Earlier this week, Teen Vogue published an article asking “is it bad to watch porn”. While the question itself is one regularly posed and batted away by pro-porn industry advocates, the article used some notably horrendous euphemisms to sanitise sexual violence in an attempt to make it more palatable to its teen readers.

The article deals with various “typical” questions that might be raised by a teenager, one of which being: “Was the porn made ethically and legally?”. While this is a complex question in itself – what is “ethical” about an industry that fuels sex trafficking, normalises violence against women and girls, and profits from illegal activity – the response was particularly striking in its casual disregard for how the attitudes it was promoting may be taken on board by readers, going on to state:

Porn that portrays fantasies about nonconsensual sex, for instance, isn’t necessarily misogynist if it centers all characters’ pleasure and agency.

There is already a word for non-consensual sex: rape. If the sentence was rephrased to “Porn that portrays fantasies about rape, for instance, isn’t necessarily misogynist…” – it would perhaps be too much of a stretch for a magazine marketed at 11-16 year old girls.

The piece fails to acknowledge the real impact that porn can and does have on the psyche of those who view it, including links to increased sympathy for sexual violence, which can manifest in ways such as having a higher propensity to commit rape.

The piece goes on to say:

The next time you come across seemingly racist or sexist porn, give some thought as to whether the porn you’re watching is self-aware and feminist, rather than simply reproducing bigotry.

The article rightly acknowledges the existence of racist porn, but it is difficult to see how titles playing on grotesque stereotypes such as: “Filipina hooker wants to get knocked up by American soldier” and “Black slave girl waits for master” could ever be construed as “self-aware”, let alone feminist.

The prevalence of this increasingly violent and offensive material is a natural result of an industry that encourages users to seek out increasingly hardcore subject matter in order to achieve the same satisfaction, which in turn drives producers to make content that they know will receive clicks and views.

The fact that a magazine aimed at young teenagers is contributing to the normalisation of the porn industry is a disaster. With an increase in the number of women and girls subjected to acts such as unwanted choking, slapping, and abuse during otherwise consensual sex, it is the responsibility of the media to deal with the issue even-handedly, which means highlighting the research that demonstrates porn has undeniable links to this increase in violence.

The UK Government must get to grips with this hidden but growing crisis. As it drafts the Online Harms Bill it is imperative that the Government puts porn sites in the highest Category One, which places greater requirements on platforms hosting material that is legal but harmful (as well as the mandate to proactively tackle illegal material), and affords the most robust protection against accidental access by young people.

Porn use should no longer be seen as an inappropriate but ultimately harmless activity; it is an industry built on exploitation and abuse, that preys on the most vulnerable, and it must finally be recognised as such.