chapter  8
Pornography and Sexualization
Pages 25

Concerns about childhood sexualization, early onset of sexual activity, and consequent effects on self-image, social stereotyping, personal health and social risks, particularly among girls, have almost inevitably led to debates about the availability of sexually explicit material. One of the major areas of concern in this field is the availability of sexual content to which children can gain access in which sexual behaviours are graphically described or depicted. This content, generally known as ‘pornography’, is widespread. In the pre-digital era, pornographic materials had restricted access. The most graphic depictions could only be obtained via licensed premises. Other softer forms of pornography might be distributed via generally available media channels or retail outlets, but were still largely hidden from view behind encrypted access routes or on the top shelves of shops. With the emergence and dramatic growth of the internet, however, sexual content has become both more widely available and more easily accessed by all. Pornographic sites represent a small proportion of all the websites accessible on

the internet, but attract a disproportionate flow of online traffic. Sites such as Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube are among the most visited websites.1 Visitors gain free access to hard core pornographic material. There are no controls over access, which means than anyone, including children, can view these sites. Every day, there are millions of hits directed towards pornography online. This means that the internet has come to be classified as a highly sexualized medium.2