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Reports & Summaries

Pornography and Prostitution

Pornography and Prostitution: A Report on Exploitation and DemandFull Article Title: Pornography and Prostitution: A Report on Exploitation and Demand

Open Access: Yes


Report on the links between pornography and gender-based violence, including legal policy proposals for Sweden with US comparisons. Part I (pp. 1-30) is written by Unizon (Swedish women’s shelter umbrella NGO) and based on primary data from their member organizations. Part II (pp. 31–108) is written by Max Waltman in collaboration with Unizon. The four chapters in part II is based on Waltman’s PhD dissertation (2014), making an analytical summary of the existing research, then followed by legal policy proposals. Adopting a problem-driven theoretical approach, the reality of pornography’s harms is analyzed. Evidence shows its production exploits existing inequalities among persons typically drawn from other forms of prostitution who suffer multiple disadvantages, such as extreme poverty, childhood sexual abuse, and race and gender discrimination, making survival alternatives remote. Consumption is divided by sex. A majority of young adult men consumes pornography frequently; women rarely do, usually not unless initiated by others. After consumption, studies show many normal men become substantially more sexually aggressive and increasingly trivialize and support violence against women. Vulnerable populations — including among others battered, raped, or prostituted women — are most harmed as a result. The report concludes with a chapter outlining legal policy proposals. It analyzes their real and imagined obstacles and potential to address real empirically documented harms with law. First, a proposal for applying existing procuring provisions on production of pornography is made since pornographers literally “promote,” and typically also “improperly economically exploit” that persons have sex for remuneration. Case law shows that freedom of expression is not an obstacle, so long as an application of general law on offenses committed during production does not directly target the dissemination of otherwise constitutionally protected expressive materials (e.g., convictions of art activism and of rapists who also filmed their offenses to make pornography). Second, a legislation against dissemination via similar amendments in the Swedish basic law as for child pornography or alcohol commercials is proposed, but based on a more precise and narrowly tailored definition of the graphic sexually explicit subordinating, and dehumanizing and objectifying pornography that evidence-based research show causes more gender-based violence. Civil rights legislation against such sex discrimination is recommended, among other things since studies of the application of criminal pornography laws show serious deficiencies or non-enforcement when the initiative does not lie among those affected — an approach that does not account effectively for their perspectives and interests. The latter can be represented by actors with stronger incentives (e.g., women’s shelter organizations) than disinterested, desensitized, or over-worked police officers and prosecutors.


    Unizon & Waltman, M. (2016). Pornography and prostitution: A report on exploitation and demand. Unizon.