Cambridge Union Debate
Haley McNamara from NCOSE, Jo Bartosch from Click Off and Raquel Rosario Sanchez debate with pornographers

What does pornography reveal about the world we are a part of?

First published in The Morning Star on Saturday 18th April

THE pandemic has given rise to something wonderful; it seems each of us has been made aware that we are a part of something bigger.

And yet, while we’re all thinking about the social implications of buying loo roll or going for a walk, every day in homes across the globe 120 million viewers will log onto PornHub, the world’s largest platform for free pornography.

As I write, searches for “coronavirus quarantine” pornography are trending.

The coronavirus crisis has made people aware of the working conditions of those who serve food and deliver parcels — we have been forced to reflect on the power dynamics of supply and demand.

Perhaps we should also ask what pornography reveals about the world we are a part of, and what the consequences are for too many of those in front of the camera.

PornHub is on something of a public relations drive at present, recently donating 50,000 masks to New York City first responders.

Over recent months the site has made premium content free, apparently in an attempt to encourage viewers to “stay at home and flatten the curve” rather than leaving their homes and potentially spreading the virus.

These good works are being carried out under the shadow of revelations that the site has been found to host images of trafficking victims, abused missing children, gang rape and torture.

Rose Kalemba’s story exemplifies the problem with PornHub. In 2009, when she was 14, Rose was abducted at knife-point and held for 12 hours during which time she was raped, beaten and stabbed in the leg by two men while a third filmed parts of the assaults.

A few months later Rose was browsing a social media site when she found herself tagged by others at her school in footage of the attack.

She recalls: “The titles of the videos were ‘teen crying and getting slapped around,’ ‘teen getting destroyed,’ ‘passed out teen.’ One had over 400,000 views … The worst videos were the ones where I was passed out.

“Seeing myself being attacked where I wasn‘t even conscious was the worst.”

Rose says she emailed PornHub several times over a period of six months in 2009 to ask for the videos to be taken down. She received no reply and the videos remained live.

Rose’s experience is far from unique, in the last few months, there have been several cases of sex trafficking and child rape films hosted on PornHub.

Eleven years on from when Rose’s attack was uploaded and today the one of the “most viewed” films on PornHub is “hot tiny teen fucked until she shakes” with 5.8 million views.

There is no way of knowing of whether the “tiny teen” featured consented to either the acts performed on her, or the filming and sharing of them.

Like many of those featured on PornHub, Rose’s attack had a racist dimension: she is a First Nations woman and her attackers were white.

On PornHub content is divided into racial categories such as “Arab,” “Asian” and “ebony.”

In this woke world where using the outdated phrase “coloured” will have one mobbed online and deplatformed by the Twitterati, it is fascinating that pornography escapes such scrutiny.

In any other context segregating people into racial categories would rightly be recognised as dehumanising, but then, in any other context what is framed as sexually exciting in pornography would be understood as abuse.

Defenders of pornography are often quick to remind detractors that like Fair Trade coffee, “ethical pornography” and “feminist pornography” exist as genres.

But a quick Google search reveals just how niche it is, including the first few pages of debates about whether “ethical” or “feminist” pornography can exist there are 10,300,000 results for “ethical porn” and 16,300,000 for “feminist porn.”

This sounds like a lot, until you realise that there are 2,450 million results for “teen porn.” A further disturbing, if darkly amusing insight is that “furry porn” — that is people who dress up in cartoonish animal costumes for sexual arousal — yields 144,000,000 results; 14 times more than “ethical porn.”

In wake of the soul-searching forced by the #metoo movement, the moral majority have wrung their hands about paedophilia and the behaviour of public figures such as Prince Andrew and Woody Allen.

And yet as each new scandal or revelation has unfolded “Teen” has remained one of the most consistently searched for terms on PornHub.

Now is a time of reckoning, and while we’re all basking in the togetherness that national emergency brings, we need to face our hypocrisy about pornography head-on.

To PornHub’s 120 million daily users watching pornography might seem like a personal choice, to survivors like Rose Kalemba it is a stark reminder of how her choice was taken away.

The Problem with Porn – An Overview

By Melissa Mallows 02.11.2020

More people are consuming more porn and they are doing it more of the time. Pornhub’s own figures confirm this, showing a year on year rise and with the passing of time, the content gets more and more extreme.

Pornography search results 10.2019

Its sixth annual ‘Year in Review’reveals that there were 33.5 billion visits to their sites, up 17.54% from the previous year. Undoubtedly great for their business, but what about the effects on wider society when their daily average visitors now exceed 100m - the combined populations of Canada, Poland and New Zealand?

This equates to 962 searches per second. And there is a lot to consume, with 4.79 million new videos and over 1 million hours of pornographic content uploaded last year.

So what? You might say that they are doing it in their own time, spending their own money accessing it and they aren’t hurting anyone.

But is this true? Is porn consumption a harmless hobby and does this increase have any knock on affects in the ‘real world’ or does ‘what happen online stay online’?

Technological changes have clearly influenced the increase of visitors to Pornhub, something which is known as the “triple A” influences: accessibility, affordability, anonymity. It would seem that these influences have led to more addiction – something which was harder in the days of manually flicking through the same magazine.

It is well documented that porn addiction – in line with porn consumption – is on the rise and the latest neuroscientific research supports the assumption that the “underlying neural processes involved in addiction are similar to substance addiction”. Addiction psychologists know that behaviours which repeatedly reinforce the reward, motivation and memory circuitry, are all part of the disease of addiction.

Unlike with addictive substances, people have no idea that porn can be as addictive until they are forced to seek help.

Paula Hall, a porn addiction therapist, is so concerned about the effects of addiction that she set up the Laurel Centre. She asserts that in the last ten years she has helped more and more clients addicted to internet porn. This addiction has many effects, which are distressing for both the sufferers and their partners.

Hall has not only found that addiction causes the sufferer to withdraw from partnered sex as they become more and more dependent on porn, but also that men are now suffering from porn induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), further interfering with real-life relationships. And all this is without the economic pressures created when the family’s food budget is spent on webcam girls.

Hall says of addiction:

“I’ve worked with students who have flunked their degree because of it. Business people who have been sacked from work because they’ve been using the office computer, or just not doing their job”.

“According to the US Family Research Council,  almost half of porn addicts will lose their job as a result of choosing to view pornography in the workplace”.

Just as businesses know that marketing is effective, Porn Hub knows that their continued depiction of extreme acts will cause a viewer to desire more and more novel scenarios, desensitising them in the process.

These extreme effects of porn are in line with the increasing explicitness of pornographic images. ‘Gonzo porn’, described by Dines as “hard-core body punishing sex in which women are demeaned and debased” - acts which would normally be immediately recognised as assault.

The compulsive viewing of assault has had an indisputable effect; extreme acts are seeping into the bedroom. Drs have reported an increase in anal injuries. Even worse, cases of strangulation are on the increase, with blogs like ‘We Can’t Consent to This’ detailing the increase in deaths of women by asphyxiation, a fact known since the murder of Jane Long Hurst by her porn obsessed boyfriend 20 years ago. Hope Barden, the latest victim, may have been on the end of video cam but the violent motivation was the same.

Nicky Morgan caves in to the pornography lobby

Written by Click Off Director Jo Bartosch and first published in the Morning Star on 22.10.19

Even the most rabid libertarian would struggle to defend the idea that children should be exposed to hardcore pornography, though according to a major investigation by Britain’s chief censor, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), by the age of 11 at least half will have been.

The BBFC research found that children as young as seven were accessing pornography, with 18 per cent of those between the ages of 11 and 13 having intentionally sought it out.

To combat this the Digital Economy Act, passed in 2017, promised to introduce age-verification technology to safeguard children from pornographic content.

Effectively an “opt-in” system was proposed, whereby users would have had to prove their age by giving their passport or credit card details online or by buying “porn passes” from newsagents.

This sent the pornography defenders into a sweaty-palmed frenzy, with hyperbolic claims that the system could be hacked leaving pornography users vulnerable to the threat of having their viewing habits made public.

Thankfully for porn-addled pervs, on Wednesday October 16 2019, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Nicky Morgan MP, announced that the government will be scrapping age-verification for online pornography.

Less than a week before Morgan released the statement on behalf of the DCMS, the owner and three employees of Girls Do Porn, were arrested and charged with sex trafficking.

The complainants allege they were coerced and lied to; they were promised jobs as models, though when they arrived on set they “were forced to perform certain sex acts they had declined to do, or they would not be paid or allowed to leave.”

The suit alleges that Girls Do Porn benefited from exploiting the women, with its websites generating about $17 million.

At the time of writing this content is still available on PornHub, the world’s largest provider of free online pornography.

Furthermore, these images of criminal sexual abuse are freely available to children.

In effect, age verification would have been the equivalent to the banning of plastic straws. A limp response to an overwhelming threat, but a start; a small acknowledgement that a problem exists.

In rejecting the implementation of age-verification technology, the government has effectively prioritised the right of adult men to watch pornography above the right of everyone to live in a society where rape and abuse are not filmed for entertainment.

Written by Click Off Director Jo Bartosch and first published in the Morning Star on 27.09.19

How a Sadistic Industry is Being Sanitised

Jessica Redding died last week; the Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed that she was 40 years old.

She acted in pornography under the name Jessica Jaymes. Her premature death is not unusual for those in what is euphemistically called the “adult entertainment industry.”

The first pornographic film Redding performed in was Little Girl Lost, when she was just 16.

Today, as the body of Jessica Redding lies awaiting post-mortem in Los Angeles, at least one council website here in Britain is telling kids younger than Redding was when she acted in her first film that they need to get over their hang-ups about pornography.

Warwickshire County Council’s “Respect Yourself” guidance, which is endorsed by Public Health Warwickshire, helpfully sets out to bust what it describes as myths about pornography.

Warwickshire is just one of many councils to have produced suspect sex and relationships guidance aimed at children, teenagers and young adults.

Some readers might imagine that the problem of children watching pornography is that it distorts their understanding of sex, arguably leading to an epidemic of boys mimicking what they’ve seen and sexually assaulting girls in schools (interestingly “peer on peer” sexual abuse in schools increased by 521 per cent in Warwickshire between 2013-16).

Others might cite the rise in labiaplasties or the 40 per cent of young women who report being pressured to have sex, as indications that pornography is impacting on society.

Both would be wrong, according to the Respect Yourself guidance, which confidently states one “of the biggest issues for young people watching porn is that it’s seen as something they ‘shouldn’t be doing’.”

In their pathetic attempt to seem “down wiv da kids,” those behind such guidance betray themselves as ignorant, porn-addled misogynists.

Liberation through Bukkake, courtesy of Respect Yourself website

Critics who dare to suggest watching “Lesbian Anal Trainers 2,” “All Anal 3” or “Slave for a Night” (all best-selling titles of the aforementioned late Jessica Redding) might not enrich a child’s understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like, are clearly out-of-touch pearl-clutching prudes who are probably in need of a good seeing-to.

In fact, the reason many feminists are so devastated about the widespread availability of pornography is that it has robbed the iPhone generation of the right to an authentic sense of sexuality.

There is nothing wrong with reassuring adolescents that masturbation won’t actually make them go blind, and indeed that it can help them feel at ease in their bodies.

Advice from Respect Yourself

But when a 12-year-old girl wrote to Respect Yourself, concerned that she was addicted to pornography and disclosing that she was watching it for “half the night,” the response was not to tell her that pornography was harmful and nor was it to reassure her that the sex and abuse portrayed was not what she might expect as an adult.

In fact, Respect Yourself dismisses the notion that pornography is addictive or damaging in any way.

According to Mary Sharp of the Reward Foundation, an educational charity focusing on love, sex and the internet, this is simply not true.

In an interview earlier this year for the Guardian, she explained: “Excess porn is changing how children become sexually aroused … at an age when they’re most vulnerable to mental health disorders and addictions. Most addictions and mental health disorders start in adolescence.”

The results of this can be seen clearly in the rates of erectile dysfunction, which have increased from an estimated 2-3 per cent of men under 35 in 2002 to around 30 per cent since the advent of free-streaming, high-definition porn.

Elsewhere on the site a “relationship quiz” invites users to choose from a list of potential responses if they caught their partner watching pornography.

Realistically we know that the “partner” watching pornography is likely to be male, though Respect Yourself cheerfully reminds us “both guys and girls watch porn.”

Whether you choose the “it’s degrading” or “it’s hot” option, the answer is to put any personal discomfort aside because everyone “likes a fiddle.”

To be clear, having “a fiddle” isn’t the problem, the crushing impact of pornography use by a partner on one’s self-esteem is.

Far from bringing people closer together, use of pornography is a key factor in relationship break-ups.

With visits to pornography sites topping those of Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, the sex industry will undoubtedly survive without public relations help from the woke of Warwickshire.

Nonetheless, the Respect Yourself guidance does a fair public relations job for the industry, explaining: “The sex industry is one of the few in which women make much more money than men.”

For a tiny minority this is true. Take Sheena Shaw, for example. She has made a name for herself as “queen of rosebudding.”

Rosebudding is the term used in the pornography industry for anal prolapse, whereby the rectum is forced out of the anus.

This is apparently sexy, as Shaw so astutely notes: “Culture teaches us what to like and what not to like.”

The women who perform this risk excruciating pain, severe bowel problems and anal leakage.

When Vice magazine asked Shaw about what she could do in the event of an injury, she replied: “No-one ever talks about that. They make you sign waivers before you do these scenes. You’re absolutely not going to get workers’ comp.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the physical demands of today’s pornography, those who leave the industry report that drugs, abuse and coercion on set are rife; most women last between three and 18 months before leaving.

Let’s be honest, there is nothing empowering about having your rectum poke out your anus while being called “whore,” spat at and choked on camera.

‘Daisy Chains’ on Respect Yourself website

Despite these brutal realities the Respect Yourself website claims “studies show that in fact female porn stars have higher self-esteem and job satisfaction than the average population.” These studies are not referenced.

In a porn-soaked society, we need to be realistic and prepare children for what they in all probability will see online and, in fairness, some of the guidance in Respect Yourself is compassionate and thoughtful.

But the sanitisation of a sadistic industry built upon the misery of women and girls is unforgivable.

In its mission to seem relevant, youth-focused and relatable, Warwickshire County Council risks grooming a generation to think that the abuse portrayed in pornography is not only normal, but desirable.