeatedly bought and sold until they are used up. Pornography has contributed to the #MeToo culture, where girls and women are degraded, exploited and dehumanized. Would anyone be surprised if the trial of Harvey Weinstein reveals that he was heavily involved with pornography?

Porn is not just a crime against the individual victim; it is also a crime against society because it corrupts human intimacy making it crass and devoid of decency and respect for girls and women. There can be no doubt but that the presence of sex trafficking and pornography in society undermines everyone’s liberty and freedom.


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