Taskforce to investigate porn link to rise in sexual assault

Taskforce to investigate porn link to rise in sexual assault

The link between the normalisation of sexual violence through pornography and actual violence against women has been borne out by the research for some time now:

“By watching scene after scene of dehumanising or violent content, it can start to seem normal. In fact, research indicates that porn consumers are more likely to sexually objectify and dehumanize others, more likely to express an intent to rape, less likely to intervene during a sexual assault, more likely to victim-blame survivors of sexual assault, more likely to support violence against women, more likely to forward sexts without consent, and more likely to commit actual acts of sexual violence.”

In 2016, researchers performed a meta-analysis of studies on the link between porn and sexual violence, concluding that the research left “little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.” 

And just last year, Australian researchers found that “pornography features prominently in the accounts of women experiencing Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV)”.

However, our culture and systems are still catching up to this reality.

That’s why it was great to see Margaret McMurdo, former President of the Queensland Court of Appeal, publicly acknowledge that the prevalence of pornography may be linked to an increase in sexual assault.

The relationship between porn and sexual assault will be explored by Queensland’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce that McMurdo heads, which is examining women’s experience across Queensland’s criminal justice system, including a review of the state’s sexual consent laws.

McMurdo told The Australian that for some young people, pornography might be their only or primary education about sex and it could influence their expectations.

“It seems that pornography now plays a large role in shaping community beliefs and misconception about consent. 

“With the ready availability of the internet on mobile devices, there has been a dramatic increase in young people and children accessing pornography in recent decades.

“Mainstream heterosexual pornography often contains high levels of violence and female degradation.

“It can depict sexual interaction where consent is ‘assumed rather than negotiated’.” 

McMurdo’s sentiments echo those of MP Andrew Wallace last year, who was responsible for leading the federal inquiry into age verification for online pornography:

“[W]hat’s painfully clear to me now is the prevalence of FDSV is being exacerbated by the explosion of hard-core violent porn, particularly as it is being accessed by young people.

“If we genuinely care about women being exposed to violence, then we have to start caring about our boys and our young men being exposed to pornography.”

Wallace has stressed the urgency of implementing age-verification laws for pornography, and so it is welcome news that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is currently working with the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to expand trials of age verification technology for buying alcohol and gambling online to online porn. 

While privacy concerns must be carefully addressed and weighed in the balance, for women and children especially, such laws cannot come soon enough.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

I’ll stand with women ▷