The profits of the porn industry in the United States alone is about $13.3 billion dollars. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined.

The global market power of the porn industry is roughly $97 billion, incidentally, just in case 13.3 billion wasn’t scary enough. To put that in perspective: the Dominican Republic has a GDP of $99 billion (according to the IMF). Keep in mind, this is based primarily on the registered pornography operations and estimations, excluding some or much of the gray-area online world.

If this industry was a country, it’d be ranked about 36th in the world.

Now, this industry is almost entirely unregulated. There are no unions. There are no oversight committees, no major industry watchdogs. There’s no real government oversight whatsoever on a global basis. It is in many ways a free market.

Although some sites report 66% as having sexually transmitted diseases within the pool of actors in the industry, this number is fictitious and disproved through data. Despite that,  the fact remains that the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is far higher than officially reported.

A study by Grudzen and Kerndt published in 2007 surveying the US porn industry found:

The current practice of periodic HIV and STD testing may detect some disease early, but often fails to prevent transmission.

Between January 2003 and March 2005, approximately 976 performers were reported with 1,153 positive STD test results. Of the 1,153 positive test results, 722 (62.6 %) were chlamydia, 355 (30.8%) were gonorrhea, and 126 (10.9%) were coinfections with chlamydia and gonorrhea [10]. Less is known about the prevalence and risk of transmission of other STDs such as syphilis, herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, hepatitis B or C, trichomonal infection, or diseases transmitted through the fecal–oral route.

Efforts to reduce the risk of HIV and other STD transmission must include the use of condoms. Even with the PCR testing currently used within the industry, a recently infected performer can test negative during the window in which they are highly infectious and go on to transmit the virus to others.

Now let’s say that there is no ubiquitous use of mandatory checks and balances to ensure that these diseases don’t spread through the working population; only volunteer screenings happening at intermittent times—and are all at a cost to the worker. In areas where it is regulated, condoms are not used and self-reporting is often relied on.

Now, let’s say that this was an industry that basically re-writes your brain; it affects how you view others and yourself. This means that porn is not just impacting those in it, but also literally has negative effects on those watching it (and not because you will go blind from masturbation, which is a lie in case you didn’t know: masturbation can even be considered as good for you). The problem with porn is not masturbation, which the majority engage in and there is no need to feel guilty about. That said, always be careful what you masturbate about.

Now, I’m no saint. I don’t object on religious grounds—I object to porn on humanist, realist grounds. I can’t, ethically, support an industry that literally hijacks the way your brain processes sexual arousal for its own benefit. The problem with porn is not the sex, but the contexts and form it is most often displayed in.

For example: six hours of even non-violent pornography viewing starts markedly affecting an individual’s desire for physical intimacy (it lowers it, potentially explainable through separate conditioning of parts of the brain used for lust without strengthening that used for intimacy). Apparently, it seems that rather than encouraging healthy sexual activity, porn may actually lower your capacity to engage in it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, of the 50 best-selling adult videos (amounting to 304 scenes), approximately 90% included physical violence against the talent; the vast majority of which against females. This means that when people look without much effort for porn, it is extremely likely they will be seeing violence against women, which undoubtedly increases the likelihood of themselves doing these things or finding them acceptable, even increasing the likelihood of them accepting rape myths. (Malmuth and Check, 1981)

Additionally, research shows that 9 in 10 men consume pornography. The largest viewing group of online pornography (the fastest growing market segment) is males 12-17, which means that boys who can’t even drive cars are re-writing the topography of their brains and exposing themselves to media in which it’s totally acceptable to spit, sperm and beat on a woman.

Online pornography has been associated with a rise in sexual attacks by minors (20%) , as well as increasing the likelihood of forcing another into an unwanted sex act (online) by 600% compared with control groups. We cannot say that is harmless as very recently a 13 year old, exposed to porn through friends, acted it out on his younger sister. He now feels great shame and disgust for his actions, and a healthy discussion about the impact of visual media on our actions would help children gain a deeper understanding of how what they see impacts them. These kind of things can be avoided, and not by avoiding the topic.

In fact, 87%  of those who molested girls and 77% those who molested studied in Ontario, Canada, admitted to regular use of hardcore pornography. (Dr William Marshall, 1983). Rapists are 15 times more likely as non-offenders to have had exposure to hard-core pornography during childhood, between the ages of 6 and 10, and report an earlier age of “peak experience” with pornography. (Goldstein, Kant and Hartman, 1973). This exposure is clearly not deliberate, yet its impacts are great.

As a matter of fact, a 2005 study by Zillman and Bryant examining the links between pornography use and aggression resulted in such clear proof that the study, by ethical regulations, can’t be reproduced due to the inevitability of harming their research subjects.

Let’s repeat that:
Porn is so harmful, so conclusively detrimental, that the study proving the links was never again cleared for approval. That puts it in the same category of harm as the Stanford Prison Experiment, which incidentally, has also been ignored and none of its lessons applied to prisons.

Another study, titled “Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships” by Ana Bridges at the University of Arkansas, noted that men who viewed ANY amount of porn were more likely to:

  1. Report decreased empathy for rape victims
  2. Believe that a woman who dresses “provovatively” deserves to be raped
  3. Report anger at women who flirt but refuse to have sex
  4. Experience substantially decreased interest in their partners
  5. Report increased interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts

(“Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships,” 2006, by Ana J. Bridges, University of Arkansas. She also has a more recent study from 2010 which expands on this)

That last point, incidentally, is also known by the street term “rape”. You know, just so we’re all on the same page.

What makes it absolutely worse is that, of all market segments of porn, child pornography is one of the fastest growing, with 60% of domains hosted in the US. In 2008 alone, the Internet Watch Foundation found 1540 individual child pornography domains—and it’s expected that many more domains are hidden on Usenet or “Deep Web” sites not accessible to the average search engine.

Incidentally, child pornography amounted to 82% of the growth in the industry from 1994 to 2006, implying that not only was access becoming more common, but that the percentage of people accessing it had skyrocketed so quickly that even law enforcement officers are left wondering what the fuck’s in the water these days.

Incidentally, just in case someone tries to go “b-b-b-but pornography is an outlet for paedophiles so they won’t go rape children irl”, sit the fuck down: you’re probably wrong.

According to Michael Bourke, Chief Psychologist for the U.S Federal Marshals (and so, the dude in the know), 85% of men arrested for possession of child pornography had sexually exploited a child. 80% of purchasers were active abusers—that is, they were, at the time of arrest, actively abusing children. Reinforcing the neural pathways connected to abusing, or watching the abuse of, children increases the likelihood of doing it yourself by reinforcing the same neural pathways.

I’ll just quote the following passage in its entirety, because they say it better than I ever could.
According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children:

In a study of arrested child pornography possessors, 40% had both sexually victimized children and were in possession of child pornography. Of those arrested between 2000 and 2001, 83% had images involving children between the ages 6 and 12; 39% had images of children between ages 3 and 5; and 19% had images of infants and toddlers under age 3 (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Child Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings from the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study, 2005).

It’s impossible to separate the “Adult Entertainment Industry” from child sexual exploitation, given that both operate under the same framework and eventually target much of the same demographic.

The reason for this is “desensitization”: the more often you see something, and the more familiar you are with it, the more normal or expected it is, the more bored you become by it. Often, sites will delve into different types of subject matter, and an already aroused user will likely begin associating or dabbling with the new material with his (or her) current arousal as well. As every one of us knows: sexual arousal lowers impulse control.

The idea of a “gateway” drug is that desensitization in one field overlaps into related ones. This is actually one of the main arguments for decriminalization of marijuana, by the way, so that contact and association with harder or more harmful substances will not come or stem from contact with something essentially harmless (with medical properties to boot). This is also valid in regard to porn, especially since the majority of children get their first of experience with porn through pop ups, rather than seeing it deliberately (desensitizing them involuntarily, and increasing the probability of them looking for the same type of material on their own.)

Keep in mind that none of this means that watching porn will definitely cause damage to you, but instead that it undoubtedly has an effect. Whether you treat others with respect is a question of experience, role models (both in real life and in videos), and personal choice. We are all responsible for our behavior, and pornography is no excuse for treating anyone badly.

So let’s get back to this industry, and let’s pretend that pornographers aren’t also sometimes dabbling in areas like child pornography. Let’s look at how the porn industry influences some of the adult talent involved:

belladonna

Let’s look at what Belladonna, one of the biggest names in porn (ranked by CNBC as one of the 12 most popular stars in porn), has to say about her experiences:

“I like to hide — hide everything, you know?… And I’m not happy… I don’t like myself at all… My whole entire body feels it when I’m doing it and… I feel so — so gross.”

It should also be noted that, during a 2003 interview with Diane Sawyer for Primetime, Belladonna broke down in tears. When Sawyer asked her, “You keep describing these awful things that happened to you. Yet, you keep smiling. Why?” Belladonna’s smile wavered and her eyes watered up. “It’s so I don’t start crying,”

Oh, damn… That’s not very positive. And this is a woman who is what the industry calls “Contract”; that is to say, she has one. As a name brand, she has a bit more leeway over who she shoots with, and what those scenes entail.

It should also be noted that Belladonna has refused to do any further interviews with ABC, following some strong objections to her comments from leading execs in the porn industry.

Another big-name star, Jenna Jameson, has gone on the record with:

”Most girls get their first experience in gonzo films – in which they’re taken to a crappy studio apartment in Mission Hills and penetrated in every hole possible by some abusive asshole who thinks her name is Bitch. And these girls, some of whom have the potential to become major stars in the industry, go home afterward and pledge never to do it again because it was such a terrible experience.”

The last quote—and possibly the most horrific—comes from Linda Lovelace, the first “modern porn star”. Known for the film Deep Throat, Linda Lovelace is credited with creating the porn industry as we know it. However, the experience left her scarred and, as she recounts in her own words:

“When in response to his suggestions I let him know I would not become involved in prostitution in any way and told him I intended to leave, [Traynor] beat me up physically and the constant mental abuse began. I literally became a prisoner, I was not allowed out of his sight, not even to use the bathroom, where he watched me through a hole in… the door. He slept on top of me at night, he listened to my telephone calls with a .45 automatic eight shot pointed at me. I was beaten physically and suffered mental abuse each and every day thereafter. He undermined my ties with other people and forced me to marry him on advice from his lawyer.”

Another quote, equally as disturbing, documents her first porn video experience:

“My initiation into prostitution was a gang rape by five men, arranged by Mr. Traynor. It was the turning point in my life. He threatened to shoot me with the pistol if I didn’t go through with it. I had never experienced anal sex before and it ripped me apart. They treated me like an inflatable plastic doll, picking me up and moving me here and there. They spread my legs this way and that, shoving their things at me and into me, they were playing musical chairs with parts of my body. I have never been so frightened and disgraced and humiliated in my life. I felt like garbage. I engaged in sex acts for pornography against my will to avoid being killed. The lives of my family were threatened.”

Now, what most people don’t know is that this is hardly the worst thing Lovelace experienced. For a glimpse of true horror, we have to look at the video so horrific she refused to acknowledge she’d performed in it at all, until a copy was unearthed and conclusive proof provided.

It’s called “Dog Fucker” and as is probably pretty self-explanatory, Linda Lovelace is forced to be penetrated by a dog, on camera, against her will. She was forced to perform after her agent/husband/abuser/rapist pointed a gun at her and gave her two options: film the movie, or eat a bullet. I won’t go into any more detail, but suffice it to say, this sort of abuse has been part and parcel of the porn scene since its modern inception in the 1970s.

Now, this is getting on to like, 2,000 words, so I’ll leave off here with the following thought:

If this was any other industry, any other profession, with these testimonials and those statistics, would anyone defend it? Of course, primarily those who use it (the same can be said for many programs on TV). But, no matter how much we deny it: what we do and see has a real effect on us.

Shit, people have boycotted Wal-Mart for far less.

Porn, however, seems to be left untouched; sex-positive proponents argue that it’s a healthy manifestation of adult sexuality recorded for the sexual pleasure of other adults—but the fact of the matter is that the statistics prove otherwise, and conclusively show that not only does porn negatively influence the sexual lives of individuals, but it directly influences the way that people view (and treat) others for the worse. We cannot forget that the most available porn, in video stores, contained violence in 88%, the vast majority against women

Making pornography illegal would not solve these problems: proper social discourse and some real regulation would do much more. If pornography was merely people having sex, then the problems would be minimized. Honest social discourse about what we watch, and how it does or can affect us, is necessary. Denying that it has any effect whatsoever, or cannot cause any ill, is simply denying both science and common sense.

Adapted initially from this text (which did not have sufficient fact-checking!)

Sources cited:

http://www.internetsafety101.org/Pornographystatistics.htm

http://education.illinois.edu/wp/crime/childporn.htm

http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/Classes/487Readings/Ybarra11x-rated.pdf

http://gaildines.com/ “Pornland”, Gail Dines

http://stoppornculture.org/facts-and-figures/

https://www.shelleylubben.com

http://www.internetsafety101.org/Pornographystatistics.htm

Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships,” 2006, by Ana J. Bridges, University of Arkansas