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They say you can’t believe everything you hear and I have to say, this article was a wonderful example. As reported by the ABC, Professor McNair in Brisbane came out and said “Whether or not you attribute broader social harms to pornography, there is no evidence that increasing access to pornography is somehow generating more sexual abuse or violence … or the other things that sometimes pornography is accused of.” No evidence? Truly – what research articles were used to make this statement?

Some of the most recent research indicates exactly the opposite. When young people were surveyed70% said ‘pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex’ and that ‘pornography can have a damaging impact on young people’s views of sex or relationships’.  Almost eight out of 10 young women (77%) said ‘pornography has led to pressure on girls or young women to look a certain way’, while almost as many (75%) said ‘pornography has led to pressure on girls and young women to act a certain way’. And that’s only one study – another recent peer-reviewed article found that one out of five 16-24 year-olds have had anal intercourse (please note, whatever people willingly choose to do is great for them) but the kicker is that the main reasons given for young people having anal sex were that men wanted to copy what they say in pornography, and that “it’s tighter” – and their findings suggest that coercion could emerge as a dominant script for anal intercourse at these young ages if left unchallenged. Coercion – just what we need! (Please note the sarcasm.) It goes on to say that women being badgered for anal sex appears to be considered normal and many men do not express concern about pain for women, viewing it as inevitable. Not surprisingly, women reported painful anal sex as opposed to a mutual exploration of sexual pleasure. The article concludes that young people’s narratives normalised coercive, painful and unsafe anal heterosex. Quite contradictory to Professor McNair’s statement that there’s “evidence of reduced tolerance of domestic violence and sexism.”

When we look at the younger age bracket, Freda Briggs’ research in 2014 indicated that porn has been found to be a significant contributing factor to child-on-child sexual abuse, also citing research from a 2008 study where Victorian police confirmed that most reported sexual offences involved juveniles. AND This was attributed to the availability of pornography which is associated with sexual fantasies and fantasies in turn are associated with offending.

Time and time again, research is emerging of the harms yet Professor McNair says there’s no evidence. This timely comment was released within 24 hours of a British article highlighting that 800 youngsters have assaulted or raped other children in the last 6 years (these are just the reported incidences), and whilst some are related to those children being abused themselves, experts blame Internet porn and the sexualisation of children for the rise in offences – their figures show that show that the annual number of sex offenders under the age of ten has doubled in the last three years.

Whats more, according to Professor McNair the solution is that it’s parents responsibility to police the media consumption of their children – because after all, parents have access into children’s lives 24-7 to monitor the masses of content available for viewing. Yes, certainly that’s part of a broader solution. Yet many of the parents I know are asking for support in how to do that, especially considering helicopter parenting is out of fashion. How about some public pressure for an Internet provider to block porn and offer families a viable choice rather than having to worry about porn (the tittering sort or otherwise) being thrust in front of their kids when they’re out of eyesight and not hovering over them.

If you read the article you may also be wondering as I am, how Professor McNair hopes to categorise consensual, non-exploitative porn from all the abusive exploitative porn? Perhaps he could share his view with the kids that stumble across hard-core porn and have their lives drastically altered forever – despite all the filters and monitoring at home because they saw it in the school playground on their friends mobile. Or tell it to the mum that called me at Youth Wellbeing Project in tears – “help, my 6 year old daughter saw graphic porn on the iPad and then took photo’s of herself doing sexual stuff with her 2 year old brother”. Or explain it to the 13 year old boy that has been masturbating to porn for 2 years and doesn’t know how to stop. Help unpack it for the families who have been devastated by the 9 year old who made a kid in the toilet suck him off so he could experience what he had seen online. Rationalise it away to the 30 year old who can’t look his wife in the eyes and connect with her because he is sexually hard-wired to cum to countless women on the screen that he has reduced to an object. Counsel the 24 year old bride who finds out the reason her new groom can’t playfully explore and be satisfied with her youthful body, is because he’s been learning how to get off on a constant stream of porn scenes for more than half his young life. Console the 45 year old woman who yearns for her husband to connect with her intimately but he chooses instead to lock himself in a closed room and feed his paraphilia. This ‘fascinating subject of academia’ is screwing up people’s lives – every day.

Perhaps the sensationalistic headline words were not Professor McNair’s own (it wouldn’t be the first time media has misguided). However if comments quoted in the article are his honest thoughts, with all due respect, some time in the real world counselling and educating people would assist the professor to understand that porn is most certainly not making the world a better place. Whilst Professor McNair is at work living a fantasy of consensual non-exploitative porn, a significant number of people living in the real world find themselves dealing with the harms associated with easy access to hard-core, exploitative, objectifying and abusive porn. The evidence speaks clearly.

Liz Walker

International authority on porn harms, education and advocacy.

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