Sexually violent porn promoted to first time users on UK porn sites

A new study finds that sexually violent pornography is being promoted to first-time visitors on the landing pages of the UK’s most popular pornography websites. Over a six-month period, researchers at Durham University analysed over 150,000 video titles appearing on the front page of the three most popular porn sites in the UK. This was the largest study of online pornographic content to date and found that 1 in every 8 titles advertised to first time users in the UK describes sexually violent, coercive, or non-consensual content.

The study, led Dr Fiona Vera-Gray and Professor Clare McGlynn, provides strong evidence that pornography platforms are not taking appropriate action to protect users from seeing harmful, and possibly unlawful, material.

Even more upsetting, the evidence suggests that content describing criminal acts, such as rape, upskirting and incest, is being actively pushed to the front page by major pornography platforms despite the fact that it is against their own Terms and Conditions.

Speaking about the implications of such violent material being readily available, Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, Department of Sociology, said:

“In the absence of proper sex education or any real public conversations about sexual practice, pornography has seized the narrative about what sex is. And what it is saying is terrifying.”

By fore-fronting violence against women on UK porn sites, the porn industry is sustaining a culture in which violence against women is endemic, by normalising coercion, non-consent, and physical aggression in sex. The popularity of ‘teenage’ women on the sites also normalises the sexualisation of young girls, which in turn promotes unhealthy relationships and grooming.

Indeed, Dr Vera-Gray goes on to highlight that the increase in sexual harassment in real life and the violent content online is not just a “causal connection”. She explains that “pornography has a social function in setting out the boundaries of what counts as acceptable or desirable sexual practice.”

In terms of over-coming this dangerous precedent, Professor Clare McGlynn QC (Hon), Durham Law School, advised: “It is essential that the Government uses the Online Harms Bill to hold these companies to account.” She explained that the research raises “serious questions” about “the efficacy of current regulatory mechanisms.” Especially since the sites are failing to even follow their own Terms and Conditions.

On the wider implications of the research, Dr Fiona Vera-Gray added:

“Sex education is not going to be enough to combat the harm of this material unless the government do more to support teachers to deliver it. This includes funding specialist violence against women organisations to develop resources on pornography and sexual consent.”

Lastly, Dr Vera-Gray pointed out the connection between the study and wider conversations that women are having in light of the new UN statistic that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. She pointed out: “We have seen in recent weeks the urgency of acting to end a culture where violence against women is endemic. We need to recognise that mainstream porn sites are not just contributing to this culture, they are monetising it.”

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

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