August 30, 2019
In 2014, amendments were made to the 2003 Communications Act effectively censoring pornography within the UK. It banned a list of sex acts by demanding paid-for online porn is regulated by the same guidelines set out by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) that DVD pornography (R18 films) must adhere to.
The Porn Block Wont Change How Young People View Sex. Only Education Will
Did these bans help educate young people? Did they stop people viewing these types of pornography? Did it put a stop to the detrimental effect porn has on the UK’s teenagers and their mental health? No. So how exactly is the government’s new porn legislation – first due to come into effect in June but since been delayed six months – designed to stop children and teenagers from accessing porn, expected to be any different? Particularly given that this legislation only seems to have been launched off the back of an NSPCC poll claiming that more than half of children and teenagers that looked at porn “stumbled across” it. 
Yes, if you google ‘porn’ of course it will appear in search results, but the fact is more children and teenagers are more exposed to porn via different channels, primarily social media. Twitter, for example, is ripe with explicit uncensored videos – but this legislation will have no effect on accessing porn via social media channels.
On launching this new legislation, digital minister Margot James said: “Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.”  In my opinion, Margot, they really, really won’t. The government’s porn laws amount to simply putting a plaster on a deep cut. The plaster will not heal the wound, it will get deeper and infection will kick in.
I am not in any way anti-porn. What I am anti is the the lack of education surrounding porn, particularly within schools. Teenage boys see posed, unrealistic sexual acts and assume that is how girls behave and what girls want, and therefore expect it from their female peer. Meanwhile teenage girls think what they see and what they’re told this is how they should behave, how they should let boys treat them. They learn sex is all about male pleasure.
“Children are so curious, especially when they reach teenage years and puberty. With potential access to porn online, it can become their focal point of sex education and can impact their developing brains,” said Dr Vanessa Moulton of The Mindflex Group. “Because of neuroplasticity and the developmental stage of the brain between teenage years, their brains can become wired in relation to their attitudes and interpretations of what sex means to them. It can also result in unrealistic expectations when they encounter sexual experiences.”
Until we change our dialogue (and indeed our education) around porn to focus on respect, until we as a society stop putting that responsibility on girls (thus excusing boys behaviour), and until we actually begin to teach boys about consent, boundaries and how porn is not the real world, no amount of legislation will help or change the narrative of reality.
There are, quite simply, millions and millions of porn sites. If the UK is the only country with these new blocks on then anyone with the technical knowledge to use a VPN – which allows users to hide their location – can simply get around it in moments. As with anything illegal, the government’s porn block will just push teenagers into the darker, unsafer web to find porn – thus exposing them to disturbing and extreme content and, ironically, possible making the whole ‘porn effect’ even more dangerous.
All this is before you take into consideration the massive privacy and GDPR headache involved with the new legislation, which would require everyone viewing porn to be age verified submitting personal information details and all the rest.  Who is handling all this personal information?  Where exactly is all that information being stored?  The opportunity for invasion of privacy is enormous – surely a bank of details for everyone in Britain accessing online porn has hackers’ names written all over it? Any tech-savvy teenager can illegally stream unlimited porn, get around age restriction logins whilst sticking two fingers up to the law on their YouTube, Snapchat and Insta stories.
But these laws will not prevent children from viewing porn. Frankly, where there is a will there is always a way.
Emma Sayle is a feminist entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Killing Kittens, Safedate and SistrHuffPost UK is partnering with The Big Tent Ideas Festival, a day of political and cultural conversation across a range of topics from politics and society to communities and arts, taking place on 31 August in Mudchute, East London. Related... UK Porn Block Start Date Stalled By Six Months 'Revenge Porn' Is Not The Right Term To Describe Our Experiences, Say Victims Porn Block Or Not – It's Time To Ask Your Children If They Are Watching Porn
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