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Link between porn and violence is clear as is the need for action

Ross Hendry

Sarah Everard

This article first appeared in The Express, on 16 April 2022.

Last year, polling found that the majority of Brits fear internet pornography is motivating harmful sexual behaviour in the offline world.

A study commissioned by CARE found 6 in 10 people believe "pornography is inspiring sexual violence against women and girls."

The research came just weeks after Wayne Couzens – a man obsessed with violent pornography – was jailed for life for the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard.

And it followed a warning by schools’ regulator Ofsted that harassment has become “normalised” in schools, citing porn as a major driver of the problem.

The public has long known what politicians are beginning to wake up to – that internet pornography is causing untold harm in our society.

It is regularly implicated in cases of sexual crime. Professionals who work with victims are clear about its impact on perpetrators.

It is also fuelling poisonous attitudes towards sex and relationships amongst children and young people. As someone who has worked for the Children’s Commissioner, and led a children’s charity, I know its tragic toll.

The porn young people access today is very different to that of previous decades, in magazines and even in videos. Most of what is viewed today is violent and degrading. The viewer is not left unchanged. Attitudes and expectations are shaped.

Tragically, young are growing up to see what they witness in porn as normal and acceptable – something that they should mimic.

Society can no longer deny porn’s negative impact on culture. Its harms are obvious, and varied, and they demand a response.

A political response is needed. CARE is campaigning for under-18s to be prevented from stumbling across porn, and for sites punished for hosting extreme content.

Ministers, working closely with experts, can see these safeguards achieved through online safety legislation.

Porn’s harms also require an educational response. This starts with parents, who need to be having frank and honest discussions with their children.

We need to promote good models of healthy relationships, and ensure young people understand that what they encounter online is not good

We also need work across society – in media, the arts, pop culture and elsewhere – to challenge the objectification of women. Images and messages everywhere fuel the harmful idea that women are sex objects.

We can, through these efforts and many more, start to undo the awful damage being done by pornography, and stem an awful tide of sexual violence.

Ross Hendry is CEO of social policy charity CARE

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