Reformed Articles

What Do Hitmen and Porn Watchers Have in Common?

This post was originally published on this site

You don’t have to be the one who pulls the trigger to be charged with the murder. Rather, anyone involved in the commissioning, planning, or execution of a crime can suffer its penalties. The person who hires a hitman will face a murder charge as surely the hitman himself. The driver of the getaway car, even though he never enters the bank and never demands the money, is still held accountable as if he did. Aiding and abetting the commission of a crime will bring a charge just like actually committing it. I’m sure you’d agree that such laws are right and just. They point to an important principal: if you want to benefit from a crime, you risk facing the full consequences of that crime.

A recent op-ed at the Washington Examiner (HT: Disrn) calls for the end of Pornhub—not only the biggest porn site on the web, but one of the biggest sites of all. It sees some 42 billion visits and 6 million video uploads each year. (That’s 100,000,000 visits per day, 1,000 searches per second—the statistics are as mind-blowing as they are nauseating.) It sees more traffic than online monsters like Reddit and eBay and earns mountains of money. It is so popular that it is fast becoming mainstream, even having some of its “performers” proudly participate in this year’s New York Fashion Week. It is to the digital generation what Playboy or Penthouse were to their parents’.

This op-ed highlights some “shocking cases of sex trafficking and child rape films” that have been hosted by Pornhub. It turns out that for all its popularity and all its money, Pornhub takes only the barest measures to prevent people from uploading content that displays underaged children or sexual assaults. In one case, a 15-year-old girl who had been missing for a year was found only after her mother was told that there were videos of her on this site. It was eventually discovered that it hosted no less than 58 videos of the child being raped and sexually abused. And while this is unimaginably horrific, it’s not an isolated case. Michael Pratt coerced 22 low-income women into creating pornographic videos, promising they would be distributed only on DVD to private buyers. Yet these videos were soon made widely available online. Pornhub, like other similar sites, is profiting off of the basest forms of sexuality created by the vilest criminals.

And this is where I want to return to the principle I laid down in the opening paragraph: if you want to benefit from a crime, you risk facing the full consequences of that crime. The man who committed the acts of rape against that girl deserves to face justice (and, indeed, was arrested on a felony charge of lewd battery on a victim between 12 and 16—may he be locked up for a long, long time.). It’s for good reason that Michael Pratt is facing a long list of serious charges. But what about the people who watched that video? What about those who typed “Pornhub” into their browser, then entered in whatever search term delivered a result like the rape of an underaged girl? (It bears mentioning that a perennial top search term at the site is “teen,” which generates endless pages of videos of girls who are either underaged or pretending to be. The titles of such videos are enough to turn your stomach.)

So what about those people who watched the video? If they watched a person being raped for their entertainment, surely they are complicit in that rape, aren’t they? If they watched a person being sexually abused for their titillation, surely they are complicit in that sexual abuse. It’s not just the rapist or abuser who bears the blame, but also the one who participates in it by proxy. Just as the getaway driver is considered a murderer even though he didn’t pull the trigger, shouldn’t the one who watched those videos be considered a rapist even though he didn’t actually force himself on the girl? Was he not involved in the commissioning of this crime by being part of the market that demands it? Was he not complicit by typing in whatever search terms would lead him to something so vile? (Did he really type some variation of “teen” in that search bar hoping to see some moral and pure and good?)

You may argue that he couldn’t have known he was watching rape, he couldn’t have known she was underaged, he couldn’t have known she hadn’t consented. He may not have. But how could he ever be sure? How could he have any confidence about who is underaged and who is merely pretending to be, about what is consensual and what is coerced? And even if she is no longer a child, is it really consensual when she is desperate for money and has no other way of earning it? Is it really consensual when she thinks she’s making it for a few people and only later learns it has been mass distributed? Isn’t it the very height of insanity to expect that people who produce and distribute pornography would care even a little about ethics and morality?

Though years have gone by since we collectively awoke to the reality that we were experiencing the outbreak of a terrible porn plague, the situation remains at epidemic levels. The infection spreads even to the church, and I can pretty much guarantee there are people in your congregation who made some of the 700,000,000 visits to Pornhub last week. As Christians, we have offered many good reasons to avoid porn and have developed many good resources to help people escape its clutches. But I can’t help but wonder if we have been too gentle and too patient in the face of such grievous harm. I can’t help but wonder if we’ve been thinking about pornography use as if it’s a misdemeanor when really it’s a full-out felony, a major sin against God and a horrific affront to the dignity of others. We can’t pretend that we don’t know about the rapes and the assaults and the lack of consent and the taking advantage of the disadvantaged and the stomach-turning search terms. Maybe it’s time we stop acting as if viewing pornography is a wholly different crime from commissioning it, creating it, or participating in it.

Here’s the reality: If you want to benefit from a crime, you risk facing the full consequences of that crime. If you watch the rape of others for your own enjoyment, what makes you anything less than a rapist? If you watch the assault of a minor (or someone pretending to be a minor) for your own titillation, what makes you anything less than a pedophile? The Bible has some sober, terrifying words for you: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).