by Tilda Nilsson
It is a beautiful October day in Stockholm – the kind of day where the air is crisp, and the trees look straight out of a picture book.
I am back in my hometown; in the country I was raised to believe was a world leader when it came to prostitution and its legislation. Sweden, a proud adopter of the Nordic Model, criminalises sex buying but not selling, meaning those exploited by the industry are not further penalised by the law.
The law to protect those exploited by the sex industry is fundamental to the protection of survivors – but what about when their exploitation is being filmed?
That is what me, CEASE CEO Dr Lucie Moore and our Head of Policy Gemma Kelly are in Stockholm to hear about. We are attending the launch of a new report: “Pornography Production Harm in Sweden: Filmed Prostitution Is Inseparable From Non-Filmed Prostitution”.
New research from the report shows that 81% of the interviewees were diagnosed with PTSD. The addition of a camera and the prospect of your exploitation being immortalised online heightens the trauma response through new avenues of fear, vulnerability, and humiliation. 39% of interviewees had been doxed (had their personal information released to family members or employers) following pornography production.
64% of interviewees had been filmed without their consent during the purchase of sex that had no agreement to filming, and many spoke of the fear of not knowing where those videos can be seen. 67% worry about the perpetual nature of pornography, saying “porn is forever”. 38% of the time, someone the interviewees knew had located and viewed their online pornography, and 37% of the time, they faced blackmail from someone who had downloaded their videos.
The numbers outlined in the report present the unarguable case that pornography is inseparable from prostitution and is indeed another form of prostitution. Wherever we oppose one, we must oppose the other. Speakers at the conference urged the Swedish government to recognise this. Here in the UK, CEASE echoes this call to governments and public bodies through our work to increase awareness and understanding of the reality of the commercial sex industry with pornography and prostitution existing on the same continuum.
As I was growing up in Sweden, I never much questioned the Nordic Model. Later, however, the narrative of “sex work is work” and prostitution somehow being empowering started to influence me. What opened my eyes to the fallacy of this narrative was the brave and honest testimony of survivors of the prostitution and pornography industry.
Where there is pornography, there is prostitution, and where there is prostitution, there is trafficking. It is high time we stopped turning a blind eye to crimes with the justification that filming them somehow makes them ok.
Coming away from the conference and stepping back out into the crisp evening air, I felt the fire in my belly reignited. The collective voices of those working in the industry to strengthen the protections for survivors, not to mention the strength and bravery of the survivors themselves, fuels me to continue to fight for CEASE’s vision of a world without sexual exploitation.
To access the full report for free, visit https://prostitutionresearch.com
If you or a loved one has experienced the harms of pornography, CEASE runs a website called exposetheharm.com where you can share your experiences and read those of others affected.