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Second-hand porn: the spreading circle of damage

Published: Monday, July 8 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The director promised to stop if she was in pain, and vowed no one would call her bad names.

But they did, and he didn't stop filming even when she began crying. During the scene, the pain was so intense she actually blacked out several times — images that had to be cut from the final film.

After the scene and publicity photos the men wanted to take with her, she ran from the room to the bathroom, where she stood in the shower crying and vomiting.

The producer came up minutes later and raved about her performance.

“ ‘Great job, we definitely want to do more scenes,’ ” she remembers him saying. "He didn't care … about the kind of wreck I'm in. It's just, here's a pat on the back, and extra money and 'What do you need for next time?’ ”

When the video finally came out, it was edited to make it look like Meza was enjoying the experience.

And that, in a nutshell, is one of the biggest problems with pornography, says Rachel Collins, a youth minister who has spent the last nine years building relationships with women in the industry and helping them get out.

The entire industry is all just a façade, she says, a parade of carefully edited images and manipulated encounters that are sold as authentic and enviable — all while ignoring the pain of performers.

Over nine years as a producer of pornographic films, Donny Pauling recruited more than 500 women. None of the women have ever thanked him after they started in the industry, even though they could make nearly $500 in a few hours performing a soft-core scene (Pauling left the industry in 2006 and now speaks out against it).

"I couldn't think of anything unsexier (than porn)," says Collins. "Sex is made to be between two people in a committed relationship who love each other. There's so much to it that's so beautiful and intimate, and when you make everything about an orgasm, what a cheap and fake reality."

But the industry thrives on selling this reality — scripted and manipulated though it may be.

"These are men who can do it without any kind of mental involvement," says Bill Margold, a porn actor who is also the adult entertainment industry historian and unofficial spokesman. “… The best men in this business are men who are having sex with themselves, not the person they're with. You have to become detached when you're performing."

And while that may make for a good production scene, experts say it makes for a terrible behavioral model, especially for young people who have no other ideas about sex.

"The pornographic model of sex (is) limiting, rather than expanding, our concept of what sex is and can be," says Meagan Tyler, a lecturer in sociology at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of "Selling Sex Short: The Pornographic and Sexological Construction of Women's Sexuality in the West."

Tyler, a non-religious feminist, says society has accepted sex as a commodity that can be bought and sold, viewed upon demand and twisted into every imaginable fetish.

"Every time I speak about the harms of pornography, I get asked about the possibilities of 'better porn' or 'ethical porn,’ ” Tyler said. "What it shows me is how desperate we are … to believe that porn use is fine. What I ask is that people try and think about what sexuality would be like without porn. If you have difficultly imagining what that would be like, then we all have a problem."

Numb to violence

One of the most distressing studies during Robert Wosnitzer's doctoral research in media culture and communication at New York University was a content analysis of 304 scenes from the 50 most popular porn movies of 2005.

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