If you were shown CCTV footage of a crime taking place in a shop, do you think you would be able to spot what it was? In other words, would you need any assistance from someone else to be able to spot the criminal or to identify their illegal act?
If the crime was armed robbery, for example, I assume you’d have no difficulty spotting the bad guy. You wouldn’t need anyone to tell you that you can’t bring guns into shops and point them in people’s faces while demanding that they give you cash and valuables for nothing. If the crime was an assault on a member of the staff, I assume you’d be able to spot the exact moment when the assault took place. The reason you would have no difficulty spotting this is because you can tell the difference between physical contact and physical assault. You can easily spot a punch, a slap, a kick, or any other physical act of aggression towards a person and know that it’s against the law.
Now, if you were shown footage of a sexual assault taking place in a bedroom, would you be as confident you could spot the moment the crime took place? Or, to put it another way, can you tell the difference between sexual contact and sexual assault?
Before you answer, I’ll explain why I’m asking. Anyone that watches online pornography will have almost certainly encountered scenes where sexual assaults have taken place. What can make it difficult to spot the specific moments where the crime takes place, however, is that in many cases, the victim of the assault appears to appreciate being assaulted. The role they have agreed to perform is of someone that appreciates or enjoys being the victim of sexual crime. To anyone that has seen this play out several times, it can become tricky to know what’s ok and what’s not. This mixed messaging around acts of criminality in the bedroom in the porn industry can sometimes leave people unsure about what’s appropriate in the real world. In other words, it leaves many people unsure where the line is between sexual contact and sexual assault.
While most people are clear that it’s illegal to be physically aggressive to their partners in bed, and it is a crime to hit, strangle or slap partners during sex without their explicit consent, the influence of online pornography has left many young people confused on this issue. If us adults didn’t step in to inform you that much of the content on porn sites depict crime scenes rather than sex scenes, you would head out into the real world expecting to re-enact this behaviour in your own encounters with real-life partners. Obviously, this would leave you and your partners vulnerable in many different ways.
Remember: porn performers are playing characters that find physical assault to be sexually appropriate, but in the real world – where you live! – sexual assault is a crime.