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Tag: feminism

Suzzan Blac discusses her life, trauma and extraordinary art

BY NMN

This is an edited transcript of the first part of Suzzan Blac’s talk at the ‘An evening with Suzzan Blac’ webinar we held in July 2021 and the related discussion with Ygerne Price-Davies. The transcript of the second part of the talk, which was about her research into pornography, is in a separate article. You can watch the recording of the whole talk on YouTube.

Introduction

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, sexual assaults, numerous rapes and sex trafficking.

This had been my life. My normal. So normal, that I didn’t even realise that I had been abused and been a victim for the majority of my childhood. I only began to acknowledge and understand this in my mid-twenties. I finally sought counselling when I was thirty-three years old.

Recovery was extremely traumatic and it took me more than twenty years to overcome the worst of it. One of the reasons it took so long to recover, was the victim blaming that many people inflicted upon me. In my experience, victim blaming is as painful and distressing as the abuse itself.

Between 2000 and 2004, in order to try and help myself, I decided to paint my story of abuse to help me process my pain, anger and trauma. I began by drawing subconscious doodles whilst watching TV, as I knew that these drawings had to come from deep inside of me and not my thoughts. I then turned the drawings into realistic paintings that depicted ‘me the victim’ and ‘the perpetrators’.

I was sometimes shocked by what I had painted, but I knew that they were my true feelings. I painted forty images over four years and I hid them away for over a decade, because they were for me alone, and not meant for anyone to see, especially knowing that I would be condemned if I showed them.

In 2011, I decided to put them online. I had other works out there, but I knew that ‘silence impairs the victims and empowers the perpetrators’. So I had to speak out by using my art, and although I had many people make hurtful comments, I had hundreds of survivors thanking me for giving them a voice.

I have also been training police and social workers in child sexual abuse (CSA), child sexual exploitation (CSE) and victim blaming since 2014.

I also paint about sexual objectification, sexual conditioning, pornography, prostitution and misogyny.

I am motivated by my pain, anger, injustice and indignation surrounding violence against women and girls (VAWG) and victim blaming.

I’m now going to show you twenty-four of my works with a very brief description of each one.

1. The trusted uncle

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The trusted uncle’. Oil on canvas.
The trusted uncle

This painting depicts my mother’s brother, who sexually abused me as a baby. I painted it like a ‘Happy family portrait’ to convey the lies and cover-ups of family members who knew that it was happening. It also conveys the horrific fact that babies are sexually abused and raped, especially since the invention of the internet and mobile phone cameras. I was actually told that ‘I was sick’ for painting this image.

2. One of mother’s boyfriends

Blac, Suzzan. ‘One of mother’s boyfriends’. Oil on canvas.
One of mother’s boyfriends

This painting depicts one of my mother’s boyfriends who sexually abused me from when I six to when I was eight years old. He was also extremely violent, and in this image I watched in horror as he beat my mother to a pulp. No child should ever have to witness such violence.

3. You’re such a good girl

Blac, Suzzan. ‘You’re such a good girl’. Oil on canvas.
You’re such a good girl

This was the first time that anyone had ever called me a ‘good girl’. He also told me that it was all my fault, because I was so ‘pretty’. Here, I am trying to express what sexual abuse was doing to me internally, whilst I remained frozen and detached throughout the abuse.

4. She likes it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘She likes it’. Oil on canvas.
She likes it

This image depicts the first-time my mother’s boyfriend sexually abused me in front of my mother, whilst she was at her dressing table. She turned around and asked why he was doing that, to which he replied, ‘Because she likes it’.

He laughed and said, ‘What’s the matter love, you jealous? There’s plenty to go around’.

I searched her face for a reaction, but all she did was ‘tut’ and resumed putting on her make-up. I knew then that it was not going to stop, that it was okay and was to become my ‘normal’.

5. Playtime

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Playtime’. Oil on canvas.
Playtime

This image depicts my childhood – although at the time, I didn’t feel like a child. I felt like an ‘Entity’ that existed, merely to survive every day, every hour, every minute. He destroyed my childhood and he destroyed my innocence. Still to this day, I get very emotional when I watch small children innocently play, because he took that from me and put me in the darkest of places.

After many years of sexual abuse from others, including those I had trusted, even a teacher, I became a teenager on a path of self-destruction. These next paintings depict the devastating consequences of my years of abuse.

6. Embracing death

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Embracing death’. Oil on canvas.
Embracing death

By the age of fourteen, I was regularly drinking, taking drugs, partying, being highly promiscuous and self-harming. I was called a slag, slut and a whore, and yes, I was.

One night, as I lay on the piss-flooded floor of a night club toilet, I felt like I was home. I was disgusting, vile and filthy and this is where I belonged. I was so intoxicated, that I thought I was going to die, and I embraced the thought, because I hated my life, I hated humans, and I hated myself.

7. Demonic whispers

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Demonic whispers’. Oil on canvas.
Demonic whispers

This painting depicts the time that I was sex trafficked when I was sixteen years old. This is a portrait of the man who threatened, hurt and (alongside others) repeatedly raped me. I had been taken to London under the pretence of ‘modelling’.

Locked inside a once former Victorian hotel with many other girls and women, we were forced into pornography and prostitution. This was a whole new level of abuse, terror and trauma, one that will always stay with me.

8. Tell me you love it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Tell me you love it’. Oil on canvas.
Tell me you love it

On the first night that this man abducted me, he led me to a room, told me to take off my clothes and viciously raped me. Whilst raping me, he forced me to repeatedly tell him that ‘I loved it’.

9. I’ve killed bitches before

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I’ve killed bitches before’. Oil on canvas.
I’ve killed bitches before

After raping me, he told me to get dressed, and as I did so – he grabbed me by my throat, shoved me against a wall and as he stuck a large knife underneath my rib-cage, he seethed into my ear, ‘I’ve killed bitches that misbehave before, so you need to think about that.’

My only thoughts were, ‘I’m only 16 and this is how I die’.

While I was still shaking in absolute terror, he withdrew the knife and laughed at me, saying, ‘You should see your face.’

This was pure sadism. I could never speak about how this affected me.

There are no words, and that’s why I had to express myself through my paintings.

10. Pornographic meat

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Pornographic meat’. Oil on canvas.
Pornographic meat

On the second day, along with other girls, I was forced into making pornography in a large room full of men. I had to completely detach; I became a ‘dead actress’, a ‘fleshed robot’ that obeyed their every command in absolute fear.

The other girls and I did not speak or even make eye contact. We were first made to watch films of the worst kind of pornography, including bestiality, sadism and child abuse. One man joked that he was going to get the popcorn.

When they began filming me, one of the men asked for ‘Butcher shots’ and I immediately turned inside out. I cried for me and I cried for the other girls, because we were no longer human beings, we were pieces of meat inside an abattoir.

11. Shut up and take it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Shut up and take it’. Oil on canvas.
Shut up and take it

This image depicts one of the traffickers taking me back home. In a train toilet, he violently raped me – three times between London and Birmingham. As I whimpered, he shushed me, covered my mouth and told me, ‘This was part of the deal, so shut up and take it’.

He drove me back to my flat, asking many questions about my boyfriend and family. He then told me that I would be seeing him again soon.

12. The end of everything

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The end of everything’. Oil on canvas.
The end of everything

After I got home, I never told a soul about what had happened to me. I was still traumatised and knew that it was all my fault. I also was being terrorised by one of the traffickers. So I had to internalise all of that pain and fear.

After a while I deteriorated both mentally and physically. I cut all of my hair off, because I didn’t want to be pretty anymore. My weight dropped to six stone, I developed intestinal worms, severe cystitis, boils, chancres and weeping eczema that turned septic.

One night, I sat naked in the shower tray, and poured a bottle of red food colouring all over me. Rocking and crying that ‘I needed to die’.

13. The epitome of sorrow is to die alone

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The epitome of sorrow is to die alone’. Oil on canvas.
The epitome of sorrow is to die alone

This painting depicts one of my suicide attempts. I had taken all of my clothes off and laid down on my 9th floor balcony, one winters evening, after failing to jump off. I was hoping to die of hypothermia. As my face stuck to the icy concrete floor, hot tears ran down my freezing face as I thought how awfully sad it was to have to die alone.

I woke up at dawn. I slowly walked into my lounge which was like walking into a furnace and saw my reflection in a mirror. It was surreal, I looked like a wax model covered in blue and green veins. I just curled up into my bed, so sad that I wasn’t dead.

14. No one asked me why

Blac, Suzzan. ‘No one asked me why’. Oil on canvas.
No one asked me why

This image depicts the time I had my stomach pumped in a hospital after taking an overdose. After hostile staff discharged me, and as I walked away from the hospital, I began to cry – because not one person in there had asked me why I had done this to myself.

It was then I knew that even doctors and nurses never gave a shit about me, they didn’t care if I died, they just did their job.

15. I am a piece of shit

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I am a piece of shit’. Oil on canvas.
I am a piece of shit

This painting depicts how others made me feel, whenever I disclosed what had happened to me. I was condemned, isolated, abandoned and judged. Not believed, made to feel guilty, ashamed and that much of it was my own fault.

This is how many people make victims and survivors of sexual abuse feel. If someone says that they were robbed, mugged or beat-up, there is sympathy and empathy, but not if you are a victim of sexual abuse, you are literally treated like a piece of shit.

16. I’m fine thank you

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I’m fine thank you’. Oil on canvas.
I’m fine thank you

I painted this self-portrait to show how it felt, to constantly hide myself by wearing a mask for self-protection and social acceptance. People made me feel like an ‘outcast’. If I spoke out about the crimes committed against me as a child, I would be met with a wall of silence, made to feel uncomfortable, defective and dysfunctional.

No survivor of sexual abuse should have to hide their pain, anxiety and distress, in the fear of being re-victimised. No human being should ever have to feel what I have painted here.

Now I want to show you some of my other works, ones that I painted years after my story of abuse.

17. Your suffering is real

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Your suffering is real’. Oil on canvas.
Your suffering is real

I painted this image of myself to express and convey how severe, continuous sexual traumas impact your mental health, your body and your very soul.

Sexual violence is unlike any other kind of violence. It’s blackness creeps inside your every vein and permeates every organ until you emotionally shut down and are no longer the human being that you once were. Unable to speak of the horrors, you outwardly smile – whilst hiding the truth that you are internally destroyed.

18. The prostitutor

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The prostitutor’. Oil on canvas.
The prostitutor

This image represents the men who prey on vulnerable girls and women. They are the pimps and pornographers who target ‘bent but not broken girls’ in order to profit from their bodies. They are men on the streets, men online, sex traffickers, husbands, boyfriends and fathers.

The majority of these girls and women are victims of previous sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence, who have mental health issues and are often alcohol and drug dependant.

19. Let me entertain you

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Let me entertain you’. Oil on canvas.
Let me entertain you

This image depicts the sexual and physical violence now commonplace in mainstream pornography. Women are being humiliated, degraded, hog-tied, raped, punched, kicked, suffocated with plastic bags, strangled, tortured and even hanged.

This isn’t about sex; these are crimes committed against women. These videos are the stuff of serial killer fantasies. In fact, the only thing that they don’t do to women in mainstream pornography is kill them.

20. What women want

Blac, Suzzan. ‘What women want’. Oil on canvas.
What women want

Which brings me to this painting, which depicts a young boy watching this kind of sexual violence on his mobile phone.

For the first time in history, boys are viewing this horrific and hateful misogyny and violence against women, which has become so normalised that boys are completely desensitised. Many use pornography on their phones to sexually harass, intimidate and exert power over girls. Pornography alters and influences sexual behaviours and reinforces misogyny in young, malleable minds. This is why the government needs to implement age-verification now.

21. Blue Hair

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Blue hair’. Oil on canvas.
Blue Hair

This painting is one of a set of six images, named Abasement of dolls that depict issues that affect women and girls, such as sexual conditioning, sexual objectification and sexual exploitation. 

Right from birth, baby girls are objectified and conditioned with bows, ribbons, lace and frilly nappy pants. Toddlers wear sassy clothes, jewellery, heels and painted nails. Many little girls are only given ‘girly toys’: housework sets, make-up and hairstyle sets, etc. Girls are taught that only being attractive and pretty are valued, and this often stays with them.

Many teenage girls and women resort to extreme diets, Botox and cosmetic surgeries, because they don’t match up to the high standards of beauty.

22. Blonde girls

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Blonde girls’. Oil on canvas.
Blonde girls

Again, this is about the sexual objectification of little girls, in the media, film, dance studios and even by their own parents – for example, entering them into horrific ‘beauty pageants’ such as ‘toddlers and tiaras’ or buying Playboy merchandise for them. Incidentally, Playboy merchandise was sold to girls as young as eight in the high street.

23. Black Hair

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Black Hair’. Oil on canvas.
Black Hair

This painting depicts the young women who enter the porn industry, many because of mental health issues, oppressed religious backgrounds, suitcase pimps and coercive boyfriends. These are eighteen-year-olds – they are still kids! – who enter a world of grown adult men who love ‘fresh meat’.

Many pornographers make them appear even younger and then have them ‘punished’ and ‘destroyed’.

Many of these young women leave after a short period of time after being so traumatised, a trauma that continues, because their videos remain online indefinitely for all to see.

24. The life giver

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The life giver’. Oil on canvas.
The life giver

This painting represents sexism and misogyny. I portray a history of derogatory and sexist terms used to silence, erase, hurt, subordinate, humiliate, degrade, hate and punish women.

My point is that no one is morally or legally allowed to make racist, homophobic or transphobic slurs as they are deemed ‘hate crimes’ but you can call women anything you want, because misogyny is not deemed a hate crime.


The discussion

Ygerne: I just wanted to say thank you so much to Suzzan for such a powerful and moving talk. I personally find your work really significant. It’s very hard hitting and often can be quite disturbing, but I think that the depiction of such extreme experience and psychological trauma is pivotal because speaking with a lot of women who have experienced sexualized violence and sexism more widely that sharing stories especially in creative ways enables us to overcome misogyny together. So thank you for sharing your story with us.

Suzzan: You’re welcome.

Ygerne: In the past I’ve heard you say that understanding complex PTSD helped your recovery. Would you like to talk a bit more about that and how it’s helped you?

Suzzan: Absolutely. Recovery can take so long and it wasn’t until literally about five years ago that someone explained to me the concept of complex PTSD. I’m now 61 and I wish that someone had told me earlier in my life. That’s why it’s so important to talk about this.

Going through my teenage years and adult life, no matter how many times counsellors and therapists would say to me, it wasn’t your fault… I don’t mean just as a child, I mean as a teenager and a young woman because a couple of years after I was sex trafficked, I actually went back into pornography and prostitution. No matter how many times they said it wasn’t my fault, I still knew it was my fault. So I still had the shame, self-blame, the guilt, everything was still there, it remained.

And you can’t ever recover whilst you have those intense feelings inside of you. Then a few years ago I learned about complex PTSD which is different from ordinary PTSD. Ordinary PTSD occurs after a one-time event, say being held up at gunpoint. That actually happened to a friend of mine in Birmingham. Or like a serious car crash or something like that and afterwards you develop PTSD.

But, with complex PTSD you are traumatised over a long period of time, especially from childhood and the teenage years as in my case, as in many other women’s cases. You are constantly, repeatedly traumatised over years. For me it was every day or every other day for all those years.

Each time that you are traumatised you internalise that trauma and become detached – especially in sexual violence. Each time someone abuses you, you become detached and as in my case, completely detached, all through those years.

And so, you never really feel what’s happening to you, you never really feel that pain. All through my teenage and early adult years I was self-abusing because what you don’t ever want to do is feel that pain. So, you keep abusing yourself, in whatever way, drink, drugs, putting yourself in certain situations, like I did.

I would put myself into dangerous situations because I wanted to keep being abused or abusing myself so I would never have to feel it because it was too enormous. The enormity of it was too much – unlike someone who is suffering from PTSD from a one-time event – they can talk about it. If you were mugged or robbed or attacked physically, you can tell people. But, with sexual violence, you can’t. So that compounds it and you have all these extra symptoms because you cannot talk about it.

Once I understood that, I could understand that it was not my fault. In the end I understood completely why I carried on abusing myself. I wanted to relay that to other people because it took so long for me to understand it.

Ygerne: You mentioned victim blaming and how that made it so much harder for you.

Suzzan: Exactly! You don’t get victim blamed if you are mugged. They don’t say, you shouldn’t have worn that jewellery or you shouldn’t have carried money with you. Nobody says that.

But, if you are raped, especially young girls, around 14 and upwards, it’s what was she wearing? How much was she drinking? And they don’t ask such questions to elderly ladies who are raped.

There’s so much victim blaming of young women and it compounds the recovery. That’s another reason you don’t want to talk about it because people are really cruel. In my book I talk about the many times that I suffered victim blaming. This is something we need to address; we need to address this because it is only young girls and women who are targeted, nobody else.

Ygerne: It’s re-traumatising all over again and it comes from this hatred for women, doesn’t it?

Suzzan: Absolutely. Misogyny plays a large part in all of this.

Ygerne: OK, so we’ve had a question that came through from the audience. She says: are you married to a man and if so, how were you able to trust him or anyone? How were you able to move past the hatred of people?

Suzzan: I never wanted to have a relationship when I was a young woman. I never trusted anybody. How could I? So, I would just go out with someone and you know, whatever. I never wanted to get close to anybody or have anyone close to me.

And I never wanted children, either. I’ve been asked quite a few times by people whether it was because I was worried I would abuse them. And I would say no it wasn’t that. It was because I didn’t want to bring them into this evil world.

But I met my children’s father and I found myself getting close to him and I didn’t want to. I don’t think I’ve ever really trusted him and I had good reason not to. We ended up going through hell.

I even went to the women’s hospital because, like I said before, I thought I was mentally ill. At that time I didn’t know that I had been abused. People find that hard to believe, but I thought I was just a looney. That’s what I thought. That I was a looney who took drugs, drank, and had a good time and hated the world. I thought I was mental. We went through quite a difficult period.

I was on the pill from when I was 13 years old, and I went to the doctor because I had severe migraines. He told me to come off the pill and as soon as I did, I got pregnant, which was a big shock. And that’s a whole other story – of how an abused person feels when they have a child.

We did divorce years later. And I’ve only had one relationship since then. I haven’t had one now since 2017. I’d rather just not.

It not just relationships that I find hard, it’s friendships, it’s work colleagues. Because, being abused affects every aspect of your life. Say something comes up in a work situation – for example, Mother’s Day and you’re asked about your mother. I would often say that she’s dead. She’s not, but I would say she was. I couldn’t talk about her because I stopped seeing her when I was in my early 30’s and I’ve never seen her since and I don’t want to see her.

So, it’s things like that, things that come up all the time. It’s very difficult. So, I would rather be alone, I’d rather just write and go for walks and just be by myself these days, with my cat, I love my cat. And, of course, I’ve got my two beautiful grownup children and a granddaughter. And I’m happy with that, but it’s been very difficult to trust. It’s hard to trust people.

Ygerne: That’s understandable.

Suzzan: It is, because I’ve even been abused by doctors – when I was in my early 20s. I went to a place for help to get into work. One of the lecturers started abusing me there and I went to the on-site doctor and he closed the blinds and started abusing me too. So, all my life, up to a certain point – after having children and counselling, everything changed. But, before I had children, I was constantly, constantly abused.

And as I said, you just detach.

I didn’t know I had an inkling about being abused when I was in my mid to late 20s. Having my daughter was the catalyst to my recovery because I understood at that moment when she was born what it should be… How the protection and love that you have for a child, for a baby, for your baby, was so intense and everything kind of changed from that moment.

Ygerne: That’s a moment of hope.

Suzzan: Oh, absolutely. But it was so hard because even when I had children I had so many difficult times and even when I was in therapy. When I was 33, I’d had my second child, my son and suddenly social workers got involved because they knew I was in therapy for my own abuse and I had a lot of abuse from them. It just went on and on. It was absolutely awful, never ending.

Ygerne: It was the blaming again, wasn’t it?

Suzzan: Instant victim blaming, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I know things have improved, but they’re not good enough, especially when it comes to young women.

Ygerne: There’s definitely a long way to go. We have to keep fighting.

Suzzan: We do, absolutely. And all of us can impart the knowledge and understanding to younger women that I didn’t get, and that’s why I do what I do.

Ygerne: Thank you Suzzan. Thank you so much, it’s been amazing to have you.

Suzzan: You’re welcome. And thank you to everybody who watched. I wouldn’t say it’s been fun, but this stuff needs to be out there and women, especially younger women, need to understand more from us older ones.


The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac: book cover

If you want to see more of Suzzan’s paintings, you can go onto her art website.

She has also written a book about her life called ‘The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac’ which is available on Amazon.

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The second part of Suzzan’s talk, which is about her research into pornography, is available here.

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Adult Film Industry and Human Rights Violations

Adult Film Industry and Human Rights Violations

There have been numerous reports of human rights abuse in the adult film industry. The
inappropriate and rash themes such as ‘bondage’ and ‘sex slaves’ shown in the adult-movies
have affected the lives of its actors and its viewers. Women are portrayed as enjoying forced-sex
and enjoying being whipped, choked and beaten which indirectly promotes and normalizes rape
culture. Various Human Rights treaties have conferred upon the mankind, various fundamental
rights, which are inalienable.

It is certain that the adult film industry has devastated its actors and has become a hub of trafficking. This article gets into the details of how the adult film industry has directly violated the human rights of its actors. The article further includes case laws and confessions from female porn actors who have acted in such movies. Other major issues i.e. child-pornography and human trafficking have also been dealt with.

By Jasmine Siddiqui, a 4th year student currently enrolled in B.A. LL.B (H) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Introduction

The adult film industry is considered as one of the biggest industries in the world. Porn is watched in almost every second house. It is a pre-conceived notion in our society that the industry is one that of leisure and fun. It appears to be all gold and glitter but the reality is far away from this.

The world of adult films is humiliating and the lives of its workers are dull and shady. The industry has portrayed ‘bondage’ as if it were right and common. The portraying of women as sex slaves and whipping them on their private parts are some of the main themes of pornographic videos. Many people love passionate sex but bondage and slave sex is not a form of passionate sex. It is sheer violence and inhumane behavior towards the porn performer and further promoting cruelty and torture among its viewers.

It is reported from time to time by various human rights organisations how women are forced to be part of the porn industry and are coerced to be slaves or servants of influential clients. The porn actors’ human rights are violated due to violent and humiliating pornographic acts which they are often forced to perform. Trafficking, child abuse, non-consensual sex and fake contracts are some of the other human rights violations.

Apart from the actors, the viewers are also highly affected by such content. They get exposed to such uncommon and unacceptable sexual behavior that they often desire to have same type of sex with their partners. They imitate the actors and start turning hostile towards their partners which results in increased sexual crimes/assault cases toward women.

Many porn websites purchase homemade porn videos and allow their upload on their portal. This tends to men capturing their intimating scenes with their partners, mostly with hidden cameras which they later sell in return for a good price from porn websites.

Trafficking In Adult Film Industry Is Unreported But Not Uncommon

The viewers of adult videos believe that the porn stars are performing in such videos by their will. They defend pornography by saying that if porn stars didn’t enjoy what they were doing then they would have quit the industry. This may not be the case every time. Trafficking and porn industry may seem unrelated but the reality is far opposite.

Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children defines Trafficking as, “Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of
the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking which involves trafficking of women and children for the purpose of commercial sex or sexual exploitation. The term “commercial sex act” is defined as “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” [1] The term ‘sex trafficking’ is not particularly defined in the UN conventions but a Parliamentary Act of the United States defines it.

According to The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) sex trafficking is defined as “Recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual through the means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex”.

Sex traffickers target victims through false promises. The adult film industry includes escort services, brothels, clubs and fake massage parlors. The International Labor Organization asserts that there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. According to a report by International Human Rights NGO based in Japan, there have been numerous cases in which Japanese women were coerced to appear in adult pornographic videos.

Very recently in 2016, young women were contracted to be models or actress but later they were forced to do pornographic videos. The porn companies make them sign the contract and later coerce them of penalty or other similar threats. They are forced to perform sex scenes and later their videos and pictures are circulated among adult cinemas and internet. The report further claims that many derogatory roles are assigned to the porn actress which includes the role of being a slave or debt bondage. In many cases, it has been revealed that young innocent actresses who are new to the industry gets duped by an agent under the pretence that she is assigned a simple role but in reality she is forced to do ‘rough sex.’

The Case Of United States V. Bagley 

In the American case of United States v. Bagley, a husband and his wife were accused of trafficking a minor. The victim ran away from a foster home at the age of 16 years and was taken into their home by a married couple. They treated the victim as their property and forced her to sign a contract to be their sex slave. She was made to forcefully dance at clubs. They not only beat her but also whipped, flogged, choked, caned, skewered, drowned, mutilated, hung and caged her. She was tattooed on her arm with a Chinese character for “slave.” She was electrocuted and suffered cardiac arrest for which she was hospitalized at the age of 23.

In yet another case of the Netherlands, four people were found guilty of kidnapping asylum seekers from North America and forcing them to take part in pornography. The victims were taped and recorded while forced to have sex with men and animals. One of the victims escaped and reported the local police. This depicts the hidden reality of organized human trafficking of women especially of women coming from vulnerable places.

Adult Film Industry Promotes Rape Culture & Sexual Exploitation

More and more porn stars are now coming up to speak about the terrifying reality of the adult film industry. Female porn stars have reported that they have to shoot films which contain brutal acts. One porn star was reported saying, “I agreed to do the scene, thinking it was less beating and only a punch in the head. He had worn his solid gold ring the entire time and continued to punch me with it. I actually stopped the scene while it was being filmed because I was in too much pain.” [4] Abuse and sexual violence are that common in the porn industry.

The adult film industry through its abusive and pervasive videos promotes gender stereotypes. Pornography changes the way the world sees women. There is nothing like love and affection in the porn videos and women are depicted as sexual objects with insatiable sexual desires who are always ready to please men. Pornography has made the outer body only criteria for judging women.

Women are expected to have perfect body figures just as the appealing body figures of the female porn stars. Porn websites contain male domination and female submission videos as if these are the expected roles. The viewers of ‘bondage’ and ‘rough sex’ porn videos often start lacking empathy for women. Their behavior towards women turns dominating and sexually imposing.

A study consisting of data from seven countries found that effects of pornography include increase in verbal and physical aggression. [5] Another study found that males aged 14 to 19 who viewed pornography have more often sexually harassed a female peer. [6] Many women have reported that their partners turn aggressive during sex and perform rough sex without even asking for the other partner’s consent. Though sex is a person’s choice and many couples enjoy unnatural sex; including oral and anal sex but this becomes a matter of fear and concern when the male partner starts enjoying to see her female partner in pain, crying and begging for his mercy. These brutal sexual acts leave women in fear. Choking, gagging, spitting are among some humilities usually done by their male partners.

The question is how and why young people find it alright to be abusive with their partners? The answer is ‘Porn’. Usually young children grow up watching porn. Sex-education is not common in most of the countries like India. The adult videos websites are flooded with submissive sex videos that it becomes the new normal for these young adolescents. It is an accepted fact that pornography has a higher impact on adolescents. They tend to believe that women are designated to be sexually exploited by men.

A report from November 2019 surveyed some British women which found that a third of them below the age of forty have been victims of choking, slapping, gagging or spitting during sex. 20% of these women said they were left frightened by the incidents. [7] Yet another study by Debby Herbenick who is a sex researcher found out that nearly a quarter of adult women in the US have reported unwanted choking during sex. [8]

Top 50 popular pornographic videos were analysed and it was found that 88% of scenes contained physical violence, 49% contained verbal aggression, 87% of aggressive acts were against women, and 95% were neutral expressions. [9]

Not only physical violence but verbal abuse has also become an intensive part of the adult film industry. Women are often called with names like “bitches”. They are portrayed and used as sexual objects. Such occurrences have affected the dignity of women in real life also. There is an increase in the performance of rough sex between real life couples where women are considered as mere sexual objects. These occurrences have direct correlation to the extreme violence and verbal abuse typified in pornography. [10]

There is a fine line between pleasure and pain but through these pornographic videos the porn websites are depicting that inflicting pain upon women is a pleasurable and fun activity; for both men and women. The BDSM category videos promote rape, sexual abuse, cruel and inhumane behavior. While shooting such videos, the porn stars go through highly painful experience. They are not even allowed to leave the shoot in between. This is nothing but rape. If we go by the definition of rape, penetration of penis or any other object into the sexual parts or mouth of a woman without her will and consent amounts to rape.

In a survey conducted, the interviewer did not even mention about pornography yet out of 193 cases of rape, 24% rapists mentioned that they were stimulated by pornographic materials including videos and writings. These rapists insisted that the victims enjoyed rape and extreme violence. [11] Another study by FBI researchers concluded that out of 36 serial killers 29 were attracted to violent and rough sex pornography which they tried to do with their female partners and ended up killing them. [12]

In March 2020, Pornhub was accused for profiting from rape and abusive videos. An online petition was circulated against Pornhub for facilitating sexual trafficking and for weak protection policies. In a reported incident, a couple’s intimating video was stolen from her mobile phone and later sold to Pornhub. She got trending in top five ‘soft porn’ videos category until it was removed after few days. [13] In yet another incident, a 15 year old girl was raped and her videos were later uploaded on Pornhub and other porn websites.

Porn sites are also accused of giving a platform to ‘revenge porn’. A revenge porn victim felt extremely embarrassed when she found out that her intimating videos with her ex-boyfriend had been uploaded on Pornhub which crossed 600,000 views. [14] This is how giant adult websites such as Pornhub and YouPorn are promoting non-consensual sex and are profiting from this.

The Case Of Adult Film Actress, Linda Lovelace

Linda Lovelace, a former porn actress revealed her experience in porn industry. Many books and movies have been written and filmed depicting her life story. Her autobiography titled ‘Ordeal’ reveals that she was forced into the porn industry. She shared that her first shoot in the adult industry included gang rape by five men. Her husband forced her into prostitution and private porn and he threatened to shoot her from his pistol if she did not cooperate. She wrote, “They treated me like a plastic doll. They were playing musical chairs with my body parts. I engaged in sex acts for pornography against my will and consent in order to save my life and my families’ lives.”

Child Pornography Flourishes In A World With No Borders

In legal language, a child is a person below the age of 18 years. In recent times, child pornography is on the rise due to easy accessibility on internet. In 1996, World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children defined commercial sexual exploitation of children as “sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons.”

It includes prostitution of children, child pornography, and child sex tourism. Further, if a child enters into sexual activity in return of money, food, shelter or any other necessity then also it comes under the purview of commercial sexual exploitation. Cases where sexual abuse are not reported by the family members due to benefits derived by the family members from the perpetrator also amount to commercial sexual exploitation. The production, promotion and distribution of child pornography, child sex tourism and use of children in public or private sex shows are also within its ambit. This broad definition is acknowledged by the International Labor Organisation in its 2015 report.

According to the UN Special Report on the Sale of Children and Child Prostitution, it is estimated there are around three quarters of a million people on the internet searching for child pornography videos. The report also claimed that child pornography has now turned into a billion dollar business. More than one-third producers of child-pornography are the child’s family members and more than a third people who are guilty of possession of such pornography live with the children.

In a 2015 report by Pornhub, India holds third position in the list of most porn watching countries while USA and UK bagged the top positions respectively and Indian viewers are more interested in ‘teen porn’ [15] despite the fact that India has very strict laws against child pornography. According to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, child pornography includes “any representation of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.”

According to Section 67B of the information technology Act, child pornography is illegal and any person browsing for child pornography videos can be punished with five years of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 1 million. India has also accepted the Convention on the Rights of Child on 11th December, 1992. In 2012, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, was enacted. Its aim was to protect the children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography. Article 39(f) of the Indian Constitution provides for the State to secure children against exploitation.

The Optional Protocol to the (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, The Council of European Convention on Cybercrime and The Council of European Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse are three effective International treaties to combat sexual exploitation and abuse of children. These three contain provisions for providing punishment to the perpetrators.

Pornography Affects The Dignity Of Women

Pornography violates porn actor’s human rights by affecting their dignity and constituting forced labor and trafficking. All human beings have equal and similar human rights. As per Article 1 of the UDHR, humans are born free and as per Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the dignity of every human must be respected and protected. Not all, but many porn actors are humiliated and made to perform sexual acts without their consent. This is disrespect towards their dignity.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives every human the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights state that “no one shall be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. It is evident from previously mentioned case studies, that the porn industry treats women in an inhumane way. They take advantage of poor and vulnerable minorities.

Article 4 of the UDHR and European Conventions on Human Rights prohibit slavery or servitude. Article 23(1) prohibits human trafficking. There are several conventions and treaties which the Nation-States sign in order to protect their citizens’s rights. Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women obliges the State parties to prevent trafficking and exploitation of women. The Convention for Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, considers trafficking done for the purpose of prostitution as evil and incompatible for human dignity and welfare.

Pornography is illegal in India under sections 292 and 293 of Indian Penal Code. In India, Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labor in any form. The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act penalizes trafficking for ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ with imprisonment of 7 years to life imprisonment. India is also a signatory to the Prevention of Suppression of Women and Children Convention.

Conclusion 

Every person has a right to choose a profession of his/her own choice. Prostitution and being porn stars does not make them less humans. They also do have equal and similar human rights as persons following other occupations. A porn star’s rights against forced sex are also a matter of human rights. The defense that the porn actors take up the work with consent is not a valid defense because ‘consent’ in the porn industry becomes very difficult to prove. The ambiguity remains intact as for what purpose she consented to.

Did she consent to do simple sex or sex in any form or her consent was gained by faking the terms of the contract. All these points become difficult to prove. Rising aggression and hostility towards female partners are effects of aggressive porn videos. These industries only focus on earning profits rather than the worker’s safety. Not only the porn industry but such content is publicized even by Hollywood like the movie- 50 Shades of Grey. The international and national laws are good on paper but when it comes to implementing these, the gap is never filled.

References:

  1. Sex trafficking, National Human Trafficking Hotline, https://humantraffickinghotline.org/type-trafficking/sex-trafficking
  2. Porn stars share dirty secrets, The Observer (July, 27, 2018, 3:14 A.M),
    https://m.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/porn-stars-share-industry-dirty-secrets/3478689/
  3. U.S.A v. Edward Bagley, http://www.justice.gov/usao/mow/news2011/bagley_indictment2.pdf
  4. Jorge Keek, The dark side of the adult film industry, Film Daily (July, 3, 2020), https://filmdaily.co/news/female-porn-stars-abuse/
  5. PJ Wright, A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies, Journal of Communication (Dec, 29, 2015), https://academic.oup.com/joc/article-abstract/66/1/183/4082427?redirectedFrom=PDF
  6. European Centre for Law and Justice, Pornography and Human Rights, European Centre for Law and Justice (July, 2019), https://eclj.org/geopolitics/pace/pornography–human-rights
  7. Ruth Akinradewo, The Dark of Pornography, Press Red (Dec, 05, 2019) https://pressred.org/2019/12/05/the-dark-side-of-pornography/
  8. Debby Herbenick, Feeling Scared During Sex, Journal of Sex and Martial Therapy (Apr,4, 2019)
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0092623X.2018.1549634
  9. Ana J Bridges et al, Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update, Violence against Women (Oct, 26, 2010) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210382866
  10. Supra note 7
  11. Robert W. Peters, Laura J. Lederer, Shane Kelly, The Slave and The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and
    Pornography, The Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society Issue 5, Pg.13 (2012)
  12. Supra note 11
  13. Kate Issacs, PornHub Needs to change or shut-down (Mar, 9, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/mar/09/pornhub-needs-to-change-or-shut-down
  14. James Melley, My sister found me in revenge porn online, BBC NEWS (Feb 25, 2020)
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/technology-49583420
  15. Souvik Ray, Top 10 most porn watching countries in the world: India on 3 rd India Times (July, 3, 2020, 4:51 P.M) https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.indiatimes.com/amp/news/world/india-3rd-most-porn-watching-country-in-the-world-up-from-4th-last-year-249212.html

 

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