Last week, the ABC’s youth station, Triple J, declared it “Porn Week” and broadcast a series of stories about our use of porn and the ways to use it to enhance your relationships.

They had previously surveyed more than 15,000 people aged 18-29 about their use of online pornography. Here’s the infographic with their findings:

And in case fineprint was too fine, here are my takeaways from their survey:

  • Just about every man surveyed watches porn, and just over half of women
  • In general, guys watch porn a lot more often than women
  • Almost no-one pays for porn
  • About half of men worry they watch too much porn
  • Despite the above, relatively few are worried that porn has negatively affected their relationship
  • In fact, a larger proportion say porn has been good for their relationship

And in case it’s not already good for you and your partner, the ABC published a handful of articles about how porn can enhance your love life, like this one, “How porn can be a positive influence in your relationship.”

The assumptions behind the week-long campaign seems to be (1) porn is here to stay so we’d better get used to it, (2) watching it is nothing to be ashamed of, and (3) you might as well be open about it with your partner.

But before we give in to the mantra that it’s all just a bit of harmless fun, let’s take a look at the cost your pornographic entertainment is exacting from its performers.

 

Last year, I told the tragic story of Mercedes Grabowski, the popular adult film performer who hanged herself after starring in more than 280 adult films under the name August Ames.

Grabowski has been sexually assaulted as a kid and suffered from depression so debilitating that at times she had to cancel film shoots and stay in bed. Still no one, including her porn-director husband, seemed to question whether she should have been in that line of work.

Now this week, it was reported that another adult performer, Stephanie Saddora, who was once one of the world’s most successful porn stars, is homeless and living in a nightmarish network of pitch-black tunnels beneath the glamorous Las Vegas Strip.

Known by the screen name, Jenni Lee, Saddora appears in a Dutch documentary about the underground life of the estimated 300 people — many of whom suffer from drug addictions — who squat in the 300-kilometre-long labyrinth running beneath the city.

In her interview for the documentary, the 36-year-old claims to be happy and safe. But the tunnels have no electricity and no running water.

And in case you thought adult film stars are well compensated for their performances, a short-lived life in porn doesn’t just leave you suicidal and homeless. The pay stinks.

In a recent tweet and subsequent interviews, former porn performer Mia Khalifa said that despite being one of the most popular porn performers on the internet, she earned only $12,000 during her career.

As an “industry,” pornography ruins the lives of its workers. In a recent Reddit discussion, adult film performers were invited to share the secrets of what life in porn is really like. The AskReddit thread that resulted was stomach-churning, with many people revealing how common it was to experience rape, abuse and exploitation. Many victims feel trapped in the business.

We get rightly outraged about the working conditions and wages of Bangladeshi women working in the fast fashion industry, or Apple factory workers in China, or miners in Columbia.

How can we be okay about blithely promoting an industry that leaves its workers drug-addled, homeless, suicidal and broke?

 

We participate in campaigns to end the abuses to workers in the fast fashion industry, shaming those companies that sell the super-cheap garments made in sweatshops in Bangladesh. Why don’t we also run campaigns insisting that users stop clicking on free porn sites?

Every time you visit a porn website, you contribute to their business plan. Those websites get paid for the number of ads they’ve shown, and they attract advertisers by the number of clicks they get. And the more they prosper, the more their performers are under-paid, uncared for, and then rejected and recycled with fresh performers.

Let’s boycott porn to end the suffering.

Let’s boycott porn like we boycott fur coats or meat or tuna (when it endangers dolphins).

I know there have been calls for porn boycotts before. They are usually made by pastors concerned about the morality of the users. And they usually elicit responses like this one from Lindy West at the feminist website, Jezebel, who was reacting to Jay Dennis’ 2013 call for a million-man boycott of pornography:

“Jesus Christ, Christians. You know this whole ban-everything-that-makes-my-penis-confused thing is not going to pan out for you in the long run, right? I mean, respectfully, you can keep marching around and making YouTube videos about carnal wickedness, but the sticking point you’re always going to hit is that people are, like, really into carnal wickedness. Like really really into it. Like a lot. So your attempts to shut down pornography are a pretty colossal waste of time – time that you could be using to, I don’t know, feed homeless babies? Be nice to prostitutes? Other stuff on that to-do list Jesus left for you?”

Ouch. But my call for a pornography boycott isn’t to protect the morality of its (mainly) male users.

While some might think it’s quaint to emphasize the personal morality of remaining chaste and not viewing pornography, I’m pretty sure they’d agree that sweatshops and worker exploitation is immoral.

 

Remember, there’s a former pornstar currently living in a darkened tunnel under the Las Vegas Strip. Her life is a shipwreck. Meanwhile, porn users by the thousands are happily clicking on her scenes, feeding the machine that ate her up and spat her out, and pleasuring themselves at her expense.

It’s definitely not harmless fun.

 

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