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Definition and Current Law

There is no statutory definition of ‘pornography’ in UK legislation. The term ‘pornography’ is a contested concept and is currently interpreted differently by individuals and organisations.

The publication of obscene material is illegal under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, as amended. The coalition Government made a number of changes in the law surrounding the issue of pornography—these included extending “extreme acts”, which are illegal, to include the depiction of rape.


However, there is concern regarding the impact that pornography is having on society, both on children and adults, in particular due to an increase in its availability and accessibility via the internet. With reports that 1 in 5 children aged 12–13 think that watching porn is normal behaviour and that nearly 1 in 10 children aged 12–13 are worried they might be addicted to porn, questions are being asked with regard to how best to effectively protect and educate children.

There are no official statistics collected regarding the number of individuals accessing pornography in the UK or what proportion of pornography users are male and female. Recent surveys and studies suggest, however, that women’s use of pornography has been underreported. Although research into pornography’s impact on society is limited, numerous organisations and individuals are suggesting negative links, including in relation to: attitudes towards women, low self-esteem, and addiction.

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