OUR BLOG

08.24.17

Pornography & Sex Trafficking: Is There a Connection?

Interview with Anna Ptak, an international speaker, policy consultant and overcomer in the movement to end human trafficking.

1. What specifically is the link between pornography and sex trafficking

In today’s world, many people think that the only form of sex trafficking is prostitution; the truth is that there are many forms of sex trafficking, such as pornography. When people are brainwashed or forced into performing a sexual act against their will-these all fall under the definition of sex trafficking. 

Unfortunately, I have a personal example. When I was a teenager, I was brainwashed into performing what I was told at the time was an “art project” by a 40-year old man who I thought was my boyfriend. Years later in 2009, he died of colon cancer. I asked a family member if I could go to his house to get a few things. What I was really going back to get were the pictures that I took with him because I did not want his family to see them. His family member told me she had what I was looking for even though I did not say what I wanted to find. I met up with her to get the pictures back. In my head, I thought there were about twenty photos that he took of me. When I met up with his family member she gave me a big box that was sealed. 

Once I got home I opened the box and found something devastating. It was thousands of pictures of me performing unthinkable things. I later found out there were other girls who had posed for him. I was in shock. The entire time I was away from my trafficker, I thought that I was his only girl as he called me, his “number one model.” I still could not fully understand what happened or how to label what was done to me by this man who I thought loved me. It wasn’t until later on when I learned more about human trafficking that I connected the dots that pornography is a form of sex trafficking. 

We have to stop putting the definition of sex trafficking in a box. 

The reality is that a person being recruited, harbored or transported through force, fraud, or coercion to perform commercial sex acts can easily be a victim of pornography.

2. Explain the porn industry to our readers and how it affects the demand for sex in our culture.

Pornography absolutely fuels the demand for sex in our country. Although with my personal example of how I was brainwashed into pornography, it was next to impossible to determine that I was coerced into doing it from looking at the pictures until later on. 

I did not even know that he was deceiving me so how would that even come off on camera? Even if someone is aware of being forced to perform commercial sex acts on camera it is still very challenging to determine whether they are under control of their trafficker or choosing to be there. 

When you click on a site or buy a pornographic magazine you are contributing to the money they are making and most sites are run by traffickers. Now that everything is at a person’s fingertips through the internet- it is becoming easier for traffickers to profit from commercial sex acts.

Pornography is fueling the commercial sex industry through the act of getting people to watch porn. What often happens is that people view “soft porn” at first and as they become desensitized to what they are watching they crave something more extreme. Eventually, watching pornography is not enough to satisfy their needs, so they begin to buy actual people for sex. As they continue to buy, some buyers crave someone younger because the 18-year-old girl or “woman” isn’t enough to satisfy their sexual needs. 

We are now seeing cases of infants and children being trafficked into the porn industry. I know it’s disgusting to think about, but this is the sad reality of what porn is doing to our society.

In today’s culture, it is widely accepted that there is no harm in looking at people in very little to no clothing. The music industry is an example of how our culture accepts violence towards women and normalizes power and control in relationships. If you listen carefully, some lyrics say that pimping and using women only for sex is glamorous. These lyrics are not only fueling the porn industry but also taking the sexual abuse of boys out of the conversation. Boys are also trafficked into the porn industry. With most of the lyrics about sex and violence targeting women, we are subconsciously dismissing the commonality of boys being sexually trafficked. We are making people into sex objects instead of real human beings. 

4. Is porn-addiction real? If so how can people get help?

Porn addiction is a very harsh reality. I remember when I was in my trafficker’s house for the first time; the bedroom was almost completely filled with pornography. The ideas he had for the pictures we took came from what he saw in the porn that he watched. He had become so desensitized that having me perform unthinkable things did not even phase him. 

How does this work? When someone watches porn, their brain responds the same when you do drugs. As you watch porn, your brain is constantly laying down and creating new pathways during new experiences. This process is called neuroplasticity, neuro meaning “brain” and plasticity meaning “changeability.”

Over the years, studies have found that pornography has a similar effect on the brain as drugs. Studies have found that drugs and pornography affect the brain’s “reward pathways.” The job of the reward pathways is to release dopamine when you do something that enriches your life with satisfying experiences and relationships. The brain’s release of dopamine is what makes us feel pleasure and builds new pathways created by a protein called FosB. This protein enables us to remember what made us feel pleasure by linking a way of thinking, to a certain behavior. Because of porn, arousal is now less focused on the intimacy with a real person and more based on how you respond while watching a person on a screen. The decision to not view pornography is not only a faith-based choice; it is a medical choice that is crucial to protecting your brain!

5. What can I do if I struggle with an addiction to pornography? 

If you identify with having an addiction, congratulations! You have completed the first step! The best way to figure out what is creating this addiction is figuring out why. I definitely encourage you to participate in counseling to figure out what is fueling your addiction. I know some people watch it because they were sexually abused as a child, feel lonely or depressed.

Secondly, install accountability software on electronic devices like Covenant Eyes. (convenanteyes.com) This software will block sites that are contributing your addiction. You should try to find someone who has overcome an addiction to be your accountability partner. This software will provide a report that they can look over to see what sites you have looked at. I have several people tell me they are too ashamed to ask others for help, but they use the software. If you truly want to learn what healthy intimacy is, you have to be willing to allow someone to help you. You have been submitting to this addiction by yourself, the way to get over it is to have the support and encouragement from another person.

If you do struggle with an addiction to pornography, please know that this problem is not your identity. 

You existed before you had the addiction and you can exist after you work through it. I am here to say that I forgive you. If you feel ashamed, I forgive you. If you feel guilty, I forgive you. If I can thrive after being trafficked into pornography, you can thrive after having an addiction. 

 

Anna Ptak is an international speaker, policy consultant and overcomer in the movement to end human trafficking. As a leading expert in the movement, Anna has testified before various legislative bodies, trained law enforcement and has lectured on child trafficking law overseas. Anna conducted speaking tours in California and New York, where she equipped local agencies, nonprofits, and governmental agencies on how to combat human trafficking. Additionally, Anna launched her ethical fashion line sewn by Overcomers of sex trafficking in Nepal during New York Fashion Week in 2015. Anna will be releasing her next set of designs in the spring of 2018. In her spare time, Anna loves spending time with her husband, and their adorable puppy, Liam.

Find her on social media: Facebook.com/mrsannaptak

Facebook.com/mrsannaptak

Twitter: @mrsannaptak

Instagram: @mrsannaptak

Sources to learn more:

Fight the New Drug http://fightthenewdrug.org/

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation http://endsexualexploitation.org/

Covenant Eyes http://www.covenanteyes.com/

Protect Young Minds https://protectyoungminds.org  

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