by Julie Bindel
Thursday, 10
June 2021
Reaction
12:01

Sexual harassment in schools is down to one thing: porn

Today's Ofsted report confirmed what feminists knew for decades
by Julie Bindel
Credit: Getty

Early last year I was invited to do a presentation to a class of 15-year-old girls in a North London comprehensive school. It was International Women’s Day, and I chose to focus my talk on the prevalence of and fightback against male violence.

As soon as we got to the Q&A session, the stories immediately began: girls telling me about being flashed at, boys masturbating under the desk at school while staring at them, the tsunami of dick pics flooding into the girls’ iPhones, and rape and sexual assault. I asked what they think was at the root of the escalation of such behaviour, and there was an almost unanimous shout of “porn”.

I am not in the slightest bit surprised, therefore at the Ofsted report released today about the horrific levels of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse that girls (and some boys) experience on a daily basis. The most upsetting thing for me, as a feminist who has campaigned for decades to expose the porn industry, is that so many victims consider such harassment as a routine part of their daily lives and therefore see little point in challenging or reporting it.

As the report highlights, girls suffer sexist name-calling, online abuse, upskirting, unwanted touching in school corridors and rape jokes. Boys share nude pictures on WhatsApp and Snapchat “like a collection game”.

Feminists have been warning about the effects of pornography for some time. Despite the fact that we have long been accused of anti-sex moralism, prudishness, and man-hating, we have the evidence to show that the availability of what used to be called ‘hard-core porn’, and is now just ‘porn’ (none of it fits into the so-called soft-core category these days), can shape the way boys view women.

When I have interviewed boys about their pornography consumption, they have told me that they seek more and more violent forms as they get bored with the more mainstream stuff. Porn is now the new ‘sex education’ in schools, and a number of young men have spoken out about being unable to sexually respond to women because their brains are so full of images of women being choked, urinated on, and damaged in ways probably too graphic for this publication.

In 2010 I interviewed the anti-porn activist and academic Gail Dines, author of ‘Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality’, who told me that:

We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn, and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women.
- Gail Dines

Three years later, an academic journal entitled Porn Studies was launched. This has been heavily criticised by Dines and other experts on sexual exploitation and violence against women for its pro-porn bias. The Porn Studies board appears to be comprised of entirely pro-porn individuals, including Tristan Taormino, who describes herself as a ‘feminist pornographer’ (vegan butcher, anyone?) but who has worked alongside some of the most hard-core porn directors in the industry.

Unless we admit the truth about porn — that it is misogynistic propaganda that teaches boys to hate women — I fear that things will only get worse for girls, and our schools will become training grounds for sexual assault.

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

Well, it’s a bit of a strawman argument:

Unless we admit the truth about porn — that it is misogynistic propaganda that teaches boys to hate women

I mean really, who except the porn industry is out there vehemently arguing the opposite? Are they winning?
But meanwhile, this article huffs and puffs but is silent on what we actually do about this other than bloviate.
So I have a suggestion: you make ISP providers filter the content they supply, and remove the porn.
There are several ways they could do this.
They could establish a whitelist and block everything else.
They could block nothing but be obliged to charge customers per visit to a porn site and display this prominently on the bill.
They could invent some AI that would identify porn sites – the content’s always going to feature certain images so this should not be beyond the wit of programmers – and autoblock them.

Sohaila Malone-Lee
Sohaila Malone-Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Excellent points. Something must be done and quickly for the sexual health and sanity of this and future generations. It’s time to stop talking and to start taking action.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago

Agreed. However, there’s a distinction to be made between porn (bad) and erotica (often quite nice, and harmless).

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

I’m convinced that the consumption would plummet if it’s neither instantly available nor free of charge, which it now in effect is.
As Julie notes there is no longer any “soft porn”, as in, naked women posing alone. Back in the day, when that became too tame there was hard porn, but it was very hard to find because in the UK it was illegal. For those who persisted, when that became too tame, there was the kind that involved men having sex with women in ways ever more painful, frightening and disrespectful to the women.
This is a pretty recognisable addicts’ journey; the hit has to get more extreme for a lesser thrill. With internet porn, you can go on that journey in minutes aged 12. The only place to intercept it is at the ISP level.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

This is not an easy problem to deal with, But your solution has some side effects.

As soon as this machinery is in place, I would expect it would be used to block hate speech, anti-vaxxers, racists, transphobes, and conspiracy theorists of various kinds. It would be fairly naive, especialy for any Unherd debater, to expect that he would *not* end up being routinely blocked. Are you really sure you want to give this shiny new tool to the establishment and the woke corporations?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I think it depends how it’s executed.
If you had someone like Zuckerberg censoring the internet, you’d still have the porn, but the Daily Telegraph would be blocked.
If you had smart software looking for sites

  • hosting videos, in which
  • there’s a lot of flesh tone, and
  • <fill in signature hallmark of pornography>,

then it would get blocked, and the bill payer would have to ask and pay to unblock it.
Alternatively, the site owner could ask to be whitelisted.
There is trade surveillance software in the financial industry doing much cleverer stuff than this already.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon Redman
George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Can the existing laws not just be applied / amended, all porn sites should have more than a self check for age, it should be a check on an ID document or credit card, any site not doing that is breaking the law and should be blocked or its owners charged if its based in the UK. or there could be an opt in / out for pornographic content when you pay your ISP,

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Undoubtedely it is technically possible. Up to a point, at least, they do not seem to have that much success at blockin paedophily. The problem is that once the censoring machinery is there, it is just a question of who controls it, and what he wants to use it for. Let me suggest taht the woke are more likely to end up in control than you are. Do you really see no risk in a government-controlled machinery that can decide freely and legally what people are allowed to see? Or, alternatively, in a set of records that lets anyone who can access it list all the pornography you have ever seen, and potentially use it to bar you from sensitive posts – or the national cricket team?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The woke can do all that already, though. They didn’t need a government initiative against pornography to ban discussion of a Wuhan lab leak, or to suppress all public mention of Biden Junior’s dealings with Russia.
What would be interesting though is some analysis of the crossover between people who think banning drugs makes things worse, with people who think banning pornography would make things better. If legalising drugs makes drug problems go away surely that’s a killer argument for allowing unfettered porn?
Personally I think it’s right to ban both. The world isn’t in need of more films of women being strangled.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Sensible ideas, but I would add an important proviso – current levels of incivility and low level violence – alarming in themselves – are the result of more than one phenomenon, regrettable as it may be. They arise from the total de-contextualisation of modern life, an effect especially strong among the young. Their families are small, often broken, often busy, often less important to them than the gang or the pack; models of good or settled behaviour are therefore few and patchy. Meanwhile, innocent physical affection in the form of hugs, cuddles and good night kisses has evaporated, partly because – under the beady eyes of the nonce-finders general, it is suspect. In short, that great Victorian achievement – the “Garden of Childhood” – has been bulldozed by – among other things – feminism itself. Motherhood, housekeeping, domestic authority and all the female vocations which form the single most important prop of child rearing, are denigrated and discouraged. Meanwhile the Left, which has seized control of children’s culture – think of that wretched fellow, Rosen – disturbs and hectors the young audience with socialist propaganda and the surrounding culture, once abloom with religion and custom and history, is a desert of sneering isolation. More and more I am convinced, that what the Left fears most and hopes to forestall, a long, long “backlash” – a ruthless and sustained period of so-called “Reaction”, in art, in culture, in television, in social attitudes – is a vital necessity.

Julia Wallis-Martin
Julia Wallis-Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

A return to single-sex schools might go some way towards resolving the problem. Further, I see no reason why children who cannot decide whether they are Arthur or Martha cannot flit between them provided they are not abusing other pupils.

Simric Yarrow
Simric Yarrow
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I like these technical approaches and they’re obviously important. But some real conversations with young men need to happen too. By and with responsible older men in their community, and not just their dads (if they have dads around at all). There’s a whole social aspect to learning about sex and relating which older men need to get a handle on discussing with the next generations, and not just mentioning awkwardly over a pint or leaving to teachers to talk about biology and health aspects of what is, at its best, making love. This should obviously Include sharing the dangers of porn from our own experiences. It certainly damaged my own sex life with a real person there for a while, in its easy appeal to my hormones without getting me in touch with where my body could really experience pleasure: we men might not be such victims of porn-driven assault as women, but we’re massively short changed by being told that this is all there is to sex and relating.
I’ve been part of confidential circles having such honest conversations and the relief on young men’s faces is my abiding memory of them.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
1 year ago

Over 22% of families in many communities, far higher in some, are led by a single, female, parent. Almost 76% of primary school teachers are women, and about 25% of primary schools have not a single male member of staff. So a very high proportion of boys, and girls, spend their most formative years without the direct experience of normal healthy personal, social, or professional, interactions between adult men and women.

Pauline Lenney
Pauline Lenney
1 year ago
Reply to  GA Woolley

Although I see your point entirely, strong and powerful women in primary schools have a significant part to play in ensuring young boys learn to respect women and young girls associate with a positive female role model. But the women must be powerful enough to take this on – one of the bigger issues in many primary schools is the fact that they often have men in control in leadership positions thus reinforcing the make/female stereotypes.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
1 year ago

Perhaps the answer is to stop sex education in school and leave it to parents. Also children should a basic mobile phone and controlled access to the internet.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 year ago

Do we have good quality statistics on the link between sexual assault and consumption of pornography?

The article seems to only reference self selecting, subjective and unverified surveys, the definitions of sexual assault seem poorly defined and skewed towards maximising positive responses.

I think we need better evidence that what’s been quoted here.

David Slade
David Slade
1 year ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I think you’ve put your finger on a common problem with this kind of research.

The questions are often very leading; sometimes the sample size is small or self selected, it’s not clearly defined by the researchers what they are measuring etc. Any nuance or context is not grasped and the researchers bias is very evident in most cases.

Add to this that the press will choose to focus on the most sensational aspect of the answers and you will struggle to separate the actual problem from the moral panic.

Personally, I find the simplistic narrative of hyper sexed porn addicted school boys hard to reconcile with the supposed increasing puritanism displayed by millennials and gen z and the more feminine and androgynous nature of their culture.

I also am not convinced that real world harassment would be a sufficiently risk free and stimulating alternative to that available at the click of a mouse.

This leads to the old conclusion that it is all about power instead. In which case ‘Porn’ may not be sufficient an explanation for its occurrence. Just sufficiently easy to understand.

Michael Hanson
Michael Hanson
1 year ago

The article focuses on male violence towards women but this is just one of countless themes in porn. Whatever one’s imagination conjures up there will be a site for it online. It’s for fantasies that acting out in real life would seem abhorrent. My guess would be that most men indulge in porn but very few are sexually violent towards women.
As a result of our prudishness and censoring of nakedness in the past, porn flourished. It is still the best place to see human genitalia in all colours, shapes and sizes.
Porn is, however, like junk food – giving instant gratification but ultimately unhealthy and without nourishment.

Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago

I find myself agreeing with Julie, but apparently hers is not a universal view: for instance – “ Swedish erotic filmmaker Erika Lust, who has helped pioneer the feminist pornography movement”; a feminist pornographer!
I’m intrigued that in a wider viewing, society refuses to censor itself in terms of the elevation of sexual pleasure above everything else. The response to school sexual assault revelations seems to be to try and change male viewpoints rather than how sex is presented to adolescents in the values we hold as a society. Maybe the fall in the numbers of Millennials engaging in sexual activity might be a positive thing.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I’m not sure I buy the idea of “feminist pornography”. Do any feminists think watching prostitutes having sex – and let’s face it, being in porn is on the prostitution spectrum; it’s having sex with someone for money – is a legitimate form of entertainment?
I suspect that much so called “feminist pornography” looks indistinguishable from other pornography, targets the same audience, and maybe puts some money into a female producer’s pocket. The latter point does not make it feminist or any less exploitative. It just means the performers are working for a madam rather than for a pimp.

Graeme Caldwell
Graeme Caldwell
1 year ago

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Graeme Caldwell
Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago

Succinct point that

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago

I agree I find it hard to imagine what many “open-minded” people say about porn: it is benign and just another form of sexual expression. I would find it hard to believe that boys and girls who grow up seeing this won’t have it (negatively) affect their ability to have healthy sexual relationships.
That said, I agree with other commenters that this article is huff and puff. It sounds like vacuous moral grandstanding. We can all see a problem, but do you have any solutions?
I personally do NOT think that forcing ISP’s to censor porn is a good solution. Government censorship is a non-starter for me. I can see how pretty quickly the algorithms would be censoring my “breast cancer” searches when I’m working in my clinic (surgery to you Brits).

Julia Wallis-Martin
Julia Wallis-Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

I agree with your observation that: ‘.. I would find it hard to believe that boys and girls who grow up seeing this won’t have it (negatively) affect their ability to have healthy sexual relationships’. Some years ago, the marriage of one of my female colleagues collapsed owing to her husband’s obsession with porn. She didn’t feel threatened by it. She simply lost respect for him, for whereas she had formerly seen him as someone she could look up to and admire, she had come to regard him as, quite literally, a w**nker.

T Doyle
T Doyle
1 year ago

I think Julie Bindle is right on this. It’s obscene and degrading and I just don’t understand why average women, not politicised feminists, are opposed to this. Also main stream media is guilty of sexualisation which is the thin end of pornography