Covid, Porn, and Human Sex Trafficking – A Vicious Combination

This week I’m happy to have a guest post from Melanie Trammell-Wenger. Melanie is an advocate raising awareness about human sex trafficking. She is also co-worker of mine at my church where I serve as Worship Director.

Covid never seems to disappoint in the ways it has wreaked havoc on our world this year.

Porn sites saw a HUGE increase in traffic worldwide during the corona virus shutdown. Many like Pornhub offered free subscriptions, premium content and corona themed videos to users who were stuck at home. And while the industry claims that it helps relieve anxiety, depression and loneliness – multiple studies will tell you that it actually preys on and then exacerbates these very things in its consumers to make its money. In addition, pornography is often saturated with violence (especially toward women) which can normalize and rationalize violent behavior. “Assault”, “rape”, and “abuse” are among some of the most popular porn searches, and physical aggression appeared in 88% of 304 porn scenes studied. In fact, pornography is such a problem in our society that that 16 US states have declared it a public health crisis. Basically a bad idea, don’t do it.

But what does this have to do with human trafficking? Well, many things.

First of all, a person on a webcam or in a pornographic video is as likely to be a trafficking victim as a person selling sex in any other environment. That means that there is plenty of pornographic content that our culture consumes that is non-consensual. And with the shutdowns – that number is likely to increase. Pretty much everything about human trafficking is all about supply and demand. As more people turn to porn during the shutdowns, the more likely it will be for traffickers to force their victims into performing it. Additionally, as more violent content becomes popular – the more likely it becomes for victims to suffer through that as well.

And it’s not just traffickers that already have victims that are peddling out non-consensual sexual services, but in fact a new disturbing trend is landlords pressuring cash stripped renters to perform sexual acts to avoid being evicted. Again we see here that vulnerability and opportunity because of chaos are two major factors in the fight to end human trafficking.

Even further, as street based and call in sex buying has slowed down (but not stopped), which sounds like a good thing but could actually force victims into more dangerous situations.

“Polaris’s own analysis of online communities of frequent sex buyers shows similarly that the most prolific buyers are still buying despite the health threat to themselves and others. Some have indicated that they see the lack of other buyers in the marketplace as an opportunity to negotiate for lower prices because people in the sex trade have even less bargaining power than ever. That “negotiating power” also raises concerns that people in trafficking situations will face additional pressure from their pimps/traffickers to engage in risky in-person sexual activity, such as more aggressive sex acts or “dates” with buyers they suspect are violent.”

And the kicker? Trafficked persons have fewer ways to escape than ever before.

“The Trafficking Hotline remains fully operational and is still connecting people in need to support and services around the country. Those services, however – particularly emergency shelter – have become even more difficult to find than they have been in the past. While there have virtually never been enough beds for those who need them in safe environments, now those resources have shrunk further. Few shelters are taking new clients as they try to maintain healthy environments for those already there. Even transportation, to get away from abusers to minimally available shelters, is more difficult because of the shutdown of countless airline routes, bus and train lines. Intake services, case management, and drop-in services have shut down or, as possible, moved online. That means people who live with their abusers and are not yet ready or able to physically escape have no way to communicate with outside help other than electronically – a dangerous proposition if they share a home with their traffickers. That gives people in active trafficking situations virtually no safe place to receive support as they try to come up with a plan.”

But you can help! Groups like Exodus Cry are committed to ending sexual exploitation and porn culture in our world. You can learn more about them by checking out their website here, or sign their petition to hold Pornhub accountable for their involvement in sex trafficking here.

You can fact check all the claims above by reading these articles:
https://www.dressember.org/blog/pornographyandpandemic
https://polarisproject.org/blog/2020/04/sex-trafficking-is-still-happening-and-may-be-more-violent-than-ever/

About the Author: Melanie Trammell-Wenger is an ambassador from ASPIRE – a nonprofit that works to end human trafficking in the Lehigh Valley, and part of the Dressember Network – another organization that seeks to end human trafficking through awareness and fundraising campaigns during the month of December. But during the day she works as a part time Communications Director at Calvary Bible Fellowship Church in Coopersburg PA, and a UX Designer helping social entrepreneurs redesign their websites into strategic cause vehicles. If you’d ever like to talk about human trafficking, faith or website stuff – shoot her a message 🙂 melanietrammellwenger@gmail.com


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