Harms of pornography production
Two different forms of harm arise in the process of pornography’s production. The first arises in the production of pornography by adult entertainment businesses or sex industry entrepreneurs. The second arises in pornography production that is undertaken not necessarily by pornography businesses, but, rather, as part of illicit filming, the perpetration of sex crimes, or in filming and photographing undertaken to blackmail victims into prostitution.
Harms of pornography production
It is often thought that pornography production is free of human rights violations because its participants freely agree to be filmed, and are merely ‘acting’.
But the case of pornography production company Bakky Visual Planning shows this not necessarily to be the case. Bakky Visual Planning was a well-known producer of pornography in Japan the first decade of the twenty-first century. Its employees severely abused the women who appeared in films produced by the company, and the women sustained major injuries. As a result, Bakky Visual Planning executive staff, including its CEO and production director, in 2007 were sentenced to 18 years prison. This is an unusual example of pornographers being prosecuted for production-related harms in Japan, though, and the vast majority of such harms go unreported and unprosecuted. (See details: https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol3/iss2/9/ )
Various abuses were perpetrated in the production of a number of film series made by Bakky Visual Planning, with titles like ‘Forcible Uterus Destruction’ or ‘Water Hell’, in the decades before the court case. Individual lone women were raped by dozens of men on film, and funnel pipes were used to pour litres of alcohol down their throats. A woman was filmed trying to resist having her head dunked under water multiple times to the point she was unable to breathe. These women suffered severe symptoms of PTSD after their experiences, and, in the case of the woman who was subjected to water torture, she was no longer able to go near water, including for taking baths.
The mainstream proliferation of such violent forms of pornography began in Japan in the 1990s with the release of the ‘Woman Fucking’ series of films made by a director called Baksheesh Yamashita. Women were not told in advance of what they would be subjected to in these films, and they were beaten by large men, kicked, dragged around by the hair, raped, and made to ingest vomit-inducing substances.
 Yamashita is interviewed in the Italian documentary film Fuzoku: Sex Entertainment in Japan.
 See Morita, Seiya. “Pornography, Prostitution, and Women’s Human Rights in Japan,” 4–84. In Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography, edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant. North Melbourne: Spinifex, 2004.
While the Woman Fucking series features abuses of women that are particularly extreme in their violence, we nonetheless see similar tendencies in mainstream filmed pornography. Whether or not agreed to by participants, popularly circulating pornography shows clear human rights violations perpetrated against women in terms of threats and attacks on their human dignity, physical integrity, and personal safety.
These violations comprise not just direct physical acts like punching and kicking but also indirect forms of violence, like penetration of women’s bodies without condoms, and ejaculation into their mouths, vaginas and anuses, that seriously threaten female reproductive rights and health. Genres of pornography that involve women stripped naked in public or having contact with excrement and urine similarly violate women’s sexual rights, and seriously threaten their health and safety.
The abuse of women’s vaginas through inserting fingers and rough treatment, the insertion of devices into women’s vaginas and anuses, as well as the pouring of fluids into women’s bodily orifices to bring about so-called ‘female ejaculation’, inflict a large toll on women’s physical selves, and injure internal tissue membranes, and sometimes result in serious injuries.
Even in the case of nude or sexually posed photography or filming, there is manipulation and intimidation of women in the course of signing pre-production contracts, and, once filming begins, women are frequently subjected to acts they did not agree to.
For example, a woman named Honoka, who was voted Japan’s‘porn-star of the year’ in 2007, wrote in her autobiography (Kago [Cage], Shufunotomo, 2010) that her entry into the pornography world occurred after she was threatened with breach-of-contract fees. She had signed a contract for swimsuit filming with a temp agency, but, upon arriving on set, was told the filming would be nude. Facing a large number of production staff and well-known cameramen at the filming location, she was unable to refuse the change, and so was filmed nude against her will. The next job she was offered was for pornography filming. Honoka told the agency she would not accept this job, but was then threatened with breach-of-contract fees amounting to the equivalent of sixty thousand US dollars. This was, of course, an entirely baseless threat, but Honoka at the time was barely 20 years old, and had little understanding of her rights. She was forced into pornography filming as a result.
PAPS receives many enquiries from people who have been tricked into pornography filming, or who have been coerced at the threat of breach-of-contract fees. Among these enquiries, one woman was sued by a pornography production company for substantial damages after refusing to participate in a film against her will. The company lost this suit comprehensively in 2015.
The court declared that, because pornography involves women being directed to participate in sex acts with men nominated by production companies, the companies could not compel participants to agree to filming against their will. They could not compel participants at the threat of breach-of-contract fees and the like, and participants were at liberty to dissolve any such contracts. See details in this article: http://bylines.news.yahoo.co.jp/itokazuko/20151001-00049989/
In recruiting participants (or people to be prostituted), pornography producers target young women who are destitute and homeless or without parents, or who have been physically and sexually abused, or neglected, by parents. They particularly target young women who have low self-esteem or a cognitive impairment. ‘Porn stars’ are imagined to be appearing in pornographic films willingly and freely, but this is a myth.
Harms arising in the pornography production process
Another form of harm arising in the pornography production process arises when victims are filmed without their knowledge in changing rooms or bathhouses, or when having sex or going to the toilet. This footage can be sold as commercial pornography of the ‘spy-cam’ genre. Even a brief search of the Amazon online sales site shows this kind of pornography being sold in large volume.
Some of this ‘spy-cam’ pornography is fake and deliberately produced to look like illicitly filmed materials, but more commonly it is actually filmed without the knowledge of victims. According to the testimony of an arrested spy-cam perpetrator, connoisseurs of the genre can spot fake materials, so producers attempt to capture actual spy footage, even while the endeavour is risky.
Brothels sometimes illicitly film prostituted sex taking place within their venues, and one former self-described ‘sex worker’ testifies that this occurred in a brothel she was previously in.
Along with illicit filming is the forced filming of pornography, which takes a number of forms. As described above, women can be coerced into sex acts on film sets they haven’t agreed to, but rapists can also film their crimes for enjoyment as pornography afterwards, and to use to intimidate victims into silence. For victims, footage or photographs of their own rape, or their physical nudity, can exacerbate their mental distress, and victims can suffer doubly from the memory of their victimisation through rape, as well as the knowledge that there exists graphic record of what was done to them.
For example, in the October 2010 judgement of a district court case relating to a series of rapes perpetrated in Kyoto in the same year, the perpetrator’s mobile phone filming of his crimes is clearly described. He threatened one of his victims with uploading of the footage to bully her into silence (as reported on 13 October 2012 in the Sankei Shimbun). As this case among others shows, the proliferation of mobile phone cameras and the internet has escalated the incidence of this kind of crime and worsened social conditions for women.
There are increasing incidents of children sending mobile phone nude pictures of themselves in response to flattery or intimidation. For example, in one case reported in September 2012, an Osaka city police official was arrested for ordering a 16-year-old high school girl to send naked pictures, and he then used these pictures to manipulate her into filmed sex acts in a hotel room. Afterwards, he again pressured her into sending nude pictures, and, when she refused, he threatened to sell the footage he had taken of her in the hotel room (as reported on 12 September 2012 in the Yomiuri Shimbun).
There is also the problem of boyfriends or husbands taking nude footage or photographs of their partners against their will, and this can be understood as a form of sexual violence.
Forced filming also occurs in contexts of forced prostitution and trafficking. Victims are blackmailed into acts of prostitution at the threat of materials being circulated, or they are prevented from leaving prostitution through the forcible taking of nude pictures or filming of sex acts. These materials are sometimes later circulated as pornography.