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Pornography consumption and the link with human trafficking

The organization GENDES found in a study that men exposed to pornography for the first time felt disgusted, fearful, and confused

  • GENDES
  • 31/07/2020
  • 17:09 hrs
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Pornography consumption and the link with human trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the three main crimes at an international level, along with drug and arms trafficking; Two are easily identifiable, but human trafficking may be a less visible term for the general public. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking includes three simultaneous conducts:

-Activities: recruitment, transport, transfer, accommodation, and reception.

-Means: threat, force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of a situation of vulnerability, offer or acceptance of payments (in minors, this may not be present).

- Purposes: the exploitation or purpose of exploiting.  The prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation. Forced labor or services. Slavery or practices related to slavery, servitude, or organ trafficking.

Mexico does not meet the standard to eliminate trafficking.

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Since 2013, the United States Department of State indicated in the Human Trafficking yearly report that Mexico is a country of origin, transit, destination and return of victims of trafficking; In the 2020 report, which just appeared in June, it reiterates that:

"The Mexican government does not fully comply with the minimum standard for eliminating human trafficking, but is making efforts to do so."


The phenomenon of human trafficking is broad and complex, but in this article, we will focus on the relationship it has with sexual exploitation and male responsibility.

The masculinity of men in Tlaxcala

A study carried out by GENDES in 2011, found that in Tlaxcala, indicated as one of the entities where groups of pimps or "Padrotes" exist, the construction of masculinity for this group of people was quite similar to that of other men in the region. This implies that the objectification of women is part of a cultural layer common to men. This statement could be generalized to the rest of the Mexican territory.  It also explains -among other factors- that men can be involved in the phenomenon of trafficking with a double character: as traffickers (although few men move towards this possibility) or as consumers or prostitutes.

Although we can affirm that patriarchy is behind the construction of that masculinity, in another study by GENDES (2012), the structure of male sexuality points out as a central element that explains the high demand for sexual services by men.

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The pedagogy of sex

In the study, the interviewees were asked what the first type of consumption they had access was, and they answered that they were pornographic magazines and / or videos that showed them, young adults or even children. Interestingly, they also reported that the first sensation when seeing them was repulsion, disgust, fear, and confusion. This answer seems to indicate that there is a pedagogy of sex that consists of "teaching" men the objectification of the female body and the need to silence their own emotions and sensations to fulfill a socially demanded role: to be sexually active.

The study also found that pornography teaches about the characteristics of sexual relations: a genitalized sex where pleasure is exclusively in the genitals and the duration of intercourse; This vision excludes woman's pleasure.

Paradoxically, the interviewees indicated that their experiences related to sexual consumption had been unsatisfactory. Likewise, when asked why they carry out paid sexual consumption, they all took the time to find an answer. Both elements seem to show that men seem to act under normality that they have never questioned. In no case did any question refer to the real situation of women who are in a situation of exploitation, since they erroneously assumed that they were there "for pleasure."

Men must question how is their relationship with sex

The study's objective carried out by GENDES is to identify elements to prevent different violent behaviors from men. In this case, preventing trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation implies that men question: various learnings related to the objectification of female bodies; the genitalization of sexual relations; the dissociation of emotions/sexuality; the need for approval from other men regarding the way they express their sexuality; and the naturalization of the stories of submission that women suffer, both individually and collectively.

This questioning is part of raising awareness of one's gender history and engaging with alternative ways of thinking and behavior. To conclude, it is essential to point out that although each male must question these learnings, the State plays a vital role in making that happen.

René López Pérez

This article was written by René López Pérez, head of research at GENDES Gender and Development.

Traducción: Valentina K. Yanes