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Pornography

Porn can be a high risk activity. There are no physical risks such as STIs or pregnancy if you watch it alone, however it can be harmful in other ways - find out how here.

What is pornography?

Pornography (or porn) is explicit pictures or videos designed to sexually stimulate. They might be online, on DVD, in a magazine or sent to your mobile phone. Porn has become much more extreme in the past decade and at the same time, it has become easier to access from a range of laptops, tablets, and smartphones.  In the past, porn might have been described as explicit images of people having sex. These days, lots of easily-accessible porn consists of content that is increasingly violent and/or degrading, particularly towards women.

What are the risks from pornography?

Pornography is easy to get hold of and widely available so it can’t be harmful right? Wrong. Whilst you can’t get an STI from watching porn it can harm you in other ways.

Pornography isn’t real and gives people an unrealistic expectation of what to expect from sex, distorting reality and leading to dissatisfaction in relationships. If you are in a relationship your partner might feel betrayed if they find out you are watching porn. People can also feel under pressure to perform sexual acts that make them uncomfortable or to conform to a distorted body image of those they, or their partner have seen in pornography. If you feel like this, it's a good idea to talk to your partner. They might have no idea how you're feeling.

How else could porn affect my relationship?

Some people think that porn might help their relationship but in reality it gives people a distorted view of sex, unrealistic expectations about sexual performance and is likely to lead to more problems in the long run. Some people in relationships have found that their partners who watch porn become less interested in having real sex, can seem less interested in spending time together and be less emotionally and physically available. This can have the effect of making partners of porn users feel rejected and that their bodies and the sex they have cannot compete with what’s presented in porn.

Porn can be harmful to those who are involved in making it. Many people involved in the sex industry are mistreated, forced into things against their will and their health is put at risk. Porn also treats women as objects to be used for sexual satisfaction, taking away their individuality, giving them a monetary value and making them seem like objects rather than people, all of which can lead to violence.

Pornography can be addictive, like anything that gives you pleasure, (alcohol, drugs, chocolate…) you can find yourself wanting more and more of it, and more extreme examples to satisfy your need for pleasure. This will cost you financially and more importantly it will impact on your relationships and your ability to carry out normal daily tasks. It could also get you into trouble with the law.

What are the laws around pornography?

Some pornography is illegal and making it, downloading it or watching it could get you into serious trouble with the law.

“Extreme pornography” is anything that is deemed to be grossly offensive by a court including violent or life-threatening acts, sex with an animal or dead body, or anything that depicts serious harm. It is illegal to watch, own, produce or share extreme pornography.

Possession of child pornography (‘indecent’ photographs of children under the age of 18) is a serious criminal offence and could lead to a lengthy prison sentence. If you are under 18 and you take or pass-on a selfie of yourself naked or involved in sexual activity, or if you take any pictures or videos of friends or family who are under 18 who are naked or involved in sexual activity then this is legally classed as manufacturing and distributing child pornography and is a serious criminal offence.

It is a serious offence to force someone into a sexual act against their will and you should never pressure someone to do something they don’t want to do.

Pornography and Young People

Some young people report regularly watching pornography, much of which is accessed on mobile devices. Some young people look at it as they are curious about what sex is like however what they find gives them unrealistic ideas. Some young women have reported that young men now expect them to take part in some of the sexual acts that they have witnessed in pornography and that this makes them feel uncomfortable, in some cases they feel pressured into things they don’t want to do. If you feel like this it's important to know your boundaries and talk to your partner.

How can I reduce the risks from pornography?

The easiest way to reduce the risk from porn is to stay away from it all together. Activating porn filters on your computer and mobile device can help reduce the chance of opening unwanted materials. If you really want to watch it, make sure what you are viewing is legal and limit the amount you view. If you are in a relationship, talk about your use of porn with your partner. 

If you find pornography online that you suspect to be illegal report it to the Internet Watch Foundation immediately at https://www.iwf.org.uk/report. Reports to the IWF are confidential and can be submitted anonymously.

If you are a parent or carer it is important that you ensure you have adequate filters in place on young people’s computers at home and also have child friendly packages available on their mobile phones if they are web enabled. However this alone will not prevent your children being exposed to pornography so it’s important that you talk openly with you child about what pornography is and how you feel about it.