Los Angeles, located in Southern California, is commonly known as the City of Angels. In biblical Hebrew, the word for angel is translated as mal’ākh, meaning messenger. For years, Los Angeles has served as a messenger to the rest of the world through the dissemination of media that has influenced our global society. Unfortunately, many of the messages coming out of LA are anything but angelic. Dominated by themes surrounding the sexual exploitation of women and glorified promiscuity, an array of communications emanating from LA inform and represent the hypersexuality of our modern culture. One of the most obvious manifestations of this message is the production and dissemination of pornographic media that originates from LA’s San Fernando Valley, a place that has been referred to as Porn Valley.
The 1970s marked the beginning of the Golden Age of Porn, and the San Fernando Valley was central to the industry’s growth. In the early 1970s, when Playboy Enterprises went public, more than seven million copies of Playboy magazine were being sold each month. It was at this time that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner moved his home and business to LA. These moves reflected the significant influence of Hollywood films on Hefner’s aspirations.1
Over the years, the porn industry has experienced enormous growth. In 1996, annual pornography sales were approximately $8 billion2. In 2005, Adult Video News (AVN) estimated that annual sales had increased to $12 billion. These findings reflected a 60 percent increase in sales of porn since 1996. By 2006, an estimated 13,000 pornographic videos were being produced annually in the United States. In comparison, around the same time period, the major Hollywood studios collectively released a total of 507 new non-pornographic films. Frank Rich, a writer for New York magazine, suggested that pornography is more profitable than any of the major league sporting or cinema-related industries3. In fact, many familiar companies are generating profits from pornography. Verizon Wireless, AOL, Time Warner, and General Motors through its subsidiary DirecTV are all examples of companies that earn revenue by distributing pornographic movies through various channels. Simply put, pornography is big business.
Since the 1970s, the availability and visibility of porn have increased with each passing decade. Statistics indicate that the presence of porn in society is becoming more and more pervasive with the rise in technology. With a simple click of a button or tap on a screen, today’s pornography can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and for any price—even for free. In 1991, fewer than 90 different pornographic magazines were published in the United States. In 1997, there were about 900 pornographic sites on the Web. In 2011, the Internet filtering software CYBERsitter blocked and recorded 2.5 million pornographic websites, indicating that the use and availability of porn have grown exponentially in the past decade4. Today, the ubiquity of pornography impacts almost everyone in some way. The effects of porn on our hypersexualized culture can be compared to the impact of secondhand smoke. Our global society is immersed in the pollution of pornography, and we all breathe it in, even when we don’t directly inhale.
The widespread use of porn in modern society is reflected in statistics regarding porn usage. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, 87 percent of college-age men and 31 percent of college-age women view pornography5. In a random sample study of 718 Swedish high school students, 98 percent of the males and 72 percent of females reported having viewed pornography6. In 2009, the University of Montreal attempted to conduct a study to compare psychological views of men who have never watched porn with the views of regular porn users. They soon gave up. Professor Simon Lajeunesse said, “We started our research seeking men in their 20s who had never consumed pornography. We couldn’t find any.”7
Pornography is not victimless, and it can no longer be separated from the conversation about sex trafficking and prostitution. Just as flourishing markets for prostitution increase the instances of sex trafficking, so too does the proliferation of pornography. As more and more men, women, and even children become addicted to pornography, the demand for commercial sex continues to increase. Former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has said, “The appetite for pornography seems to be insatiable.”8 As a result, more victims—usually women and children—are sought to meet this demand, often through sex trafficking.
“Pornography is a powerful demand-cultivating tool that normalizes the exploitation and consumption of women as sexual objects and links directly to the growing demand for cheap and exploitative sexual services.”9 Adding to the exploitive nature of the porn industry, themes of sexual slavery, rape, and abuse often emerge within pornographic films, further “normalizing” the injustice of sex trafficking and violence against women.
Not only does pornography increase the demand for sex trafficking victims through prostitution and other forms of exploitation, but many of those who are prostituted on film are themselves victims of sex trafficking. Patrick Trueman, the former Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division at the US Department of Justice, stated that “[t]raffickers and pimps are also pornographers. Capitalizing on the opportunity to generate income by sexually exploiting their victims on the street, in massage parlors, in brothels, and through media such as film, photos, and through the internet makes sense if ultimate profit generation is the goal, which it is.”10 Many traffickers are found with filming equipment and cameras to create and sell pornography.11
According to the international and domestic definitions of human trafficking, even “actors” in pornographic films have been and are currently being trafficked in the production of pornography. Laura Lederer, a leading anti-trafficking expert, states,“While trafficking for the purpose of the production of pornography is not a widely known or recognized form of trafficking, incidents of coerced participation in pornography are far from trivial.”12 Testimonies and interviews of current and former pornography performers, agents, directors, and producers all confirm that trafficking within the pornography industry is a fairly common occurrence. Legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon goes so far as to say that the majority of pornography featuring adult women is produced by organized criminal groups and is intimately linked with trafficking for purposes of pornography and sex trafficking.13
Additionally, according to the Palermo Protocols’ definition of human trafficking and the US Trafficking Victim Protection Act’s definition, any child under the age of 18 that is sexually exploited for profit is considered a victim of human trafficking. Therefore, the creation and distribution of child pornography for profit is always human trafficking. To date, global estimates of human trafficking have not factored in the millions of victims of online commercial sexual exploitation. John Ryan, the President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children stated that “analysts at the National Center have reviewed as of March 2014, more than 108 million child pornography images since it was created in 2002. And in the last two years alone, 19 million images or videos were viewed…each one of these images is an actual child who is being sexually assaulted. These are images that are depicting children as young as infants, who are being subjected sometimes to acts of torture, abuse, and the most horrendous, degrading, acts of assault one can imagine.”14 A fourteen-day US Department of Justice Study called Operation Roundup found 21,670,444 unique IP addresses accessing child pornography on peer to peer networks15. This means that in a two-week time frame the USDOJ could have potentially uncovered over 21 million instances of child trafficking.
As LA continues to mass produce pornography, countless victims are being harmed. From those who become severely addicted to pornography at a young age to those exploited in front of the camera, pornography and sex trafficking are both injustices that must be fought simultaneously by anti-trafficking advocates. This month, join us as we pray for an end to the production of pornography in Los Angeles. Pray for the freedom and restoration of those who are trapped in the industry. Pray also for those who are captives to pornography on the consumer end. May they be be set free from the chains of addiction.
- 1“Our Founder,” Playboy Enterprises, Accessed November 2014, http://www.playboyenterprises.com/about/founder
- 2 S. Stack, I. Wasserman, and R. Kern, “Adult Social Bonds and Use of Internet Pornography,” Social Science Quarterly (2004): 75-88.
- 3 Frank Rich, “Naked Capitalists,” New York Times, May 20, 2001, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/20/magazine/naked-capitalists.html
- 4 Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire. New York: Dutton, 2011.
- 5 J. Carroll, L.M. Padilla-Walker, L.J. Nelson, “Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults,” Journal of Adolescent Research (2008): 23:630.
- 6 E. Häggström-Nordin, T.Tydén, U.Hanson, and M. Larsson, “Experiences of and Attitudes Towards Pornography Among a Group of Swedish High School Students,” European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Healthcare (2009): 277-284.
- 7 Jonathan Liew, “All Men Watch Porn, Scientists Find,” The Telegraph, December 2, 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/6709646/All-men-watch-porn-scientists-find.html
- 8 “Porn Profits: Corporate America’s Secrets,” ABC News, Accessed November 2014, http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=132001&page=1
- 9 Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, In Harms Way:The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings, Harvard University Press:Cambridge,1998.
- 10Patrick Trueman, interview with Benjamin Nolot. 2013.
- 11 Mary Anne Layden, The Social Cost of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations.The Witherspoon Institute, 2010.
- 12Robert W. Peters, Laura J. Lederer, and Shane Kelly. “The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Traﬃcking and Pornography.” Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society. Fall 2012.
- 13 Catharine MacKinnon, Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 2007.
- 14 Interview with Benjamin Nolot, 2013
- 15Prevention, C. E. (2010). The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. The U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.justice.gov/psc/docs/natstrategyreport.pdf