December 6, 2015

Calling on Starwood Hotels & Resorts to Stop Facilitating Sexual Exploitation

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is a major hotel and leisure company with more than 1,270 hotels and resorts across 11 renowned brands, in 100 countries. It includes properties such as the Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, Aloft, Le Meridien, and more.

Although Starwood prides itself on its commitment to human rights standards as articulated in its “Human Right Policy Statement,” Starwood is actually facilitating sexual exploitation. Unlike many of its competitors, Starwood offers on-demand pornography in its guestrooms, despite the growing evidence of pornography’s neurological harms, and its links to increases in child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Starwood must change its policy: no hotel should profit from sexual exploitation.

In 2013, Nordic Choice Hotels, Scandinavia’s largest hotel group, implemented a ban on all porn services citing sex trafficking within hotels as a major influence. “The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn’t support or condone this,” said Petter Stordalen, owner of the hotel company.

Hotels are locations where sex trafficking transactions occur as they provide convenience, relative anonymity, as well as temporary, private accommodations. Polaris’ “2015 Statistics” from its National Human Trafficking Resource Center indicate that hotels rank second among the top venues for sex trafficking.

In addition, sexual assault of hotel staff is not an uncommon occurrence, with recent cases being reported in California and Connecticut. These factors make it irresponsible to provide for sale sexually explicit material in hotel rooms, much of which is degrading, violent, and may excite sexually violent fantasies among hotel guests.

Additionally, children may accidently access this content, causing them confusion and upset at what they have seen. Exposure to pornography is an attack on their innocence, and can shape their sexual ideas and templates from a young age, whether or not it is sought out.

As if distributing and profiting from pornography is not bad enough, Starwood is also complicit in attempting to cover the tracks of those who buy this material. Specifically, films offered through Starwood’s hotels pornography channels, Starwood advertises that, “Movie titles do not appear on your bill” thus aiding buyers in their efforts to keep spouses, partners, employers, and others in the dark regarding their pornography use.

Aside from the fact that Starwood profits from degrading, dehumanizing, and exploitative material, they are also likely to be found as breaking the law. U.S. Federal law, backed up by Supreme Court rulings, has made it clear that what Starwood is doing is likely illegal. The legal definition of obscenity includes that the material in question “appeals to the prurient interest.” These films offered by Starwood clearly cater to those interests.

According to Title 18 U.S. Code § 1468, it is illegal to distribute “any obscene matter by means of cable television or subscription services on television,” punishable by law. It goes on to clarify that “matter that is obscene [is] … unprotected by the Constitution.”

For these reasons, the social impacts and laws against pornography, we’re asking Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide to remove all pornography from their cable subscription services.

**Of special note: Other popular hotels, such as Omni Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Inc., Nordic Choice Hotels, , and Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company refuse to profit from sexual exploitation. Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and InterContinental Hotel Group all recently changed their policies to get out of the business of pornography and are in the process of changing all of their property contracts regarding the exploitive content.

We need your help in demanding that Starwood follow the growing trend and stop seeking profits by facilitating exploitation. Contact them here.

National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Founded in 1962, National Center on Sexual Exploitation is the leading national organization opposing pornography by highlighting the links to sex trafficking, violence against women, child abuse, addiction and more. The organization changed its name from Morality In Media to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation early in 2015 to better describe the organization’s scope and mission, which is to expose the seamless connection between all forms of sexual exploitation.

Further Reading