Michael Flood, Associate Professor at Queensland University of Technology, has recently written about the harmful impacts that porn is having on young people.
For many young people, pornography has become the default sex educator. Children and young people are encountering pornography in greater numbers, at younger ages, and with a wider variety of content, influencing young people’s sexual lives.
Research evidence from around the world shows porn has harmful impacts on young people and adults alike. Some impacts are deeply troubling, particularly pornography’s contribution to sexual violence.
Pornography can shift sexual interests, behaviours and relationships. It shapes “sexual scripts”, providing models of behaviour and guiding sexual expectations, with studies finding links between watching pornography and heterosexual anal intercourse, unsafe sex and more.
Watching pornography can lower men’s relationship satisfaction. And for women, male partners’ pornography use can reduce intimacy, feed self-objectification and body shame, or involve coercion into sexual acts.
But these next areas of impact concern me most.
Pornography teaches sexist and sexually objectifying understandings of gender and sexuality. For instance, in a randomised experimental study among young men in Denmark, exposure to (nonviolent) pornography led to less egalitarian attitudes and higher levels of hostile sexism. And in a longitudinal study among US adolescents, increased use of pornography predicted more sexist attitudes for girls two years later.
Aggression, largely by males and overwhelmingly against females, is common in pornography: an analysis of top-selling and top-renting titles found 88% of scenes showed aggression.
Men who use pornography more often are more likely to practise or desire dominant, degrading practices, such as gagging and choking. And women who use pornography are more likely to practise or desire submissive practices.
In fact, longitudinal studies among adolescents find watching pornography is linked to sexually violent behaviour later in life. In a US study, people who watched violent pornography were more than six times as likely to engage in sexually aggressive behaviour. In another, it predicted more frequent sexual harassment perpetration two years later.
In Collective Shout's submission to Senate Environment and Communications References Committee, Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet we recommended:
- The Australian Government should work with Internet Service Providers to establish a scheme for all existing and new customers to be provided with a default family friendly setting (no pornography) with opt-out only permitted by account holders who can establish that they are aged 18 years or over. Regulations to impose this requirement should be considered as a backup if after 12 months insufficient progress has been made by ISPs towards this goal.
- New programs should be designed with respectful and mutual relationships as the starting point, not just ‘sex education’. Young people want content based on their real lives and experiences – information that empowers and equips them to make healthy decisions about their sexuality.
- All children and young people should have access to comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality and relationships education that promotes respectful and mutual relationships.
- The school curriculum should, in an age-appropriate manner, specifically address the influence of media, including the influence of pornography and the sex industry more broadly. We believe it is not enough to adopt a public health perspective, but that a gender equality perspective is also crucial in understanding these problems.
- School communities – including teachers, wellbeing staff and school leaders – should have access to quality professional learning, support and resources, to support them in implementing comprehensive relationships and sexuality education. This should include specialist support to address the influence of pornography.
- Pre-service teacher training should include learning about the influence of pornography and how to address it through respectful relationships and sexuality curricula, and in other relevant learning areas.
- Parents and carers should have access to information and resources to support them to parent effectively in this relatively new context of easy and anonymous access to pornography. This should include support to understand the issues, and practical advice about how to manage technology to minimise exposure and how to support their children’s reflective and critical thinking.
- Other adults involved in children and young people’s care and education – such as youth workers, doctors, counsellors and health promotion staff – should have access to relevant professional learning and resources addressing the influence of pornography.
We also contributed a submission to Inquiry into Age Verification for Online Wagering and Online Pornography.
Recommendation 1: In light of data verifying the real-life harms of childhood exposure to pornography the Commonwealth government should recognise the potential benefits of an Age Verification system along with other measures to limit porn exposure to children, including education programs and improved ISP filters.
Recommendation 2: An age verification scheme for access to online pornography, drawing from work done to develop the original United Kingdom model and with added measures that address perceived shortcomings in that model, for example, additions that extend application to social media platforms, should be implemented by the Commonwealth Government.
Recommendation 3: Introduce an age verification system that will restrict children’s access to online pornography (and the global porn industry’s unfettered access to children), acknowledging that our obligation to protect children, and the ensuing protections afforded to children by such a system far outweigh the concerns of those with vested interests in the global porn industry.
Recommendation 4: Introduce an Age Verification system that will restrict children’s access to online pornography (and the global porn industry’s unfettered access to children) and so uphold Australia’s international obligations to protect children from abuse, exploitation and developmental harm, acknowledging that exposure to online pornography amounts to abuse, exploitation and harm.
Children need the adults around them to protect them from the harms of porn. Have you had "the talk" with the the young people in your life?
Read the full article here
Last week was Triple J’s ‘Porn Week’, with a special focus on stories about pornography and “discussing all things porn”, promising to examine “every facet of pornography”.
Perhaps a thorough examination of every facet would include a discussion about sexually violent content in pornography, including frequent acts of aggression, cruelty and humiliation of women, the normalisation of a male dominance/female subordination paradigm, or a critical look at the sexist and racist tropes that are commonplace in porn.
Maybe it would include accounts of mistreatment from female pornography performers, citing abuse and exploitation within the industry and being raped during production or high rates of suicide among performers.
It might also include a conversation about the experiences of women and girls growing up in a ‘porn culture’, with growing numbers reporting sexual coercion in their intimate relationships with men and boys, and pressure to submit to unwanted, painful or degrading sex acts.
Maybe a segment would be devoted to the potentially devastating impacts of children’s early exposure to hardcore pornography and how it shapes their attitudes and sexual practices. The quadrupling of child-on-child sexual assaults attributed to pornography, reports of girls as young as twelve requiring medical treatment for sex-related injuries, or more recently, the sixteen-year-old girl forced to get a colostomy bag after rough group sex
But there was no meaningful discussion of any of this.
Rather than engaging with legitimate criticisms of the pornography industry, or a growing body of research documenting how pornography harms women, children and men, Triple J instead promoted pornography use with articles like “How porn can be a positive force in your relationship” and “Porn, kinks and kink-shaming: You're not weird for watching the porn you watch”, just weeks after publishing a piece entitled “So you want to book a sex worker”, with instructions and advice on the ins and outs of purchasing sex.
What could have been a frank and much-needed examination of pornography felt more like a week of free PR for the sex industry.
Viewing rape porn "nothing to be ashamed of"
The article “Porn, kinks and kink-shaming” reassures readers that it is both normal and acceptable to masturbate to rape and incest porn- that these are “kinks” and “nothing to be ashamed of”. Masturbating to the physical abuse of women is framed as a matter of individual preference, and kink advocates quoted in the article warn against “kink-shaming” or “demonising” consumption of this material. Porn is, we are told, “only a fantasy”.
But it’s not just a fantasy. Fantasy occurs in the mind. When acts of sexual violence and cruelty are carried out on the bodies of living women, this ceases to be a fantasy and becomes reality. A porn scene featuring a woman being choked cannot be produced without an actual woman being choked on camera. That’s not fantasy, that’s a man’s actual hands around a woman’s actual neck, actually choking her.
It’s also not merely fantasy when it happens to women outside of pornography. A recent US study found a quarter of women surveyed have felt scared during sex. A number of these said their partner had tried to choke them without warning. Researchers in London studying heterosexual anal sex among teenagers found a climate of coercion, and that young people rarely spoke about anal sex “in terms of mutual exploration of sexual pleasure”.
Eurydice Dixon’s killer Jaymes Todd was this week sentenced to life in prison for her rape and murder. The court heard that Todd watched violent pornography before and after raping and killing the young comedian, and that Todd was addicted to a fantasy of coercive rape, including fantasies of death, and searched for snuff films online, in which people are killed. Was Jaymes Todd’s preference for pornography depicting rape and extreme violence against women, even murder, a mere “kink”? Was it a coincidence that a man who was obsessed with porn depicting the sadistic rape and murder of women carried out these same acts against a real woman?
Triple J promotes "ethical" porn
Another segment was dedicated to ‘ethical’ porn, with a visit to a Sydney porn set. So-called ethical or feminist porn is often positioned as a positive alternative to run of the mill misogynist and male-dominated pornography. But the bar for what constitutes ‘ethical’ porn is very low, and typically only refers to conditions of production, such as fair compensation and labour conditions, representation of diverse body types and sexualities, consent and authenticity.
The actual content in ‘ethical’ or ‘feminist’ porn may be indistinguishable from violent and abusive mainstream porn. Rather than showcasing more egalitarian or non-violent content, degradation and acts of physical violence against women such as slapping, gagging and strangulation are still found in ‘ethical’ porn. Does this sound all that ethical? And if ethical porn truly exists, is anyone interested in watching it?
Dr Meagan Tyler, Senior Lecturer at RMIT, argues that the notion of ethical porn is a cynical attempt to make porn companies look like good corporate citizens.
“It’s a marketing ploy and an exercise in obfuscation,” she says.
"It's for a small segment of consumers who would like to think that their pornography consumption is unproblematic and they would like to think that what they are doing is totally different from what others are doing when, in reality, it all feeds the same commercial sex industry."
“It speaks volumes about how much pornography has colonised our understandings of sex that we can only imagine the possibility of a (potentially) slightly less harmful pornography, not a happy life without pornography at all.”
Were any researchers who have analysed the harmful impacts of pornography, especially in young people in their sexual development, consulted? Or was it only those in favour of porn consumption, including those with vested interests in the industry? ABC is a publicly funded broadcaster, and Dr Tyler says we need to ask questions about who commissioned this discussion, and under what circumstances.
“Triple J ‘Porn Week’ [is a] week long advertorial for why porn is great - we can’t ignore the intersections of men’s violence against women and intimate violation of women and the multi-billion dollar global pornography industry.”
We need to have honest conversations about the realities of pornography and our engagement with it. Porn Week was a platform for pro-pornography indoctrination, and many more women and girls will suffer as a result.
Former pornography performer Mia Khalifa has publicly shared her experience of the pornography industry. Khalifa performed in pornography over a three month period in 2014-2015, becoming Pornhub’s most highly ranked performer. Khalifa is known for filming a scene wearing a hijab.
“A very vulnerable point in my life”
Khalifa described her entry to the porn industry in an interview with Megan Abbott posted to YouTube earlier this month. Khalifa, who was subjected to racial bullying and called fat as a child, had previously undergone a breast augmentation surgery after a substantial weight loss while attending college. She told Abbott that after her breast augmentation was the first time she had ever felt pretty.
Khalifa recounted first being approached when a car pulled over as she was walking down the street. She was asked to consider modelling and handed a business card. The company was a porn production company.
“I was handed a business card, thought about it for a few weeks, went in and was showered with compliments—felt validated for a whole twenty minutes—and I went back and shot a scene, and it was terrifying and temporarily validating, but afterwards I felt a little empty. Though I still had that pit in my stomach where I wanted to chase that validation again.
“I had never had male attention. I was pretty overweight—I lost about 50 pounds in college—and then after I moved to Miami I got a breast augmentation. So before my self-confidence kicked in, I didn’t know what I looked like and I didn’t know or value my self-worth, and instead I left it up to men to tell me what my self-worth was.
“But I think what made me go back and do it again was that the attention I was receiving, I was afraid it would go away if I didn’t do what I was asked to do.” Read more.
Professor of sociology and women’s studies Gail Dines has discussed the experiences of women and girls in a ‘porn culture’ and their need to be validated: “You’re either f*ckable or invisible...And so when young women who have an absolute developmental need to be ‘visible’ have to dress like that and then get slammed as sluts and are then told by some bizarre feminism that you’re empowered because that was your choice...this is like the mind-f*ck of the century because of what you’re having to deal with.”
Khalifa went on to dispel some more widely accepted myths about the pornography industry, and her time in it.
It did not make her rich
Khalifa reportedly made $1000 per scene. Porn production company Bang Bros and Pornhub received the most profit for her videos, and still do.
“No amount of money would make it worth it.”
She said some women who enter the business are vulnerable and taken advantage of by industry producers, while others are looking for a big star turn. “I am not for women getting into the industry. I don’t think it’s an industry that should be respected,” she said.
Backdated money would not change that for her. If she could, Khalifa said, she would burn the industry to the ground, sending all of her videos along with it.
“The only thing I want is for people to stop seeing me naked,” she said.
Khalifa's experience is not uncommon, with many female performers leaving the industry after a matter of months and without having made big money. Just this week, news.com.au has published an article about another former porn performer, Jenni Lee, who is now homeless and living in tunnels under the Las Vegas strip.
She is not in control of her images now
The porn industry continues to profit from women even after they have left the industry, even after they are dead.
Three of the top 10 actresses on the site now are either retired or inactive in the business, an industry veteran said, and have little recourse to claim compensation or remove their videos if they are shut out from the revenue.
“At end of day, whether it’s Kim Kardashian or Mia, they don’t have power to tell Pornhub to take content down,” said the veteran, who declined to provide a name because he still works in the industry.
She regrets her time in the industry
Speaking to Daily Beast, Khalifa said, “I’m still ashamed of it. It’s hard not to be when one decision you made when you were 21 years old entitles the whole world to see you naked, so of course I’m still ashamed of it, and of course I would go back and change things if I could.”
We applaud Khalifa's bravery in coming forward and sharing her story, despite the vitriol she has been subjected to. We wish her all the best in her future pursuits. Her voice matters.
Full article published on Mercury
A retiree has been refused bail after police allegedly found a raft of child abuse material on his laptop and a number of fake identification documents.
Over the past 20 years, police allege Mr Seddon regularly travelled to Thailand and the Philippines, describing him as “well-connected” and a “frequent traveller to high risk ports for child exploitation”.
Police also alleged Mr Seddon recently contacted a computer company and asked them how to use the dark web.
Mr Seddon had also allegedly been using YouTube Kids and had searched for “young boy gay porn” before his arrest.
Police allege they also uncovered an “enormous amount of gay pornography” ranging from children to adults.
“Based on the pornography viewed, the accused has a preference for jail scene encounters…sexual torture,” court documents read.
Police allege Mr Seddon had befriended a woman in the Philippines with two boys aged six and eight, who he often gave gifts to and provided for. Police have documentation which shows payments to the Philippines for unknown reasons.Read more
Young women deserve the truthRead more
The UK will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for online pornography when the measures come into force on 15 July 2019.
- Porn sites must check age of users or risk facing sanctions
- New approach is the first of its kind in the world, and puts in place the same protections that exist offline
- Stricter measures in place to protect users’ data and privacy
The UK will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for online pornography when the measures come into force on 15 July 2019.
It means that commercial providers of online pornography will be required by law to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are 18 or over. The move is backed by 88% of UK parents with children aged 7-17, who agree there should be robust age-verification controls in place to stop children seeing pornography online
Websites that fail to implement age-verification technology face having payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws. They have confirmed that they will begin enforcement on 15 July, following an implementation period to allow websites time to comply with the new standards.
Minister for Digital Margot James said:
Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.
Government has listened carefully to privacy concerns and is clear that age-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. In addition to the requirement for all age-verification providers to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards, the BBFC have created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), which will assess the data security standards of AV providers. The AVC has been developed in cooperation with industry, with input from government.
Certified age-verification solutions which offer these robust data protection conditions will be certified following an independent assessment and will carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol. Details will also be published on the BBFC’s age-verification website, ageverificationregulator.com so consumers can make an informed choice between age-verification providers.
BBFC Chief Executive David Austin said:
The introduction of age-verification to restrict access to commercial pornographic websites to adults is a ground breaking child protection measure. Age-verification will help prevent children from accessing pornographic content online and means the UK is leading the way in internet safety.
On entry into force, consumers will be able to identify that an age-verification provider has met rigorous security and data checks if they carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol.
The change in law is part of the Government’s commitment to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, especially for children. It follows last week’s publication of the Online Harms White Paper which set out clear responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe online, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not.
Read the full media release here.
Collective Shout is calling for implementation of the UK age-verification laws here in Australia.
"A form of pornography"Read more
‘Porn is presenting rough sex and anal sex as something normal, and teenage boys are learning from their screens that it often involves violence and humiliation’ – Nikki Gemmell
How encouraging to read the concerns a number of us have been attempting to raise for close on a decade now, in our national broadsheet The Australian.Read more
Fake-porn videos are being weaponised to harass and humiliate women: ‘Everybody is a potential target’
By Drew Harwell, as published at The Washington Post.
The video showed the woman in a pink off-the-shoulder top, sitting on a bed, smiling a convincing smile.
It was her face. But it had been seamlessly grafted, without her knowledge or consent, onto someone else’s body: a young pornography actress, just beginning to disrobe for the start of a graphic sex scene. A crowd of unknown users had been passing it around online.
She felt nauseated and mortified: What if her co-workers saw it? Her family, her friends? Would it change how they thought of her? Would they believe it was a fake?
“I feel violated — this icky kind of violation,” said the woman, who is in her 40s and spoke on the condition of anonymity because she worried that the video could hurt her marriage or career. “It’s this weird feeling, like you want to tear everything off the Internet. But you know you can’t.”
Airbrushing and Photoshop long ago opened photos to easy manipulation. Now, videos are becoming just as vulnerable to fakes that look deceptively real. Supercharged by powerful and widely available artificial-intelligence software developed by Google, these lifelike “deepfake” videos have quickly multiplied across the Internet, blurring the line between truth and lie.
But the videos have also been weaponised disproportionately against women, representing a new and degrading means of humiliation, harassment and abuse. The fakes are explicitly detailed, posted on popular porn sites and increasingly challenging to detect. And although their legality hasn’t been tested in court, experts say they may be protected by the First Amendment — even though they might also qualify as defamation, identity theft or fraud.
Disturbingly realistic fakes have been made with the faces of both celebrities and women who don’t live in the spotlight, and actress Scarlett Johansson told The Washington Post she worries that “it’s just a matter of time before any one person is targeted” by a lurid forgery.
Johansson has been superimposed into dozens of graphic sex scenes over the past year that have circulated across the Web: One video, falsely described as real “leaked” footage, has been watched on a major porn site more than 1.5 million times. She said she worries it may already be too late for women and children to protect themselves against the “virtually lawless (online) abyss."
“Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else’s onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired,” she said. “The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the Internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause. . . . The Internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself.”
Read the full article at The Washington Post.
“When I became a SANE nurse, I thought the typical perpetrator was most likely going to be a creepy old man in his 60s who lured kids into his basement with lollipops, but I was so wrong. The biggest age range of perpetrators that I see in my hospital are children. In fact, for the third year in a row, our biggest age range of people committing sexual assaults are children ages 11-15 years old.”
Why are these children sexually assaulting other children? The answer is not surprising to me but it is devastating to me. “Pornography is often a main factor,” Olson says, “and sometimes the only factor, that influenced a child to act out in a sexually harmful way.” And the children that also and is working with are not isolated. Last year, the Guardian in the United Kingdom published an article entitled “Child-on-child sexual assaults soar, police figures reveal.”Read more