By: Abbie Kilgore
When you live with the same people for an extended period of time, you find yourself picking up their habits. I laugh like my roommates, and my sisters and I have an ability that could almost be defined as telepathic communication. We share these similarities because we spend time together. This isn’t just a simple habit that you pick up, but the causation for this is a psychological term called neuroplasticity. This means that your environment changes your brain. Neural synapses and pathways are rerouted by the information you intake. When it comes to the quirky habits of our friends, neuroplasticity simply explains why we can find similarities with our friends.
But when you think about the prevalence of pornography use around the world, we would be foolish to not connect it with the sex trafficking epidemic.
Many defend pornography as sexual liberation. Indulgence is often something we bargain in our minds for, and at times is something we praise – thinking we deserve a treat. But when pornography is the “treat” used to satiate our hunger, then we would do well to be informed on what exactly happens when pornography is habitually used. Pornography doesn’t depict actual intimate encounters. Overwhelmingly, studies find that porn is characterized by abuse, male domination over females, and humiliation. In his Ted Talk, Ran Gavrieli states that this makes up mainstream porn genres, as well as an entire genre of rape porn. How can our culture justify pornography as liberation when the vast majority of its content is nothing but enslavement?
Russell Brand seems to agree. When the premiere of 50 Shades of Grey came to theaters, he released a video with his thoughts on pornography. His honesty on the subject reveals that pornography has, “affected [his] ability to relate to women, to relate to [himself], [his] sexuality, [and his] own spirituality.” What we surround ourselves with becomes our reality. Brand goes on to admitting that, “if you’re constantly bombarded with great waves of filth, its really difficult to remain connected to truth.” That isn’t just a thought given by some self-help motivational speaker, or a nagging tip given by your teachers reminding you to make good friends, but a psychological fact. We will be influenced by what we allow ourselves to see.
So if pornography is being used, then we can conclude that people in our culture have minds that are becoming increasingly comfortable with watching many forms of sexual abuse as a way to satisfy lust. This becomes even more alarming when you find that porn sites get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. It isn’t a small group of users having their minds altered, but millions upon millions of people across the world. And it is not just men that we find using pornography. A study done in 2013 showed that 1 in 3 women admit to visiting porn sites. If trends are consistent, I think it would be safe to assume that that statistic has increased.
It is a highly prevalent habit. For humanity as a whole, as our minds become desensitized to the abuse we watch on screen, our acceptance of sex trafficking will only increase. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dr. Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, states that the increase in sex trafficking is due to an increase in demand for sex services, and, “this means that men are increasingly willing to have sex with women who are being controlled and abused by pimps and traffickers.” Dr. Dines goes on to say that we can draw two conclusions here: “that men are naturally willing to do this to women — biology — or that they are being socialized by the culture to lose all empathy for women, [and] I refuse to accept that men are born rapists, porn users, or johns.” With the loss of empathy comes a willingness to exploit others for personal gain. Too often, that ease in exploitation funds the sex trafficking trade in one way or another.
If you’re looking for an more tangible link between pornography and sex trafficking, then this story should bridge the gap. In January of this year, a journalist named Peter Bridges released his findings during an undercover investigation of a Filipino cybersex den. These dens are accessible all over the world, and this specific story focuses on one single den found in the Philippines. Bridges uncovered the horrors of a place where the world of pornography literally collided with sex trafficking. In this single den, he found girls ranging from 7 years old to 17 years old being abused on camera per request of the viewer on the other side of the live screening. Girls were dragged in front of the webcam, placed on the lap of a willing pedophile, and forced to smile as if they enjoyed the molestation and rape being forced upon them. Seven-year-old girls on the lap of a grown man – this should never happen.
So many campaigns and laws have been created to help abolish the modern day slavery that is sex trafficking. These organizations and laws have done beautiful work and liberated countless victims collectively. But if we want to undermine this industry from a more deeply rooted place, we would become serious about abolishing the use of pornography. It is not a victimless act and it is not confined to only the users. I believe this issue involves everyone. We have a responsibility to fight for the freedom of our fellow human being oppressed by such crimes. There is freedom for the victim.
And there is freedom for the user and abuser. More often than not, sex-offenders have also fallen victim to sexual abuse that lead to their eventual involvement as the abuser. By ending their ability to be involved in any production of the sex-service industry, we also hand them a chance to change their lives. After all, if our environment affects our brain, then who’s to say a person once invested in the sex industry cannot be restored?
We love organizations like Elijah Rising.