The Internet Watch Foundation recently announced that in 2019 alone they dealt with more than a quarter of a million reports of online image and video-based child sexual abuse (CSA), and of these reports over 130,000 contained CSA images/videos, which is a 26% increase from 2018. The question has to be asked: what is causing this deeply disturbing spike not only in reports of image-based CSA, but an actual increase in confirmed cases? 

While there are likely several closely linked reasons why this horrific aspect of sexual exploitation is on the rise, there is one driver that the public and media seem all too willing to overlook: the porn industry. 

Porn culture has arguably reached new heights (or rather, plumbed new depths) in the past couple of years. For example, the rise of #MeToo has demonstrated that women are pushing back against objectification and sexualisation in all aspects of life, from work and professional to the personal, but the culture is sadly still there. Alongside this culture, the porn industry has grown at a staggering rate, This makes for a terrible combination of misogynist attitudes and an industry that is willing to capitalise on it by producing an array of increasingly violent, exploitative and abusive content, which in turn directly effects the attitudes of those who watch it. 

Combine all of this with the fact that so-called “child pornography” (in other words, image and video based CSA) is one of the fastest growing, multi-million dollar industries, and that the “genre” of teenager/pre-teen is a long-standing staple of mainstream porn sites and we have a recipe for disaster. As porn culture shapes our brains and we are increasingly taught that sexual gratification is something that should be able to access at any time, consumers of porn are finding themselves compelled to find new ways to achieve this sexual gratification. When you then have an industry that increasingly normalises the idea of sexual intercourse with a “teen”, and a growing market of accessible, CSA images and videos, it does not take great feats of imagination to understand why image-based CSA is on the rise. 

There is a ready-made market to which these images can be proliferated, and the demand will only grow in-line with the growth of the porn industry and porn culture. This is not just a fanciful prediction either; as Gail Dines noted when she met with an incarcerated child rapist:

‘John told me how he had methodically and strategically groomed his ten-year-old stepdaughter into “consenting” to have sex with him, and then casually mentioned that his job was made easy because the “the culture did a lot of the grooming for me.”’

CEASE UK is calling for the media, the Government and the public at large to recognise the links between CSA and the porn industry. There is no “ethical” porn in an industry that encourages and directly profits from  misogyny, racism, abuse, violence and as was recently reported, actual videos of CSA. These deplorable features are inherent to the industry at large, and it’s time that we all start to recognise that.