In February 2016, I had the privilege of opening the Pornography and Harms to Children and Young People Symposium. The largest gathering of its kind in the southern hemisphere with the aim to spark a national conversation about the public health crisis caused by porn harms to children across Australia. I opened with this quote from the The Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls Report (2015):
The growing ubiquity of mobile devices means those targeted or indirectly implicated are getting younger and younger — with children as young as 5 or 6 years of age now exposed to cyberbullying and online pornography — sometimes of the most extreme kind. In some contexts online culture represents the worst form of gang violence.
This is fact. Reality. This is the age our young people live in. And in every presentation I deliver, I start by saying that I make no apologies for offending anyone with what they see or hear, because the porn industry makes no apologies to our children. (These words are a ‘warning’ for what is contained in the rest of this news update.)
The porn industry targets children because it’s a ‘sure win’ for an unhealthy pattern of addiction, for an increasing number of young people. The landing page of Porn Hub, the most popular porn site in the world, shows incredibly graphic images and can be accessed by any child with a device that has no digital child protection buffer. I tried to share my outrage and show a screen grab of the landing page to the Senate Inquiry: Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet. There were 47 live video links available on the landing page alone (at the time of visiting), and thousands more videos on other pages. Free for anyone. Any age. One of the videos rotated between several scenes of anal sex, blow jobs and choking. The remaining video screen shots included images that ranged from anal sex, blow jobs, head jobs, gagging, aggression, choking and hair pulling. The landing page incorporated references to teens, teachers, incest, mothers with babysitters and brutal bondage. This landing page is refreshed with new content daily.
But the Senate didn’t want to listen. They deemed this ‘screen grab’ image inappropriate to publish. They also refused to accept a screenshot demonstrating Bridges (2010) findings that physical aggression in porn such as gagging (54% of scenes); choking (27% of scenes) and slapping (75% of scenes) is overwhelmingly (94%) directed at women. Read more about this here.
The pages deemed excluded from the submission also asked the reader to consider for a moment this content through the eyes of a child. How would they process these images? What sort of messages would they learn from it? What feelings would arise? What impact would this have, particularly if they were busy playing games and searched a common term spelt incorrectly that took them direct to these sites? Or perhaps, out of curiosity, they wanted to know what a word meant that had been shared in the playground. Then all of a sudden, the find themselves confronted with these images.
Graphic hardcore images available for free, to children. At the click of a button.
An uncomfortable reality? Yes.
Too inappropriate to be included as evidence for the Senate Inquiry, yet free and easy access for our kids. Offensive for many citizens, yet readily available.
Are you outraged? I truly hope so. Because outrage, channelled in the right direction, can be a catalyst for change. We hope you will channel your outrage in the right direction. Sign the Porn Harms Kids pledge and take a stand; share our Social Media posts on Facebook and Twitter; read our news updates and pass them on; tell your friends; volunteer to be our Social Media advocates; volunteer coordinator, fundraising coordinator or a host of other ways you can take action; and visit your MP. Be the catalyst for change that our children so desperately need.
You can watch my opening session by scrolling to the bottom of the Symposium Presentation page, and as you’re scrolling, please take advantage of all the other excellent presentations.
Liz Walker, Chair