BY ROLAND FELMING
Gone are the days when a teen’s first exposure to pornography was finding their dad’s Playboy magazine under the bed. The content and ease of access to pornography has changed significantly since the rise of the Internet. Though porn is easier to access than ever before, and far more extreme in its content, very little has changed in terms of restrictions or regulations when it comes to publishing and accessing this content.
In December, Motion 47 was passed with bipartisan support calling for the Standing Committee on Health to study the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men. I think that this is an important step so that the effects of pornography can be concretely identified, and once identified perhaps new legislation can be passed to better protect citizens.
The question that needs to be answered is what effects does exposure to this kind of material have on children and on society as a whole? Unfortunately little scientific research has been done on the issue, and so it is difficult to say definitively what effects this material may be having.
What we do know is that some kids are seeing porn for the first time as early as 10 years of age. Research has shown that boys in Canada will first see pornography at the age of 12 on average. We also know that the kind of porn they have access to can often be violent and degrading to women, and certainly not the way most parents would envision their young teens learning about sex.
It’s also easy to access. All you have to do is click a button on any device with unfiltered Internet access. Most might think it obvious that 10-year-olds having easy access to graphic videos depicting aggressive sexual acts is not a good thing. Yet nothing has changed to regulate its access. If we know that it’s not good for our children, then why do our laws do nothing to protect them?
Why does one need to verify their age to buy cigarettes or alcohol, but can merely bypass age verification with a simple mouse click for pornography? I think one of the reasons that access to porn lacks meaningful age verification is that there are no consequences for porn creators, unlike a store clerk who will face consequences if he illegally sells a product to a minor. I think that laws should exist in which porn distributors face penalties for not creating meaningful age verification systems. A button asking if you are over 18 is not enough.
Smoking used to be considered harmless but we know better now thanks to research. Cigarettes can no longer be smoked anywhere, age restrictions were put in place and public perception changed. That’s why I think it is important that we conduct meaningful research on pornography so that the public as well as lawmakers can make informed decisions regarding access to it.