Female pornstars want the freedom to pursue sex how and when they want it and get paid for it, despite some having been abused. Should they continue to put themselves in porn, an industry that is predominantly viewed by men with unusual and sometimes violent fantasies?
#Metoo and Porn
Meet Savana Styles, a scarlet-haired Canadian pornstar who has been filmed in more than 30 adult films since 2015. She, like so many other women in the X-rated industry, has been the victim of sexual assault.
The #MeToo movement seeks to expose how sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, affects all aspects of society. Advocates like Tarana Burke, the first to coin the phrase “Me Too,” seek to empower and strengthen vulnerable women through increased awareness by visually demonstrating how women have survived sexual assault and harassment.
The #MeToo movement seeks to expose how sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, affects all aspects of society.
Why, then, would actresses like Styles choose to exploit their bodies for profit in an industry whose main consumers are mostly men with sometimes shocking fetishes?
The Relationship between Porn and Sex Crimes
Porn sites have grown in popularity in the past two decades, with various types and categories catering to mostly male viewers. Increases in sexual abuse cases have risen among female pornstars, along with an increase in sex trafficking cases.
According to polls, viewers of porn are predominantly men (90% male versus 10% female), and the content they prefer is becoming more hardcore. A top-rated category in the explicit content is gang bang, where one woman is the object of pleasure for multiple men who have their way with her.
Among the most visited category in PornHub, one of the biggest porn sites, is teens - a striking statistic considering the increase in sex trafficking occurrences in young girls. In light of the increasing awareness of human trafficking, reports of nearly 99% of all sex trafficking victims are female, with 1 in 7 childhood runaways being lured into the dangerous underground scene.
Nearly 99% of all sex trafficking victims are female, with 1 in 7 childhood runaways being lured into the dangerous underground scene.
Why Do Women Turn to Porn?
Some pornstars like Styles had an abusive childhood and end up going into the adult entertainment industry as a way to cope with the trauma. Some like the attention. Some stars, unfortunately, are coerced into the profession or are forced to do scenes with rougher content, like Jenny Blighe, a former “cam” girl who wanted to make more money on the big screen and was choked by her co-star.
Styles, a staunch supporter of #MeToo, revealed her tragic experience with sexual abuse and the repercussions. “I was raped at 17. I decided at the time to not talk about it to anyone. I did not want people to see me like a victim. Most importantly, I wanted to avoid my family being made aware of such drama. But, after 3 months of keeping this atrocity inside my head, my body decided to react.”
“I developed a Vulvar Vestibulitis – a psychosomatic disease that caused an inflammation of the vaginal orifice, characterized by severe pain with attempted penetration. This is an intense type of pain like burning or cutting. It makes sex by penetration impossible — and also makes you feel ashamed and depressed.”
Some pornstars like Styles had an abusive childhood and end up going into the adult entertainment industry as a way to cope with the trauma.
Styles told reporters she tried anything to take away the pain, including electroshock therapy and extremely painful vaginal injections. She eventually went to see a psychologist who encouraged her to stop repressing the trauma and to “exorcise these demons.”
Styles stated, “I remember the metaphor used by the doctor who convinced me to purge this by speaking about it. He said, ‘It’s like a horror movie. The first time you watch it, it’s scary. But, the second time, it’s less scary.’ Every time you watch it again and again, it becomes banal.”
Styles’ physical and mental side-effects of sexual abuse damaged her life, and she voiced the need for the porn business to treat its actors better. While she and other stars have been the object of abuse, along with countless others, will the #MeToo movement help them in an industry historically known for making women look like sexual fantasy objects for men?
Women like Savana Styles propose that the #MeToo movement will help women in the workplace be “liberated from their inner demons,” yet are putting themselves at risk for more instances of exploitation. If the need for such a movement in regular workplaces exists, how much greater of an issue will pornstars face?