Billie Eilish is Right: Pornography is a Disgrace
The violent sexual grooming of a generation
On December 13, renowned American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish told talk show host Howard Stein that her recent song, Male Fantasy, was inspired by her concerns about pornography.
“As a woman, I think porn is a disgrace. And I used to watch a lot of porn, to be honest. I started watching porn when I was eleven. I didn’t understand why it was a bad thing, I thought that’s how you learned how to have sex. I was watching abusive porn… when I was 14. I was an advocate and I thought I was ‘one of the guys’ and would talk about it and think I was really cool for not having a problem with it.”
“I think it really destroyed my brain and I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn. I think that I have sleep paralysis and night terrors because of it. I think that’s how they started. I would just watch abusive BDSM and that’s what I thought was attractive. It got to a point where I couldn’t watch anything else, unless it was violent.
I was a virgin, I hadn’t done anything. It led to problems. The first few times I had sex I was not saying no to things that were not good. And it’s because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to. I’m so angry that porn is so loved.”
The way that vaginas look in porn is f*cking crazy, no vaginas look like that. Women’s bodies don’t look like that. We don’t come like that. We don’t enjoy things that are what it looks like people are enjoying. And it’s how so many people think they’re supposed to learn, it’s how so many men think that they’re supposed to be.
In porn, there’s such a huge problem of consent. Not just consent in having sex, but consent during sex. If you’re not interested in being thrown around during sex, if you’re not interested in being slapped, being choked, people are like, ‘You’re vanilla, you’re boring in bed.’ And I’m not talking about me, I’m walking about women. Women have to like being hurt to be thought of as good in bed.”
Billie Eilish is far from alone in this experience. Children are viewing pornography at younger and younger ages — sometimes as young as seven years old — and often their first exposure is accidental. A 2019 study commissioned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), found that more than half (51%) of 11 to 13 years old reported that they had seen pornography at some point. That figure rose to 66% for 14-15 year olds, and the majority of young people interviewed claimed their first time watching pornography was accidental.
The report also looked into the effects of pornography exposure on young people. Nearly half — 41% — admitted pornography made them have less respect of the opposite sex. Young girls in particular described fears that violent depictions of sex would become normalized by young male viewers, and that they would go on to copy those scenarios in real-life encounters.
Violent pornography has fueled a 400% rise in child-on-child sexual assaults in the UK. A 2019 report by The Daily Mail, convictions of rape by those aged under 17 years old have almost doubled in just four years in the UK. A representative from the UK’s Ministry of Justice warned that extreme pornography is fueling an alarming rise in the number of child sexual offenders.
In response to the findings, Justice Minister Phillip Lee expressed concerns about the role of pornography in child peer sexual offending, saying, “We are seeing an internet age driving greater access to more worrying imagery online. In the extreme [images], the sexualization of youth is manifesting itself in younger conviction ages for rape.”
Doctors have also reported a rise in underage girls presenting with injuries as a result of being coerced into extreme sex acts, including anal tearing.
2015 research published by academics at the University of Bristol and the University of Central Lancashire found more than four in ten teenage schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England experienced sexual coercion and many reported verbal and physical abuse.
Around one in five said they had suffered physical violence or intimidation from boyfriends, including, slapping, punching, strangling and being beaten with an object. In interviews with 100 of the children, many said the pressure to have sex was so great it had become ‘normal’ and they believed it contributed to rape not being recognized.
Over a third of young boys in England admitted watching porn and held negative attitudes towards women, the researchers found. One in five strongly agreed with statements such as, “It is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit a woman if she has been unfaithful” or “Women lead men on sexually and then complain about the attention they get.”
A 2021 report by Ofsted found that schoolgirls were being harassed for nude images by their male peers. At one school, girls told inspectors that they could be contacted by up to 10 or 11 different boys a night asking for nude or sexualized images. Nine in 10 girls believed that sexist name-calling and being sent unwanted explicit content happened “a lot” or “sometimes”.
In 2015, children’s charity Plan International documented a three-fold rise in reports of sexual offenses at schools in England and Wales. The number of allegations rose from 719 in 2011-12 to 1,955 in 2014-15. Girls were the victims in two-thirds of cases, and children as young as five had been recorded carrying out sexual assault.
Similarly, a 2015 survey of 3,000 12 to 14 year-olds in Australia found that one in three respondents believed “exerting control over someone is not a form of violence.” One in four did not think it was serious if a man slapped his girlfriend when he was drunk. One in six of the children surveyed believed women should know their place, and one in four thought it was normal for men to pressure women into sex. The campaign's ambassador, former AFL player Luke Ablett, said the problem was exacerbated by the number of young people accessing pornography at a young age.
“A lot of the porn that young people are accessing is really violent, is really degrading, it's very much about male dominance,” he said.
“It promotes this idea that if you keep doing it ... the girl that you're with will actually really enjoy it. These attitudes don't exist in just bad kids from bad families in bad neighborhoods. These attitudes exist across all socio-economic divisions, across all races, across all religions.”
If the staggering data alone isn’t convincing enough, here are a few individual examples:
A 12 year-old boy acted out violent sexual assault he had seen in video game Grand Theft Auto by repeatedly raping his six year-old sister.
A 17 year-old boy watched pornography before brutally raping and killing a 14 year-old girl.
A 15 year-old boy who attempted to murder a woman he met online had unsupervised access to extreme pornography from a young age.
One of two teen boys who brutally murdered a 14 year-old girl had 12,000 violent pornographic images on his phone and had also searched for “child porn”, “animal porn”, “dark web”, and “Russian teens”.
A nine year-old girl raped by a 17 year-old boy was a victim of a local trend called “rape game”, in which teen boys forced other children to watch pornography before assaulting them.
A schoolboy addicted to porn raped his girlfriend, then admitted the thought of rape “excited him” and he “did not think it was wrong.”
From Abused to Abuser
That paedophiles groom their victims by exposing them to pornography has been well-documented. Pornography research group Fight the New Drug explains:
“In addition to consuming child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), predators will often share CSAM with their victims to lower inhibition. Crosson-Tower writes: ‘Children who see peers engaging in sex and apparently enjoying it may be more likely to comply with the molester’s demands.’ The predator may even use the medium (CSAM) to invite victims to participate as actors, proceeding to photograph/video sexual encounters with the child to use as blackmail against the victims (an attempt at ensuring secrecy).’”
For example, a study of 14 to 19 year olds in Italy found that girls who consumed pornographic videos were at a significantly greater likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
Multiple countries have reported an explosion in child sexual abuse materials being created and exchanged online since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) found that at least 300,000 people in the UK posed a risk of committing physical or online child abuse in 2020, more than double the 140,000 reported in 2019.
This year, a record number of people contacted child protection charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) with concerns about child sexual abuse, with nearly 5,000 calls made to the charity's helpline in six months.
According to Interpol, 2.4 million cases of online child sexual abuse were reported in India from 2017 to 2020. Of these, 80 per cent were girls under the age of 14. Both the content and consumers of child sexual abuse materials have been increasing rapidly, facilitated by social media and private messaging applications.
Pornography not only grooms children to be abused, it also conditions them to become abusers in adulthood. Michael Sheath, a counselor who has been working with men who abuse children for over three decades, believes a dangerous cultural shift is taking place in the profile of sex offenders, aided by the impact that increasingly extreme pornography is having on developing teenage minds.
According to Sheath, “Mainstream pornography sites are changing the thresholds of what is normal and I think it’s dangerous. Of course most people can watch extreme porn and walk away but I don’t see those people. What we are seeing on a daily basis is the conflation of easy access to hardcore and deviant pornography and an interest in child molestation. The link is unambiguous.”
2013 research revealed that those who intentionally sought pornography at a younger age were significantly more likely to become users of pornography exhibiting the sexual abuse of animals and children.
“Results suggested deviant pornography use followed a Guttman-like progression in that individuals with a younger ‘age of onset’ for adult pornography use were more likely to engage in deviant pornography (bestiality or child) compared to those with a later age of onset.”
The term “kinktok” refers to the vast amount of BDSM-related content uploaded to video-sharing application TikTok.
In 2020, girls took part in a TikTok trend that involved making memes of themselves with bruises and cuts resulting from supposed sexual encounters. The viral trend was inspired by Netflix film 365 Days, which depicts a woman imprisoned by a Mafia boss and was criticized for glorifying sexual violence.
“For young users on TikTok, the graphic scenes in 365 Days are perfect fodder for viral reaction videos and satirical memes about violent sex. The hashtag #365dayschallenge has amassed over 20 million views at the time of writing, while #365days has gained over two billion views on the app to date, with contributions centering around jokes about sex-related injuries and assault.
Some users have shared footage of their friends’ bruises, accompanied by the caption ‘so my friend watched 365 days with her boyfriend.’ Others joke that they’d like to be captured by Massimo, trivializing his catchphrase, ‘Are you lost, baby girl?,’ to which users respond ‘Yes, Daddy!’ One of the film’s most infamous scenes, in which Massimo violently forces Laura into an embrace, has been reenacted in numerous videos, seeing male TikTok users pretend to grab their partners by the throat.”
Less than six months later, a 10 year-old girl in Italy died of asphyxiation after taking part in a TikTok BDSM “choking challenge”.
Following an investigation by the nation’s media and child protection watchdogs, TikTok was made to remove over 500,000 accounts and barred children under the age of 13 from using the app. This age restriction was applied only in Italy and was not implemented as a company-wide policy.
This summer, young women and underage girls on TikTok participated in a trend that involved listing off hardcore sex acts as their self-declared “kinks”. Figures provided by the social media platform reveal that approximately one-third of its users are minors.
Adults on TikTok also post about various “kinks”. One such “kink expert” with over half a million followers shares information about “gender identity” and BDSM. Lisi Maldonado describes abusive behavior, including stalking, “breath play” (choking), and “abrasions fetishism” (cutting).
Evidence of a global health and safety crisis brought on as a direct result of pornography is staggering and continues to accrue with each passing year. Decades of research across nations has shown a correlation between pornography consumption, increased sexual aggressiveness and violence, and shockingly misogynist attitudes towards women. Exposure to pornography has a desensitizing effect that causes the viewer to seek out more extreme content in order to ilicit a thrill.
Yet there is an appalling lack of motivation on the part of tech companies to halt this public health crisis. Sexual violence is being normalized through pornographic content and overwhelmingly it is women and girls who are being hurt, even killed, all for the sake of male entitlement and the profit of companies like Twitter, Reddit, and OnlyFans — all of which host violent pornography without age verifications.
To make matters worse, lawmakers and the media seem entirely in thrall to sadomasochism. Rather than protecting children, there appears to be a cultural explosion in the promotion of pornography and abuse rebranded as “play”.
In January, Teen Vogue published an article by Nona Aronowitz which disturbingly read, “Porn that portrays nonconsensual sex isn’t necessarily misogynist.”
Teen Vogue @TeenVoguePorn can be a great way to explore fantasies, but it does contain some ethical, emotional, and educational landmines that you should dodge whenever possible. Here's what you need to know: https://t.co/NV5yAYMzQl
The adults haven’t left the room. The adults are in the room, handing brutal pornography to children and grooming an entire generation into believing that dangerous and abusive sexual practices are not only harmless, but liberating. It is a disgrace, and it deserves to be roundly condemned and shamed.