MPs call for stricter pornography laws to end ‘epidemic’ of violence against women

A report by a cross-party group of MPs said there is extensive evidence that consuming pornography fuels sexual violence and influences viewers’ behaviour
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MPs are calling for a crackdown on pornography to help end the “epidemic” of male violence against women and girls.

A report by a cross-party group of MPs said a substantial proportion of mainstream pornography features physically aggressive behaviour by men against women.

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The MPs said there is extensive evidence that consuming pornography fuels sexual violence and influences viewers’ behaviour, or “sexual scripts” - as well as perpetuating racist stereotypes.

The report into pornography by the all-party parliamentary group on commercial sexual exploitation calls on the government to change the law to tackle the harms caused by adult material.

It said the online safety bill, which will require pornography sites to ensure their users are not underage, does not address the availability of harmful pornographic content to adults.

It added that illegal pornographic content, such as films featuring child sexual abuse and rape, has been detected on some of the UK’s most popular adult websites.

What does the report recommend?

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The report recommends several legal and regulatory measures, including:

  • Making regulation of pornography consistent across online platforms, amid criticism that the online safety bill has differing approaches to sites that host user-generated pornography compared with other pornography sites.
  • Requiring age checks for accessing adult material online.
  • Making online platforms verify that every individual featured in pornographic content on their platform is an adult and gave their permission for the content to be published.
  • A comprehensive government review of laws on pornography and obscenity.

The report said: “What has become apparent during the course of this inquiry is that we cannot end the epidemic of male violence against women and girls without confronting and combating the contributory role that pornography plays in fuelling sexual objectification and sexual violence.

“The lawlessness that characterises the online sphere of the pornography trade is typified by the finding that popular pornography websites publish videos uploaded by members of the public without verifying that everyone in the video is an adult or that everyone in the video gave their consent for it to be uploaded”.

The dominant online pornography provider in the UK is Mindgeek, which owns more than 100 websites and production companies.

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It owns Pornhub, which was visited by 15 million UK adults - 50% of UK men and 16% of UK women - with internet access in September 2020 alone, according to the communications watchdog Ofcom.

The MPs’ report cites various studies of violence in pornographic content, including an analysis of heterosexual scenes on two leading sites which found that 45% of scenes from Pornhub and 35% of scenes from Xvideos contained at least one act of physical aggression.

Dr Michael Flood, a researcher on men, masculinities and violence prevention at Queensland University of Technology, told the MPs’ inquiry: “There is a wealth of evidence that pornography exposure is shaping young people’s and adult’s sexual lives, in harmful and violent ways.”

MindGeek declined to comment on the MPs’ report.

Last week, the company announced a partnership with the Internet Watch Foundation, which monitors instances of child sexual abuse material around the world. The partnership offers a blueprint for how the adult content industry can combat the issue online.

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David Cooke, the director of partnerships, trust and safety at MindGeek, said: “The safety and security of those using our platforms is our top priority, and we are committed to remaining at the forefront of internet safety.”

A government spokesperson said: “No child should be exposed to pornography online, which is why the online safety bill will force any online platform hosting it to put in place robust measures, such as age verification, to stop underage access.”

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