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Durham University

Research & business

Extreme pornography laws should be reformed, experts say

(23 May 2013)

Extreme pornography laws should be reformed to criminalise the possession of images of rape, according to experts at Durham Law School who have welcomed a new report on the issue.

Professors Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley, were commenting as a new report, ‘Deeds or Words?’ and an open letter to the Prime Minister (click here), published today (Thursday, May 23) called on the Government to close the ‘loophole’ in the extreme pornography legislation to include possession of images of rape.

The report, published by the End Violence Against Women Coalition, makes the recommendation as part of a new programme of work to prevent violence against women and girls.

Professors McGlynn and Rackley have argued for the reform of the extreme pornography legislation to include the possession of rape pornography for several years.

Professor Rackley said: “The extreme pornography legislation is in urgent need of reform. The current law excludes of the vast majority of pornographic images of rape.

“Pornographic images of rape are easily and freely accessible online.

“Some pro-rape pornography images revel in the distress of women, enticing viewers with claims that ‘these girls say no but we say yes’ or ‘it doesn't matter if they want it or not’. Some sites offer ‘rape photos made by real criminals’.”

Professor McGlynn said: “While those who view extreme pornography will not necessarily go on to commit sexual offences, their use of such material sustains a culture in which rape and sexual violence is normalised; in which a woman's ‘no’ is not taken seriously; in which equality and dignity are not protected.

“The criminalisation of the possession of pornographic images of rape can be justified because of the ‘cultural harm’ of this form of extreme pornography.”

She continued: “As the report notes, the discussion of the extreme pornography legislation is part of a general debate around the prevalence and use of pornography. It is time to look again at a general level at the reform of pornography laws generally – and in particular the focus on obscenity and disgust which is further entrenched by the current extreme pornography.”

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