The link between Pornography and Human Trafficking

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Demand, Human trafficking, ModernDaySlavery, Pornography, Robin Peake, Sex Trafficking

Robin Peake, 25, works as the Office Administrator for a Christian organisation. He tweets as @ulsterrambler on various issues relating to porn culture and current affairs.

Supply and Demand

Supply: In 2005, five men were sentenced for kidnapping and raping three North African women seeking asylum, and forcing them to make a porn film.1 American anti-trafficking centre Breaking Free states that approximately one in three of the prostitution victims they see have also been used in the production of pornography.2

Demand: 13,000 new films per year, 28,000 online viewers every second and 793 million Google hits for the word ‘Porn’.3

Accomplices, not mere Observers

The link is often made – and rightly so – between human trafficking and prostitution. And whilst those who campaign against trafficking are right to trumpet the connection with the sex trade, the danger in singling out this angle is that listeners may only see themselves as observers, and not as accomplices. Because it’s only dirty men who use prostitutes and therefore contribute to the cycle of slavery. Yet buying goods without questioning their origin4 or watching pornographic content without querying the compliance of those involved, is surely equally guaranteeing that where there is a demand, someone, willingly or not, is part of that supply.

‘Nothing is Free and Free Porn certainly costs somebody’

There are many lies told through pornography. That viewing it will satisfy your sexual desire. That consumption is harmless and even helpful to building stable relationships. That all those involved in its production are there by choice.

Numerous websites offering free pornographic pictures or videos carry with them a ‘live streaming’ option, where the viewer can see girls – many of whom look much younger than the website’s declaration of age suggests – perform sexual acts. Rows of thumbnail sized snapshots line the computer screen like a block of flats, each window offering the opportunity to see a semi naked girl engaging in typed chat with men and women from around the globe, attempting to woo one of them into parting with their money for a private screening. The ‘room’ generally consists of some sort of background sheeting, behind which lie God knows how many other girls in an unidentified city.

‘They cost less and do more’

Most porn websites offer a selection of free content, much in the same way that a butcher might offer some samples from his deli counter to tempt you into a purchase. The demand for free samples of porn online means that website producers are seeking more output for less money in an attempt to convince browsers that parting with their cash will enable them to view a huge library of feature length films. Cheaper films, mean cheaper actors, and English dialogue is replaced with mutterings in distinctly Eastern European tongues, or cedes altogether to music and moans. A 2005 study claimed that pornographers were travelling to poorer countries where they could use and exploit women and children with fewer risks. Budapest, Hungary was cited as Europe’s capital for the production of porn films because, as one pornography executive put it, Eastern European actors ‘cost less and do more’.5

Ascension to Disbelief

Colebridge’s Suspension of Disbelief is a prerequisite for any person to enjoy a book or a film which includes scenes or a plot that is beyond the realm of possibility. Would Forrest Gump have been so enjoyable if you’d sat and scorned the likelihood of Forrest becoming a top class American Football

and ping pong player, set up a leading shrimp corporation and meet three US presidents? With porn, Ascension to Disbelief is required for enjoyment. How could anyone enjoy watching a girl ‘perform’ while thinking:

Do her parents know she’s doing this?

Is she really 18?

I wonder what her real name is.

Does she want to do this?

Is she being forced to?

Am I contributing to modern day slavery by watching this?

Rather, the viewer must disbelieve what he or she knows to be true: That some – though by no means all – actors or models in pornography are not there for the pleasure, nor even for the money, but because they have been bought, kidnapped or tricked. There may be a transaction involving money and pleasure, but it’s doubtful the trafficked girl receives much of either.

In his book, Sex God, Rob Bell wrote that ‘Lust is slavery’.6 While acknowledging the truth in this, that consumption of porn can spiral into wanting more but getting less satisfaction, we ought not to selfishly focus solely on the problem for the person who watches porn. Because at least they’ve consented to it.

If you still think there’s something abstract about human trafficking and porn, then check out this awesome music video


1, Appeals lodged in porn, animal sex case, 16 Feb. 2005.

2 Hughes, Donna M., The Demand for Victims of Sex Trafficking, Women’s Studies Program, University of

Rhode Island, 2005 ( p.26.

3 Internet Filter Review

4 Feingold, David A., ‘Human Trafficking’, Foreign Policy, 150, 2005. This study claims that more people are

trafficked into labour than prostitution.

5 Hughes, The Demand for Victims of Sex Trafficking, p.26.

6 Bell, Rob, Sex God, (Zondervan: 2007), pp 75-8.

Further Reading

Guinn, David, Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking (Captive Daughters Media: 2007)

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