What Popular Porn Sites and the Disturbing NXIVM Case Have in Common

By KC

Normalizing Abuse Isnt Normal
Image retrieved from Times Union. 5-minute read.
TRIGGER WARNING

You may have seen the recent news coverage of the NXIVM trials—a chilling legal dive into the self-help sex cult led by founder Keith Raniere (pictured above in our header image). The investigation process has been a bit like Stranger Things’ upside down world, with more and more layers of sexual exploitation and organizational corruption coming to light.

The case

After a harrowing six-week trial, Raniere was found guilty today on all charges relating to sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and numerous other charges.

If you missed it, here’s the short version of what’s happening: self-proclaimed self-help guru Keith Raniere founded the vaguely-defined Executive Success Programs (ESP) in 1998 to help people find success and happiness through talk therapies, day-long intensives, hypnosis, and other methods. The group grew in members (including many celebrities) and, as years passed, evolved (guided by Raniere’s leadership) into a secretive sex-cult made up of both male and female “followers.”

By 2015, NXIVM had spawned a hierarchical sex-slave group known as DOS in which Raniere’s hand-picked female leaders recruited, trained, and controlled other women into living as slaves to “Grandmaster” Raniere. He continued his therapy with them, though at this point, he boasted his sexual energy and powers could heal them.

Related: This Makeup Artist Was Offered A Dream Job, But Discovered It Was A Sex Trafficking Scheme

DOS slaves were coerced into handing over “collateral” that would be used against them if they ever leaked what went on in the group—dark secrets, nude pics, even investment accounts and homes. They were also subjected by their slave masters (a group of women including Smallville actress Allison Mack) to ceremonial brandings wherein Reniere’s and Mack’s initials were slowly and painfully burned into the slaves’ skin. And if a master said to, a slave was forced to lose obscene amounts of weight to fulfill Raniere’s sex and beauty wishes. There were also plans to construct an actual dungeon.

Any of that make you cringe? Us too. And this went on for years.

Horror or fetish?

We can all agree that a real-life abusive sex-cult is beyond disturbing. It’s good news that the group is being brought to justice. But there’s bad news too: every day all over the world, easily accessible porn featured on mainstream sites normalizes and fetishizes everything that disturbs us about the NXIVM case.

Porn is disproportionately full of violence and dehumanizing submission. No other media industry in the world has as much sexual abuse, sexual violence, or exploitation—but it’s all widely accepted in the name of “adult entertainment.”

Related: Award-Winning Porn Director Suspended After Sexual Assault Allegations Surface

One study found that the majority of popular content contains physical violence and that 95% of victims—who are overwhelmingly female—responded neutrally or with pleasure to their own abuse. Some of the most popular porn sites suggest searches such as domestic discipline, crying in pain, and extreme brutal gangbang. Behaviors, scenarios, and power dynamics that we legally prosecute in real life fill the online porn databases to be consumed for personal pleasure.

Porn fetishizes situations almost too horrific to recount, including bodily mutilation. For example, the court 2010 case United States v. Marcus dealt with a woman held against her will—her trafficker disciplined her by trying to sew shut her vulva. This process was filmed…and turned into porn. It was then consumed by anyone who felt excited by hardcore material.

What was a real and harmful experience to that woman and to the DOS slaves during branding ceremonies is peddled as fantasy and excitement in the world of porn.

Related: How Countless Porn Videos Normalize The Sexual Abuse Ellen DeGeneres Survived

The NXIVM trials have included the testimony of a woman named Daniela, who along with her two sisters, was drawn into NXIVM and into DOS. At one point, Raniere attempted a threesome with Daniela and her sister Marianna, violating both of them and punishing them when they resisted. Consider how it only takes mere seconds to pull up a list of porn vids involving forced sibling threesomes.

In reality, it’s traumatizing. In porn, it’s tantalizing.

The question of consent

That’s not the only troubling parallel. One of the themes arising in the NXIVM trials was that of consent.

Anti-trafficking advocacy worker Krishna Patel described to VICE just how unclear and multi-faceted the role of consent can be in trafficking cases, including Raniere’s. Victims may actually enter a situation—or in this case, a sexualized self-help program—willingly, and they may hand over collateral or obey unacceptable commands. But the culture and atmosphere can be so emotionally, socially, or physically manipulative that consent really isn’t true consent. This is how much of the sex trade can be, as a whole.

Related: The Porn Industry Isn’t Just Selling Sex, It’s Selling Violent Abuse Of Women

This seems to be exactly how it went down with Raneire and his victims. Women were recruited and sold on the group’s benefits, and they hesitantly joined. Before long, they recited the DOS rulebook’s maxims: “Your sole highest desire must be to further your Master from whom all good things come and are related,” and, “The best slave derives the highest pleasure from being her Master’s ultimate tool,” and, “It doesn’t matter what the command is, it matters that you obey.” Wow. Give you the creeps? Us, too.

The problem is, porn does the same thing that Raniere orchestrated.

Porn, with its heavy preference for domination and hierarchical power plays, blurs the lines of consent so much that, before you even realize it, you’re watching something really coercive and inhumane. Even if the many women who occupy the submissive-dominated roles in porn seem to be “asking for it” or “enjoying it,” the process to get to that point involves emotional and physical pressure, manipulation, threats, and a bit-by-bit blurring of the boundaries of what is acceptable until autonomy is lost. The camera is rolling, and the submissive one does whatever the dominant one asks or desires—and millions of people watch the exchange for a momentary personal thrill.

#StopTheDemand

NXIVM vs. porn-saturated reality

The issues NXIVM has brought to the forefront of society are deeply problematic—but they aren’t isolated. At the same time society is horrified by the personal accounts shared at the NXIVM trials, many of those same people celebrate porn that uses this consent-nightmare as a storyline for pleasure. See the issue?

Related: 5 Popular Porn Searches That Are Considered Sexy Online But Are Actually Really Disturbing

Let’s allow these media-covered trials to shine some light on our corporate values and behaviors. Something that fetishizes exploitation isn’t worth a quick pleasure fix. Join with us in ditching porn and doing what we can to fight an industry that sells slavery, pain, and domination as fantasy.

The post What Popular Porn Sites and the Disturbing NXIVM Case Have in Common appeared first on Fight the New Drug.