Porn: What's the Harm?


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Porn: What's the Harm?

Jameela Jamil explores whether children are being exposed to more pornography than ever before and the impact that might have.


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This programme contains some scenes of a sexual nature.

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Pornography is everywhere

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and with smartphones and tablets making it easier than ever to get hold of,

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there are fears that each generation is seeing porn earlier than the one before.

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So what's the impact of seeing so much pornography so young?

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To find out, we've carried out the biggest survey of its kind ever done in the UK.

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Over 1,000 people aged between 16 and 21 took part,

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answering questions on everything to do with porn.

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How old they were when they first saw it, how often they watch it now

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and how they think it affects what men and women expect from sex.

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Their answers were sent anonymously to a market research company.

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And then we got two of the country's leading experts on pornography and sexualisation

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to help us analyse the results.

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It was an opportunity to really go to a large number of young people

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in the UK, where there hasn't been a lot of research in the past,

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and really get them to tell us what they thought, what they felt.

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I also talked to young people across the country to get their views.

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It boosts confidence of men a lot more and makes them think,

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"Well, you know, it looks quite easy. I could do that."

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My brother, he's 13, and I wouldn't like the idea at all of him

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looking at porn and sexual things like that

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because I don't think it's real life.

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It's all an act and it's not really, sort of, sex.

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I think the first time people see porn they're probably around 12 or 13,

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like going into the first and second years of high school.

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Obviously secondary school is a big influence on the kids.

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Older kids around the younger kids have a big influence on what they see and stuff.

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I think the age where you start high school, 11 or 12,

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because you hang around with different people,

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they're doing different things and they might have watched porn

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and that's made you want to watch it.

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Our survey asked young people why they look for porn.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, the most common reason given was that

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men and women use it for sexual stimulation.

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However, around 10% of the 1,000 young people said

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that while men look at porn for sexual pleasure,

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young women do it in order to learn about sex.

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As one young woman put it, women for education, men for arousal.

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And that worries me because if porn is being used as sex education,

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how much of it is a true reflection of what sex is really like?

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I talked to young people from a school in south London

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where they discuss pornography in workshops about sex and relationships.

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When young people watch pornography,

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do you think young people feel pressured?

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The girls watching it might think they need to act like that

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-and the same for the boys.

-How do girls act in porn?

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-Like they're liking it.

-They put it on a little bit, I think.

-A little bit?

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Quite a lot, I think.

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Do you think it means that young people have different expectations of what sex is going to be like?

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Yeah, because I think young people will see it and think they can treat a woman that way

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and it's not right to treat a woman that way.

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Porn videos last long, innit?

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If you have sex for the first time, you're not going to last 25 minutes, are you?

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-No.

-More like ten. Maybe.

-Seconds!

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THEY LAUGH

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Our nationwide survey also showed that when young people see porn online,

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they haven't always deliberately sought it out.

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Of the hundreds of young people who took part,

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only 22% were looking for it on purpose the first time they saw porn online.

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The rest saw it accidentally or were shown it by someone else.

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And in their day-to-day lives, young people continue to be

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bombarded with these pornographic images.

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Nearly a quarter said they see porn online

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when they don't expect to at least once a week.

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Some of the most commonly reported ways

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were when they were searching for something else online. Someone said,

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"I click on a game or a website that says it's something else, but then it's porn."

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So there's no escaping it.

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I was on a laptop and it was a pop-up.

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I thought I'd follow the link to see where it would take me

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and it took me to a site where you could watch free pornography.

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It makes you feel a bit embarrassed

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because I don't want to look at stuff like that.

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To other people it will be as if they have to click on it

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because it's come up on their Facebook and stuff

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so they want to check out what it is

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but to me it makes me feel a bit awkward because I don't really want to.

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Politicians and parents often worry about the effect

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that viewing pornography might have on young people.

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In our survey of 1,000 16 to 21-year-olds,

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we discovered there's a big difference in the views

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and experiences of young men and young women.

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There are clear gender differences in how young people first see pornography,

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how they feel when they first see it,

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why they look for it, how often they look for it,

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and how it effects what they expect from sex.

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In our survey, 30% of the boys said the first time they saw porn online,

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they'd looked for it on purpose, compared to just 12% of girls.

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And nearly 20% of the girls told us

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they had never seen porn online compared to 4% of the boys.

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And those differences between girls and boys persist.

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So a quarter of young men say they go looking for porn

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all the time, so every couple of days.

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A quarter of young men say they look for porn some of the time, so at least once a week.

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And 50% of women say they never go looking for online pornography.

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It seems one reason for that could be

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that young women don't like what they see in porn.

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In our survey, 229 of our 1,000 young people

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told us there is nothing good about porn.

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Almost three quarters of them were women.

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Why do you think girls watch pornography?

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Do you think it's the same reason as why boys do?

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-It's hard to see girls watching porn, man.

-How come?

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Normally stereotypically you associate porn with boys.

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I've watched porn with a girl and it just made it awkward.

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-She didn't want to talk about it or nothing.

-Really?

-Yeah.

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-Do you think it's good for girls to watch porn or not good?

-No.

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-Why not?

-Most girls find it disgusting. Like, "Ugh, porn, man."

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I'm not saying it's bad to watch it if you're a girl anyway, but I don't know anyone that does.

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I don't want to sound sexist

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but I think it's more of a boy thing than a girl thing.

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I think boys would watch it more than girls

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because girls often think it's kind of gross and boys...

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I don't know.

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They just enjoy it more, I guess.

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One of the most worrying results from our survey was when we asked the question

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do you think pornography affects what young people expect from sex?

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Nearly 75% said young men's expectations of sex are affected by porn,

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while 53% said young women's expectations of sex are affected.

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We then went on to ask those who took part to tell us how.

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The most common answer that we got back was that young men

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expect women to behave like sex objects

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and young women expect to be treated like sex objects.

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So we have this wealth of quotes from young people.

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I picked out a few that I thought were quite poignant.

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A 19-year-old young woman said,

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"Because I think porn is so easily obtainable and the fact that more boys than girls watch it,

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"that men expect girls to be like the women in porn."

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Which I can see is completely true.

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A 17-year-old boy said guys would expect the chance for rougher sex

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or for a girl to be very flexible etc.

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A 16-year-old girl said, "Boys think all girls will behave like the girls in porn

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"and that quite a lot of the extreme stuff is totally normal.

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Do you young ladies feel like there's a pressure among girls

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to maybe behave like the porn starlets?

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If we started behaving like a porn star we'd get called slut.

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But if the boys do it...

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-It's true!

-It is true.

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When girls go around having sex with boys,

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the boys call her a slag but when a boy...

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It's like an achievement.

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-They'll be like...

-It's just boys. But with a girl it's not good.

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-Do you think that promotes young people using that language about women?

-Yeah, it does.

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-Do you agree with it?

-Depends what they've done, innit?

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If you just hear about a girl sleeping with loads of boys,

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you're not going to be attracted to her, are you?

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I think some boys, the way they speak about girls sometimes,

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they forget that when they're older, would they want boys to speak about their daughter like that?

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That's true. I started to think about that recently as well.

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Would I like it if another boy was talking about my sister like that or doing things with my sister?

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It's hard to gauge what harm is done when people watch pornography at a young age.

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But many experts believe that pornography can play a role in abuse and violent crime.

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We do know from the work we deal with at Rape Crisis

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that a lot of women who have survived sexual violence,

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whether that be rape or childhood sexual abuse,

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that pornography has been used as part of that abuse.

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Pornography helps to create this normalisation around violence against women and girls

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and creating attitudes which support violence against women and girls and that's what we hear a lot of.

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In a recent major European survey, one in three women

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said they had experienced some sort of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15.

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Many experts believe that porn helps to shape the attitudes of men who carry out this kind of abuse.

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Sally is in her early 20s.

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She says she was raped by someone she thought was a friend.

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She was drunk at the time and was slipping in and out of consciousness.

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She's convinced pornography played a part in the attack.

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I actually came across a blog that they had

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and it was mostly made up of pornographic images

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and that made it quite clear to me how his mind worked

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and the opinion that he had of women,

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that they just existed to be used in porn.

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It just made me realise that for certain people that do these things,

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it's just so ingrained in their mind that that's OK.

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-You mean rape?

-Yes.

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Sally didn't report the rape to the police

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because she didn't think she'd be believed

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but she did support seek support from Rape Crisis.

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What nature of pornography was on his blog?

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It was mostly soft porn

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but there were other images that were quite graphic

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and a lot of them revolved around women being used and being abused.

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Women having no control over what was going on.

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So do you think that had an influence on what he did to you?

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Yeah, because I feel as though seeing that made it clear to me

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that was what he was interested in

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and he thought that that was completely normal

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and for him to just think that I was an object that he could use

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seemed so similar to the images that I saw.

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In our nationwide survey of 1,000 young people aged 16 to 21,

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we asked how porn affects what young men expect from sex.

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One of the top three most common responses

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was that boys expect girls' bodies to look like they do in pornography

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with no pubic hair and with large breasts.

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An 18-year-old boy said that they want skinny women with big boobs.

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A 16-year-old boy said that boys expect girls to have

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a perfect shaved vagina like porn stars.

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That's quite a lot of pressure for young women.

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We want you to be able to make informed decisions so that you're safe.

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That's something that Leila from the Limes College in South London knows only too well.

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A lot of the students that come here have got low self-esteem,

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especially about their body image.

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They watch pornography and they see women with breast implants,

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women that are very slim, women with hair extensions, women with fake tan.

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A lot of our girls here, for example, will go on diets,

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they'll go on sunbeds, they'll lose weight very quickly

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because they think it's a way of gaining attention

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and they think it's a way of making themselves feel good.

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There are often reports in the media linking porn to a dramatic increase

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in the number of women asking for labiaplasties,

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which is a cosmetic procedure where the inner labia or vaginal lips are reduced.

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And what's worse, gynaecologists like Dr Gail Busby

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say more and more young girls are now requesting this procedure.

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If a girl comes into my clinic requesting this,

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I have a very long consultation with her and explain that she's still

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developing and I explain the range of normal, that's the other thing. And that what she's seen,

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if she says she's seen it in a television programme or in the media,

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it is not necessarily an accurate representation of the vast population.

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So we strongly believe, myself and my colleagues,

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that education is the answer from a fairly young age

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to prevent girls from developing this concept that they are abnormal

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when in fact they are absolutely normal.

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We've invited a group of teenage girls to take part in a workshop with Dr Busby.

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-Do we know what the correct name for your down-below bits is?

-Vagina.

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Vagina? Anyone else?

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The vagina is actually the bit that's inside that you can't see.

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The bit on the outside that you can see is called the vulva.

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Dr Busby is going to use a sculpture called 57 Women

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from the Great Wall Of Vagina series by artist Jamie McCartney.

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He made plaster casts to show the wide range of normal vaginas or vulvas.

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Although they look very different, they are all normal

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and none of them need surgery.

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So these are all actual vulvas from actual women.

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Although dozens of girls under 18 ask Dr Busby for labiaplasty

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because they think they are abnormal, none of them has needed surgery.

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-Is it really common?

-Yes, it's common and getting more common.

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It's definitely noticeable and getting younger and younger as well.

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Really? So what's the youngest age that you would have a girl

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worrying about the size and shape and wanting to alter it?

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The youngest, somewhere between 12 and 14.

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In my clinics I see many girls your age who come along

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asking me to operate and remove bits of their vulvas.

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And do you think that would be a good idea in a 15 or 16-year-old? No?

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Why do you not think it would be a good idea?

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-It could change by the time they grow up.

-That's exactly it.

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That growth and development keeps going on until adulthood,

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so if they had an operation when they were 16,

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it may grow again and they'd need another or another.

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These women don't need surgery because there's nothing wrong with them.

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Sending a naked or semi-naked photograph of yourself to someone

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you are in a relationship with, might seem like an OK thing to do.

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The trouble starts

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when explicit photographs or videos taken on phones are passed around

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or posted on a social media website

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like Facebook or Twitter.

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-Hi.

-Hi.

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These students are ambassadors for a project in Manchester

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which aims to warn schoolchildren about the dangers of sexting.

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People are becoming more used to seeing, like,

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indecent images of people.

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They therefore think its OK for them

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to take a half-naked photo of themself.

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And boys are getting a high expectation of women

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and what they think they should be doing, what they should look like,

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then asking for that off girls.

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Then girls feel like they need to live up to this standard.

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Then that's when, they maybe start sending things round.

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Obviously, since the emergence of Snapchat, things have become a LOT worse.

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Because people send them and think it's like only for a couple of seconds,

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but then you can screen-shot it,

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you can replay it, and then it just reappears.

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People will save it, send it, Facebook, Twitter...

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Like, before the end of the night if you send it, say, at 7pm -

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8pm it could be everywhere.

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In cases we know in two days it's travelled from,

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like, another part of the country into our area and...

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like, we've seen these images and we're, like,

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"Oh, we used to know them. We knew them."

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Oh, my word!

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Why do you think no-one talks about this at school?

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Adults sometimes try to ignore it a little bit.

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Thinking it doesn't really happen.

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Especially teachers who work in schools -

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I mean, they're not stupid, they see that sort of thing going on every day.

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Bullying between people...

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But, I just think, because it's a quite sensitive issue,

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and it's quite a new issue, as well, they just kind of try to ignore it.

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Nationally, there's been very little research into

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how many young people are sending and receiving sexual images.

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But in Manchester,

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the advice service Brooke and the Healthy Schools team,

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questioned 500 children about sexting.

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We found that about 66% of young people researched

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had received an image,

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and 22% had sent an image.

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And 45% of young people researched,

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knew someone who'd been bullied as a result of it.

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Which is the worrying thing.

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So, it's not everybody who's doing it,

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there are a number of young people who ARE doing it,

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but it seems among those who do do it,

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it can get out of hand quite quickly.

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How bad does the attention get, and your experience?

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We've had young people who've had suicidal thoughts, self-harm,

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bullying, had to move schools...

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The whole spectrum, really.

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Sophia is a 20-year-old student from Blackpool.

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When she was 14, a boy she was seeing persuaded her

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to text him a naked photo of herself.

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We were texting and got a bit rude and I reciprocated,

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and then he asked me for, basically, a naked image of myself.

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And you're 14 years old - what was your reaction?

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Well, initially I was quite reluctant to send anything.

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I played it quite coy. "Oh, no, I don't want to do that!"

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I was quite shy with it, but because he was so consistent with asking,

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I eventually gave in.

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So what did he do with the image?

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He showed his friends, first,

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and they said, "Oh, will you send me that image?"

0:20:300:20:32

And he was, like, "Yeah, sure, why not?"

0:20:320:20:34

And then what happened?

0:20:340:20:36

They sent it onto their friends, and so forth and so forth...

0:20:360:20:39

I sent it him on the weekend,

0:20:390:20:40

and then I'd say by Wednesday,

0:20:400:20:42

all the local schools had it.

0:20:420:20:44

How did you feel? I mean, everybody has got a picture of you naked.

0:20:440:20:48

You're 14 years old.

0:20:480:20:49

I felt completely stripped of my value.

0:20:490:20:51

I felt like I was completely accessible.

0:20:510:20:53

It's like they... It's like...

0:20:530:20:55

It felt as though people were having intimate relationships with me,

0:20:550:20:59

that I wasn't even engaged with.

0:20:590:21:01

Because they'd seen me in that light.

0:21:010:21:03

Were people mean, at all? Were they cruel?

0:21:030:21:05

-Girls were mean. Girls were awful.

-What happened?

0:21:050:21:09

In the street, they'd be like, "Oh, that's so-and-so,

0:21:090:21:11

"that Sophia girl - she sent that naked picture."

0:21:110:21:14

They'd call me a slag, they'd call me a slut, camera-whore...

0:21:140:21:18

How did it play out?

0:21:180:21:19

I'd say for a good year-and-a-half,

0:21:190:21:21

people still associated me with the girl that did that at that school.

0:21:210:21:26

-A year-and-a-half?!

-Yeah. Yeah.

0:21:260:21:28

-That's insane!

-Yeah. No, they did.

0:21:280:21:31

Why do you think young girls still do it?

0:21:310:21:33

To be desired is to feel empowered.

0:21:330:21:36

I think that's what I felt when I was younger.

0:21:360:21:38

I thought, "This person wants me, therefore I'm sending out this image,

0:21:380:21:41

"therefore I am empowered as a female because I am desired."

0:21:410:21:45

When, in fact, it is weakening your image.

0:21:450:21:47

As soon as something becomes accessible, it loses value.

0:21:470:21:50

If everyone's got it, nobody wants it any more.

0:21:500:21:52

And you feel somewhat worthless.

0:21:520:21:55

But being talked about and bullied is not necessarily the worst thing

0:21:560:21:59

that can happen if someone under 18

0:21:590:22:01

sends or posts an explicit image of themselves.

0:22:010:22:04

For starters, they could be arrested and charged.

0:22:040:22:07

Because what they're doing is classed as

0:22:100:22:12

generating and distributing a child-abuse image.

0:22:120:22:14

And anyone else who resends or reposts that image,

0:22:140:22:17

could also be prosecuted.

0:22:170:22:19

So what kind of trouble can you get in for posting a picture

0:22:200:22:24

of someone under 18 naked?

0:22:240:22:26

You could be put on the sex-offender register.

0:22:260:22:28

-What is that?

-It's, like, for paedophiles, and people like that.

0:22:280:22:32

And it stays with you for your whole life

0:22:320:22:34

and can hinder you getting a job.

0:22:340:22:36

You can never work with children your entire life.

0:22:360:22:39

Studies have found that young people across the UK

0:22:390:22:42

are unaware of the legal implications of sexting.

0:22:420:22:45

But police in Devon, along with other forces in England,

0:22:450:22:49

are going into schools to try and change that

0:22:490:22:51

by showing a video and discussing the risks.

0:22:510:22:53

"I wanted to show how much I liked him."

0:22:550:22:58

"I wanted to do it."

0:22:580:23:00

# Why don't you take a picture of me...? #

0:23:000:23:04

Thinking about that film,

0:23:080:23:11

do you think any laws were broken in the film?

0:23:110:23:13

I think that she broke the law by sending them,

0:23:130:23:16

her boyfriend broke the law by keeping them and sending them on,

0:23:160:23:19

and then everyone kind of broke the law

0:23:190:23:21

by looking at them and keeping them on their phones and...

0:23:210:23:24

sending them around, and setting up a page and stuff.

0:23:240:23:27

OK.

0:23:270:23:29

'We've certainly found that since completing the presentations

0:23:290:23:31

'in a number of schools now,

0:23:310:23:33

'it is clear that young people have, unfortunately,

0:23:330:23:36

'fallen foul of having sent an image to another.

0:23:360:23:39

So, we're certainly seeing an increase.

0:23:390:23:42

It does appear to be almost perceived as

0:23:420:23:44

a normal part of a relationship,

0:23:440:23:47

so unfortunately, it does appear to be quite an up-and-coming issue

0:23:470:23:50

that we're facing now.

0:23:500:23:52

I'm not going to tell you not to share information online,

0:23:520:23:55

because that's your choice to do that. The most important...

0:23:550:23:58

The police will normally take a softer line the first time

0:23:580:24:01

a young person is caught sexting

0:24:010:24:03

or posting sexual images of themselves or another under 18.

0:24:030:24:06

The way that we would deal with that situation,

0:24:090:24:11

is to speak to the young person and almost treat them as a victim,

0:24:110:24:15

because actually they have made a mistake -

0:24:150:24:17

they didn't appreciate the consequences.

0:24:170:24:19

However, if people then repeat the same behaviour,

0:24:190:24:23

and clearly haven't listened to the advice they've been given,

0:24:230:24:27

we will look at treating them a different way.

0:24:270:24:30

'I'm not going back there.

0:24:300:24:32

'It's not going to stop.'

0:24:320:24:34

End of the day, you're responsible for what you post online,

0:24:340:24:37

and what you comment on online,

0:24:370:24:39

and that's what young people need to start exploring about.

0:24:390:24:41

How are they going to respond appropriately to that.

0:24:410:24:44

Any sexual image of someone under 18,

0:24:560:24:58

counts as a child sexual abuse image -

0:24:580:25:01

even if the person shown took the photograph or video themselves,

0:25:010:25:04

and posted it on their own social networking page.

0:25:040:25:08

Not only could the police be involved,

0:25:100:25:12

but once that image is on the internet,

0:25:120:25:14

it can be taken and used in a way

0:25:140:25:16

that whoever posted it would never even think of.

0:25:160:25:19

This is the headquarters of the internet Watch Foundation, or IWF.

0:25:240:25:28

It's their job to identify and remove child sexual abuse images

0:25:290:25:32

from the internet.

0:25:320:25:34

Last year, their hotline received

0:25:340:25:37

50,000 calls and e-mails

0:25:370:25:40

tipping them off about child abuse images on the net.

0:25:400:25:43

And analysts here are finding that more and more of those images

0:25:430:25:46

are photographs and videos originally posted by young people

0:25:460:25:50

on social networking sites.

0:25:500:25:52

We've certainly seen a big rise

0:25:520:25:54

in the last few years in the amount

0:25:540:25:55

of self-generated content featuring young people.

0:25:550:25:57

This would be an example of an adult website

0:25:570:26:00

which accepts user-generated content.

0:26:000:26:02

The reason everything is so pixilated, right now,

0:26:020:26:05

is because we would be committing an offence

0:26:050:26:08

-by looking at these images...

-That's right.

-..and downloading them.

0:26:080:26:12

These are images that have been taken from a Facebook profile,

0:26:120:26:15

and you can see, it says here,

0:26:150:26:17

"This is dedicated to self-shot amateur teams."

0:26:170:26:20

Again another adult website with collections specifically of young teens.

0:26:200:26:24

Several descriptions of the type of content you can expect to see there.

0:26:240:26:28

So, anyone can go onto Facebook or Twitter

0:26:280:26:30

and let's say someone doesn't have a protected account,

0:26:300:26:33

they can just take that picture off and then they can put it anywhere.

0:26:330:26:36

So where is the worst place that these photos can end up?

0:26:360:26:39

We have seen, over the last couple of years,

0:26:390:26:42

this content is starting to migrate onto

0:26:420:26:45

the traditional commercial child sexual abuse sites, which are...

0:26:450:26:48

-So they can be sold, the images?

-..run by criminals.

0:26:480:26:50

And this content is now being sold commercially.

0:26:500:26:52

This is a sanitised screen shot of an extremely prolific

0:26:520:26:56

commercial child sex distribution website.

0:26:560:26:59

It claims to have 723 webcam captures available for purchase.

0:26:590:27:04

The youngest victim is between the age of three and six.

0:27:040:27:08

The three-to-six year old would not have generated that themselves?

0:27:080:27:12

Well, not generated by them,

0:27:120:27:14

but there are other individuals in the room,

0:27:140:27:17

who were assessed as being slightly older.

0:27:170:27:20

Other children being involved...

0:27:200:27:22

-They were all...

-..performing sex acts.

-They were all children.

0:27:220:27:24

I didn't expect to learn quite so much today.

0:27:330:27:37

I knew what they did was so incredibly important,

0:27:370:27:40

I knew it was very serious,

0:27:400:27:41

but I don't think I realised how accessible

0:27:410:27:44

such explicit material is.

0:27:440:27:46

Also, I found it quite staggering

0:27:460:27:48

to realise the consequence of something so simple as a sext.

0:27:480:27:51

And realise how fast the process is.

0:27:510:27:54

That it can literally just take over your life.

0:27:540:27:56

If you are under 18, and an indecent photograph

0:27:560:27:59

or video of you has been posted on the internet,

0:27:590:28:02

the IWF can work with the police

0:28:020:28:03

and international agencies to take it down.

0:28:030:28:07

You should contact ChildLine,

0:28:070:28:09

who would help you provide the information that the IWF needs.

0:28:090:28:13

If you could give a message right now to a young teenager who,

0:28:200:28:23

watching this right now, is about press send,

0:28:230:28:25

on a picture of their private parts,

0:28:250:28:27

what would you say?

0:28:270:28:29

-Don't.

-Don't.

-Don't be crazy.

0:28:290:28:30

-Would you still send it, if your mum could see it?

-Yeah!

0:28:300:28:33

THEY LAUGH

0:28:330:28:36

Really strong. Really strong.

0:28:360:28:38

Thank you so much.

0:28:380:28:39

Jameela Jamil explores whether children are being exposed to more pornography than ever before and the impact that might have.