Pornography is defined as material created for the explicit purpose of sexual arousal. It has always been with us. Ancient civilizations, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman, used pornography, which can be observed on their ruins. Pornography in these societies, however, was limited to few observers as the pornography was usually shown in only a few places, such as brothels. Today, however, the internet provides a vast display of sexual material every waking hour of the day. Society is awash with sexual images.
Over the last 15 years, internet pornography has become one of the predominant channels through which young people acquire their sex education. It is easily available at any age, even as young as 8 or 10 years. Such children may not be capable of reading very well, but they have eyes and can easily obtain pornography at their fingertips.
The most visited pornography site, Pornhub, for example, owned by the Montreal-based firm, Mindgeek, has 1.3 billion visits per month. In addition to Pornhub, Mindgeek owns at least 60 other hard-core pornography websites.
Unfortunately, millions of its viewers are minors who become addicted to pornography. It teaches them that rape and sexual abuse, such as sex with violence, are normal behaviours. This ready availability of pornography leads many minors to spend excessive time and effort watching and searching for pornography, which results in impaired social skills and a failure to fulfil family, social, and educational responsibilities. Pornography also seriously interferes with their normal sexual development as sexual dysfunction is now common in young men because of their use of pornography. Girls exposed to pornography see themselves in the role that is embodied in pornography, as degraded, dehumanized, and humiliated for the pleasure of men. In order to achieve satisfaction, boys believe it is normal to disregard any resistance from a woman.
At last, the public and politicians are waking up to the harms caused by pornography, resulting in a narrowing of the pathways used by platforms, such as Pornhub, to spread their offensive material. This awakening about pornography and children began in December 2020 when the New York Times published an extensive article entitled, “The Children of Pornhub: Why does Canada allow this company to profit off videos of exploitation and assault?” The outrage that resulted from this article led to a remarkable chain of events affecting Pornhub, as follows:
- Shortly after the New York Times report, the Pornhub website, which was exposing depictions of non-consensual pornography, as well as videos of child sexual assault, led to Visa and Mastercard suspending the processing of payments made for the purchase of material on Pornhub. This, however, did not cause much financial drain on the platform, as its major source of revenue came from advertising on its website.
- On July 29, 2021, the credit card companies Visa, Mastercard, and Discover withdrew their services for payments made by advertisers. This was largely due to a federal judge in California ruling that such payments helped Pornhub to distribute the objectionable material, and, therefore, the credit card companies were also responsible for the harms caused.
- In the U.K., Germany, Australia, and France, legislation has been developed to prevent children’s access to pornography by requiring both that the major porn sites verify the age of the viewers and, also, that the depictions be consensual. The verification is to be provided by a government ID.
- Sixteen US states have declared pornography a public health crisis and have also introduced legislation requiring age verification for its use.
- Pornhub’s Instagram account, which had over 13 million followers, was removed from the platform. Although their account didn’t post explicit content, it did, however, promote consumption of Pornhub’s material by directing people to the Pornhub site, thereby encouraging its use.
- The Canadian Parliament’s Ethics Committee held hearings on Pornhub from January to June of 2021, issuing its report on June 17, 2021. The report made 14 sensible recommendations, including the requirement that pornography sites verify the age and consent of anyone using their site.
- On April 28, 2022 Conservative MP Arnold Viersen introduced Bill C-270, which requires that pornographic material be available only after ascertaining those depicted in the material are at least 18 years old, and have expressed consent for the use of the images. This bill has not yet reached second reading.
- The Trudeau government expressed its horror about the ready availability of child pornography, as outlined in the New York Times article, and stated it would be taking action on this problem. Unfortunately, nothing has yet been done. Child pornography on the internet and its easy availability for minors are, apparently, a secondary issue for the Liberal government, which is ever mindful of the harms caused by climate change.
It is hoped that a Conservative government, if elected, will take the problem of child pornography seriously and take action to restrict it.