Think seriously about the people you admire and how you can be like them. If an activist you truly admire tells you that this course, or this technique, or this seminar made them better activists, believe them. Education will make you more effective and more knowledgeable. Don’t EVER think you “know it all”.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jan Villarubia.
Jan Villarubia is a former porn performer and advocate for women involved in the sex industry. For almost 15 years since leaving porn, she has fought to expose the truth behind the industry. In 2012, she aided in getting Measure B, also known as the condom law, passed in LA County, and she’s boldly spoken out about the harms of pornography inside of porn conventions, and voluntarily consults with other organizations to help publish books and articles about the harms of pornography.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this path of activism and leadership?
Thank you for having me!
I was an actress in the porn industry for about a year and a half from 2006–2007. My journey into the porn industry was justified by my desperate need to feed my three children. I was a destitute single mother who would have done anything for them.
During my time as a pornographic performer, I suffered tremendously at the hands of porn producers in a vairety of different ways.
- I was coerced and forced to do hardcore pornographic scenes that I never agreed to.
- I was given drugs and alcohol before being filmed and then the porn producers would record me saying that I was NOT under the influence of any drugs or alcohol prior to filming. I gladly accepted the drugs and alcohol as I didn’t want to feel the pain of penetration from an over-sized man or from being told to hold poses for still camera shots while being penetrated and choked.
- I was forced into doing “privates,” which is just prostitution. The porn producers would send me to their friends or a location of their choosing so I could sleep with them under the guise of it being a film.
- Every scene was at least two hours or more because of the need to do freeze frame pics and get good angles and lighting.
- I was degraded on camera and had to like it, or else no pay!
- I was called horrible and degrading names and, because I was in the BBW (big, beautiful women) niche, my weight was consistently used as a form of exploitation and insult.
Porn industry testing standards are a farce. They only made performers get tested every 28 days. During that time, most performers are doing at least two films a day, three times a week, and that’s not including their own personal websites, other streaming platforms, or their private sex lives. They are constantly being exposed to chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and at risk for HIV and AIDS but the industry makes you believe that their testing protocols are the end all to protecting you.
Porn preys on the desperate and destitute, which is why I’ve become so passionate about the need for porn reform. I was coerced into doing unspeakable things that I never agreed to but if I didn’t, my children would not have been fed, clothed, and sheltered. I almost took my own life but cried out to God instead and in His great mercy, God heard me and sent me someone to help redirect my life and be a mentor to help mold me into the activist I have become, fighting against sexual exploitation. Not long after getting help for my own situation, I was suddenly involved in helping other women who were hurting just like me!
What would you advise a young person who wants to follow a similar path in activism?
Information is key! Learn as much as you can about the industry first, like health and death statistics, and the science behind the effects of pornography on the brain. You must be an excellent detective to uncover the truth about pornography because the porn industry is very deceptive. Be ready for A LOT of backlash not only from the porn industry, but relationally and socially. You will hold an unpopular opinion because many people are stuck in porn addiction and do not see anything wrong with it. It is a worthwhile cause, but it is not for the faint!
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Absolutely! Her name was Shelley Lubben. When I was at my lowest point and about to take my own life, I went online to look for answers and Googled “porn help” and there she was, my own personal guardian angel on earth. I immediately contacted Shelley and told her my story and it didn’t take long before she was sending me encouraging words, numerous gift cards to help feed me and my children, and resources in my area to help aid me in my recovery. Not only was Shelley Lubben concerned with my physical and mental well-being, but she began to mentor me back into the relationship I once knew with Christ Jesus.
After I started healing, Shelley asked me to join her in her outreach to women in porn and in 2008, I went back to the porn industry, only this time I was on a powerful mission.
Shelley literally gave her life to the porn fight. You see, her primary goal was not to shut down the porn industry, but to love people back into health and fight for their rights, even if they wanted to stay in the industry. She faced tremendous hatred from the porn industry, frequently received death threats to her and her family and was stalked and harrassed. It never stopped her from giving her absolute all to the porn performers she was so desperately trying to protect. I love her and will never forget how she changed my life and thousands of other lives.
How are you using your platform to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the social impact causes you’re working on right now?
I want people to see the porn industry for what it truly is, a fallacious, fictitious, convoluted, and fatal fantasy. People are literally dying due to the secondary negative effects of the porn industry such as alcoholism, drug overdoses, and non-curable sexually transmitted diseases.
Second to that, my goal is to help people understand how pornography impacts society and drives the demand for sex trafficking. Since porn consumers do not and cannot distinguish between trafficked individuals and porn performers, they can often reinforce and drive the demand for exploitation through clicks and downloads without even realizing it. Porn “teases” the consumer leaving them longing for more. It creates the desire to purchase and objectify individuals by acting out what was viewed in a pornographic video.
Lastly, I’m helping to advocate for our youth who are at extreme risk for sexual exploitation and abuse because of porn. In 2014, the “teen porn” category was the most popular genre on Pornhub and has remained in the top ten most searched terms since then. “Barely legal” porn is an extremely popular category within the teen porn genre and thrives on the fantasy of sex with girls who are dressed up to look as young as possible, often portraying girls that look as though they could be as young as 13 years old or even younger. This “Barely legal” content is feeding a supply of consumers who get off on seeing young girls have sex with older men. This is why, I’m working with the anti-trafficking organization, Exodus Cry on their #ENDTEENPORN campaign, which seeks to expose the teen genre of pornography for what it is: the glorification of Child Sexual Abuse.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
When I was only 10 years old, I was molested by my godsister who was four years older than me. The molestation went on for about two years before I found the courage to end it. I didn’t find out until much later in life that she had also been molested by an older male family member. Also, at the age of 13, my virginity was taken by rape.
There is no doubt in my mind that porn feeds the desire to molest and rape young girls. I know for a fact that the boy who raped me had a slew of pornographic magazines that he took from his father. No young girl should have to endure what I did. I will continue to fight to protect their lives!
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I can’t share specific names due to the nature of the work I do, however, over the past 14 years I have received countless emails and social media messages from wives, women, and men about how my story has helped them recover from sexual abuse, navigate a spouse’s porn addiction, or heal from porn addiction in general.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
People need to educate themselves and others about the reality of what the porn industry promotes, and the abuses taking place within it. One simple way to do this is to watch and share Exodus Cry’s 3-part documentary miniseries, Beyond Fantasy and sign their petition calling for the age of entry into porn to be raised from 18–21. The government would do well to introduce a bill with this same goal as it would be a big step in the right direction to help protect vulnerable young women.
One of the most powerful things individuals can do on a personal level, is to stop consuming porn. It undoubtedly fuels sexual abuse and trafficking. That’s a baseline, and there are some really incredible resources available to help people recover from porn and sex addictions.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” (in activism).
- Think seriously about the people you admire and how you can be like them. If an activist you truly admire tells you that this course, or this technique, or this seminar made them better activists, believe them. Education will make you more effective and more knowledgeable. Don’t EVER think you “know it all”.
- You cannot measure making a difference. There are no measures that can accurately reflect the impact you have on people at every moment. There is no way to know if what you said, did, wrote, or handed out, altered someone’s view or behavior. Your communication with them may be the next thing that turns their life around.
- Pick your battles! Know when to speak and when to remain silent. Sometimes letting your work speak for itself is the best defense.
- Self-care is essential. Do what makes you happy and healthier when you are not being an activist, so you don’t burn out. Make sure you have a good activism-life balance.
- Don’t get discouraged. You will face many trials and tribulations, but stand firm in your beliefs, and don’t waver. Continue to be the change you want to see in the world, and you will see victory!
You’re a person of influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A few things. I would love to see the age of porn performers raised to at least 25. Exodus Cry is working on changing the age from 18 to 21, but I firmly believe it should be raised to 25 years of age since the development and maturation of the prefrontal cortex is not fully completed until the age of 25. I would like to see the porn industry policed, meaning, porn production could not take place without ensuring that the performers were protected from all forms of abuse on sets and that the set itself was OSHA compliant.
In 2012, I fought relentlessly alongside Shelley Lubben and other organizations to get the condom law (Measure B) put on the ballot in Los Angeles County. It was passed on November 6th, 2012. Measure B requires porn actors to wear condoms. It also requires producers of adult films to pay an annual fee to the county’s Department of Public Health. Under Measure B, all management-level employees of adult entertainment-producing companies must undergo blood-borne pathogen training. I would like the same measures to be implemented wherever porn is being produced.
Lastly, I would like to see the adult industry testing standards changed. I would like porn performers to be tested every week instead of every 28 days. Currently, if a porn performer gets an STI/STD test, but then has unprotected sex with another performer right after the test, and that performer gives the other an STI/STD, the performer who contracted the STI/STD will not know it until 28 days later. This means that for the next 28 days, that performer is spreading the STI/STD he or she contracted to other performers as well as anyone they have sex with in their private lives. People need to understand that porn is a pandemic and affects the health of others outside of the industry.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
Matthew 7:12 (MSG)
12 “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.”
If it were not for Shelley Lubben helping me, I would not be here today to help others.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?
I would love to have lunch with Terry Crews because of his globally recognized platform to talk about the real scientific harms of pornography and his candidness about how pornography has so personally affected him. I would also love to have lunch with Ashton Kutcher because of his non-profit Thorn and his deep desire to end the sexual exploitation of children. That would be a dream come true.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Jan Villarubia Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.