The porn industry must take responsibility for the impact of its work on the developing world
Monday August 31 2009, The Guardian
I used to think porn was tremendously good fun. The adolescent thrill of sneaking a copy of Fiesta home inside the Manchester Evening News. Crowding around a PC at university as a smutty picture revealed itself pixel by pixel. Even the equine VHS shown during my first job at GQ gave everyone a good, if not queasy, lads-mag laugh.
Any anti-porn voices felt like killjoy whines echoing from the outskirts of Greenham Common. By the time I'd left the lads-mag cocoon, porn was almost part of the mainstream furniture. But the proliferation of free and utterly hardcore websites visited by kids in their global droves did spark an interest in investigating the industry.
The moment porn truly stopped being fun came in a remote Ghanaian village - mud huts, barefoot kids, no electricity. The BBC series I was making about the impact of porn had led me via L.A. to Ghana. One of the unforeseen consequences of globalisation is the shocking effect that western porn is having in parts of the developing world.
The village has no electricity, but that doesn't stop a generator from being wheeled in, turning a mud hut into an impromptu porn cinema - and turning some young men into rapists, with villagers relating chilling stories of assaults taking place straight after the film's end. In the nearest city, other young men are buying bootlegs copies of the almost always condom-free L.A.-made porn - copying directly what they see and contracting HIV. The head of the country's Aids commission says porn risks destroying all the achievements they've made. It's a timebomb, he says. (...)