12 Sep 2018

Pornography is most commonly defined as any material (both images and written) that has explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, which is meant to cause sexual excitement.

The problem with defining pornography is obvious and often the cause of debate: what about material that has explicit content but isn't meant to sexually excite a person? What about material that intends to do so, but only has subtle descriptions of sexual activity? These are good questions, and there are no fixed answers. Although this definitely includes graphic online sites and stories, it could also include music videos and other media – since they intend to do the same.

It is best to err on the side of caution – if you think it might be pornography, it probably is.

Is pornography illegal in Singapore?

It is illegal to keep, distribute or sell pornographic materials, under the Undesirable Publications Act, as well as section 292 of the Penal Code. It is also illegal to keep, distribute or sell pornographic films under sections 29 and 30 of the Films Act. That means that even if you view pornography, it is illegal to download or share this material.

In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) maintains a symbolic blacklist of more than 100 websites, mainly pornographic, that represents where the country has concerns over the type of content people view.

What are the consequences of looking at pornography?

Research on the consequences of young people looking at pornography is quite consistent. This is because of the nature of most pornography:

  • Pornography is performed: it has actors, directors, producers, and even make-up and lighting crews
  • Porn stars don’t look like real people: people are edited or photoshopped before they make it to your screen, and lots of actors have also had cosmetic surgery or other enhancements
  • Porn sex is not real sex: the depictions of sex in pornography are often not realistic or authentic – in the real world, people have way more complex needs, and their language and attitudes are not going to be the same as in pornography
  • Women in porn often don’t want to be there: a lot of pornography shows women who have little or no power to be in that situation and/or as victims of violence
  • People have more feelings than they do in porn: in real life, respectful and consenting sexual partners often communicate to get consent before engaging in any sex, and also throughout the act – porn often excludes all other aspects of intimacy, like talking, kissing, cuddling, and checking to see if the other person likes what is happening

The main consequences of looking at pornography are:

  • Distorts your views on sexuality
  • Desensitises you towards women
  • Increases your risk of developing a negative body image
  • Increases your risk of developing unhealthy romantic relationships
  • Increases your risk of developing sexually compulsive behaviour (including an addiction to pornography)

My friends keep showing me this stuff even though I don’t want to see it. What should I do?

  • Keep it up: the fact that you realise how inappropriate and harmful this content is a good sign – so even if it is hard, don’t fall for peer pressure and start viewing it too
  • Talk to your friends: this might be difficult (especially for boys) but it is important that you draw your boundaries and let your friends know that you don’t want to see this content, then explain why – maybe you don’t like the way they treat women or how fake everything is. Ask them to imagine if it was someone they knew in that situation, wouldn’t that be weird?
  • Tell them your parents will find out: if your friends are sending you content and don’t respect your wishes, then tell them that your parents check your phone often – this should keep them from sending you anything
  • Tell someone you trust: if it continues, tell someone like the school counsellor or even your parents – they might be able to have a word with your friend’s parents to stop the problem