*Content warning: themes and images are distressing
A woman slumps in a bathtub full of water, arms tied behind her back, her thighs and ankles bound. Another is restrained: several layers of rope snake around her shoulders and chest and criss-cross around her neck. White liquid (suggestive of semen) is splashed between her breasts and oozing from her mouth. Yet another reclines on a bed, shirt unbuttoned to expose her cleavage. A man’s hand grips her rope-bound neck. There are others. Some wear fetishised costumes, playing the role of nurse, maid, school girl or flight crew. Others are naked. They are accessorised with duct tape and blindfolds. Some look comatosed, others distressed and in pain. Still others look lifeless. They all have Asian features. One woman is bound and propped on a toilet, as though to remind her of what she’s viewed as and how little she’s valued.
There are hundreds of these images. Tagged #Asianbondage, they carry the themes of submission and sexual servitude of Asian women.
We’ve been exposing Pornhub for hosting racialised violence against women and girls and weren’t surprised to find this content on a porn website. The sex industry is notorious for stereotyping and fetishising women of Asian descent.
But this isn’t Pornhub. It’s Instagram.
Why is mainstream social media giant Instagram - a platform pitched to a 13+ audience - playing host to racialised fetish and misogyny?
Despite our call to Instagram to address its child predator problem and to improve safety measures on the platform, even underage girls are victimised. One image of a young girl with Asian features was captioned ‘thicc Asian’, while another attracted comments such as ‘Love Asian food’ and ‘Taste the sweet and sour’. Bondage and torture narratives are also attached to images of young girls. The image below shows an 11-year old girl and a friend in a staged ‘Christmas light challenge’. In the comments, predators reflected on the girls’ bound state and described sex abuse fantasies involving rope and duct tape.
Continuing the broader theme of women and girl hatred is an account (recently pointed out to us by a supporter) called girlsgettinghurt. True to its name, the page - with 648k followers - is dedicated to sharing videos of girls injuring themselves. The page appears to trade off of the popular “fails” genre of video shorts, but there’s something sinister about an account dedicated to ‘girls getting hurt’ as entertainment: it’s an open invite to the audience to participate in and celebrate the real-life pain of women and girls.
In one clip, a girl wearing a high school cheer uniform appears to be heavily intoxicated. The camera follows her as she stumbles into a glass door and collapses on the floor. The video drew a host of predatory, rape-themed comments, such as 'Perfect for that a**f***ing', and 'She’s gonna be a lot of fun for somebody'.
Several videos carry a “Sensitive Content” warning, stating “This video may contain graphic or violent content.” One of these shows a group of young people standing on a river bank. A young woman jumps from the bank while holding onto a rope swing. The camera pans as she plummets face-first into the shallow water below. Did she even survive? Is she paralysed? How is this entertaining? The tone of comments on this post and others - which include victim-blaming ('she deserved it', 'karma'), name-calling ('slut', 'trashy bitch') and misogyny ('where are all the serial killers when you need them?') - is distressing. Where is the compassion? The outrage? Is this a hate group? Does Instagram endorse these attitudes? Why is it broadcasting them?
Recently, Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper was quoted in the media after the discovery of a Facebook Melbourne-based “boys only” group which was posting so-called revenge porn and rape jokes. Facebook purportedly hosts hundreds of other similar groups. Do women and girls matter at all to the social media giant?
When Facebook-owned Instagram accommodates racist, sexualised bondage and torture images of women and girls, and offers up real-life pain and injury of women and girls as entertainment, we must ask: what sort of culture is it hoping to foster, on its own platform and in society at large? Should Instagram users get a free pass to promote misogyny, racialised violence or the fetishisation of little girls? Is there more Facebook could do to combat the degrading and exploitative treatment of women and girls on its platforms? What repurcussions will there be if they don't?
Does Instagram really want to serve as a prelude to Pornhub?
Help shut down girlsgettinghurt and #asianbondage on Instagram:
- Use Instagram's in-app reporting tool to report the girlsgettinghurt page (we reported it for hate speech).
- Use Instagram's in-app reporting tool to report the #asianbondage hashtag for exploitation. See below for instructions.
1. Tap the search icon and enter 'asianbondage' into the search bar
2. Tap the ▪▪▪ icon in the top right corner
3. Tap 'Give feedback on this hashtag'
4. Select 'Nudity or sexual activity'
5. Select 'Sexual exploitation or solicitation', then tap 'Give feedback'
Let us know if you hear back from Instagram.
The high cost of Pornhub's 'free' offer
Apparently there’s no end to the lengths the porn industry will go to to legitimise its exploitative practises. Now with the world in the grips of a pandemic, Pornhub is showing that not even a global health crisis or its victims are off limits.
This week, in the name of slowing down the spread of COVID-19, Pornhub boasted about donating 50,000 surgical masks to the city of New York and expanding its 'free premium' offer for ad-free content worldwide. The offer prompted UK MPs to call for urgent action to get control of online porn.
This type of publicity stunt - one that attempts to mesh objectification and commodification of women's bodies with 'charity' - is not new. Earlier this year several porn stars came out in the name of supporting Australian bushfire victims. For example, an LA-based Only Fans (subscription-based content service) star claimed to raise one million dollars for victims of the fires. The claim is dubious, given the woman’s method of ‘donation’ was to retrospectively give other donors a digital nude image in exchange for proof of their donations. How do we know those donations would not have been made regardless of her offer? Her claim of ‘raising’ funds is unsubstantiated and in the end, her efforts appeared to be nothing more than a plug for the porn industry.
During the same crisis, a Cairns hotel promoted a bikini car wash in the name of bushfire charity. Men were able to pay for ‘sexy girls to wash their car’ - all for a ‘good cause’.
Are fundraising and donation activities that exploit women really charitable?
The interconnected sex and porn industries are rooted in malevolence: women (and children) are the means to men’s sexual gratification and profit, not ends in and of themselves. Trading off of the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies, agents of the industries - like Pornhub - legitimise misogyny and exploitation.
Acts of 'charity' are normally seen as benevolent. But when these are borne out of industries that exploit women, they should be rejected and condemned. What are Pornhub's COVID-19 'donations' other than profits derived from women's bodies, at the cost of women's humanity and worth, transferred to another party?
History shows that women and girls are more vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse during natural disasters and emergencies. In the present COVID-19 pandemic, the UN has pointed to previous health crises to highlight the 'exacerbated sexual exploitation risks for women and children', while the Executive Director of UNICEF warned that right now, the risks of exploitation and abuse for children are 'higher than ever'. These facts must inform our interpretation of so-called-charitable acts carried out by exploitative agents like Pornhub which prey upon and profit from women's and children's vulnerabilities.
Attempts to connect acts of ‘generosity’ and ‘sacrifice’ - the essence of philanthropy - with the porn industry result in aberrations. Philanthropy is about promoting the welfare of others. The porn and sex industries are underpinned by the idea that women are objects to be bought and sold, used and abused. When porn industry proponents - individuals and corporates that profit from the use and abuse of women - promote themselves as charitable, we must call them out - each and every time.
(Last year we called out sex shop Honey Birdette for its use of exploitative marketing tactics - pinkwashing - in the name of breast cancer awareness and charity.)
Pornhub hosts countless videos showing the real-life rape and torture of women and girls for men's entertainment. There is a cost to this, as Andrea Dworkin explained:
When your rape is entertainment, your worthlessness is absolute. You have reached the nadir of social worthlessness. The civil impact of pornography on women is staggering. It keeps us socially silent, it keeps us socially compliant, it keeps us afraid in neighborhoods; and it creates a vast hopelessness for women, a vast despair. One lives inside a nightmare of sexual abuse that is both actual and potential, and you have the great joy of knowing that your nightmare is someone else’s freedom and someone else’s fun.
In the midst of a global health crisis in which women and children are at increased risk of exploitation Pornhub is fuelling and feeding the worldwide demand for exploitation material. It has even twisted COVID-19 public health advice to 'stay home and help flatten the curve' for its own purposes. Meanwhile, Pornhub is steepening the curve of abuse and crimes against women and children.
There is nothing 'free' about Pornhub's 'Premium' offer. Women and girls will pay the very high cost of it - with their safety and well-being; with their very lives.
Giving is good. But exploitation of women and girls is an indefensible trade-off for supporting other people in crisis. Philanthropy - truly charitable giving - cannot be pornified. And porn - inextricably linked to women's harm - is never charitable.
Help #ShutDownPornhub and hold its executives accountable for aiding trafficking: Sign and share the petition here.
Reported in The AgeRead more
Riley Reynolds who recruited ‘Barely legal’ teenage models may also face criminal charges
"Every day, a new girl turns 18…Every day, a new girl…I will never run out." - Riley ReynoldsRead more
Australia’s first Modern Slavery Bill passed through the NSW Legislative Council earlier this month. MLC Paul Green, who lead the charge for the new legislation praised the NSW state’s upper house for their support:
“In Australia there is well over 4000 cases of human trafficking with many remaining hidden in plain sight. The evidence is in,” he said after the bill passed.
The Modern Slavery Bill 2018 confronts slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour, debt bondage, organ trafficking, deceptive recruiting as well as forced marriage and childhood brides. If the new law is passed by the Legislative Assembly, it will require businesses with a turnover of more $50 million to monitor their supply chains and report to a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
We were pleased to be able to provide evidence of the existence of sex trafficking in Australia (see our submissions for more information):
Campaigning group Collective Shout provided evidence that [women] are being trafficked into Australia, citing the case of a brothel in the Sydney suburb of Willoughby that forced workers on student visas to work 20-hour days to pay off so-called “debts”.
Collective Shout also pointed to a US State Department report finding that in Australia: “Women and girls are sometimes held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs and obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to their traffickers.”
Most people recognise sex trafficking as a serious human rights violation, but what about prostitution?
There is sometimes a perception of sex trafficking and prostitution as two separate and unrelated issues, with trafficking being viewed as forced, and prostitution as freely chosen. However, the two are intrinsically connected- the demand for prostitution fuels sex trafficking.
A study of 150 countries found that legalised prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking, and that on average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger human trafficking inflows. Essentially, legitimising and normalising the sex industry leads to a rise in trafficking, as women must be brought in to meet increased demand.
German Detective Superintendent Helmut Sporer described the devastating impacts of legalising the sex industry in Germany, including worsened conditions for women, greater power to pimps and organised crime gangs and a significant increase in trafficking:
“What is very important here is the awareness of the fact that prostitution and trafficking are a joint phenomenon. There is no such thing as clean, good prostitution on the one hand and quite separate from this the bad trafficking with pimping on the other.”
One prostitution survivor highlighted some of the commonalities between supposedly ‘forced’ and ‘free’ sexual exploitation:
“Prostitution and sex trafficking are intrinsically linked: you have one because of the other. For the last 18 months of my time on the Burlington Road, I stood alongside a trafficked woman. She became my closest friend, and I have never seen a human being so broken down. The conditions in which she lived were inhumane, and, although we had arrived at the same place through different means, we were connected because we were bought, used, exploited, humiliated and raped by the same offenders. One night I would be bought, and, a few nights later, the same man would buy her. On a couple of occasions, we were bought together. That connection can never be broken by anyone at any time in any country.”
In 2003 Dorchen Leidholdt, Co-Executive Director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International summed up the connection between prostitution and trafficking as follows:
“Prostitution and sex trafficking are the same human rights catastrophe, whether in local or global guise. Both are part of a system of gender-based domination that makes violence against women and girls profitable to a mind-boggling extreme. Both prey on women and girls made vulnerable by poverty, discrimination and violence and leave them traumatised, sick and impoverished. Both reward predators sexually and financially, strengthening both the demand for criminal operations that ensure the supply.
“The concerted effort by some NGOs and governments to disconnect trafficking from prostitution- to treat them as a distinct and unrelated phenomena- is nothing less than a deliberate political strategy aimed at legitimizing the sex industry and protecting its growth and profitability.”
Pic: Dorchen Leidholdt
Sweden’s solution to prostitution and trafficking, the ‘Nordic model’
The Nordic model was implemented in Sweden in 1999 after extensive research, and it is based on the view of prostitution as a form of men’s violence against women.
The Nordic model criminalises the demand for sexual exploitation, decriminalises those exploited, and provides exit pathways for individuals in prostitution who wish to leave the industry. As Swedish lawyer Gunilla Ekberg explains:
“One of the cornerstones of Swedish policies against prostitution and trafficking in human beings is the focus on the root cause, the recognition that without men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able to flourish and expand.”
Various human rights organisations, academics and prostitution survivors advocate for the implementation of the Nordic model, which has been adopted in a growing number of countries around the world, including Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France and Ireland.
Progress under the Nordic model
Since Sweden's legislation criminalising the buying of sex, considerable progress has been made. According to research out of the Nordic Gender Institute, the number of men buying sex has decreased from 13.6% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008. Street prostitution in Sweden has halved while in neighbouring countries such as Norway and Denmark it is estimated to be three times higher. Police have intercepted phone correspondence between pimps and traffickers who now regard Sweden as an unattractive market and suggest Denmark, Germany or Holland (where prostitution is legal) as more profitable alternatives. Reportedly, there has been a cultural shift in Sweden where it is no longer considered acceptable to purchase another person.
As proponents of the Nordic model attest, we cannot oppose sex trafficking of women and children and simultaneously support the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution. Sex trafficking would cease to exist if men stopped buying women. There can never be gender equality while women are commodities to be bought and sold.
Campaigners and survivors of sex trafficking celebrated last week after amendments to US federal law would hold websites facilitating sex trafficking accountable. In response to the legislation, various major websites including Craigslist and Reddit have implemented major changes- and now, federal law enforcement authorities are in the process of seizing Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.
The websites are being seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service, according to a notice that appeared Friday afternoon on Backpage.com.
The notice didn’t characterize or provide any details on the nature of the enforcement action.
It said that authorities planned to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.
Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek roommates, participate in forums, list upcoming events or advertise job openings.
But Backpage.com also has listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say that advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.
Campaigners and survivors of sex trafficking are celebrating what has been dubbed “the most important anti-trafficking legislation in a generation”.
According to the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation, despite investigations by the U.S. Congress, websites that facilitate sex trafficking have not been held to account. New amendments to the “outdated” law, the Communications Decency Act (CDA) would allow victims of sexual exploitation to pursue legal actions against these websites and aid prosecutors in bringing charges against them.
A still image from the 2017 documentary I am Jane Doe.
As reported in the Washington Post:
The legislation arose as Congress learned that its current anti-trafficking laws could not be applied to websites like Backpage, which host thousands of ads daily for female and male prostitutes, some of which are children being trafficked by adults. Backpage has successfully cited the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties, to evade both criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.
Congress launched an investigation into Backpage which showed that its operators helped customers modify their ads to delete references to teenage prostitutes, yet still allowed the ads to run. The Washington Post then reported that Backpage used a company in the Philippines to solicit both prostitutes and johns from other websites, and created new ads for the prostitutes.
In response to the amendments, various major sites have implemented significant changes:
Cityvibe shut down completely, the Erotic Review, the “Yelp of the sex trade” where men rate their experiences with trafficking victims, shut down advertisement boards in the United States, NightShift shut down to review policies, VerifyHim shut down its “newsreel,” Craigslist personals section was shut down, Reddit’s prostitution-related “subreddits” were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs, Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising, WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites, Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment, Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law, Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity. Read more.
This is a massive victory for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
Watch the trailer for 2017 documentary I am Jane Doe
Backpage’s Sex Ads Are Gone. Child Trafficking? Hardly. New York Times
Sexual exploitation of girls and women is the most common form of trafficking worldwide.
Back in April, Collective Shout made a submission to the federal inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia. Following the UK Parliament’s establishment of a Modern Slavery Act in 2015, a Joint Standing Committee was tasked with investigating whether Australia could adopt a comparable Act.
Photo: 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report USRead more
Online classifieds website Backpage have this week shut down their adult advertising section of their site after being accused of facilitating child trafficking.
As reported by the Washington Post "The decision came shortly after a Senate panel released a report alleging Backpage concealed criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution."
Backpage.com’s CEO, Carl Ferrer, has been arrested booked on felony pimping charges.Read more