Family First’s Bob McCoskrie has called for an investigation into the health and social impact of pornography, saying the number of times he has “stumbled across it” show how prevalent it is.
McCoskrie has presented politicians with a petition, signed by more than 22,000 people, calling for an investigation into “the public health effects and societal harms” of pornography.
MPs from National, Labour, the Greens, NZ First and the Maori Party greeted McCoskrie outside Parliament in a rare show of cross-party support.
McCoskrie said people were starting to realise the damaging effects of explicit images, which were more readily available and more extreme than ever before.
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“We believed that smoking wasn’t harmful, then society started to catch up with the science on the harms of smoking – we would argue the same with pornography.”
McCoskrie admitted to having watched porn, saying: “I’ve probably watched more porn because it’s been targeted to me or I’ve stumbled across it, so porn has come looking for me.
“Blood wouldn’t be flowing through my veins if porn wasn’t attractive – the question is, what is best for people?”
Porn was particularly damaging to young people, with concerns about its effect on rape culture and sexual consent, but men were also affected by addiction which damaged their relationships and families.
An expert panel, made up of biologists, neurologists, counsellors and other professionals, could assess the current research on the harm of pornography and look at potential solutions, McCoskrie said.
“It’s actually a societal response, it’s education in schools, it’s in families…but it’s also at a governmental level, in terms of what we expect internet providers to do and laws around protecting vulnerable people.”
One option was an “opt-in” system to block internet pornography by default, as was the case in the UK.
However, he claimed he was not advocating for censorship.
“We’ve acknowledged there’s an obesity epidemic and we’re not against food, but we do need to acknowledge when something becomes harmful.”
‘LAW HASN’T KEPT UP WITH TECH’
Labour MP Su’a William Sio, who accepted the petition, said the number of signatures obtained by Family First reflected community concerns about the links between pornography and sexual violence and the need for action.
“If we’re going to tackle sexual violence meaningfully and address it with the aim of eliminating it, we do need to have the evidence before us.
“My other concern as a father is that it’s so readily available now, more so now than at any other time.”
National MP Chester Borrows said he was unsure whether the Government backed an inquiry, but members of parties across Parliament were concerned about the possible damaging effects of pornography.
“We’re not talking about a couple of well-read Playboys tucked under the kids’ bed now, we’re talking about people able to look at pornography, animated, on their own personal telephones or computers which can’t be monitored…
“We have to acknowledge the law and practice hasn’t kept up with where technology has taken us in this space.”
Justice Minister Amy Adams, who had not seen the petition, said she had not been briefed previously on any “clear evidential link” between porn and violence towards women.
However, she was aware of some “fairly repugnant” pornography which was of concern, and was happy to consider the petition.
“Of course we’re concerned when we see images that are very dehumanising or degrading towards women, but equally there are very strong free speech concerns around the area as well, so it’s a complicated issue.”