Majority of Irish People think pornography is harmful according to Women’s Aid Survey

‘Women forced to watch and re-enact pornography’

The majority of Irish people believe that porn is too accessible to children and that it is contributing to sexual violence against women and children.  

That’s according to research conducted by Women’s Aid examining attitudes to pornography in Ireland. According to the survey released in a report called ‘Time to Talk about Pornography’, a majority of Irish citizens polled believe porn is linked to gender inequality, unrealistic sexual expectations, sexism and normalisation of requests for sexual images as well as coercion and violence against women and girls.”

Women’s Aid CEO Sarah Benson says that she believes pornography is a factor in the  “verbal, sexual and physical abuse” many women seeking help from the charity are “subjected to by their male partners.”

“The levels of physical aggression during sexual assaults are shocking, with women disclosing that they have been strangled to the point of unconsciousness during sex and have been called the most horrific names,” she said continuing that, 

“Women have disclosed that their abusers have forced them to watch and re-enact pornography. This includes disclosures where women have been raped and coerced into sexual acts, including with other men. Women have also disclosed that their partners have criticised and compared them with women featured in pornography,”. 

The survey also found that there is a broad consensus across all age groups that both tech companies and the Irish government need to do more to protect children and young people from exposure to pornography and to do more to support victims of “image-based sexual abuse”. 

71% of respondents said they believe that pornography is “harmful to society” and that it negatively impacts on healthy sexual relationships, and issues around consent. 

63% felt that pornography “leads to increased sexual violence in society”, while 57% “believe that pornography increases inequality between men and women” , according to Benson who also highlighted a “statistically significant difference” in the perception of the harmfulness of porn in men and women. 

82% of females who participated in the study see it as more harmful than the male participants. 

Benson said, “The survey also found that there is a majority belief that pornography undermines men’s respect for women, but not that it reduces women’s respect for men.”

She says that,  “This is most likely explained because pornography consistently and disproportionately portrays women in extreme degrading, humiliating and dehumanised ways – and because the most negative impacts of pornography in Ireland are experienced directly by women and girls.”, adding that, “They are bearing the brunt of the harm”. 

“Women have also reported that children have been exposed to inappropriate content on their fathers’ phones including dating sites and sexualised photos or pornography. We have also offered support to women who were recorded having sex without their consent or through coercion and whose intimate images were circulated online, including on porn sites. Women have been threatened by their partners or exes to have images shared with others unless they gave into their demands. That is why Women’s Aid conducted this research as an urgent priority.”

“The connection between increased access to pornography and increased levels of violence against women is very real and is deeply concerning. Most people (74%) in the survey agree that pornography negatively impacts on sexual development for young people and 75% of people believe that pornography makes children and young people more vulnerable to requests for sexually explicit images and videos,” she said.

Alexandra Ryan, businesswoman and survivor of image-based sexual abuse, adds her concerns:

“The negative exposure to sexually violent content at a young age is distorting young people’s views of sex and the expectations of sexual activity. This undoubtedly leads to women of all ages being subjected to uncomfortable situations in their relationships. I have no doubt in my mind that intimate image abuse (formerly mistakenly known as ‘revenge porn’) has strong links to this issue, and as a victim of intimate image abuse myself, it is so important to me to highlight the real effects it can have and to work on the prevention of this horrendous crime.”

Ms Benson, highlights that other research shows that boys as young as eight-years old are accessing pornography online and that one in every three porn videos depicts explicit sexual violence or aggression:

“Pornography undermines the social, emotional, cognitive and sexual development of boys, and it is young girls who pay the price. It also harms young boys and men. The exposure to pornography at an early age is a traumatic and confusing experience. Evidence shows that the earlier you watch pornography the more likely you are to suffer with depression and anxiety and experience sexual dysfunction.”

 

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