Porn and the human trafficking industry

Joy Phiri is studying for her MA in Philosophy and was a member of the SRC for 2012/13. Photo: Luca Kotton

Joy Phiri is studying for her MA in Philosophy and was a member of the SRC for 2012/13. Photo: Luca Kotton

by Joy Phiri

University resources and platforms are sometimes used as a means of downloading and exchanging pornographic materials.

I first witnessed this phenomenon in my first year of study. True to the average Witsie-way of doing things I was at the CLM 24-hour laboratory burning the midnight oil, chasing an 8am deadline. At mid-night, earphones emerged from sling bags of my fellow students and suddenly all focus was directed towards desktop screens.

Some students were watching porn in a public vicinity. I was shocked but I managed to act as though I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. A few years down the line and it is not the public viewing of pornography that shocks me but rather how related the pornographic industry is to the exploitation and abuse of women.

United Nations and South African Salvation Army statistics show that roughly 2-million women and children are trafficked in and around the region and continent annually. Many of these persons become subjects of sexual exploitation. Amongst other things, these persons are forced into substance addictions and the production of pornographic materials.

Last week the Wits community boldly declared that ‘Sexual Violence = Silence’ through a march against sexual violence. Be that as it may, many Witsies continue to visit pornographic sites and click ‘watch’ or ‘download’. Is clicking ‘watch’ or ‘download’ on pornographic material not a form of silence as well? Is the consumption of pornography not a form of consent, given the relationship between pornographic materials and modern day sexual slavery?

It is true that not all pornographic materials are produced under the exploitative conditions alluded to above, but it is also true that it is difficult to discern which materials are made under these conditions. Although we may not realise it, our smaller actions feed into the bigger problem.

As we pledge our support for various plights ranging from the returning of kidnapped girls in Nigeria, sexual violence marches, sexuality dialogues, I hope that we would be more conscious of how our smaller actions feed into the bigger picture. The seemingly inconsequential action of pornography consumption is a catalyst to the many social ills that I have highlighted above.

I hope that the next time we think of clicking ‘watch’ or ‘download’ the stories of the persons behind the pornographic films will cross our minds.