(Editor’s note: This is Part 3 of a series on human sex trafficking in the U.S. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)
In Part 1 and Part 2, I discussed how 10 times more U.S. minors than foreigners are trafficked in the U.S. But are many of them trafficked into the legal porn industry?
New York University recently hosted a debate between adult film star Ron Jeremy and Craig Gross, who is the founder of XXXChurch.com – an online community for those seeking help out of the porn industry and pornography. They spoke on the connections between human sex trafficking and porn.
The Christian Post reported that Jeremy’s position was that human trafficking and porn were unrelated and that porn videos of underage girls caught in human trafficking do not exist, according to his knowledge.
However, Gross vehemently disagreed, saying such videos do exist. “There’s a lot of stuff [on] the Internet that’s not produced by the companies in LA that’s got girls underage that probably deals with potentially trafficked girls,” Gross explained. “They’re not going to touch it in their industry, but does it exist? Is it online? Yes.”
Gross also said that like a frog in the kettle, minors are slowly simmered and shaped by the sexual mindsets that perpetuate both trafficking and porn until they’re “barely legal” to be rushed into the porn industry and exploited for those with adolescent appetites.
Jeremy even confessed, “Yes, kids are a big part of it, I mean 18 or over, 19 or over. There’s a series called ‘Barely Legal,’ which targets girls who are a bit young, but they’re still of legal age.”
According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking – sex and otherwise – is a $9.8 billion industry in the U.S. alone, but people like Jeremy say none of it leaks over to porn industry.
However, according to groups like the Freedom Youth Project, an organization that fights against child sex trafficking through research, believes that “pornography is a leading cause of human trafficking for minors in the U.S.”
That is one reason why the Salvation Army’s Vision Network is producing the feature documentary, “Hard Corps,” aimed at uncovering the “undeniable connection” between pornography and the human sex trafficking Industry. Their website notes that: “this film proposes to uncover the façade of pornography as ‘a harmless pastime for consenting adults.’ It pulls back the curtain to reveal the ugly reality of addiction, infidelity, prostitution, child abuse, rape and Human Sex Trafficking.”
A few years back, Dr. Mary Layden, a sex abuse expert and psychotherapist at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before the U.S. Senate on the dangers of online porn, addressed a forum on sex trafficking at Parliament House in Sydney.
In an article titled, “Online porn addiction turns our kids into victims and predators,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported Layden as saying to the forum that in her 20 years of experience treating sexual violence victims and perpetrators in the U.S., “I didn’t have one case of sexual violence that didn’t involve pornography.”
Dr. Layden also explained that the “dramatic increase” in child sexual predators is a direct result and proportionate of the increases of Internet pornography, “piping it 24/7 into homes, in harder and more pathological forms in a venue children know better to use than adults.”
Layden elaborated that increased online pornography helps to “normalize pathological behavior,” raising the belief that “it is common, hurts no one, and is socially acceptable, the female body is for male entertainment, sex is not about intimacy and sex is the basis of self-esteem.” And just as with other addictions, Layden claimed, the more one consumes pornography, the more one’s appetite for it grows.
The Herald summarized Layden’s sentiments regarding the connection between porn and sex trafficking this way: “increased use of pornography leads to increased demand for prostitution. When demand outstripped supply of local prostitutes, women and children were brought in from overseas, often against their will.”
Both liberals and conservatives should agree upon the connections, exploitation and dangers of women and minors in human trafficking and pornography, let alone the negative effects upon those participating in them. It reminds me of a blogger I read recently, who wrote, “I am a gay liberal Democrat. Over the years, however, I have changed my beliefs on pornography. I used to think it was ‘no big deal.’ People have a right to view it, of course, but they do so at great cost. Viewing pornography causes the release of dopamine in the brain. In order to continue to receive that ‘high,’ the person must watch more and more of it. As they progress down the line, they often need to view more hardcore stuff. Sometimes, it becomes addictive and overtakes that person’s life and marriage. Pornography also objectifies sex and reduces it to mere body parts. None of this is good.”
A 2011 Psychology Today study, “Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction is a Growing Problem,” concurs that the increase in loss of libido among younger men “is caused by continuous over-stimulation of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the body’s reaction to sexual pleasure, by repeatedly viewing pornography on the Internet.”
In 2010, NPR reported how 40 million people are addicted to a pastime that is as addictive as any synthetic drug: namely, viewing Internet pornography. Two leading authorities on addiction neurochemistry, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, explained that pornography rivals the effects of drugs by stimulating the same three pleasure systems in the brain: “arousal, satiation and fantasy – that makes it ‘the pièce de résistance among the addictions.’”
NPR also noted how studies have proven that Internet pornography has become a key contributor and cause to sexual dysfunction and deviancy, relational problems, extramarital affairs, separation and divorce. And not so surprising, it has also increased men’s views of women as merely objects of desire and not human beings with whom to have a relationship.
The irony and impasse for socially conscious younger generations is that they are often passionate about fighting against sex trafficking but often overlook its connection to pornography’s supply and demand – something most of them feed in their digital world. According to a 2008 Brigham Young University study noted in World magazine, 87 percent of college males and 31 percent of college females watch porn.
World also cited Dr. Mary Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania, who contends that porn’s easy accessibility sets the foundation for its entitlement: “I hear men say sex is a need, I have a right to it.”
Despite its legal legs, the truth is that the porn industry aid and abets sex trafficking and promotes sexual dysfunction among healthy individuals and couples. Porn fuels trafficking and vice versa. As noted on the Somebody’s Daughter website:
- “Pornography drives the demand for sex trafficking”
- “Trafficking victims are exploited in the production of pornography”
- “Pornography production is a form of trafficking”
- “Pornography is used as a training tool with sex trafficked victims”
Brittni Ruiz is just one of hundreds of thousands of examples of those who were lured and ultimately caught in the webs of the porn industry and mass media trafficking. But she also became one of its top stars.
WND’s Chelsea Schilling, who wrote a must-read multi-article exposé on how child porn is pervading even popular social sites like Facebook, reported how Brittni was raped at 14 years old and then enticed into a life of porn that she “hated” but was ensnared in for years as her alter ego, Jenna Presley.
Even in her recent interview on ABC’s “The View,” Brittni shared how it all began when she was persuaded by the promises of fame in college from producers who asked her if she wanted to star in a few “romance movies.”
Roughly 300 porn films later, WND reported how Brittni’s life spiraled down “a long seven-year journey of porn, prostitution, stripping, drugs, alcohol and several failed suicide attempts.”
The great news is that the team of women at the XXX Church repeatedly reached out to Britnni at porn conventions, where they distributed hundreds of Bibles and T-shirts that declared, “Jesus loves porn stars.” The message of God’s love, value and forgiveness finally reached her heart.
Ruiz filmed her last sex scene in November 2012. Looking back, she recalled, “I never found love in my life and was looking for it in all the wrong places. … I have finally encountered the unconditional love of God, and I will never go back.”
For any girls who are thinking about or desire to enter the porn industry, Brittni gave this word of encouragement and caution to them through her interview with Whole magazine: “You are worth so much more than what you think you are worth! You are beautiful. I advise you not to do it. Please don’t do it. I look at these girls like my little sisters and I would tell them to learn from my mistakes. It’s really not fun. It feels very dark in that place.”
Brittni further entreated, “Taking your clothes off to be with multiple men will leave you hopeless broken and empty. I remember hating myself. I didn’t have one ounce of love for myself. No one in that industry is going to reach his/her hand down and help pick you up. They’re going to watch you go down and kick you. Research other avenues. I found what I yearned for (fulfillment, acceptance, joy, peace and love) in Jesus. I know these same women can find the same thing I did. Reach out and take a step of faith and take that hand that is reaching out for you … and that hand is Jesus.”
If you know want hear more about what Brittni is doing now, go to BrittniRuiz.com. You can also hear her story in her own words on her Facebook page in her interview with the XXXChurch.
I recommend the DVD documentary, “Somebody’s Daughter,” to raise awareness of the pervasiveness and destructiveness of pornography. Powerful tools to aid individuals and couples who want help getting over issues related to pornography are also found at XXXChurch.com and ThePinkCross.org. In addition, other great training resources can be found at StripChurch.com, which serves, teaches and equips women who share a heart and calling to reach those in the sex industry.
If you are or know any minor in danger of sexual trafficking or exploitation, please contact the Cyber Tip Line for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or call its hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
The Polaris Project also provides The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the country – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. Call them at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).