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The Harvey Weinstein Trial, Porn, and Sex Trafficking

*Trigger warning: This blog contains detailed written references to porn, sexual abuse and rape.

We can’t talk about the Harvey Weinstein trial and not talk about porn. In fact, we can’t talk about any of the high profile rape cases and trials that have happened in the last few years (R Kelly, Jeffery Epstein, Prince Andrew, Ghislaine Maxwell, Bill Crosby, and Kevin Spacey to name a few) without naming the fuel and inspiration for many of the abuses: pornography.

Last week, the long-awaited Harvey Weinstein trial began in Los Angeles with four of the plaintiffs, identified as Jane Doe’s 1-4, having testified. The world is paying attention yet again to the stories of the victims’ abuse and exploitation at the hands of the former big time movie producer. The testimonies have been distressing to hear and continue to shine a long-overdue spotlight on the inexcusable way power is abused in Hollywood.

Sadly, many of these stories also sound like they’re straight out of a porn scene and we shouldn’t be surprised by this, given porn’s prolific global influence. Consider real porn titles like these:

  • CASTINGCOUCH-X Another naive brunette f***** by casting agent
  • New models meet porn producer and f***** on couch
  • CASTINGCOUCH-X Rent is due! casting agent f***** for money

Today, porn sites receive more website traffic in the U.S. than Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Netflix, Pinterest, and Zoom combined. And while we’ve seen a level of accountability and openness in the film industry since the #MeToo movement, the porn industry has been given a giant free pass to get away with the overt degradation of women’s bodies, all in the name of “sex positivity” and not wanting to “kink shame.” And yet, it is the hidden-in-plain-site toxic fuel for so much of the sexual abuse and exploitation in our world.

The following is an abbreviated excerpt from Deadline.com, with the testimony of a woman in the Weinstein trial, who worked on one of his films in 2004:

(Trigger Warning)

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After getting her alone for a private conversation [Weinstein] said something about a “naked massage.” After she told Weinstein she was engaged, she said he told her he had done things like the naked massage with Gwyneth Paltrow and it would be good for her career…

“Harvey began to get aggressive and he eventually like shoved me on the bed,” she testified. “…he shoved me and he ended up taking off my top and my clothes, my bra.”

“It’s not like we’re having sex, it’s just naked cuddling,” she said Weinstein said.
“I had no idea what to do, I was scared,” she testified.

She described herself as “hysterical” and said she was crying as this was going on.
She testified that Weinstein began to straddle her, then started masturbating after taking his own clothes off. “He just said it’s OK, it’s not like we’re having sex. And then he ejaculated on me, on my breasts and some on my face.”

“I was just really thankful that I wasn’t raped… I remember wiping off just getting dressed really fast and leaving really fast.”

______

This is just one of many accounts being shared in the ongoing LA trial.

the porn industry has been given a giant free pass to get away with the overt degradation of women’s bodies, all in the name of “sex positivity” and not wanting to “kink shame.”

There’s a whole sub genre of porn specifically called “casting couch” in which young, unaware women and girls are made to have sex with the powerful producer they’re meeting for the first time for an interview. Sadly, it’s often not even acting—we know several young women personally, who were trafficked into these exact casting couch porn scenarios and were raped on camera. Their individual videos have been viewed millions of times.

The beginning of the #MeToo movement

It’s been five years since the infamous New York Times article broke, detailing accusations against the renowned film producer, exposing a decades-long history of sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment. Weinstein was convicted in 2020 in New York and found guilty of a criminal sex act in the first degree for forcing oral sex on a former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haley, and of rape in the third degree for raping a woman in a New York hotel in 2013.

These allegations shook the film industry and sparked the prolific #MeToo movement, a catalyst for a flood of sexual assault and rape allegations. Almost daily, media outlets were reporting new revelations of powerful men in Hollywood sexually exploiting aspiring young actresses. A global conversation about the dynamics that enable predators to prey upon those in positions of vulnerability was beginning to take place.

The Harvey Weinstein Trial and Sex Trafficking

In the current Weinstein trial that will see 80 witnesses take the stand to testify against the disgraced film producer, Weinstein’s key defense presented by his lawyers is claiming that he was simply taking part in “casting couch culture” where “transactional sex” was expected and normal in the industry.

“Transactional sex” is prostitution. Most women in prostitution are victims of trafficking or some form of commercial sexual exploitation. Glossing over the systemic coercion and exploitation of workplace subordinates by labelling it “transactional sex,” is a laughable defense.

Glossing over the systemic coercion and exploitation of workplace subordinates by labelling it “transactional sex,” is a laughable defense.

In a 2018 lawsuit, actress Kadian Noble alleged that Weinstein lured her to his room at a French hotel, again under the pretense of an audition. Once she was in the room, he played her acting demo reel and proceeded to coerce her into sex by threatening to end her career. He proceeded to grope her and then cornered her into the bathroom where he forced her to masturbate him.

Simply put, Harvey Weinstein recruited and then coerced a young woman to perform a sex act in exchange for something of value, making this a “commercial” sex act. The coercion of a commercial sex act is, by legal definition, sex trafficking.

Porn’s Effects on Sexual Predators

It’s important to ask where we have seen these Weinstein-style scenarios play out before. Where do the majority of the men, women, and children of today commonly see abusive, violent, and coercive sexual scenarios played out for their pleasure? The answer is porn.

And the bizarre reality is, the very crimes that caused such disgust and outrage when the #MeToo movement was in full swing, are the same acts that are daily, glorified, normalized, and searched for in porn. And yet, porn is consistently left out of the conversation.

RELATED: Is There a Connection Between Porn and Rape?

Instances of sexual abuse and assault related to porn use are rampant, even among kids, and scientific studies are revealing in great numbers that it is common for adolescents to try to act out what they’ve seen in porn.

This is a disturbing reality because we’re not even just talking about sex. Gang bang scenes, rape scenes (sometimes real rape), incest, and BDSM are not rare in online porn—they have become synonymous with it and can be found in just seconds through a simple Google search.

RELATED: My Childhood Boyfriend Raped Me to Re-enact Porn

Violence and Rape in Porn

Beyond the casting couch, most porn is predicated on the male dominance fantasy. Men assert authority over a woman and then use their power, influence and strength to degrade and sexually abuse their victim. One study revealed that 45% of Pornhub scenes included at least one act of physical aggression.

Spanking, gagging, slapping, hair pulling, and choking were the five most common forms of physical aggression. Women were the target of the aggression in 97% of the scenes, and their response to aggression was either neutral or positive and rarely negative.

If we want to truly see change in the dangerous mindsets and systems that allow the Weinsteins of the world to do so much damage, we must address the issue of porn

While we don’t know the full scope of Harvey Weinstein’s personal history, it is not far-fetched to assume that he was addicted to porn from a young age. In fact most, if not all, sexual predators are addicted to hardcore pornography and the criminal scenarios they have acted out in real life were played out on the screen and in their minds for years prior.

Does this mean predators aren’t responsible because porn influenced them? Absolutely not. Every perpetrator of sexual assault or abuse is both fully responsible for their actions and must be held fully accountable to the law. But the available data on sexual perpetration suggests that the less people are hooked on violent or abusive porn, especially from young ages, the less criminal acts like these will take place. Through porn, our culture at large is drinking from a stream of sexual entitlement and exploitation, normalizing this kind of predatory behavior.

If we want to truly see change in the dangerous mindsets and systems that allow the Weinsteins of the world to do so much damage, we must address the issue of porn—its prevalence, accessibility, violence, and the industry’s total lack of accountability.

We must bring the toxicity of porn into the cultural conversation, call out the ways porn is profiting off and promoting exploitation, and demand change.

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