Pornography, Trafficking and Prostitution: Connections are Clear
As we continue to reflect on White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week , we have included testimony from a briefing with Congressional staff examining what Congress can to do enforce existing obscenity laws. During that briefing, Enough Is Enough President Donna Rice Hughes explained that kids have free and easy access to hardcore obscenity via the web (complete remarks can be seen here). Another one of the speakers, Laura J. Lederer, J.D., a leading voice in efforts to end human trafficking, examined the link between sex trafficking and illegal pornography. Laura’s thought-provoking comments can be read in full in a previous blog here, but in summary, she highlighted the following:
- Some types of pornography actually are sex trafficking.
- Some perpetrators are trafficking and/or exploiting women and children and recording the acts they perform.
- Pornography is used in sex trafficking and the sex industry to train women and children what to do.
- Pornography creates and provides rationalizations for exploiters as to how and why their sexually exploitive behaviors are acceptable.
Just a few weeks ago, J. Robert Flores, Esq., former Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, submitted comments on behalf of Enough Is Enough to a hearing on the role of websites in facilitating human trafficking, the illegal sex trade and it’s impact on public safety before the Massachusetts Attorney General. A snapshot of Robert’s comments, specific to the relationship between the normalization of sexual content and prostitution is included below.
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Comments from J. Robert Flores, Esq. submitted on behalf of Enough Is Enough
The Web makes it possible for anyone, including teens, to advertise themselves or their schoolmates as prostitutes. Just as a teen can access pornography websites, create or enter a chat room that gets filled with pedophiles, and send and receive pictures of themselves or other friends engaging in sex or nude, the Web can facilitate the entrance into prostitution by a teen on their own or at the instigation of an adult or a minor friend. The key attributes of the Web—a huge audience, low or no cost use, and practical anonymity, allow teens and adults to meet in ways that can escape attention by caring adults, reach an audience of adult men that they could never meet in person, and solve the transportation problem that teens often have by allowing the teen to specify the meeting place and organize the transportation through the “John”.
Because the Web is a place where legitimate business is conducted alongside illegal trade, it has the ability to confuse a user about the legality of certain activities or products that can be purchased or obtained. Young people already suffer from the damage that pop culture has done regarding the conduct of appropriate sexual expression. Celebrity sex videos that add to, instead of detracting from, the celebrity’s ability to get work or hawk products are well known to youth. The ubiquity of pornography on the Web sends the further message that it must not be so dangerous a practice to create, view, or sell such material. Taken together, it is no longer strange for young people to consider selling themselves or their friends for sex if the money is “right”, the person’s status goes up, or the excitement and danger appeal to their adolescent desire to test limits. Web based businesses that promote any illegal or illicit sexual activity contribute to the confusion of teens who may decide to initiate such activity or be less likely to resist adult pressure to participate even when they really don’t want to engage in sexual activity.
For students and teens, however, who have a history or abuse and live in stressful and chaotic environments where money is often earned through criminal or illicit activity, the Web represents even greater danger—it can provide validation and support to a teen who is already struggling or pressured to engage in sex for money. As I discussed above, the Web seems to make things safer, thus reducing a teen’s ability to respond to danger signs. Teens use the Internet and web as a way of exploring and learning about activities they are curious about. In many cases, even if the information is wrong, it holds little danger for the teen reading or studying the material. This is not so, however, with the vast majority of information about sexual activity that is available on the Web. Not only is much of it wrong, information about sex on the Internet and Web is often designed to lower inhibitions, encourage involvement in pornography or sexual activity and normalize the behaviors. For a troubled youth, Web sites that feature sexually explicit advertisements can provide instruction in how to arrange such encounters, encourage them to equate sexual activity with a way to earn money, and make the activity appear more fun and less dangerous, especially if the youth has been sexually abused, faces financial pressures, or lives in an environment where they are routinely picked on or abused. The notion that someone would pay them to spend time with them and have sex for which they would pay can appear, in the mind of the troubled teen, to meet several important needs.
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Remember to talk with your children about healthy sexuality and consider using monitoring and filtering software to protect our children from harmful content and to monitor harmful contacts. For more information about protecting your kids online, see our Internet Safety 101 Rules ‘N Tools®.