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Pornography Preys on the Vulnerable (Valiant Richey)

Valiant Richey talking about how porn takes advantage of vulnerable people.
Pornography is not a victimless crime even when it is engaged in consensually.

People who quit pornography often feel good that they are no longer supporting an industry that preys on troubled young women. Ron Gavrieli is a prime example. As is Noah T. Prostitution in the form of pornography may be legal, but it is far from ethical. Anyone familiar with basic economics knows that supply and demand go hand-in-hand. Porn consumption creates an incentive for for-profit individuals to go out and produce; and in doing so they almost always exploit the vulnerable of our society. When it’s all said and done, everyone suffers in the process–including porn producers, consumers, and actors. There is plenty enough reason to quit porn for people who only care about themselves. And double motivation for people who care about how their actions affect other people.

Valiant Richey is the Acting Special Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Trafficking in Human Beings. I’ve reposted a short transcript in which he talks about pornography’s exploitation of women–and what can be done to put an end to it.

Make sure you also check out for the latest scientific research on the harmful effects of pornography.

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

[Edit: The video was removed from YouTube, but the transcript is still available below.]


In my experience, the label of trafficking has been a really problematic distraction. And what I mean by that is not that trafficking isn’t a serious problem–it most definitely is. But what happens is people get fixated on this third-party exploiter. And so their whole analysis is either it’s trafficking or it’s consensual. And if there’s no trafficker, then, of course, it must be consensual and a victimless crime.

And that’s not our experience at all. Our experience is that people in prostitution, whether they have a third-party exploiter or not, are, often, again, among the most vulnerable in our community. They’re engaged in this out of a constrained lack of choices. And so when you have a collection of people who are of color, who are marginalized, who are poor, who are criminalized. And you have somebody on the other side of the transaction who is most likely white, privileged, employed, and not criminalized, you have a very exploitative, toxic situation going on. Whether or not there’s a trafficker.

And this analysis is missed time and time again because the prevailing analysis fails to account for the nature of vulnerability. And how people who are vulnerable get exploited whether or not there’s a pimp or a trafficker. The reason that matters here is because it highlights the fact that the act of buying sex is an exploitative act whether or not there’s a trafficker. And that is very very similar to the act of abusing pornography in ways that take advantage of somebody, whether or not there’s a trafficker in the pornography section. Women get exploited through pornography all the time.

People in prostitution have pornography made about them by buyers, and then used and distributed and exploited, and so forth, whether or not there’s a trafficker. And so I think what we want to look at is more how people who buy sex are often engaged in a number of very toxic behaviors toward women and children. And we want to address those activities, and if we can reduce them and eliminate them, trafficking will go away.

Trafficking is a symptom of a problem. It’s a supply-response to a demand problem. And so if we can address that demand problem, we can really solve a lot of these other issues.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).


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