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How a sadistic industry is being sanitised

A number of councils have produced suspect sex and relationships guidance aimed at children and young people, which fails to draw attention to the widespread harms of pornography. JO BARTOSCH reports

JESSICA REDDING died last week; the Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed that she was 40 years old. 

She acted in pornography under the name Jessica Jaymes. Her premature death is not unusual for those in what is euphemistically called the “adult entertainment industry.” 

The first pornographic film Redding performed in was Little Girl Lost, when she was just 16.

Today, as the body of Jessica Redding lies awaiting post-mortem in Los Angeles, at least one council website here in Britain is telling kids younger than Redding was when she acted in her first film that they need to get over their hang-ups about pornography. 

Warwickshire County Council’s “Respect Yourself” guidance, which is endorsed by Public Health Warwickshire, helpfully sets out to bust what it describes as myths about pornography. 

Warwickshire is just one of many councils to have produced suspect sex and relationships guidance aimed at children, teenagers and young adults.

Some readers might imagine that the problem of children watching pornography is that it distorts their understanding of sex, arguably leading to an epidemic of boys mimicking what they’ve seen and sexually assaulting girls in schools (interestingly “peer on peer” sexual abuse in schools increased by 521 per cent in Warwickshire between 2013-16). 

Others might cite the rise in labiaplasties or the 40 per cent of young women who report being pressured to have sex, as indications that pornography is impacting on society. 

Both would be wrong, according to the Respect Yourself guidance, which confidently states one “of the biggest issues for young people watching porn is that it’s seen as something they ‘shouldn’t be doing’.”

In their pathetic attempt to seem “down wiv da kids,” those behind such guidance betray themselves as ignorant, porn-addled misogynists. 

Critics who dare to suggest watching “Lesbian Anal Trainers 2,” “All Anal 3” or “Slave for a Night” (all best-selling titles of the aforementioned late Jessica Redding) might not enrich a child’s understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like, are clearly out-of-touch pearl-clutching prudes who are probably in need of a good seeing-to.

In fact, the reason many feminists are so devastated about the widespread availability of pornography is that it has robbed the iPhone generation of the right to an authentic sense of sexuality. 

There is nothing wrong with reassuring adolescents that masturbation won’t actually make them go blind, and indeed that it can help them feel at ease in their bodies. 

But when a 12-year-old girl wrote to Respect Yourself, concerned that she was addicted to pornography and disclosing that she was watching it for “half the night,” the response was not to tell her that pornography was harmful and nor was it to reassure her that the sex and abuse portrayed was not what she might expect as an adult. 

In fact, Respect Yourself dismisses the notion that pornography is addictive or damaging in any way.

According to Mary Sharp of the Reward Foundation, an educational charity focusing on love, sex and the internet, this is simply not true. 

In an interview earlier this year for the Guardian, she explained: “Excess porn is changing how children become sexually aroused … at an age when they’re most vulnerable to mental health disorders and addictions. Most addictions and mental health disorders start in adolescence.” 

The results of this can be seen clearly in the rates of erectile dysfunction, which have increased from an estimated 2-3 per cent of men under 35 in 2002 to around 30 per cent since the advent of free-streaming, high-definition porn.

Elsewhere on the site a “relationship quiz” invites users to choose from a list of potential responses if they caught their partner watching pornography. 

Realistically we know that the “partner” watching pornography is likely to be male, though Respect Yourself cheerfully reminds us “both guys and girls watch porn.” 

Whether you choose the “it’s degrading” or “it’s hot” option, the answer is to put any personal discomfort aside because everyone “likes a fiddle.” 

To be clear, having “a fiddle” isn’t the problem, the crushing impact of pornography use by a partner on one’s self-esteem is. 

Far from bringing people closer together, use of pornography is a key factor in relationship break-ups.

With visits to pornography sites topping those of Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, the sex industry will undoubtedly survive without public relations help from the woke of Warwickshire. 

Nonetheless, the Respect Yourself guidance does a fair public relations job for the industry, explaining: “The sex industry is one of the few in which women make much more money than men.” 

For a tiny minority this is true. Take Sheena Shaw, for example. She has made a name for herself as “queen of rosebudding.” 

Rosebudding is the term used in the pornography industry for anal prolapse, whereby the rectum is forced out of the anus. 

This is apparently sexy, as Shaw so astutely notes: “Culture teaches us what to like and what not to like.” 

The women who perform this risk excruciating pain, severe bowel problems and anal leakage. 

When Vice magazine asked Shaw about what she could do in the event of an injury, she replied: “No-one ever talks about that. They make you sign waivers before you do these scenes. You’re absolutely not going to get workers’ comp.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the physical demands of today’s pornography, those who leave the industry report that drugs, abuse and coercion on set are rife; most women last between three and 18 months before leaving. 

Let’s be honest, there is nothing empowering about having your rectum poke out your anus while being called “whore,” spat at and choked on camera. 

Despite these brutal realities the Respect Yourself website claims “studies show that in fact female porn stars have higher self-esteem and job satisfaction than the average population.” These studies are not referenced.

In a porn-soaked society, we need to be realistic and prepare children for what they in all probability will see online and, in fairness, some of the guidance in Respect Yourself is compassionate and thoughtful. 

But the sanitisation of a sadistic industry built upon the misery of women and girls is unforgivable. 

In its mission to seem relevant, youth-focused and relatable, Warwickshire County Council risks grooming a generation to think that the abuse portrayed in pornography is not only normal, but desirable.

Jo Bartosch is director of Click Off, a campaign to end demand for pornography. Please visit its website and consider donating


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