Pornography. A hotly-debated, divisive topic. Why would an organization fighting sex trafficking need to talk about pornography? Well, as we dive into in this discussion, the connection between pornography and sex trafficking is direct and indisputably intertwined.

Before jumping into the research indicting pornography, let's pause and clarify: if you are reading this and watch pornography occasionally, regularly, or even in an addictive manner, we are not here to judge you. We do not see you with scorn or shame. There is hope and there is help. You will find some resources for getting help at the bottom of the page.

Before continuing, take two minutes to watch this video by Rescue Freedom's #refusetoclick campaign.


By definition in the United States law (The Trafficking Victims Protection Act or TVPA, 2000), a victim of sex trafficking is a person who is induced to perform commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. "Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present." [1] A commercial sex act is any sexual performance done in exchange for money, food, drugs, shelter, food, or any other item of value. [2]

A study in 2013 (already 3 years ago) found that "teen porn" made up for at least 1/3 of all pornography consumed. [3] By definition, according to the TVPA, a commercial sex act of a minor is sex trafficking. In this case, a minor in pornography performing a commercial sex act is, in and of itself, human trafficking.

Additional clarification for the following research: we consider the term "prostitution" (which you will see many times in the research below) sex trafficking, according to the TVPA definition. We believe that money exchanged for commercial sexual acts is coercion which fits the TVPA definition of human trafficking. As the CT Department of Children and Families says, "While a few individuals do make the active, voluntary choice to become a prostitute, most prostitutes are forced into sexual slavery and see very little, if any of the monetary rewards."

Definitions aside, let's look at some qualitative and quantitative research and conclusions we can deduce.

Pornography is sex trafficking

Shelley Lubben used to be in pornographic films and put it this way "[Pornography] is sex trafficking. It’s called [a] cutthroat business because it’s trafficking; all of us have been coerced into doing a scene we didn’t wanna do. Another way [is that] pornographers make false promises: ‘If you do this scene I promise that you’re going to get this money, or you’re going to get the box cover’ or, ‘You won’t have to do this kind of scene anymore.’ It’s all based on lies." [4

One buyer of prostituted women in a 2004 research study said he made no distinction between women in prostitution and women in pornography. “Yes, the woman in pornography is a prostitute. They’re prostituting before the cameras. They’re getting money from a film company rather than individuals.” [5] The same study found that 49% of women in prostitution in 9 countries said that pornography was made of them while they were in prostitution. [5

Women (and men) are frequently tricked into filming pornography through jobs falsely promoted as modeling or are forced into videotaped commercial sex acts by threat of violence. This is force. This is fraud. This is sex trafficking.

The women (and men) you see on screen are often being manipulated for forced into filming pornography. Their "choice" to be there is most often not a choice at all. According to the TVPA definition, that is sex trafficking. The women (and men) on screen are not "actors." They are women (and men) who are being coerced, forced, or defrauded into performing sex acts on film in exchange for money or a good. This is sex trafficking. 

If a person is paying for pornography or even just "paying" by clicking on a free video--the company is still getting money from a "free" click--they are, in essence, purchasing sex from a person who is coerced, forced, or defrauded into the commercial act. Watching pornography is not a harmless, individual activity. Watching pornography harms the lives of other humans.

The acts of making and watching pornography are sex trafficking. 

Pornography increases demand for trafficking

Pornography also fuels the demand for sex trafficking. Pornography is purchased sex--it is simply delivered via the internet. And the experience of purchased sex online creates a greater drive to purchase sex offline. According to Harvard Law School professor, Catherine Mackinon, “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex.” Pornography creates more of a desire to objectify and purchase women as well as try out what they see on screen. [6]

Additionally, men frequently derive their sexual fantasies and sexual norms from pornography. This creates a problem if their sexual partner does not want to engage in the often violent or degrading sexual acts that their partner is seeing in pornography. Consequently, men who view pornography are more likely to purchase sex from women in prostitution and act out what they have seen in pornography. One survey said that 80% of women in prostitution had been showed porn by the buyer to show them what they wanted to do. [7

Pornography is the dress rehearsal for engaging in purchased sex offline.

Now what?

We understand that the prevalence of pornography into our society and that the availability to watch it at your fingertips means many people are consuming pornography. We recognize the struggle. We know that watching pornography has become so normalized that it doesn't even feel like it's harming anyone anymore. But we also know that research indicts pornography as sex trafficking and as a driver of demand for sex trafficking. 

So what do we do? What steps can we take to act?

1. If you are struggling with a pornography addiction, seek help. Fight the New Drug, Pure Life Ministries, or x3 Watch. There is always hope. If you are struggling, reach out to a trusted friend and start the process of healing.

2. Speak up. If you know of friends who struggle with watching pornography, talk to them about it in a loving, non-judgemental way. Offer to help connect them with resources.

3. Join the fight at Fight the New Drug. There are several ways you can get involved in actively fighting pornography. 




1. "Trafficking Victims Protection Act." 

2. Shared Hope International. "What is Sex Trafficking?"

3. Dines, Gail, and David Levy. "Good Cop Bad Cop: Corporate Political Strategy in
the Porn Industry." Web log post. Organizations and Social Change. N.p., 13
Nov. 2013. Web.

4. Von Maren, Jonathon. "This former porn star is exposing porn’s secrets: and it should make you very, very uncomfortable." LifeSite News. April 2015. Web.

5. Farley, M. (2007) ‘Renting an Organ for Ten Minutes:’ What Tricks Tell us about
Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking. 

6. Stulter, Ana. "The Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking." Covenant Eyes. Sept. 2011. Web.