Category Archives: Violence

How much pornography is made of prostituted women?

There are at least 42 million prostituted persons worldwide and less than half of them are ever identified.* At least half of the entire total are children, 80% female, and 80% under the age of 25. The average age someone is trafficked into prostitution is 12 years old, and the average life expectancy for females is 7 years from the moment they’re trafficked – largely by homicide. Needless to say, research and studies of any sample of prostituted persons could never be random, and hence may not be typical of all prostituted persons. That said, of the surveys and reports conducted on pornography being made of prostituted women, a clear pattern emerges: around 50% of prostituted women have had pornography made of them.**

One of the more comprehensive studies was conducted by Dr. Melissa Farley, of Prostitution Research & Education in San Francisco. She found that across 8 countries, including Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and Zambia, of the 854 female respondents, 49% reported having had pornography made of their being sexually violated. These statistics were comparable to a study conducted by the WHISPER Oral History Project more than a decade earlier, which found that more than 53% of prostituted women had been filmed for pornography – by the johns / buyers of sex alone. Both studies found that between half or two-thirds of these men specifically demanded the prostituted women re-enact scenes they had consumed in pornography.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that of prostituted persons, 68% had PTSD (a very high prevalence of psychological harm for any group). Most of them had come from a home of childhood sexual abuse, rape, and other forms of abuse. Of these women, those who had been filmed in pornographic videos had significantly more severe PTSD symptoms than those who hadn’t been filmed.

Much of the pornography made of these prostituted persons is, of course, available online, everywhere, free of charge, today. Identified or nameless, twelve years or twenty, 2,000 days or one from being murdered, their prostitution lives online forever across small sites and large networks, comprising likely, or very likely, millions of hours across Xvideos, Pornhub, YouPorn, and so on.

As has been noted in many studies, it is the pornography industry itself that largely fuels the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution. And it is the consumption of these videos that continues to drive a demand for men’s sexual access to women. It is not illogical to state that the people who consume pornography regularly have likely found and even masturbated to a number of these women, many of whom were brought into this industry when they were children, most of whom suffered from PTSD, and a large number of whom are no longer alive.

* Of the 42 million prostituted persons, only 4.5 million are recognized as having been trafficked into the industry. Pornography FAQ maintains that mythologizing the false distinction between sex trafficking, or forced prostitution, and “free” prostitution perpetuates the irresponsible ideology that one is bad while the other is good. In the context of the sex industry, which sells women, men, and children as commodities for personal sexual pleasure, the concepts of “free” and “good” are deeply insulting.

** Pornography FAQ also maintains that pornography is prostitution, albeit filmed. Most people readily distinguish between the two. For the sake of keeping this individual post coherent and clear for the majority of readers, I maintain that distinction. The clear connections between the two will be explored in length and in scope elsewhere on this site.


When Ted Bundy claimed that pornography influenced his desire to murder, how did the media respond?

Seventeen hours before his execution on January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy granted a final interview to Dr. James Dobson, a psychologist and religious broadcaster. Bundy, an American serial killer, kidnapper, pedophile, rapist, sexual abuser, burglar, and necrophile, expressed in the interview that it was his exposure to pornography around 12 or 13 years of age that began his descent into perpetrating acts of sexual violence against women. Having spent more than a decade in prison, Bundy claimed to have grown remorseful and felt he owed it to society, and the 30+ women he murdered, to relate how his addiction to increasingly more violent pornography helped to pave a pathology for wanting to commit violence himself. A self-proclaimed expert on all sexually violent offenders, he claimed that of all the men he knew in prison, “without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography – deeply consumed by the addiction. The F.B.I.’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true.”

The media’s response? Completely deny the possibility that the sexual violence in pornography could ever play any role in shaping sexually violent behavior. Though many mainstream commentators were angry at Bundy, a few in particular stand out.

“Does porn cause violence?” asked the L.A. Times, with contributing editor, pornographer Al Goldstein. “Clearly, no,” he answered, before casually and falsely stating that science didn’t support any possibility of a link between the two. The article then railed against Dobson, the interviewer, claiming that the interview was a “vile and cynical effort to inflame the censorship debate in America… the First Amendment and its guarantees of free expression remain in danger.” Additionally, he claimed that the interview implicitly concealed the messages that “If you read Playboy or Penthouse, you will turn into Ted Bundy.”

A number of outlets followed, claiming that Dobson was using Bundy in an attempt to further his own religious crusader agenda. Despite the fact that Bundy’s testimony supported a scientific model of the causative role of pornography in violence against women, the entire interview was discredited because of its mere association with a fundamentalist.

Furthermore, any claim that Bundy placed responsibility on pornography was a lie easily debunked by simply reading the interview. When Dobson pressed Bundy as to whether sexually violent pornography directly informed his choices, Bundy said, “I’m not blaming pornography. I’m not saying it caused me to go out and do certain things. I take full responsibility for all the things that I’ve done. That’s not the question here. The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior.”

In much the same manner that “normal” men begin their pornography journey with softcore materials and end up molesting children, Bundy explained that in the beginning, pornography excited him, fueled his thinking process, he grew tolerant of the imagery that had excited him, and he sought out more violent and exploitative pornography in an endless cycle that culminated in his sexually assaulting a woman in just “a couple of years” after his first exposure. “I was dealing with very strong inhibitions against criminal and violent behavior,” he said to Dobson. “I was a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life, except for this one, small but very potent and destructive segment that I kept very secret and close to myself. Those of us who have been so influenced by violence in the media, particularly pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families.”

Another repudiation of the interview came in the form of blaming someone else entirely: Louise Bundy, the murderer’s mother.

“As Bundy told it, he was a a good, normal fellow, an ‘All American boy’ properly raised by diligent parents, though one would have liked to hear more about his ‘diligent’ mother.” said J. Leo, columnist for the U.S. News & World Report. “While nothing of this mother-son relationship is known, a hatred of women virulent enough to claim 50 lives does not usually spring full-blown from the reading of obscene magazines.”

This piece was followed by a series of articles blaming Bundy’s mother, including an article by Vanity Fair called “The Roots of Evil,” which absolved pornography and held her responsibility for his crimes.

There are conflicting accounts on the nature of Bundy’s home life growing up, but there is no evidence that he was physically, sexually, or emotionally abused. He grew up believing his mother was his sister and his grandparents his parents (his mother had given birth to him outside of a marriage, leading his maternal grandparents to raise him as their own child to avoid social stigma). He may have been present to witness physical abuse perpetrated by his stepfather against his biological mother, but by his own accounts he “grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents… We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home… I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.”

Historically, women have been blamed for men’s violence. When a man rapes a woman, the victim is frequently blamed for having provoked the man’s attention. When a husband beats his wife, the victim is often held responsible for inciting the violence in the household. And in the case of Ted Bundy, when a man with a seemingly “normal” upbringing commits serial rape, murder, and abuse, the burden of responsibility falls not on the man who admitted to the crimes, not on the pornography industry he was obsessed with and that monetizes sexualize violence against women, but on the mother of the murderer.

By any standard, it is fair to state that Ted Bundy was a monster. He was a horrific perpetrator of violence and an indignity to the lives of women and children everywhere. But the narrative he tells, just hours before his death, of an unknowing young man who stumbled upon some pornography and who became a sexually violent predator is entirely compatible with testimony from sex offenders, murderers, and of studies verifying links between pornography and undermined internal and social inhibitions, as well as pornography and acting out in sexually violent behaviors. What Bundy said in his final interview was, very likely, true. Religious fundamentalists probably didn’t tell him to blame pornography. His mother certainly didn’t shape him into a sexually violent predator. He did much of this by himself. And the many men he watched committing sexual violence against women in pornography helped him to clear a path.

As our culture becomes increasingly pornified, our films more rampant with sexual violence, our literature more littered with scenes of rape, it is imperative we take a critical look at how media shapes our understanding of the world and, frankly, other media. When a monster says that this upbringing was no more controversial than our own, what would it mean to take these words at face value, and deny the media’s authority in stating that we are nothing like him? Neuroscience, history, and the media we consume for entertainment suggests that we – namely, men – are capable of becoming exactly like him. All it takes is a little bit of pornography to get going. We’ve seen it before. We will see it again.

How many times do we have to keep witnessing this until we do something about it?


What are the most recurring subjects in pornographic literature?

Various studies and evaluations of pornographic literature illuminate several recurring patterns: rape, sexual abuse, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, inter-familial rape (incest), and pedophilia.

In a longitudinal study conducted by Don Smith from 1968 to 1974, Smith did a content analysis on 428 pornographic books available in the United States. Over the course of the study, he found that 20% of all sex scenes were rape, of which 97% resulted in the female achieving orgasm and 75% in multiple orgasm. 6% of all rapes were perpetrated against family. With each passing year, the number of rapes per book increased.

In another longitudinal study, Neil Malamuth and Barry Spinner conducted a content analysis on sexual violence in both Playboy and Penthouse from June 1973 to December 1977. They found that 10% of all cartoons were sexually violent, and Penthouse was twice as likely to depict sexual violence as Playboy.

Between 1987 and 1988, Park Elliott Dietz and Alan Sears did an extensive content analysis on the contents of pornographic books, magazines, and videotape covers, as well as the stores in which they were sold. 92% of the stores sold books about sexual abuse perpetrated against children. 13% of all covers depicted explicit acts of sexual violence, and upwards of 15% depicted various paraphilias, including corpses, urine, diapers, bestiality, and childlike clothing.

In a 1997 study conducted on online pornographic literature, Denna Harmon and Scot B. Boeringer found that among 196 randomly selected stories, rape occurred in 40.8% of the stories. 4.6% of all rapes were perpetrated against family. 19.4% of the stories contained scenes of pedophilia. 11.7% of all stories contained acts of torture.

In 2015, Mark Allen Thornton utilized his knowledge of Python coding to conduct data analysis on 293,535 erotic stories available online. In searching for themes, he built a network of tags to highlight co-occurring subjects. The cluster that is most closely connected with love, for instance, is sex, romance, brother sister incest, brother sister sex. For revenge, some common associations were cheating wife, slut wife, cuckold, and watching. One of the most prevalent themes across all stories was BDSM. The cluster most closely related to control are the terms dominance, master, submission, submissive, slut, gang bang, whore, and so on.

One recent erotic series has had a significant impact in normalizing the themes found commonly in pornographic literature (namely sexual exploitation and sexual abuse). The Fifty Shades trilogy, having sold more than 40 million copies globally, has inspired video pornography, official BDSM clubs at Harvard University, a theatrical film series, and countless other writings, both published and online (where the books originated).

As with videos, pornographic literature has steadily increased its depictions of rape, sexual violence, sexual abuse, interfamilial rape, and so on, particularly with the proliferation of writers sharing their own stories online. In all of its forms, pornography has shown no signs of de-centering its ideology from exploiting women, and children, for the sexual gratification of men. To liken the consumption of Fifty Shades series to the consumption of softcore pornography by male consumers, the inevitable story that follows is excitement, desensitization, tolerance, and then an intensified desire to find something more edgy or shocking. Beyond Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse, and other pornographic magazines, pornographic literature has never really been mainstream. If we can rely on the growth of pornography into a vast global $100 billion market, then Fifty Shades was really just the beginning of making it so.