Performers are sometimes forced or coerced during the production of mainstream pornography.

The United Nations defines human trafficking in Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons as:

the recruitment … by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion,… of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services…

Agents, porn directors, porn producers, pimps and other performers often cause women to participate in porn through:

Force and threats of force – beating; slapping; punching; beating with objects; physical restraints; rape; gang rape; attempted rape

Fraud – fraudulent offers of employment; promises of money and fame; deceitful enticing and affectionate behavior; lying about working conditions

Coercion – threats of serious harm to body, reputation, finances; intense manipulation by pornographers to lure in naïve women; threatened legal action in an effort to intimidate and control; intimidation and humiliation; emotional and physical coercion used to break the woman’s resistance to hardcore sex acts; drugs and alcohol


According to this definition, many performers in pornography are sex trafficked. Fraud, deception, threat or use of force, coercion, and abuse of power or vulnerability frequently takes place during the filming of these performers. The fact that many are underage when they begin doing porn, even if they claim to be consenting, is still sex trafficking.

Performers may enter willingly into the business with the promises of fame and fortune, but they face a harsh reality once they’re in.  Most porn users do not realize the harsh working conditions and abuse endured by the performers for the viewer’s fleeting enjoyment.

Playlist: Testimony from Performers

Performers have reported the following points as happening during the filming of pornography:

  • Alcohol and drugs are staples to the porn set. Many are given drugs so they can keep performing scene after scene or to be unaware of the physical trauma to their bodies.
  • If the performer protests against doing something they feel uncomfortable or unsafe performing, they are often threatened with physical abuse or other forms of blackmail.
  • They often sign contracts stipulating what scenarios/acts they are and are not willing to perform. Then their directors, photographers, agents, and other performers will sometimes ignore these limitations, initiating them into the business with the exact scenarios or acts they do not want to do.
  • They are frequently beaten, choked, degraded, and verbally abused by the other performers during filming. Much of what happens on film can be defined as sexual assault and rape.
  • If performers do not act as though they are enjoying the sexual abuse, they are sometimes physically abused after filming.
  • Other performers are not always honest about what STDs they carry and will continue to work, putting their co-workers in danger of preventable diseases. The use of condoms is often discouraged—even disallowed—on set, despite the immense health risks and laws requiring condoms.

These circumstances combine to produce a hostile environment of sexual exploitation and forced labor where performers are prostituted repeatedly.


“You are a number. You’re bruised. You have black eyes. You’re ripped. You’re torn. You have your insides coming out. It’s not pretty … on set. You get hurt… You can say anything you want and they don’t’ listen… They have another scene to go to. It’s all about the money. They’ve forgotten who they are and they don’t care who they are hurting.”

SOURCE: Jaxin, Jersey. “Former Porn Star Jersey Jaxin Story.” Ex Porn Star Stories. The Pink Cross Foundation, Sep 2008. Web. 9 Aug. 2013.

“You have to submit to others (producers, agents, etc.) no matter how important you think you are, you’re not in control… Having men do disgusting things to me and even if it hurt, I had to make it seem like I was enjoying every minute of it. I hated it.”

SOURCE: Rollings, Elizabeth. “Former Porn Star Elizabeth Rollings Story.” Ex Porn Star Stories. The Pink Cross Foundation, Jun 2009. Web. 9 Aug. 2013


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“Thus, while trafficking for the purpose of the production of pornography is not a widely known or recognized form of trafficking, incidents of coerced participation in pornography are far from trivial. Forced participation as a performer can constitute sex trafficking…”

SOURCE: Peters, Robert W., Laura J. Lederer, and Shane Kelly. “The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography.” Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society. Fall 2012.5 (2012). Print.