Pornography as Trafficking

Publication Information

Title: Pornography as Trafficking
Publication: Michigan Journal of International Law
Author: Catharine A. MacKinnon
Date: 03/14/2005

This talk was given at the conference entitled “Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking,” co-sponsored by Captive Daughters and the International Human Rights Law Institute of DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.


In material reality, pornography is one way women and children are trafficked for sex. … Finally, building on these distinctions, to distinguish trafficking from prostitution, as if trafficking by definition is forced and prostitution by definition is free, is to obscure that both use money to compel sexual use, that the whole point of sex trafficking is to deliver women and children into prostitution, and that not crossing a jurisdictional line does not make the unequal equal or the forced free. … As a form of prostitution, pornography creates demand for women and children to be supplied for sexual use to make it, many of whom are trafficked to fill that demand. …  Melissa Farley and her colleagues found that forty-seven percent of prostituted women in nine countries were upset by someone asking them to perform a sex act that had been seen in pornography. … The Framework Decision also covers payments made to one person to get consent by another for the purpose of the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, including in pornography. … But the distinction is the same as that between prohibition and abolition in the 1949 Convention: the exploited, the prostituted women, are victims of crime and sex discrimination, not criminals or sex discriminators.


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