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Sex trafficking is a supply and demand industry. If we can curb the demand, we can stop the victimization of children and youth for commercial sex.

Sex trafficking is a heinous crime targeting every young person it can. At Red Light Rebellion we believe that prevention begins with recognizing the warning signs of a potential trafficker, so as not to become manipulated and eventually exploited. But pimps are not the root cause of child exploitation; the men and women who purchase sexual service from minors are the root cause of child exploitation. Prevention must include curbing the demand or else it will be incomplete and ineffective.

Victor Malarek, a Canadian journalist who conducted research on the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking expressed it this way in his book, The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It:

Without men, there would be no demand. There would be no supply, either: it would not be profitable for pimps and criminals to stay in this business if platoons of men weren’t prowling side streets in search of purchased sex – male buyers who are willing to close their eyes and shell out fifty or a hundred dollars for a few minutes of physical bliss while deepening the misery of countless women and children.

But what fuels this demand? Why are adult men seeking out commercial sex from minors? Many researchers, including Malarek, have pinpointed it back to pornography. With the prevalence of explicit material available, the alarming rate in which child pornography is increasing and the trend in child sex trafficking, there seems to be an evident correlation.

Pornography is widely accepted, even argued as beneficial to human sexuality and relationships, so why has it been tied so tightly to one of the most atrocious crimes committed against another person?

The Harmful Effects of Pornography

The last couple decades science has shown that porn is not beneficial, but rather harmful to viewers, partners of viewers, and those within the porn industry itself. Organizations like Fight the New Drug have collaborated research and determined porn’s harmful effects in three main areas: the human brain, relationships, and society.

Porn’s harmful effects on the brain

When researchers began studying porn’s effects on the brain they discovered that pornography creates a chemical addition in the same way that hardcore drugs do. Drugs such as cocaine, heroine, and meth hijack a part of the brain called the Reward Pathway. This pathway is designed to release feel-good chemicals when we do something that promotes life, such as eating food, drinking water, or having a good conversation with a friend. Some of these chemicals include dopamine and oxytocin.

Dopamine in particular is highly addictive, and drugs are able to trigger its release in the brain in such a way that a massive amount is released at once. The brain’s receptors that process dopamine become so overwhelmed that they begin to shut down. This quickly develops a tolerance in drug users. They oftentimes finding themselves having to take more drugs, more drugs more frequently, and more hardcore drugs in order to feel the same high as when they first started using.

Science is showing that pornography affects the brain in the exact same way: that porn viewers find they must view more porn, more porn more frequently, and more hardcore (i.e. violent) versions in order to get the same turn on as before. This is known as a chemical addiction.

Due to the addictive nature of pornography, porn viewers end up engaging in content they are not naturally attracted to and many have been known to eventually solicit prostitutes as the next step in their addiction. One sex buyer put it this way:

Porn and mongering [buying prostitutes] go together like peas and carrots. Many times in my life I start out watching porn, next thing I know I am in my car looking for the real thing.

For more information, visit Fight the New Drug’s collection of in-depth information explaining the addictive nature of porn here.

Porn’s harmful effects on relationships

There is a myth in society that pornography is a great tool to spice up a sex life or learn about intimacy. On the contrary, research is showing an increase negative effect from porn on people’s relationships.

Many porn viewers find themselves being unsatisfied sexually in a relationship, struggling with emotional intimacy with his/her partner, and feeling lonely. When a person’s brain is accustomed to the overload of domaine that porn viewing creates, real life sexual encounters oftentimes leave them feeling unsatisfied.

Not only is the brain negatively impacted by unnatural amounts of dopamine being released, it also suffers when too many bonding chemicals (such as oxytocin) are released while viewing pornography. This hinders a porn viewer’s ability to emotionally connect and bond with a real partner because their brain has already bonded with so many actors in pornography. Science is proving that watching porn is essentially cheating.

Not only are porn viewers negatively impacted by their habit, but so are their partners. Partners of porn viewers have reported struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even PTSD once they find out about their partner’s viewing habits. Many feel that watching porn is the equivalent to cheating and experience the same Betrayal Trauma as someone whose husband or wife has had an affair. Pornography contributes to a high percentages of divorces every year.

For more information, visit Fight the New Drug’s collection of in-depth information explaining how porn kills love here.

Porn’s harmful effects on society

Porn not only ravages a person’s brain and relationships, but it contributes to some of the most depraved acts committed against other human beings. Pornography has evolved over the years to be increasingly violent against women, and portray younger actors. Gail Dines, a researcher of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College puts it this way:

The old distinction between soft-core and hard-core is over. The reason is, all the soft-core porn has migrated into pop culture. That’s where it sits today. When you go on the Internet, the vast majority of the pornography that is accessible is hard-core… The other problem with porn is that it sexualizes the violence and degradation against women. And when you sexualize that violence, you render that violence invisible.

One of the leading researchers on prostitution and sex trafficking, Melissa Farely, did a study with 854 women in prostitution in nine different countries. Nearly half of them reported that porn was made of them while in prostitution. Not only that, but half also said that buyers tried to force or did force them to do harmful things that the buyer had seen in porn. With such a global study it is undeniable that sex trafficking and pornography go hand-in-hand.

The Correlations: Victims are trafficked through pornography

One of Red Light Rebellion’s friends, who we have known for years, was first trafficked when she was 12 years old. After being raped repeatedly while on the streets, prostitution seemed glamorous; at least she had a “pimp” to protect her and buy her nice clothes. But the Life is anything but glamorous and through the course of her time being exploited, our friend’s pimp forced her to perform in a porno.

She can never get that video off the internet.

She can never erase the images imprinted in thousands of men’s minds of her being raped for profit.

Did they even realize she was being trafficked? Maybe she was forced to act as if she liked it, or wanted it. Maybe they drugged her so that her level of compliance would seem “genuine” on camera. Or maybe they wanted to capture the raw discomfort and pain she was experiencing because it fit the “genre” of porn being produced.

The thing with pornography is that there is no way for a viewer to know if the people he/she is watching on that screen are being forced into that situation or not.

Detectives working for VICE Enforcement Units that specialize in human trafficking have told us that pimps are using pornography as a medium to traffick their victims more than ever. It is an effective strategy because pornography is legal, so it is harder to prove that it is a trafficking situation and prosecute the pimps.

Pornography is one of the biggest tools that can be used to traffick victims.

The Correlations: Pornography normalizes purchasing sex

Although not all porn viewers will end up engaging in prostitution, many sex buyers struggle with pornography addiction. Those who have been addicted to both hardcore drugs and pornography have identified porn as being harder to kick. Unlike heroin that has to be ingested or injected for a person to get high, porn is a memory-based drug. The mind can recall images and scenes at will, or sometimes randomly. A screen does not need to be present for the brain for be triggered to that place, and many porn viewers have a desire to act out what they are watching.

With pornography becoming increasingly violent, many of these fantasies are harmful to the recipient. So not only are victims of sex trafficking being harmed by their traffickers, but they are in danger of the buyers harming them as well.

For more information, visit Fight the New Drug’s collection of in-depth information explaining how porn fuels sex trafficking here.

What does this mean?

With more research, science, and survivors of sex trafficking reporting the connection between porn and prostitution it has become evident that porn fuels sex trafficking. Porn is the primary catalyst for the demand of women and children for commercial sex.

Pornography is a tool to exploit a young person, a mechanism used to train a trafficked victim at their new “job,” a the catalyst for men to purchase sex, and the most addictive drug in society today. Viewing pornography contributes to all these things.

Getting Help

If you struggle with viewing porn, we want you to know that there is help. We do not want to cast blame or shame in this article; we simply want to inform people on the detrimental effects of porn on individuals, relationships, and society as a whole. On the contrary, there is hope!

Porn does not have to control anyone’s life and Fortify Program is an online recovery program designed to educate and empower a person to move away from pornography use. It is free, anonymous, and accessible to young people everywhere. If you or someone you know is struggling, check this out and begin living with newfound freedom!

What You Can Do

Killing the demand for sex trafficking is no small feat, but it starts with us! Share this article to spread the word about the harmful effects of porn and how it fuels sexual exploitation. If you are struggling with porn, take the first step in recovery by telling a trusted friend or adult and get started with Fortify. If you have a friend who you know struggles try talking to them and see how you might be able to help aid in their recovery through resources like these. Committing to not look at porn is one of the most powerful ways to take a stand against sex trafficking and fight for freedom!