‘The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes has led to destructive ideas about sex and makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible…the weight of evidence about the trends in online consumption of pornography by children and young people, and the harms associated with online consumption of pornography, point to the urgent need to find effective means to limit or reduce children’s access’
Impact of online consumption of pornography by children on the development of healthy and respectful relationships
Michael Flood in 2009 described the likely effects of children and young people’s exposure to pornography based on a careful analysis of the available evidence as follows:
• children and young people may be disturbed (sick, shocked, embarrassed, repulsed, upset) by unwanted to exposure to Internet pornography;
• girls are more likely than boys to be troubled by sexually explicit images; boys are more likely to report sexual excitement;
• children and young people exposed to pornography that features non-mainstream sexual practices (such as male-female anal intercourse) are more likely to engage in such practices;
• children and young people who view pornography are more likely to have liberal attitudes towards, and to engage in, sex without love, one night stands, same-sex sex, multiple sex partners, more frequent sex, and earlier sexual involvement;
• pornography, much of which offers a decontextualised portrayal of sexual behaviour, a relentless focus on female bodies, and sexist and callous depictions of women contributes to sexually objectifying understandings of and behaviours towards girls and women by boys and young men;
• exposure to pornography is related to male sexual aggression against women. This association is strongest for violent pornography and still reliable for nonviolent pornography, particularly by frequent users. For example, “in a study of Canadian teenagers with an average age of 14, there was a correlation between boys’ frequent consumption of pornography and their agreement with the idea that it is acceptable to hold a girl down and force her to have sex”;
• exposure of girls and young women to pornography may make them more vulnerable to submitting to sexist and sexually objectifying attitudes, including sexual violence; and
• partners of adult pornography users report decreased sexual intimacy, lowered esteem and demands that they participate in activities they find objectionable, so children and young people’s exposure to pornography is making them less able to sustain genuine intimate relationships based on mutual respect.
The 2012 systematic literature review by Owens and colleagues, The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research, found that adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes such as:
• more permissive sexual attitudes towards casual sex, including viewing sex as “primarily physical and casual rather than affectionate and relational”; and
• acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as “sexual playthings eager to fulfill male sexual desires”.
The review also founds that frequency of consumption of Internet pornography was linked to behaviour such as:
• first oral sex at a younger age;
• first sexual intercourse at a younger age; and
• casual sex, group sex, male-female anal intercourse.
Furthermore, “adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed”.
In a very recent meta-analysis examining the link between pornography consumption and sexual violence, Wright and colleagues found that:
• consumption of pornography was associated with an increased likelihood of committing actual acts of sexual aggression;
• this association held for both adolescents and adults;
• the association held for both violent pornography and nonviolent pornography, although the link with violent pornography was stronger (but nonsignificant): “it appears most likely that (a) the level of violence, degradation, and objectification matters, but (b) the pornography consumed by the average individual contains enough of these elements that it is associated with an elevated likelihood of sexual aggression.;
• there is an even stronger link for verbal sexual aggression than for physical sexual aggression; and
• the link between pornography consumption and sexually aggressive behaviour is not explained by “sexually aggressive individuals watching content that conforms to their already established aggressive sexual scripts” and that “pornography consumption predicted boys’ later sexual aggression even after controlling for their earlier sexual aggression”
The authors conclude:
As with all behavior, sexual aggression is caused by a confluence of factors and many pornography consumers are not sexually aggressive. However, the accumulated data leave little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression than individuals who do not consume pornography or who consume pornography less frequently.
Sun et al in their 2013 paper “Pornography and the male sexual script” describe the nature of the majority of pornography currently available:
Nevertheless, with online mainstream pornography overwhelmingly centered on acts of violence and degradation toward women, the sexual behaviors exemplified in pornography skew away from intimacy and tenderness and typify patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity. Content analysis of best-selling pornographic videos, for example, reveals that over 88% of scenes involve acts of physical aggression, with 70% of the aggressive acts being perpetrated by men, and 87% of the acts being committed against women. Such acts stand in sharp relief against more intimate acts, which were relatively infrequent, such as issuing verbal compliments, embracing, kissing, and laughing.—
In addition to the findings on first age of exposure and frequency of use reported above, this survey of U.S. heterosexual male college students found that men who view pornography more frequently are:
• more likely to rely on pornography to become and remain sexually excited (reporting masturbation with pornography as more exciting than sex with a partner; and intentionally thinking about images from pornography during sex with a partner);
• more likely to integrate pornography into dyadic sexual encounters (viewing pornography with a sex partner or acting out activities or positions seen in pornography); and
• less likely to enjoy intimate behaviours such as cuddling, kissing and caressing with a partner.
The Australian Psychological Society reports adolescent boys are estimated to be responsible for about a fifth of rapes of adult women and between a third and a half of all reported sexual assaults of children. Offences by school-aged children have quadrupled in Australia in only four years according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Australian Medical Association says there is a strong relationship between exposure to sexually explicit material and sexual behaviour that predisposes young people to adverse sexual and mental health outcomes.
The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes has led to destructive ideas about sex and makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible.
Taken together, the weight of evidence about the trends in online consumption of pornography by children and young people, and the harms associated with online consumption of pornography, point to the urgent need to find effective means to limit or reduce children’s access to online pornography.
To fail to take action would be to betray a whole generation of boys and girls by leaving their formation in sex and relationships largely in the hands of a pornography industry and culture that teaches boys and young men to view women as sex objects, to be used in a degrading and even violent way and teaches girls and young women to view their worth as conditioned upon their valuation by porn saturated boys and men as fit for the purpose of an objectified sex instrument.
Collective Shout calls for child-rights based approach to address harms of hypersexualised culture
Submission to the Parliament of NSW Committee on Children and Young People Inquiry into sexualisation of children and young people
Nicole Jameson presented on behalf of Collective Shout to the NSW Committee Inquiry into sexualisation of children and young people
Children and young people are growing up in a high-tech culture steeped in relentlessly sexualised, sexualising and sexist messaging from media, advertising and popular culture which conditions them from a young age to view themselves and others in terms of their appearance and sexual currency. While women and girls are primarily the subjects of hyper-sexualised media representation, these messages also play a crucial part in socialising men and boys to see the sexual objectification of women and girls as normal.
Many adults are overwhelmed by the task of protecting and equipping children as they navigate the contemporary media and social landscape. The current legislative and regulatory environment is piecemeal, confusing for the community to navigate, and tends to serve the commercial advantage of corporate and marketing interests to the detriment of the community – children and young people in particular. Despite a number of state and federal inquiries demonstrating the need for systemic reform, media classification and self-regulatory schemes have failed to halt or even slow the proliferation of imagery and messaging through electronic, print and social media and marketing that demeans women, reduces them to sexual objects, fosters a culture which condones sexual violence, and pressures young girls to act in prematurely sexual ways.
Collective Shout is critical of the self-regulatory system currently favoured in media and advertising, which allows free rein to marketers while placing the burden of action on those most at risk of exploitation and harm. In particular, we are concerned about the lack of effective incentive or enforcement to deter those who are making a profit from the sexualisation of children and young people. Media and advertising interests have had ample opportunity to hear and act on community concerns but have instead have chosen to protect their vested interests. It is time for government to step in and act on behalf of children and young people.
Recommendations from Collective Shout in this submission include:
Recognition of the harms of sexualisation as a public health crisis requiring swift and decisive action on behalf of children and young people.
The restructuring of the current regulatory environment to bring the regulation of all media and marketing together under one encompassing independent federal regulator, including a division with the primary responsibility of protecting the interests of children and young people, addressing both the direct and indirect sexualisation of children in all media modes from a child-rights basis.
Equipping parents and carers with the appropriate media literacy tool and institutional supports, to raise children who have the ability to be critical consumers and creators of media.
The evaluation and implementation of appropriate school-based education programs to educate children and young people about the harms of sexualisation, and funding to help schools secure these resources.
For a child-rights based approach to addressing the harms of media hypersexualisation, including respect for the voices and points of view of children and young people.
That the prevalence of sexualised images of women in our society be recognised as a significant underlying contributor to violence against women and girls.
The commissioning of comprehensive research to establish the extent of the exposure of children and young people in NSW to sexualising media content. However, this research should not preclude swift government action on the basis of the evidence that already exists.
Tell Nick: “Naughty” Games are Not for Young Children
Nickelodeon, the children’s media empire, is promoting sexualized and violent video games to children as young as preschoolers. Its popular gaming website, AddictingGames.com, features games such as Candy the Naughty Cheerleader, Bloody Day (“Back alley butchering has never been so much fun. . . . How many kills can you rack?”) and the Perry the Sneak series, where gamers take the role of a peeping Tom trying to catch revealing glimpses of scantily clad and naked women. Nickelodeon promotes, and links directly to, Addictinggames.com on its Nick.com website for children and even on NickJr.com, its website for preschoolers.
TAKE ACTION! Tell Nick: Stop Promoting “Naughty” Games to Young Children.
After some of the games – and Nick’s links to them on its websites for children – were featured in this YouTube video and this report on Good Morning America, Nickelodeon pulled a few (e.g. Vanessa Naughty Pics and Whack Your Ex). But Nickelodeon was clearly more concerned about protecting its reputation than protecting children. They continue to link to AddictingGames.com on Nick.com and NickJr.com.
AddictingGames.com, which boasts about its large collection of “naughty games” and “shooting games,” continues to features many games with sexual and violent content, including the following. All descriptions are taken directly from AddictingGames.com: Stick Figure Penalty Chamber 2: “Small, black, stick figure death can happen in so many different ways! Do you choose shotgun to the face, or acid in the lungs?”
• Naughty Classroom – “Hot for teacher?…Here’s your chance to fulfill your ultimate childhood fantasy. Naughty Classroom will leave you begging for more homework.”
• Dark Cut 2 – “More macho surgery! No anesthetic. No antiseptics. Just rusty knives, corn whiskey, and lots of blood!”
• Foxy Sniper – “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Fear me, because I am a crack shot! Assassination isn’t just a job; it’s a way of life.”
Please take a moment to demand that Nickelodeon stop promoting sexualized and violent videogames to young children. And be sure to let other parents know what Nick is up to. Please spread word to friends and family and promote this campaign on Twitter and Facebook .
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England in Boston. For information on how to take action against Nickelodean, visit CCFC’s site.
Earlier in the year I was asked to take part in the Intelligence Squared debate on internet filtering organised by the St James Ethics Centre. I agreed. I have since changed my mind. In this letter to the producer, I explain why.
Ms Deb Richards
St James Ethics Centre, Sydney
Dear Ms Richards,
After significant consideration, I am writing to advise that I must pull out of the St James Ethics Centre Intelligence Squared Debate scheduled for May 11.
As mentioned in previous correspondence, it is hard enough going into this debate in the first place, given the level of misinformation and misrepresentation of the Government’s proposed mandatory filtering scheme.
But then, for you to include – without any consultation – a Chinese speaker who defends the Chinese firewall, means that our side is doomed to fail before we’ve even started the debate. His inclusion makes it a lost cause for us: the audience will have to vote against us because they won’t support political censorship –I don’t either. I don’t support the Chinese firewall, I don’t support any filtering of political content, I don’t support filtering of the views of dissenters and minority groups. I have been publicly critical of China’s human rights violations, including the lack of freedom of expression.
If the format were something other than a “debate” – for example, the opportunity to express a range of views as individuals - I could view it differently. However, as it is a debate, in which the audience votes to determine the winning team, how can we possibly have a chance of winning (unless the audience is stacked with PRC supporters, even then, this would not be the support I’d be seeking).
I am not wishing to reflect on Kaiser Kuo personally. He may have some good arguments. He may be a nice man. He may have been educated in the West. We may agree on “one or two points”. But that is hardly recommendation enough to have him on a team which doesn’t agree with his overall position and is therefore divided. Going into a debate like this requires unity of position and our side will not have that. The other side will. They will have opportunity to discuss their approach beforehand, to meet face to face if they wish, to hone their arguments amongst themselves. We, however will have none of these opportunities and would enter the debate at a disadvantage. We would also be essentially one person down.
In your email of March 27, you write, “If it is any consolation, the ABC’s Q&A program have leapt at the chance of having him on their panel”. This is irrelevant. Why wouldn’t they want to have him? He is interesting enough. But it is a completely different format. A panel discussion is not a debate in which the audience votes.
It has been important all through the porn filtering debate to distance the policy, and differentiate the argument, from the Chinese fire-wall. In other words, to make it very clear that the arguments for filtering illegal pornography (among other things) are completely distinct from those for political censorship, and that we are as opposed to political censorship as those who are against porn filtering. The national classification scheme that the Government’s policy is based on does not consider political content at all.
The decision to invite a defender of the Chinese Government’s political censorship – on the spurious grounds of “cultural relativism” – is very damaging for our side of the debate. We will be inescapably bracketed with arguments in favour of wider censorship which can only play strongly into the hands of the internet libertarians.
I cannot join a debating team that will include a member arguing that it is legitimate to censor from the internet material that a government finds objectionable on political grounds.
When the audience comes to vote on the proposition, those inclined to favour porn censorship would have to vote “no” because a “yes” vote means a vote for political censorship as well.
I apologise for any inconvenience my decision might cause.
I was looking around for something nice for you for the weekend but couldn’t find anything. So here’s some more pornography instead (sorry Satchel girl).
First up, Julie Gale’s piece on ABCThe Drum Unleashed on the porn in the corner store issue which I have also covered. Much of thegraphic material in the original piece was cut. While I understand why editors choose to remove explicit references and images from an easily accessible public site, it also serves to underscore Julie’s point about the fact that the same material is in the corner store with the lollies and kids’ mags.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Julie (Kids Free 2B Kids) on the issue of sexualisation of girls for about three years now (she has a chapter, “One woman’s activism” in my book). We like to get together in her homey kitchen -where Julie’s laughter tinkles like cascading water as she prepares tea cups and plates of biscuits (thanks Claire Halliday) - and share our favourite comments and feedback. (Getting Real readers may recall some of these gems in my introduction, such as the charming and mysteriously evocative “as ugly as a hatful of arses”). We’ve been accused of everything from wanting to ban all sex, forcing Australian women to don the burka and (just last week actually) hastening armageddon. Anyway, this special post in the Unleashed comments section provides fresh inspiration for Julie’s comedy routines:
I have read some drivel on this site but, really! What else does Ms Gale want to ban – shorts, singlets, short skirts (nothing above the knee) or puberty. Moreover, how about a time machine so that she (and those who support her) can be transported back to the Victorian era!
Julie has confirmed with me today that she does indeed want to ban EVERYTHING. “Everything must go!” she said.
But here’s a good one (thanks anonimouse):
Same old boring conspiracy theories about religious right whenever regulating pseudo child porn is discussed. Same old irrational assumptions that regulating this stuff is oppressing kids. These arguments are at least 40 years old now… and meanwhile the pseudo left have nothing to say about the massive capitalist exploitation of kids that is only too happy to co-opt their libertarian rhetoric. How come defending the status quo (creepy porn culture etc) is confused with being hip. Don’t mess with the sovereign consumer and their right to buy creepy porn from the newsagent! But it is not just creepy, this kind of porn is obviously normalising grooming kids…It is great that you keep speaking out.
Melbourne academic and long-time feminist activist, Sheila Jeffreys, who has written extensively against pornography, prostitution and harmful beauty practices in the West (some of her work appears in my recommended books section) debated EROS Foundation’s Robbie Swan as part of the ABC Big Ideas series recently. Here’s the debate.
They also hacked the PM’s site, plastering it with porn in a protest against the Government’s internet filtering plans. Parliament House staff also received porn spam emails.
So now we have porn vigilantes demanding their entitlement to every form of pornography – which would include child sexual assault images – by wrecking the computer operating systems of a democratic parliament and declaring cyber war on Australia. So great is their desire for violent porn and child porn, by overwhelming the system with pornography they also force others to view it against their will. This is how the porn lobby views freedom? Unleashing a form of cyber terrorism to get its way?
Speaking of illegal, Senate Estimates hearings of the Legal and Constitution Legislation Committee last week heard that Classification Board Director Donald McDonald had issued called-in notices for 37 unclassified porn magazines between July 1 and December 21, 2009. In the 12 months before ,he called-in 127 magazines. The called-in titles included ‘Live Young Girls’ and others imported by Namda/Windsor Wholesale, whose General Manager is David Watt of the Eros Foundation which launched the Australian Sex Party.
Many of the recalled titles endorse rape and incest and represent very young girls as desperate for sex with older males. The magazines have been illegally distributed in corner stores, milkbars and petrol stations including McDonald’s Fuelzone for who knows how long. See earlier blog
In addition, in the six months to December 31, 2009, McDonald had called in 440 pornographic films, including incest titles. From 2008 to July 2009 he had called in 386 titles. Under our laws, distributors who fail to put their publications through the classification system have three days to respond to these notices. So, guess how many distributors have responded?
While the Classification Board notifies police about illegal publications and films, there is no reporting back on enforcement. It is possible nothing happens. No one seems to know. And bear in mind, these are only the titles that were found. How many more are out there?
Porn distributors have demonstrated that they think they can do what they want and get away with it. It seems they are right. The system is broke. It needs fixing.
Maybe take up the whole day with it?
“Viewing porn online becomes a major problem only when people become so preoccupied that they spend 16 to 18 hours a day doing nothing else but watching porn, with serious impacts on relationships, work, studies, and finance,” Dr Sitharthan said.
So it’s only a problem if every waking moment is taken up with it? What about 10 hours a day? Or eight? Or three or four? Is porn use now so normalised that anything under 16 hours of viewing on-line porn is considered unproblematic?
If you or someone you know is a compulsive porn user, I’d like your thoughts on when you think porn use is a problem.
Throw in some dead prostituted women perhaps?
In another example of pimp culture gone mainstream , a Queensland schoolboy set up a Facebook page called “Kill my hooker so you don’t have to pay her”. The site was taken down by Facebook – but not before it attracted 18,000 members.
How about starting with educating boys that violence against women is wrong?
President of the Australian Sex Workers Association, Elena Jeffreys, took the opportunity to offer to get prostituted women into schools and educate students about the “reality of prostitution”.
Given that the association thinks prostitution is a good career choice for women and given their moves to loosen up our visa system so that more Asian women can be prostituted here, I’m not sure how much reality the school kids would get.
The Government announced this week plans to introduce legislation for mandatory filtering of the internet at Internet Service Provider (ISP level).
This of course brought out all those who want no restrictions to the internet, arguing that the plans will mean we’ll end up living in a place like North Korea and controlled by the Taliban.
The plan is for ISPs to block blacklisted material rated Refused Classification. This is material that is already not allowed in other mediums because it is so graphic. It includes child porn, rape porn and bestiality.
The government will also provide incentives to ISPs to offer optional ISP level filtering of X and R-rated pornography.
The UN Save the Children Fund made the ridiculous claim that it would mean parents would relax about their children’s internet use. Save the Children should be welcoming anything which might lessen the multi-billion dollar trade in children’s bodies.
Any material which depicts sexual violence against women and children or which incites crimes of violence against women and children should not be allowed. Anyone justifying it should not be called a civil libertarian but a sexual assault libertarian.
For some compelling articles in favour of filtering, see:
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
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“Melinda Tankard Reist is at the forefront of helping…educate the public on the link between pornography and violence…” – Di Macleod, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence
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