Trigger warning: Many readers may find the following accounts to be graphic and/or disturbing.
In South Africa this month we celebrate Youth Day on June 16th. We take the time to soberly remember the Soweto Uprising of 1976, where some of our most vulnerable were killed and injured for standing up against injustices they faced. Meanwhile, in modern day South Africa, injustice continues to obstruct the rights and dignity of youth in the form of human trafficking. Although underage sex is illegal, pornography containing scenes of teenage sexual partners is consumed globally. This month Hope Risen will take a look at an alarming phenomenon: the worldwide popularity of teen-themed pornography.
“After an analysis of 400 million web searches from July 2009 to July 2010, neuroscientists concluded that the most popular category of sexual searches online—by a very wide margin—is “youth.” Teen porn has many subcategories including “barely legal,” “jailbait,” “sweeties,” and “lolitas” to name a few. This is a major trend in modern pornography and throughout media: youth, and even childlikeness, is accentuated as sexy”. “Teen” as a pornography category contains sexual scenes with teenagers, or “teenage-looking” actors/actresses. According to Pornhub’s statistics from the last six years, the ‘teen’ genre of pornography has remained one of the most popular searches, ranking consistently within the top ten searches made on Pornhub.
The sex trafficking industry is fuelled by demand. Thus as more teenage pornography is consumed, more is created. Porn consumers’ tastes in pornography are also shaped by what they watch, due to changes that take place in the brain. According to Fight the New Drug, in a survey of 1,500 young adult men, 56% said their tastes in porn had become “increasingly extreme or deviant.” Many porn consumers eventually find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or things that they might have previously considered to be inappropriate or unethical2. Pornography not only shapes the consumer’s watching habits, but it also shapes and changes real life sexual preferences. Although underage sex is against social law and appropriateness, these porn consumers are training their brain to seek images of teens being used and sometimes abused. In fact, graphic banner adverts for sites like one called “18 and Abused” or “Teens Get Destroyed” often appear prominently on mainstream porn sites. A human mind that is consistently consuming pornography often will react positively to non-consensual sex and violence against women, becoming desensitised to violence. Regular pornography consumers also report significant decrease in the satisfaction of their relationships4. To learn more about the harmful effects of pornography, have a look at our article here. With more visits to porn sites than Amazon, Twitter and Netflix combined, the public consume pornography at such an insatiable rate that there is a constant flow of new videos to meet this demand.
This demand affects other types of sex trafficking consumption since most buyers who engage with prostitutes engage in pornography consumption. Pornography creates a lure towards ‘sexual misconduct’ like paying for sexual encounters. Younger-looking women, teenagers and children are needed and recruited in the sex industry due to the demand. The common age of those entering the sex industry are between 14 and 16 years old. In the porn industry the statistics are similar, with thousands between eighteen and twenty years of age entering the amateur porn industry from all over America5. There is a distorted representation portrayed of young women as pornstars or as prostitutes as “liking” and “enjoying” their work however this is far from the truth. Although, for the sake of the buyer, they may appear to “enjoy” their work, they are often coerced, trafficked and come from a background of abuse and neglect, and usually do not see any of the money that the videos generate3.
The increasing demand for pornography containing teenagers and even children leads to various forms of internet abuse. The Chinese video app “TikTok”, with 120 million active users, has recently been delisted on Google and Apple app stores in India in the wake of concerns surrounding pornography and child exploitation. The app has also been charged with the largest fine for a US case involving data privacy: $5.7million.
All of us have the responsibility to choose what content we want available on the internet, for ourselves and our future generations. As teenage and even child themed pornography is becoming increasingly popular, we need to say that we will not tolerate the making and circulating of such videos. Especially as science tells us that this is re-creating society’s ideas about sex. Such videos also promote ‘sex work’ to a younger and younger audience – a message that needs to be corrected by adults who know that this invitation is highly harmful. Such false promises that this work is glamorous or even a good way to get money, should not be allowed to be made to our youth. There are many who have overcome their addiction to pornography and found that their relationships and overall quality of life improved dramatically. There is still hope for the future of our youth – and our society, as long as we continue to take responsibility in standing up for justice. See our Fierce Hearts webpage for more details on what Hope Risen Foundation is doing to fight the harm of the pornography industry and how you can partner with us.
The history behind the iconic Youth Day photo, Retrieved: 14 May 2019.
 The Porn Circuit, http://www.covenanteyes.com/
 Hot Girls Wanted. Season 1 Episode 1: Women on Top. Written by: Huckabee, B. Directed by: Bauer, J., Gradus, R. Produced by: Jones, R. Two to Tangle Productions. Netflix.
 https://www.siliconrepublic.com/companies/tiktok-india-google-apple-child-exploitation TikTok removed from app stores following child exploitation investigation. Retrieved: 14 May 2019.