I want to begin by noting that I realize some people will begin reading this column and think: “Here we go again. Another article beating the drum about how porn fuels sexual violence – again.” And on one hand, I get it. I’ve been writing about this subject for over 10 years and have published many columns in this space on the rape culture that has been metastasizing all around us as entire generations get addicted to digital sexual violence that has normalized deviant, degrading, and destructive sexual practices – normalized them.
On October 6, for example, I reported on a wave of sex crimes among minors in the U.K., fueled by porn – as well as a report by France’s equality watchdog noting that 90 percent of mainstream porn content featured abuse so horrific that much of it constitutes sexual torture. On September 2, I covered the story of a major porn site facing a wave of lawsuits from those who had videos of their abuse posted to the site. For years, I’ve covered studies highlighting, over and over again, the connection between sexually violent behavior and digital porn use – as well as the crimes of Pornhub, one of the world’s largest porn monopolies.
The reason I cover this beat constantly is because I see the effects of the porn pandemic all around me. I’ve spoken to over 2,000 students at middle schools and high schools on porn so far this year, and they tell me what they’re watching. They send emails describing the first time they saw porn – usually before the sixth grade – and the way the violent material that is on the main page of every porn site has twisted their minds. And more girls than I can count have told me that porn bleeds into relationships – that choking, anal sex, hitting, and other forms of sexual violence are now expected – even, horrifyingly, in many Christian marriages.
Despite that, many communities still do not take this issue seriously enough. Many people do not realize the current and future consequences of a generation raised on digital pornography. Plenty of people think I’m exaggerating. And so, to raise whatever awareness I can, I will take the opportunity to cover every story I come across to keep on driving this point home.
The most recent is a profile in the Guardian of Chanel Contos, an Australian student and sexual consent activist who rose to fame in 2021 after she posted an Instagram story asking her followers if they, or someone they knew, had been sexually assaulted during their years at school. She had 200 confirmations within a day, and this year she has published a book titled “Consent Laid Bare: Sex, Entitlement & the Distortion of Desire.” One of her perspectives – one that would have been radical a decade ago, when the so-called “sex-positive” feminists were running the show – is that pornography contributes to rape culture:
Contos is fluent in the language of power, her own as well as that of others. And she is not afraid to challenge what was sold to her generation as truisms. She believes that the idea that sex is an expression of love can lead to coercion. She believes that there is no ethical way to consume porn. ‘Pornography is everywhere but I think we need to have conversations about pornography and the industry,’ she says. ‘I think we need to speak about problematic themes such as violence against women, choking, slapping.’