Do we need an outright ban on pornography?

Peter Crory 2So lots happening just now on the pornography front. Sad though it is that these things often only get kick-started by government after a tragedy yet this must be music to the ears of most parents at least….certainly to mine!

Seems that the government have got the big internet companies to agree to support a closer watch on child pornography and Google have made a moderate commitment to identify and remove illegal content.

So are we all now on the same level? Do we all agree that pornography is bad and should be banned?

No, far from it and to be honest that’s probably not the best end result anyway. Why?….well it’s complicated!

Firstly it’s a massive issue…

According to some estimates, 30% of all internet bandwidth is used to transfer porn. Each month, porn sites get more visitors than Amazon, Twitter and Netflix combined amounting to some 450 million different hits.

Secondly it is pretty obvious that serious porn is available and accessible free of charge so very easily today on the computer and on the phone bringing it into the world of our children and young people. Sexting is also becoming a real concern among kids as early as late primary school.

Thirdly the research evidence does not show clearly that porn is bad, in fact certain studies seem to say that use of pornography can reduce the likelihood of people with certain tendencies from committing sexually violent acts.

So how do we even think about this?

 It is not healthy for our kids!

As a children’s and young people’s organisation the first thing we’ve got to say is that whether it’s the sex industry or the April Jones story or the struggle of lust faced by so many young men, pornography simply isn’t something that is adding value to young people’s lives, in fact it seems that it contributes to the opposite. If something reduces the potential in a young life and beckons addiction….we will fight it!

How do we act if we can’t totally prove it?

It’s important that we listen and acknowledge other voices of reason that present evidence against banning pornography. Yet it is also important that we decide what we wish as the values and morals in our society and what we accept as reasonable influences on our children as they grow up into adults. Regardless of the evidence there is something valid here about the Scotland we wish to shape for our children. There are also some very strong research pieces out there…see this post from the Observer in June 2013.
“Two weeks ago, the children’s commissioner for England, an independent body that has been carrying out an in-depth two-year inquiry into the exploitation of children by gangs and groups, published a report summarising the current research on porn.

Sue Berelowitz, the deputy commissioner, tells me that it was because porn kept on coming up in the evidence they were hearing.

“We identified a lot of young people who were doing things that it’s difficult to imagine they had dreamed up unless they had seen it somewhere. We had an 11-year-old girl who was raped by 10, 14- 15-year-old boys, for example, and one of them said in his witness statement to the police that it was like being in a porn film.”

The 40,000 research papers analysed by the report found “a correlation” between the viewing of pornographic material and those who carry out those violent acts.

“It’s also clear that children’s attitudes to sex and sexuality are being affected, sometimes at a very young age. This material is just a few clicks away. There might be parental controls on the computer at home, but it’s right there on their phones. And it’s affecting them. We’re seeing that.”

Even beyond the evidence we can make our judgements from the stories we hear from our children, from their use of phone technology and from the creeping ‘normalisation’ of the content of lads magazines on our  newsagents bottom shelves. It is very important that just because something is not proved 100% we do not sit back and do nothing!

Is it a ban we want?

No, because in our society we do need to allow room for individuals to make their own choices if they don’t affect others and even if some of those choices seem unhealthy to the rest of us.

However we do want to open a more honest debate and understanding about the proliferation and accessibility of porn on our internet and phones particularly on behalf of our children and young people. We need to further explore the early indicators that can lead to aggression and violence and their association with the use of porn.

We want parents to take greater responsibility and just a little time to monitor what their children watch and access on the computer and on their phone.

We want men, caught up in a private battle of addiction to pornography, to feel able to share the problem with another, to seek help and to work to free themselves from this hold.

We want our boys, who already so often lack those positive male role models in their lives, to develop a healthy respect for women and to avoid seeing them as sex objects.  All young people though need positive role models in and out of their family.

But above all each of us needs to decide whether we want a Scotland that reflects a set of values and morals that can shape and forge young people who we will be proud of, with integrity, respect for others and a healthy understanding of what’s right and wrong.

In the light of the values that we wish to see in Scottish society how then do we feel about the invasive nature of the porn industry? How then do we judge what we want our children exposed to?

Part of this journey for us parents is the need for our generation to raise our own awareness of how immediate access to porn can be for our children.

Let’s shape our kids future here in Scotland on the basis of a set of values and morals that we choose rather than letting a greedy global industry invade our technology and impose their version on us!

Peter Crory, Chief Executive, YMCA Scotland

Sources and links:

http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/content/press_release/content_505

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