A call for Parliament to study the health impacts of viewing violent pornographic material.
Arnold introduced M-47 on March 8, 2016, on International Women’s Day. Motion M-47 stated:
That the Standing Committee on Health be instructed to examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men, recognizing and respecting the provincial and territorial jurisdictions in this regard, and that the said Committee report its findings to the House no later than July 2017.
Why was M-47 needed?
Adult sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, with Pornhub alone receiving 21.2 billion visits in 2015.
- Average age of first exposure of sexually explicit material among boys is 12 years of age.
- Child and adolescent exposure to violent sexually explicit material is a form of child abuse.
- Sexually explicit material has become a primary source of information about sex and a significant factor influencing sexual behaviors for children and adolescents.
- Alarmingly, sexually explicit material can be violent, aggressive, and exploitative.
- Almost 90% of mainstream sexually explicit content features violence towards women.
- 40 years of academic research has revealed that exposure to violent sexually explicit material is harmful to physical and mental health of individuals, especially adolescents.
- Parliament had not studied the impact of sexually explicit material since 1985 – before the Internet was invented.
- Considering the accessibility of sexually explicit material on the internet, as well as the increasing violence found in it, M-47 proposed a parliamentary study of how the viewing of violent pornography impacts viewers.
Easily accessible violent and degrading sexually explicit material is both a public health issue and a women’s equality issue.
We had widespread support.
- MPs from all five parties had endorsed M-47.
- Over 50 NGOs supported M-47.
- Over 7000 Canadians signed a petition to support M-47.
The Health Committee’s Report
On June 9, 2017, the Standing Committee on Health tabled its final report based on M-47.
Unfortunately, the Health Committee’s report largely ignored evidence given by witnesses that revealed how violent pornography:
- contributes to rape culture,
- objectifies women,
- has a major negative impact on sexual norms for youth,
- is used to groom children for sexual abuse, and
- causes peer-to-peer sexual abuse among youth.
The report will do little to protect youth from exposure to violent pornography. You can read the Health Committee’s full report here.
The Conservative Party of Canada submitted a dissenting report that highlights the evidence that the main report ignores and makes stronger recommendations.
Even still, we saw the tabling of M-47 as an incredible success.
M-47 started a conversation about the issue of online sexual exploitation in Canada’s Parliament.
Throughout the journey of tabling M-47, we had gained more support than ever to undertake what I saw as three concrete steps in protecting children online:
- Public Health Awareness Campaign
- Develop Better Tools for Parents
- Legislate Meaningful Age Verification