The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation virtual conference came to an end on 28 July, after 10 days of powerful, moving, informative, and vital panel discussions, talks, and presentations. The conference brought together survivors, activists, campaigners, academics, professionals and politicians from across the world to discuss global sexual exploitation, and how we can work together to bring an end to it.

One of the most powerful videos of the event was of Daniel Israeli, ambassador of Talita, a Sweden based NGO, offering help and support to women who have been exploited in prostitution, pornography and human trafficking for sexual purposes. Daniel is also now an ambassador of Reality Check, an initiative launched by Talita aimed at equipping young people with knowledge about and tools to combat pornography’s harms.

Daniel grew up immersed in the porn industry, and from the age of 11 he was exposed to the true face of commercial sexual exploitation. His father was a porn producer, and because of this, Daniel effectively had on-tap access to pornographic material – both in-person and through pictures and video – throughout his childhood and formative years.

As he tells Reality Check:

I was never the one in front of the camera, so to me it was all normalised. But I saw what happened behind it, and over time, I realised what porn actually is. There’s a lot of violence in the industry, boundaries are constantly being pushed, because that is what sells. The consumer wants to see more and more extreme acts. The market is driven by demand.”

Daniel’s story is not an anomaly, it’s the norm. There are of women who have been on the other side of the camera who can confirm the violent, degrading, and abusive nature of the industry. For example, Jenna Jameson, who was arguably one of the most famous porn performers of the 90s and 2000s says:

“Most girls get their first experience in gonzo films – in which they’re taken to a crappy studio apartment in Mission Hills and penetrated in every hole possible by some abusive asshole who thinks her name is Bitch.”

This is further confirmed by what other producers have to say. This quote from producer Bill Marigold, for example:

“I’d like to show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that.

And producer Rob Black on the horrifically violent “gagging” scenes he’s shot:

“she’s gagging so much she vomits. … It’s repugnant. It is, Yes. We’ve got tons of stuff they technically could arrest us for. And when this happened, I put on our website—I made a big speech: ‘I welcome the LAPD to come on down.’ I said, ‘Come and get me,’ I said, ‘Because we won’t go down without a fight. We will fight this. Regardless of the cost, we will fight it. We will take it to the airwaves.’”

As these quotes show, Daniel’s experience growing up was a true insight into the horrors of the porn industry. The problem is, while it may have been out-of-the-ordinary for a kid of his age to have access to that material then, in 2020, it is entirely commonplace for children even younger than Daniel was to be able to access this at the touch of a button.

This is not a world any of us should want to live in. Pornography is a global health crisis facing people of all ages. It stunts and warps the psychological and emotional development of young people; it imbues men with a sense of sexual entitlement, and normalises aggression and violence; and women and girls learn to view themselves as nothing more than sex objects.

As the CESE conference has shown, there are thousands of people across the globe who wish to see an end to this normalised abuse and exploitation. Now is the time for others to stand up and add their voices to the movement. Will you be one of them?