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Georgia L. Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.

During recent weeks, London’s public transport system has been installed with the latest anti-sexual harassment strategy devised by the British Transport Police: some rather expensive posters.

The snazzy, colourful designs urge passengers to report any incidents of harassment, including “staring of a sexual nature” to the BTP, or dial 999 in an emergency situation, of which “staring” is now apparently included.

Don’t misunderstand me. London buses and tubes can be deeply uncomfortable places, where the behaviour of one passenger can sometimes cause chaos. Yet criminalising “stares” and simply reaffirming that sexual harassment is illegal – despite virtually every person who is willing to participate in it already being aware of this – we ignore the pervasive poison at the heart of the crisis which the Government has willingly left children exposed to: pornography.

It is almost as if institutions such as Transport for London and the BTP, not to mention the legislators and wider policy sphere which guides their behaviour, are more than happy to virtue signal, while allowing this status quo to rumble on toward disaster – terrified that any criticism of the porn industry will ostracise them as prudish wannabe-inquisitors or finance-driven fiends jealous of someone’s OnlyFans millions.

Porn exists on a sliding scale from moderate to extreme depictions of abuse. Never before has technology permitted such graphic and widespread normalisation of detailed sexual imagery as a form of ‘entertainment’, nor can this continue to be the state of affairs if we intend to remain a civilised society.

The disgraced ex-police officer who kidnapped, raped, and murdered Sarah Everard was found to have viewed “brutal pornography” in the years leading up to these crimes, it has emerged. This is yet another example that ‘extreme’ porn is not a ‘cure’ for those with violent sexual urges, but something that feeds their appetite and encourages them to act out their toxic fantasies in reality.

An Ofsted report released earlier this year detailed the disturbing levels of sexual harassment that far too many girls and boys experience in their day to day lives. While of course most of these incidents do not amount to violence, they appear to be part and parcel of increasingly pornography-obsessed adolescence, with a 2018 US survey reporting the average age of first viewing pornography as 11.

It is evident that repetitive watching of that content only further intensifies fantasies, and becomes unsatisfying to those predisposed to desire this level of violence and hypersexualisation. So why are children allowed to so easily access it?

Six years on, and the Conservatives have still failed to honour their 2015 manifesto pledge to introduce this policy – complaining in 2019 that it did not go far enough, since pornography can be accessed via other means. The new Online Safety Bill goes to great lengths to crack down on anonymous Twitter accounts. But it omits any mention of its previous commitments with regard to child safeguarding, despite cross-party recommendations that it to do so.

There will always be a minority of people who seek to abuse their fellow citizens, male-female or otherwise. But it is a mistake to normalise a practice now rife in the lives of children and fail to make any real steps toward stopping it – as a coalition of children’s charities is urging the Government to do by introducing age verification to access pornography websites.

Nor is this a matter over which the market can be trusted to regulate itself. These sites are not just sources by which children can be damaged by their distorted portrayal of adult relationships.

For they consistently fail to crack down on illegal child abuse content on their platforms. An investigation into Pornhub by the Sunday Times concluded that “dozens” of illegal child abuse videos, including abuse images of children as young as three could be found “within minutes” online, many of which “had 350,000 views and had been on the platform for more than three years.”

It is no surprise therefore that Pornhub, the most visited porn site on the planet, has even admitted to verifying a trafficked 15-year-old girl who was sexually abused in 58 videos on its platform, and yet kept up the illegal videos. Like most such pornography sites, it has no robust system in place to verify that its published encounters are consensual and legal: meanwhile, it rakes in money from its 42 billion annual vistors.

Of course, the primary responsibility for children lies with their parents or carers. Yet since this Government seems more than happy to invade almost every aspect of our social and economic lives, perhaps it should use its expanded remit for something useful?

Many parents are befuddled by the fast-moving technology of today’s world, and are unaware of how to protect their children online, or simply refuse to believe that their children would view such material. Others are simply not too fussed, seeing regular viewing pornography as a rite of passage for the young.

As Louise Perry as pointed out in the New Statesman, how can we expect measures such as consent workshops to mend young people’s approach to relationships when they are competing with the “vast dopamine feedback loop” offered by online porn?

When it comes to normalising sexual violence and re-defining sex as a commodity to be bought and sold, we have a long way to go to shift the culture. But there is zero hope of doing so if we continue to allow the next generation of parents and policy-makers to be sacrificed at the altar of pornography profiteers.

While I fully support the move of children’s charities to threaten the UK’s data watchdog with a high court challenge if it fails to impose age verification on porn sites, the reality is that the Government itself is to blame for refusing to enact its previous promises. With an 80 seat majority, there is no excuse for the Conservatives to allow this arrangement to continue – but they seemingly plan to.