Monday, July 1st, Representative Jena Powell submitted the powerful House Resolution 180 which, if passed, will declare pornography a public health crisis for the state of Ohio. This house resolution has gained the support of 18 House co-sponsors and attention from news media outlets across the state. Similar concerns about the societal effects of porn have been raised by resolutions in 15 other states, but Ohio’s HR 180 is uniquely personal to the Heartland.
Powell’s resolution specially notes the devastating connections between the pornography industry and Ohio’s human trafficking epidemic. We are inspired and encouraged by our supporters who have rallied behind the resolution and the concerns that it highlights. Many have shown interest in educating themselves on the issues behind the resolution. Here, we will review the extensive research resulting from CCV’s collaborations with Rep. Powell and the National Decency Coalition.
HR 180 says “According to statistics compiled by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Ohio ranks as the fourth worst state in the nation for human sex trafficking.” This information came to our attention as the result of a Chillicothe local news article quoting U.S. Marshal Office Investigator Bill Bolden: “Ohio ranks as high as number 4 in the nation when it comes to human trafficking and related crimes…[I have] seen girls as young as 14 become snared into this seedy underground world.” This statement was supported by research and ranking complied and collected by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The house resolution goes on to say that “over half of the victims of sex trafficking report having been required to learn and perform sexual acts according to depictions in pornography,” illustrating that the work of porn producers and human traffickers go hand in hand. On this issue, we examined a chapter entitled “’Renting an Organ for Ten Minutes’” from Melissa Farley’s prostitution research, Pornography: Driving the Demand for International Sex Trafficking:
Interviews with 854 women in 9 countries [including the U.S.] […] made it clear that pornography is integral to prostitution. In 9 countries, almost half (49 percent) told us that pornography was made of them while they were in prostitution. Forty-seven percent of our respondents were upset by tricks’ attempts to make them do what the tricks had previously seen in pornography. These numbers are similar to those reported by the WHISPER Oral History Project in 1990. Fifty-three percent of the WHISPER interviewees reported that tricks made pornography of them. Fifty-two percent of the WHISPER women reported that pornography played a significant role in teaching them what was expected of them as prostitutes. Eighty percent said that tricks showed them pornography in order to illustrate the specific sex acts that they wanted performed.
Some of the PTSD suffered by women in prostitution results from the ways that men use pornography on them and against them.
Of 854 women, men and children in prostitution, across 9 countries, we found that 68 percent had PTSD.
(citations omitted, emphasis added)
Though Ohio law does not allow nonconsensual distribution of pornographic images (i.e. “revenge porn”), these laws cannot protect victims of human trafficking who are too afraid, exploited, and impoverished to pursue prosecution. The resolution describes how pornography is that tool for human traffickers to increase profit, exert control, and wreck the reputations of their victims by pornographic exploitation. A legal research article here by Lieutenant Allison Luzwick for the Northwestern University Law Review Online notes that:
Traffickers can use violent or nonviolent means to coerce victims into producing pornography that, to the viewer, appears consensual.
Additionally, traffickers often force prostituted victims to make pornography by posting pictures or videos of them online as advertisement or by profiting off of pornographic material created while they engaged in prostitution. In a 2003 survey, 49% of people “currently or recently in prostitution” reported that their traffickers made pornographic material of them while they were engaged in prostitution. The experience of victimization may even be exacerbated by the existence of pornographic images. Victims feel as if they cannot escape their experience because the images and films exist on the internet, where anyone can view them at any time, meaning “each time [an] image is viewed, the victim is re-victimized.” As former porn “actress” Linda Boreman put it, “every time someone watches that film, they are watching me being raped.”
(citations omitted, emphasis added)
Representative Powell’s resolution reflects research findings that many factors which compel men and women to enter the pornography industry are the same factors which place many victims at risk for human trafficking—” …poverty, homelessness, [and] a history of childhood sexual or physical abuse…” There are often common themes in the victims’ stories… You can read more from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation here, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children here, as well as data on sex trafficking provided by the Office of the Ohio Attorney General in 2018 here.
The resolution then shifts to addressing the #MeToo movement, examining the correlation between exploitation of women and the link to male viewers—”The “#MeToo” movement has exposed how dangerous and harmful it is when men stop viewing women as valued coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family and instead view them as sexual objects.” This fits in line with recent research from Dr. John D. Foubert, “Dr. John D. Foubert, an endowed professor at Oklahoma State University and a leading expert on sexual violence” according to Fight The New Drug, a non-religious research nonprofit. Dr. Foubert notes:
In one experiment, the brains of men were scanned while they viewed porn. When neurologists looked at their brain scans, men’s brains reacted to women as if they were objects, not people. This is important because it is the process of dehumanizing a person that makes violence against them much more acceptable… They used an experimental design in order to demonstrate cause and effect. They found that people who use more pornography become less able to wait for gratification than people who use less pornography. Brain studies also now show that increased porn use leads to a slowing down of short-term memory.
Additional research revealed the link between male viewers of pornography and higher rates of interest in rape “if [he] knew he would not be caught…” This 2011 research was published by John D. Foubert, Matthew W. Brosi & R. Sean Bannon and entitled, Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault, revealed the link between male viewers of pornography and higher rates of interest in rape “if [he] knew he would not be caught…”
The appeal of avoiding “being caught” has also been described as an appeal for viewing internet porn in privacy and anonymity as noted by the late Dr. Allen Cooper, PhD. Dr. Cooper called this the “triple-A Engine effect:” as porn offers accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. His work has been cited by secular and Christian sources alike, including The Gospel Coalition here.
HR 180 also argues that “…sexualized depictions of violence towards women and children…correlates with an increased demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.” It goes on to say that pornography adds to the “precocious hypersexualization of adolescent and prepubescent children in our society.” This 2016 article suggests that pornography usage leads to increased sexual violence by surveying over 50 peer-reviewed studies from the past 20 years. Additionally, a 2015 study in India connected an increase in sexual offenses against girls to increased internet access.
Though studies vary in the exact reported of first exposure to pornography, this article from the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that most boys are first exposed to porn accidentally around age 13. The APA article also suggests that porn shapes male attitudes towards women in devastating ways, regardless of the age of first exposure:
The US team questioned 330 male university students aged 17 to 54 about their first exposure to pornographic material and their current attitudes towards women.
Lead researcher Alyssa Bischmann, from the University of Nebraska, said: “We found that the younger a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he was to want power over women. The older a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he would want to engage in playboy behaviour.”
Among participants, the average age of their first exposure to porn was 13.37 years old. The youngest porn encounter was at the age of five and the oldest at more than 26 years old.
A majority of men indicated that their first exposure was accidental rather than deliberate or forced.
Lastly, The National Center on Sexual Exploitation compiled research for a US Capitol symposium here, entitled “The Public Health Harms of Pornography.” This discusses the resolution points concerning the “increase in low self-esteem, problematic [and risky] sexual activity, and body image disorders…” as well as the “biologically addictive” nature of pornography and effects on young men socially.