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A French Senate report denounces sexual abuse in the porn industry

Sexual and physical abuse in France’s porn industry is “systemic” and lawmakers should better regulate video production and protect children who are “highly exposed” to the content, according to a French Senate report released Wednesday.

The report, titled “Hell Behind the Scenes”, was the first prepared for the French parliament to focus on the porn industry, which the authors described as “predatory”.

During six months of research, the Senate Delegation for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality heard from more than 50 people, including some involved in the industry, women’s rights activists and victims.

“Both the sheer volume of publicly available pornographic content and its very nature have helped to trivialize violent sexual acts against women,” write the report’s authors.

“Sexual, physical and verbal abuse are prevalent in porn, making it systemic. They are not simulated but very real for the women who are filmed,” they added.

Over the past two decades, pornography has grown massively globally as video platforms proliferate and social media helps share content.

A police investigation into allegations of rape, human trafficking and pimping in France’s porn industry has drawn attention to abuses in the business. Dozens of alleged victims have come forward in two separate cases linked to a major video platform and France’s leading amateur porn site.

The survey revealed that women’s consent was neither requested nor respected on many occasions.

A former French porn actress and filmmaker, known by her stage name, Nikita Bellucci, was among those who spoke to the senators because “for once people working in the porn industry had a voice”, she told The Associated Press. Bellucci would not release his full identity to protect his privacy.

Bellucci – who has worked in the porn industry for over a decade in France, Eastern Europe and the United States – has always been outspoken about his work. She said she was proud of her work but was on the front line speaking out about how women tend to be targets of abuse in the industry.

She recalled with great emotion in her voice how, early in her career, her “consent (was) abolished” as she acted out a scene. It took her ten years to realize what had happened because she had ‘impostor syndrome’, she said, referring to the misconception that ‘a porn actress can’t not be mistreated for choosing to do this work”.

The Senate report aims to alert the government and the general public to the scale of the problem, its authors said. They noted the “massive, ordinary and toxic” viewing of pornography by children, despite French law requiring viewers to be at least 18 years old.

The report found that 90% of pornographic scenes include violence and that two-thirds of children aged 14 and under have seen pornographic content, voluntarily or not.

“We have to stop having a dated, distorted, watered down vision of porn. Porn today includes violent, degrading, humiliating content,” said Senator Annick Billon, co-author and chair of the Senate delegation.

“Scenes in which a man, most often several men, up to the age of 50, inflict physical and sexual violence on women have become commonplace,” she added.

Billon and the other members of the delegation issued 23 recommendations for the application of the laws in force and the introduction of new regulations.

These include criminalizing incitement to commit rape in the context of the porn industry, imposing “deterrent” fines to make it more difficult for minors to access pornography and require age verification mechanisms.

Senator Laurence Rossignol, co-author of the report and former minister responsible for women’s rights, said the two major cases being investigated by police highlighted some of the industry’s methods, including “a first rape” to “break” women, she said. “It’s the same method as in prostitution networks.”

To remove videos from the internet, producers require women to pay between 3,000 and 5,000 euros ($2,900-4,800), ten times the amount they were paid to shoot them, according to the report .

Rossignol said policies addressing abuse in the porn industry must be a further step in the wake of the #MeToo movement which has made sexual abuse a political issue. In 2016, France approved a law against prostitution and sex trafficking that prohibited the purchase of sexual services, not the sale.

“What shocks us is that when it comes to fighting terrorism online, our legal arsenal is useful and effective. When it comes to violence against women, it’s not effective and not enforced,” Rossignol said.

For Bellucci, the report came a little too late, but the decision is positive. She welcomed the recommendation to strengthen sex education for adolescents, especially at school. “We now live in a society hypersexualized by the Internet and social networks. It’s very important to address these topics,” said the 32-year-old mother of two.

“What we are asking for is above all a legal framework. And actually be protected,” Bellucci said. As a porn producer and director, she explained how she deals with actors, discussing the practices that will be practiced and asking for their consent at every stage.

However, Bellucci regretted that the platforms that broadcast porn were not held sufficiently accountable.

Billon, the senator, said lawmakers who worked on the issue felt “different.”

“I can humbly say that I hadn’t imagined this,” she said. “Frankly, the confidential hearing (of the victims) was difficult, very difficult. It was about despicable comments and attitudes, barbaric behavior… The words we heard, the stories, exceeded any concrete reality than we could imagine.


The Independent Gt

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