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Durham University

Durham University News


Sexually violent pornography regularly advertised to first time users

(4 April 2021)

Person at a computer

Sexually violent pornography is being regularly promoted to first-time visitors on the landing pages of the UK’s most popular pornography websites, finds the largest study of online pornographic content to date.

Over a six-month period, researchers from our Department of Sociology and Law School analysed over 150,000 video titles appearing on the front page of the three most popular porn sites in the UK.

They found that 1 in every 8 titles advertised to first time users in the UK describes sexually violent, coercive or non-consensual content.

Extreme and violent content

Far from being hidden away on the dark web, content describing criminal acts, such as rape, upskirting and incest, is actively showcased on the home pages of major pornography platforms.

The research, led by Dr Fiona Vera-Gray and Professor Clare McGlynn, argues that the easy access of such content is distorting the boundary between sexual pleasure and sexual violence, feeding a culture in which non-consent and sexual violence are not taken seriously.

The research also raises serious questions about the extent of criminal material easily and freely available on mainstream pornography websites and the efficacy of current regulatory mechanisms. 

Legislation, regulation and education

The team is calling on policy makers to take active steps to ensure effective legislation and corporate responsibility requirements are in place to prevent sexually violent content from being available on mainstream pornography platforms.

They argue that the ready availability of sexually violent content represents a stark failure in the duty of care that porn companies have towards their users and are calling on the UK Government to use the forthcoming Online Harms Bill to hold companies to account.

The team also suggest that government need to do more to ensure teachers are supported to deliver the new relationships and sex education curriculum, including providing funding for specialist violence against women organisations to develop resources on pornography and sexual consent.

Find out more:

Read Dr Fiona Vera-Gray’s profile

Read the profile for Professor Clare McGlynn QC (HON)

Read our policy briefing paper on this subject

Read the full research paper

Dr Foina Vera-Gray’s work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust. Learn more about the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships and the Leverhulme Trust

For support in relation to the issues raised in this story please visit our dedicated pages