Don’t Just #CancelNetflix

In recent days there has been a widespread call to #CancelNetflix over the new film “Cuties”, which is now streaming there. The IMDB parents guide speaks for itself. Whatever the intention of the film was (the director claims it was to expose child exploitation), the film itself is ultimately deeply troubling as children are portrayed sexually throughout.

It is not surprising that the outcry has been massive. Calls to #CancelNetflix have been successful, with countless men and women cancelling their account. Netflix stock prices have suffered. My social media feeds are full of this hashtag. I am empathetic to this call, and I appreciate the widespread indignation towards the exploitation of children. At the same time, I am certain that the meaningful change that is needed to protect children will not happen merely by cancelling Netflix. To protect children from exploitation and sex trafficking, we need to go a step further.

If you #CancelNetflix because of “Cuties” but you’re still watching pornography, then you are contributing to the crisis of child sex trafficking. The pornography industry creates the market for pedophilia. Pornography sites meet the demand by providing a platform for sex traffickers and by conditioning men and women alike to tolerate, or even crave, pornographic material that exploits minors.

If you #CancelNetflix because of “Cuties” but you’re still watching pornography, then you are contributing to the crisis of child sex trafficking.

Consider the following video about PornHub’s failure to protect child rape victims on their site:

Pornography: A Trafficking Scandal Right Out in the Open

This is not a hidden problem. It’s not something that is hard to learn about. Fox News reported only this year about the problem of child pornography and PornHub:

“Pornhub’s failure to remove nonconsensual pornography from its website is destroying lives,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said in a statement provided to Fox News on Tuesday. “I’ve spoken with many survivors who have been driven from careers, fields of study, and lost family and loved ones due to this insidious practice. In the worst cases, people have been driven to suicide.” Speier’s comment came just a day after Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr requesting an investigation into the company. Sasse pointed to a slew of high-profile incidents involving sexual exploitation on the platform, including a case from last year in which Florida police arrested a man on charges of sex crimes against an underage girl who was missing for nearly a year before her mother learned that 60 pornographic videos of her had been posted to Pornhub, Snapchat, Periscope, and ModelHub.

For consumers of pornography, there’s as much acting off screen as on-screen. User must pretend that it’s all just entertainment, produced in a studio by consenting professionals. But if you’re reading this, you’ve lost that excuse. The truth is, countless acts of sex, bondage, and rape on pornography sites is real. Real torment, real pain all for the consumption of men and women who have been conditioned to crave such things.

The New York Times has also acknowledged this problem. In 2019, NYT reporters wrote about porn producers being arrested on sex trafficking charges:

“…the owners and employees “used deception and false promises” to lure women who had answered modeling advertisements on Craigslist to participate in the videos, telling them that their identities would be shielded and that the videos would not be posted online.

International Justice Mission recently found that child sexual abuse online is up 250% in the Philippines. Those videos don’t stay there. The market is here.

To Fight Sex Trafficking, Fight Pornograpy.

According to a recent report from Huffington Post, 30% of all internet data usage is for pornography. Porn sites get more monthly visitors than Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix combined. Recently a rumor was circulated that the internet furniture store Wayfair was actually a front for child sex trafficking. It turned out to be baseless, but a great deal of energy was expended fighting WayFair, a company best known for cheap accent chairs and clearance pricing on rugs. How is it then that there is such a deafening cultural silence against pornography companies that have been proven to host child pornography on their sites? How can it be that these sites can advertise categories for “teen”, “high school”, fantasies about underage students and teachers, rape and abuse fantasy, etc. and we sit idly by or settle for “that’s just the way it is”?

Canceling Netflix feels good. It feels like we are doing something tangible. In reality, cancelling Netflix is little more than a temporary political football with hardly any long-term consequences if it does not lead to meaningful action against pornography and the pornography industry in our personal lives and in our public advocacy. We should be at war against the pornography industry. This industry not only permits and enables sex traffickers, it also creates a desire for such material in those who watch it, and is destroying the minds of young men and women who are learning about sex at a young age from its sites. Even in a porn affirming article from Psychology Today, the author admits that in porn usage for teenagers “the adolescent brain is being shaped around a sexual experience that is isolating, visceral, and completely void of any love or compassion.”

One researcher at Wichita State says that porn and sex trafficking are “inseparably connected.”

Anti-Porn as Apologetic

It is interesting to me how much time is spent in Christian ministries, particularly youth ministry, on apologetics and arguments for God that are almost entirely intellectual. While I do believe they are helpful, I also believe that many churches are ignoring one of the primary reasons many young people leave the church as soon as they have the opportunity. Young people are leaving the church because they’ve been watching hours upon hours of porn unchecked for years and the church was just a box to check to keep their parents off their case.

For a rising generation, no-strings-attached sex is the dominant religion. PornHub is their bible, and Tinder is their prayer book. One night stands are their sacrament. When these students leave the church, they aren’t leaving the faith. For many if not most of them, they’re embracing the idol they’ve worshipped all along; only now, mom and dad aren’t around to make them go to church once a week. I have seen it firsthand. I have never discipled a man that pornography was not an issue that we actively discussed. This is not a coincidence.

Porn is destroying our families, our neighbors, and our churches. It is quenching long-held desires for marriage in place of immediate sexual gratification. It is hurting sexual abuse victims and creating a market for more of them in order to satisfy the cravings of a national audience taught to hunger for video of such sexual abuse. It is shaping the minds of young men and women towards isolation and loveless intimacy.

What now?

  1. Educate Yourself: You can learn more about this issue at Fight the New Drug , IJM, and (for information on pornography). Only IJM is a Christian organization, so use discretion.
  2. Stop Watching Pornography
    If you’re struggling with a porn problem, get help. If you’re actively watching, stop. Some resources I recommend for a accountability in the fight against porn are your local church, confessing regularly to a friend who will fight with you and for you, Covenant Eyes (I have used this for a decade), R Tribe (with a partner or group), and Bark.
  3. Advocate for restrictions against pornography and investigation into the pornography industry. Public calls have been made to ban pornography. Sen. Ben Sasse recently called for an investigation into Pornhub. Consider contacting your representative to advocate on this issue. This is worth your time. Pornography, sex trafficking, and abortion are not separate issues.

If we want to fight sex-trafficking, we need to fight porn. If we really believe that the material on Netflix’s “Cuties” is problematic, we need to address the massive databases of material readily available online and consumed constantly nationwide. The driving force behind #CancelNetflix needs to be about more than personal discomfort on how publicly accepted such things have become. It is time to speak up against pornography, and address this problem at the root.