Monday 13 May 2013

Pornography on the School Syllabus?

Posted: 07/05/2013 00:00

Teachers, parents and charities are rightly worried about the scale of children's access to pornography on the internet and the real harm this is causing them. However the new guidance for teachers from the Sex Education Forum is deeply disturbing as teachers are encouraged to tell pupils in sex education lessons that porn is 'not all bad', is 'hugely diverse', and to talk about all aspects of porn. Parents will surely be horrified by this.
All pornography IS bad and much of mainstream online pornography is now violent, abusive and degrading. It is about sexual exploitation by ruthless corporate interest. Viewing pornography creates sexual desire divorced from relationship, which is the intention of the pornographers and distributors who, it's estimated, are making around $100billion a year globally. Softcore pornography is a gateway to hardcore pornography and, worse, to child sexual abuse images. ornography also feeds prostitution and sex trafficking [Robert W Peters, Laura J. Lederer, and Shane Kelly: The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography]
The wisdom of this initiative is highly questionable, as the message this would send from a voice of authority is more likely to increase the 'normalisation' of pornography in impressionable young minds. Not only will children be exposed to discussion about 'all aspects of porn' but teachers will be expected to 'speak frankly and confidently' about pornography, and they will be directed to online resources such as which tells teens 'porn can be great'.
Teachers will, of course, need to have a knowledge of 'all aspects' of pornography in order to be able to discuss them with children. This is a frighteningly dangerous situation because not only are children harmed by pornography but so are adults. To know about pornography teachers will need to watch it themselves, making them vulnerable to its seductive influence. Some may be struggling already with pornography related problems or even addiction. Some may gain an interest in pornography they didn't have before and become ensnared, moving on to more hardcore porn and then even perhaps into child abuse imagery which can be a part of the progression with pornography. This is a recipe for disaster.
Cosy chats in the classroom about pornography will not stop children watching pornography if they can. Ever more explicit sex education and the distribution of contraception (often without parents' knowledge), have not prevented growing levels of promiscuity at younger ages with an attendant huge increase in STIs. Children are naturally curious about nudity and sex but do not have the cognitive ability to deal with what pornography means. This has contributed to a trend for sexting - the sending of graphic intimate images between children as young as 10 - which they see nothing wrong in, sometimes with tragic consequences when girls discover their pictures have been posted online for all to see.
A recent report by the Deputy Children's Commissioner found that out of a whole cohort of Year 9 pupils 100% of the boys were accessing pornography (and 50% of the girls); the NSPCC say 11-year-olds are now actively searching out porn on the internet; police figures show that more than 4,500 children, some as young as five, have committed sexual offences. Given such horrifying statistics urgent and robust action needs to be taken to PROTECT children and young people. 

The internet is now a very large part of our children's daily lives for entertainment, socialising and schoolwork. The top priority must be a safe online environment for them. The government has announced plans for a one-click filter at network level, which blocks adult content on all internet-enabled devices in the home, and which will be offered to families with children by all four major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) by the end of 2013, and will come with age verification. Increasingly, public wifi will be 'clean', as a package blocking porn will be provided to all who offer public wifi. However this is voluntary. The mobile phone industry is going to refine the block it already offers on adult content, to make it more robust. These are steps in the right direction, however more remains to be done.
"There's something wrong with a society as a whole when children say they have no one to turn to for advice because their parents - outwitted by technology, and struggling to juggle work and home life - don't really know what's going on." [Diane Abbott MP]
Parents' role has been severely undermined in recent years. According to a Department for Education report, over half of parents 'want sex education to promote the value of abstinence alongside contraception; to be taught in its "moral context" with an emphasis on marriage; and the importance of the legal age of consent' [Daily Telegraph 3 March 2013]. Parents are generally the best judge of what is right for their children but they need help to keep pornography at bay.
The simplest solution giving best overall protection is for the ISPs who deliver the pornography to introduce the full 'opt in' network-level filter, porn free by default. With strict age verification for over 18s this is not censorship. Search engines such as Google, and social media, must also play their part. No civilized society can continue to prosper when a whole generation of children are being corrupted and scarred for life.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

50 Shades of Grey Has Propelled Pornography and Sadomasochism to a New Level of Public Awareness and Acceptance

Posted: 07/08/2012 00:00  on Huffington Post UK

It is incredible how swiftly Fifty Shades has entered the public lexicon with barely an eyebrow lifted, whether it's a serious comment piece in the Daily Telegraph entitled, 'A government with 50 shades of grey would have the whip hand' or npower's energy-saving Twitter campaign, '50 Shades of Green'.
Personally, I hesitate to call this novel a 'literary' phenomenon but it is clearly an internet sensation with its explicit sexual/BDSM content, and is taking the world by storm. Such is the power of the media hype it has become an overnight hit with young women and even teenagers who are reading it quite openly with none of the embarrassment which would normally have accompanied such a book before, even including most of the Australian women's swimming team after discovering it in a service station on their way to the Games from Manchester, presumably alongside other novels and within sight of children.
It is extraordinary to see the amount of coverage in the media with big features showing an attractive middle-aged James and her husband in their middle class domestic setting, hardly oozing 'mummy porn'. It is not just James and her own perverse imagination which are subverting public morals so dramatically; it is the whole of the communications industry which is driving e marketing to an audience who have become gradually desensitised over time by films and TV programmes targeted often specifically at the 16-34 age group, and which increasingly feature sexually explicit material and bondage.
Sexually provocative music lyrics and videos by Madonna, Lady Gaga and Rihanna's S&M are popular with teens and children. Retailers of bondage gear are also making a killing it seems with reports that the book has led to a surge in the sale of whips, handcuffs and other instruments of torture.
This skilfully packaged book is marketed as liberating for women (trussed like a turkey liberating?), and female celebrities tell us "the obvious answer is that a large proportion of women are to some degree closet masochists" and that "It's fun - whatever turns you on". H
However, in reality it actually romanticises the dangerous patterns of an abusive relationship by teaching that controlling men are sexy and women secretly enjoy being hurt.
At a time when the NSPCC has been reporting on the growing problem of sexual violence in teenage relationships and particularly in gangs, the promotion of this book is particularly cynical and morally wrong. We should all be warning our young people about the very twisted and dangerous messages it contains, not lionizing it and selling it as harmless fun.
However much we are led to believe all the phoney hype, what is really behind the success is of course the usual culprit - sex sells: "In just four months, EL James has become's biggest-selling author of all time...", said EU director of Kindle Gordon Willoughby, and according to Wikipedia, 31m copies have been sold worldwide, setting a record as the fastest selling paperback of all time.
According to the Sunday Times, the ebooks are available on, which allows anyone to upload a book and has no system for filtering out offensive material. 'Within minutes anyone can become an author using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service and can even set their own price. Authors charging between 77p and £1.48 earn 35% royalty on every sale, while Amazon takes 65%. For ebooks priced £1.49 or more, authors receive 70% of the royalties." I'm no mathematician but there is an awful lot of money being made and simply by creating a demand with sex and hype.
No wonder Mills & Boon are in hot pursuit with a new series of 12 digital-only "racy reads" called... '12 Shades of Surrender' -how sad that it is the surrender of romance for licentiousness. Simultaneously, thanks to internet publishing, classics such as Pride & Prejudice are now being injected with sex scenes.
Amazon is a household name and, according to the Sunday Times, its 'content guidelines state: "We don't accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts." However, a search for the word "pornography" on its website finds 727 ebooks."
So, in common with the ratcheting up of explicit violence in films and games in order to make ever larger profits, it is now deemed necessary by some powerful publishers of literature to push the envelope further and further and create demand by accepting evermore sexually explicit and risky content.
What boundaries there were are now so indistinct they have become practically invisible, and global businesses like Amazon are bulldozing the principles and values that have underpinned our civilisation. Appealing to natural curiosity and prurience will always guarantee a full net for those with the means to ensnare and exploit the rest of us on an industrial scale and our young people are the most vulnerable to this type of corruption; the unregulated internet has made it so much easier. We are already being primed for the spin-off film; what a gift to the porn industry.
Pippa Smith

In a World Where Anything Goes

Posted: 28/06/2012 09:15  on Huffington Post UK

"In a World Where Anything Goes"
Do we really live in a world where anything goes? According to the BBC's Cherry Healey, we do. In a recent programme, 'How to Get a Life' on BBC One, she repeated this statement more than once.
The idea was, apparently, to find out if it was better to be settled or single. Now settled and married with a young child herself, Cherry was worried she was becoming a bit boring.
She asked how may sexual partners is too many after giving us statistics such as 'nearly 60% have had a one night stand' and '5% have admitted to over 20'. To back up these figures she interviewed two young singles who didn't seem to have any inhibitions about sharing the number of people they had slept with. A gregarious young man, evidently enjoying his job as a hostel manager had slept with about 80 women and cameras followed him as he showed off his prowess at seducing the young women who used the hostel. A young woman claimed 170 conquests - she said, "I'm not a slut, I'm just popular". Her social life seemed to centre on going clubbing and finding men to sleep with. She said she judged them on their kissing - if a "s*** kisser then they would be a s*** s**g". Armed with her survival kit containing makeup, flat shoes and condom, she had no intention of settling down for a while.
Another couple Cherry Healey interviewed were into threesomes (Cherry thought this was "sexy, hot turns me on - but I don't think I could do it") and bondage, and we saw their bedroom and some of their 'fun' equipment. She took them to a shop specialising in bondage materials and there was the usual giggling and dressing up in latex (the girl, "I love this shop so much"), and then off to a fetish club where we were treated to some spanking and descriptions of other dark activities going on. Thankfully, the young couple were not so impressed and decided fantasy was not better than reality and to concentrate on their own relationship in future.
Cherry Healey then decided to try her hand at match making. Unsurprisingly, this did not work as once again the pressure was on to have sex and the first thing she asked the embarrassed pair after their date was, "did you have sexual intercourse?". Enough to make Cilla Black's hair stand on end.
To be fair, we did meet someone who was very happily married with a baby although her twin was still enjoying the single life and having no responsibilities. So, throughout, the messages were mixed and to the BBC's shame, there was no information about the risk from STIs or emotional fallout.
While this was on BBC One, a previous offering from Cherry Healey, 'Like a Virgin', featured as part of BBC Three's voyeuristic and explicit 'Sex Season' series earlier this year. The often graphic imagery and language, verging on pornographic, and casual acceptance of promiscuous and risky behaviour in these series run counter to received wisdom; independent research evidence shows that viewing material of an explicitly sexual nature, or even simply discussing it, can encourage early sexual activity and experimentation by young people and children. 
BBC Three is a youth channel targeting an audience of 16 to 34 year olds and the BBC justifies BBC Three as a place to nurture talent for BBC One. Clearly Cherry Healey and her gratuitous nonsense have now been promoted to the BBC's flagship channel.
Unfortunately, these programmes will also be viewed by younger children who will have no trouble accessing the Channel's content whether on television or by a wide variety of internet-enabled devices both inside and outside the home. Current parental controls, where all you have to do is tick a box stating you are over 16 or 18, are not effective in preventing this as many parents do not set the controls, or are even aware of them. (Ofcom's 'Children and parents: media use and attitudes report' 25.10.11).
At a time when so many young people are struggling in an economic crisis which is badly affecting their life chances, surely it is a public service duty incumbent upon the BBC to produce output which will increase their knowledge and raise their aspirations.
We must expect nothing less for our money, so it is hard to reconcile the cuts being made to the excellent channel BBC Four and elsewhere, with BBC Three's budget (projected at £85m after the 10% cut) being spent on the sort of dross one should not expect to find on the BBC, let alone considered fit for the minds of young audiences. A scan of its schedules shows only an occasional rare sighting of output that could be described as good quality and not dumbed down to attract ratings.
As concerns about the sexualisation of children continue to grow, that the BBC should think this is useful instruction on 'How to Get a Life' is deeply troubling.
Pippa Smith

Sexualisation of Children - Protecting Innocence Online

Posted: 19/06/2012 00:00 on Huffington Post UK

At long last there is a reality check going on about the dangers children face on the internet from pornography. We read with horror of children as young as eight admitting to pornography addiction, or the 12-year-old boy who raped a nine year old girl because he wanted to 'feel grown up' after viewing explicit images. As with so many other things in life, it has had to reach crisis-point before people begin sitting up and taking notice.
Only last week the deputy children's commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, told MPs that online porn "is turning children into sex attackers, that the young act out depraved scenes they see on the web and there isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited."
This came in the same week that Wikipedia's co-founder Mike Sanger, disclosed that "Wikipedia features some of the most disgusting sorts of porn you can imagine," "while being heavily used by children."
The awful thing is that once children see these images they are imprinted on their brains. Dr William Struthers, a neuroscientist and expert in sexual arousal who researches the impact of pornography on young people, said, ="You can't "un-see" something. These images are not easily erasable and become almost tattooed on the cortex. It is a powerful shock to the system." He describes his research in his book,Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain.
In November 2010, Safermedia's Parliamentary Conference on the harm that pornography does heard evidence of growing exposure to internet porn and concomitant harm to children and adolescents from several expert speakers, including Pamela Paul, US journalist and author of Pornified.
Since then we have been running our Block Porn Campaign which backs Claire Perry MP's ideas for making the internet safer for children. The recommendations of her parliamentary inquiry (supported by over 60 MPs) into online child protection are the way forward. These include a proposal for a formal consultation on the introduction of an opt-in network-level filtering system for all internet accounts.
The default setting for pornography would be 'off', and it would be restored only after strict age verification for those over 18. This therefore is not censorship, despite howls of protest from some quarters about freedom of speech, and offers the best protection for children.
Network level filters are particularly important as most parents are just not up to speed with the pace of technological change or the type of hardcore, violent and abusive material their children can now access. With the best will in the world many struggle to install device level filters and are lagging behind their tech-savvy children. The problem will only get worse with the proliferation of the latest must have smartphones being used by children.
So far TalkTalk (with a female CEO) is the only ISP which is delivering a package that filters at network level, although the default is still on and parents have to choose to block pornographic content. TalkTalk have also recently decided to extend this service to all their existing customers, not just new ones as is the case with the other large ISPs such as BT, Virgin Media and Sky who are not catching the 70% of existing customers.
Sue Berelowitz has backed the proposal for ISP level filters with an 'opt in' for pornography; Mike Sanger is calling for Wikipedia to install a filter to protect children and now Louis Theroux has also added his voice to the need for network level filters. So pressure is mounting on the ISPs to do the right thing and put children's safety and well-being ahead of profits.
Pippa Smith

Wednesday 18 May 2011


At our Conference in November 2010, research was presented which clearly demonstrated how viewing pornography leads to an acceptance of violent and unhealthy notions of sex and relationships, where the objectification of women and aggressive sexual behaviour are the norm. 

That is why Safermedia strongly supports Claire Perry MP’s initiative, for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to switch the default setting for internet pornography into our homes to ‘off’, and implement an ‘opt-in’ system, meaning that pornographic content would be blocked by default on a domestic internet connection unless the bill-payer has chosen to allow it. There has been growing demand for a system which would provide a more effective means of monitoring and controlling what comes into the home, especially to help parents protect children.

On the 7th February 2011, Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister for Culture met with the major British ISPs to discuss the potential of this suggestion.  Mr Vaizey went to this meeting on the 7th February with over 1,000 emails of support, the first stage of Safermedia’s campaign.  Following a good discussion, the ISPs are now looking at the technical side of implementation and the next meeting with Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, is today on the 18th May 2011.As part of this campaign, on May 16th 2011 Safermedia travelled to central London and built a 10ft structure with coloured blocks outside the BT headquarters calling on ISPs to 'BLOCK PORN' at the source.   

See the picture below featured online on the Telegraph's 'Picture of the Day - May 17th', for an image of this demonstration.  Safermedia will keep you updated with the progress of our current campaign.


Saturday 29 January 2011

E-Campaign to support 'opt-in' system for internet porn

Recently safermedia has had some very productive meetings with MPs in parliament regarding the internet and the protection of children.  We are now urging you to join our current e-campaign.

On 7th February 2011 Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture will be having meetings with British Internet Service Providers to push for an 'opt-in' system to block internet pornography and protect children.  It is vitally important that Ed Vaizey MP, urgently receives strong public support for his round table meeting with British Internet Service Providers on 7 February 2011.    

1. On behalf of Claire Perry MP, who suggested the 'opt in' initiative in her Adjournment Debate, we would urge you to fill in your name, address and organisation (if appropriate) on the letter to Mr Vaizey below, and send this email as soon as possible, and before 7 February, to You may also wish to add your comments.
2. Please also forward this email as widely as possible to your contacts including churches, clubs or other groups (please put your own name in the address box and use the BCC button when doing this).

Thank you for your help.

Pippa Smith and Miranda Suit
Co-Chairmen, Safermedia

Dear Mr Vaizey,

Thank you for your efforts in arranging a meeting with internet service providers to discuss how the industry can better support parents and help them ensure that their children cannot access pornography. Research clearly indicates that viewing pornography leads to an acceptance of violent and unhealthy notions of sex and relationships, where the objectification of women and aggressive sexual behaviour are the norm. That is why I strongly support your initiative, suggested by Claire Perry MP, to switch the default setting for internet pornography in to our homes to 'off', and implement an 'opt-in' system. I urge you to promote it as robustly as possible at your forthcoming round table meeting with the ISPs in February.

Yours Sincerely,

Organisation (if appropriate):

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Daily Mail Article by Miranda Suit (safermedia co-founder)

On 25th November 2010 an article was published in the Daily Mail written by Miranda Suit, safermedia co-founder.  It is about the effect of internet porn upon children.  Below we have posted the full article:

Who can forget the disturbing story of the two young brothers from Edlington, South Yorkshire, who, in January this year, were jailed indefinitely for an horrific assault on two other boys?  In April 2009, aged just 10 and 11, these unnamed tormentors launched a sustained, 90-minute attack on the terrified youngsters which included stabbing them with broken bottles, glass and sticks. The victims, only nine and 11, were also subjected to humiliating sexual assaults.  The young perpetrators had been allowed free access to their father’s collection of ‘adult’ DVDs. This included not only ultra-violent horror movies, but a wide selection of pornography.

One expert who identified the link between this and the boys’ behaviour was Kevin Browne, Professor of Forensic Child Psychology at Nottingham University.  ‘The chances of these boys committing such an horrendous crime of violent and sexual assault were definitely increased by watching violent and pornographic films at home,’ he said.  These boys were from a family so dysfunctional that it was described as ‘toxic’ by the judge. But it seems even responsible parents can no longer be sure their children are not being exposed to such poten tially harmful material, because a disturbing new survey has revealed that one in three children has been exposed to internet pornography by the age of ten.

At a House of Commons conference earlier this week organised by safermedia, the charity of which I am a director, we heard the results of this survey - which also suggested that four in five teenagers regularly look up indecent images on their computers or mobile phones.  Statistics support the findings. At the Portman Clinic in London, which treats problematic sexual behaviour in all age groups, exposure to internet porn is implicated in 26 per cent of new cases involving young people.  But when we look at the material our youngsters are bombarded with, should we be surprised?

Things have moved on very far from 1999 when, as the mother of four teenage children, I became alarmed by the explicit sex which permeates modern society. With another mother, I set up Safermedia to campaign for stricter controls.  The internet was then in its infancy, and we focused on films, TV programmes and the emerging market in ‘lads’ mags’. I still maintain all of these media can play a significant role in providing ‘gateway porn’, which eases viewers and readers into seeking out more hardcore material.  But how harmless their pictures of breasts and even full-frontal nudity can seem in the wake of the disturbing images peddled in cyber-space today.  Usually involving violence, or extreme physical discomfort for the females involved, these images portray the degrading treatment of women as exciting and acceptable, validating the idea they are not only up for rough sex, but actively seek it.

John Woods, a psychotherapist at the Portman Clinic, told our conference: ‘Youngsters say it must be OK to look at the most violent and perverse imagery “because it’s there, on the Net”, and so it seems permitted by the adult world.’  These images are packaged to give viewers the quickest ‘hit’ possible, and the models appear willing to provide exactly what is required. Imagine the problems when young men weaned on such distorted reality are in relationships with women who find their partner’s sexual requests utterly distasteful because they are predicated on pornography.

Such dangers will not apply to every child. But those who have failed to form a proper attachment to the adults in their lives will be particularly vulnerable.  Young girls may find themselves lured into showing off their bodies on webcams - mistaking the attention paid to them by predatory strangers for the affection and reassurance they are seeking in real life.  Like boys, they will also be subject to unrealistic ideas of what is expected of women. Many girls who are not blonde, skinny and depilated - a pre-requisite for most porn starlets - similarly feel a lack of self-worth which may affect their ability to form proper relationships.

For both sexes, there is evidence that early exposure to pornography can lead to an increased willingness for risky sexual practices. Research at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that one-night stands, sex without condoms, and increased rates of teenage pregnancy are all associated with pornography acting as ‘a teacher, a permission giver and a trigger of negative behaviours’.
Every day 400 new porn sites go live on the Internet, yet only 37 per cent of parents have set up security controls on their children's computer

Neither is it necessary for children to seek pornography out deliberately. Many samples are virtually forced on internet users for free, to lure users into signing up for X-rated websites.
With just a few clicks of the mouse, your children can find themselves on the fringes of a dark and perverted world. And while they may not have the credit card needed to proceed, they will have already seen the introductory material.

So what is to be done? At our conference I was astonished and disappointed to hear the Department for Education plans to commission yet another report into these problems. The Government has already funded two investigations in recent years, one by parenting expert Tanya Byron, the other by clinical psychologist Linda Papadopoulos.  Both suggested the solution lay in more information for parents and teachers, and in helping them stop children from visiting such sites.

Do the Government officials who nod sagely at such advice have any children of their own?  If so, they should know the generation gap is never more obvious than when it comes to new technology.  Many parents are simply not familiar enough with computers to detect when their children have visited such sites. And even if they know how to apply the filters to stop them, these are far from 100 per cent effective. As for simply asking youngsters not to give into temptation - well, teenagers are, understandably, not known for their self-control.

The only answer is restricting access to such material. Some 95 per cent of pornographic content viewed in this country comes from servers operated by British-based companies, including BT Internet and Virgin. They and the big search engines must be persuaded that pornography should only be available to those adult users who request it.  They will argue this is technically impossible. But I would remind them of the scandal in 2006 when Google agreed to censor certain search results in China for political reasons.  If the big internet companies can apply blocks to protect their commercial interests, then why can’t our Government act in a similar way to protect our children?

Read more: