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MPs Want A Crackdown On "Extreme Porn" Fearing It Is Too Violent And Mainstream

MPs Want A Crackdown On 'Extreme Porn' Fearing It Is Too Violent And Mainstream
4 min read

MPs are investigating possible ways to regulate extreme commercial pornography online, which they worry has become “much more violent” and mainstream.

Earlier this month, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation (APPGCSE) launched an inquiry into commercial pornography in the UK.

The six-month investigation aims to “assess the scale and nature of the contemporary pornography industry” and establish potential legal frameworks for addressing “harms associated with production and consumption” of commercial adult content.

On Wednesday Boris Johnson vowed to crack down on extreme adult content during an appearance before parliament’s liaison committee.

“It is clear that people are coarsened and degraded by this stuff,” the Prime Minister told senior MPs. 

“We will see what we can do. The technological difficulties are quite extreme but it’s up to the online giants to make sure they don’t have this stuff on their systems.”

Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the APPGCSE, has expressed particular concern about the way extreme sexual acts have become mainstream in contemporary pornography videos, particularly among young men.

“There’s a lot of evidence mounting about how pornography is affecting our views about relationships and sex, and what [young people] believe sex is about,” Johnson told PoliticsHome.

In September this year, courts heard that Wayne Couzens, the former Metropolitan police officer who murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard, was “attracted to brutal pornography”.

The distribution and accessibility of extreme porn on commercial websites is something Johnson believes requires parliamentary scrutiny and legal regulation, especially in light of Everard's murder and similar cases.

But the Labour MP recognises that regulating pornography is highly complex, partly because it requires establishing a definition of extreme sex and sexual acts.

“Obviously, you get into quite difficult waters when you start trying to define what is extreme and what isn't extreme,” Johnson continued.

“You could argue that in some ways it's subjective, but there are ways it’s objective.”

Until the inquiry provides more detail, Johnson is unsure what specific types of pornography she would like to see more tightly regulated in the UK.

But she noted that the committee is conscious of, and concerned by, an increased prevalence of “choking, strangulation, and very aggressive and violent treatment of women” in videos that are easily accessible online.

“What is mainstream now seems to be much more violent than perhaps it was before,” Johnson continued. 

She said modern porn was a "a very far cry" from "magazines on the top shelf in the news agents" that people might traditionally associate with the form. 

“Pornography is accessible through the internet to anybody who goes looking for it," Johnson added. "It’s much more extreme than people think it is.”

While Johnson is waiting for the APPGCSE inquiry to conclude before recommending specific laws on extreme pornography, the MP is definitive in her desire for government to mandate adult content sites to implement age verification checks.

The Digital Economy Act, a piece of legislation introduced by government in 2017, included a clause obligating legal pornography websites to check its users are aged 18 or over, but the policy was dropped in October 2019.

Johnson now wants to see compulsory age verification added to the government’s Online Safety Bill, a draft version of which is currently undergoing legislative scrutiny.

“I think there'll be quite a big push cross-party when the Online Safety Bill comes to the House,” she said.

“There's generally a view across the House that it needs to be one of the things we do."

Johnson told PoliticsHome that during the APPGCSE's first evidence session, the ease with which young children can accidentally access violent adult content online became glaringly apparent.  

“If you're a child and you put in a word like ‘boobies’, you think you want to see breasts, but you can very quickly get into sites that have extreme pornography with no control at all.”

“That’s one of the things I think most MPs [on the APPGCSE] are concerned about,” Johnson said.

The APPGCSE will produce a report outlining the findings of its inquiry in six months time, and recommendations for reducing potential harms attatched to commercial pornography will be made. 

Johnson added: "It will be welcome that we're having a look at this and looking at what provisions and recommendations come out of the report that can be implemented to help deal with something that has changed enormously over the last 20 years with the internet."

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