Sex and the Law: Age and watching porn.

Before the rise of the internet things were fairly simple when it came to getting your hands on explicit material. You could buy ‘top shelf’ magazines, which contained soft pornographic images of naked ladies showing off their bits. Most people assume that you must be 18 to buy a ‘top-shelf’ magazine; despite what people think there are not any age restrictions on these types of magazines; that being said, however a shopkeeper is firmly within their rites to refuse to serve you if they should wish.  If, however, you wanted anything ‘hard core’, involving images of actual sex, penetration and depictions of hard-ons – then you had to visit a licensed sex shop, for which you have to be over 18 to enter.

Today however, things are not quite so simple. The majority of pornography is viewed online these days – in fact 1 in every 4 searches on Google are for pornography! That’s a lot of porn.

Any adult site must state that you have to be over 18 to enter and view its contents. That’s all well and good, however legally they simply have to have a button on the home page that you click on if you are over 18 – the computer does not ask you for ID. In reality then if you are 14 years old and you have some free time on the family computer there is very little stopping you from accessing hard core pornography for yourself from the comfort of your settee. This is what scares a lot of adults.

Indeed, there are safety settings and restrictions that adults can put on their home computers and on their children’s mobile phones. However as most young people are far more adapt when it comes to new technologies it is not very difficult for a teenager to side step these hurdles; especially as your folks have probably asked you install the safety programme for them as they haven’t got a scoobies as to how to do it for themselves!

The fact that hard-core pornography is so readily available these days, means that it is easy for you to forget that by law it is still illegal for a young person under the age of 18 to watch pornographic material. The trouble is it is common place for many of the young people I speak to, to have clips on their mobile phones that they pass around and show each other as a bit of a laugh – with very few of them realising that they may be committing a criminal offence.

So if you send pornographic film clips or photos to your mates, technically you are distributing pornographic material and could be charged.

NB: from April 2018 the Government will be implementing new age verification systems for all Adult websites, meaning that any adult wishing to view content will have to put in personal details, such as credit card information, which makes many people uncomfortable … at this point few details have been released about how this might look or work. We don’t even know what ‘adult material’ is defined as, let alone how these personal details will be kept or protected.

Home made porn and Camera phones.

One final point when it comes to pornography. Most of you will own your own mobile phone; most of which will be able to take photos and send video footage on too.

As a result we have a whole new means by which to flirt and have sex by, whether it is the ability to have private sexy phone calls, or by sending each other sexts – dirty txt messages or sending each other rude photographs. And here is where the problem arises. Legally if you are taking naked images of yourself and sending them to your boyfriend or girlfriend, even if you are over 16 and legally able to have sex, it is still a crime as in pornography terms you are still classed as a child until you are 18.

Indeed, this is the same if you happen to video yourself having sex too.  You must be 18 years old to start in any pornographic material, even if it is only home made and you are not paid for it. And remember, if you then send it to someone – you are distributing child porn (as you are under 18) too which is an even more serious offence.

Obviously, these laws are set up to prevent paedophile rings across the world from operating in and around the UK and are not there to stop two young people from flirting and being rude together – however technically they do still apply to you.

Perhaps a more important point to make though is one about trust and what happens afterwards. Once you have sent an image via your mobile phone and it arrives – it is up to the person who has received it what they do with that image. You are no longer in control of it anymore.

So, for example you and your partner may be flirting and sending each other dirty pictures of yourselves – you may even send them a naughty video – the question is though do you trust them not to show that footage to anyone else? You may have intended it to be a private thing between the two of you – but how would you feel if they showed it to one of their friends or even if it ended up on the internet?

Now, I’m not suggesting that your partner is untrustworthy – but what happens if you split up? What happens to the footage then? You can’t make them delete it… Or what happens if someone ‘borrows’ or steals their phone? What is to stop them from passing the images a round to all of their mates? To be clear this is completely illegal and covered under new Revenge Porn legislation.

So, whether or not you are bothered or agree with the legal stuff when it comes to naughty videos – on a personal level -it can be scary stuff. A harmless bit of fun, flirting can cause a lot of stress, embarrassment and heartache if it ends up in places we never intended it to. It’s worth thinking about.

To find out more about pornography read this… or how to talk to young people about porn click here

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