Regulate, don’t ban porn sites, says reproductive health body

A reproductive health body says it is high time adult sites are better managed and regulated. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Federation of Reproductive Health Associations, Malaysia (FRHAM), has welcomed the country’s “ousting” from a list of countries with the highest daily traffic to Canadian website Pornhub.

Speaking to FMT, FRHAM executive director Syirin Junisya Mohd Ali said it was high time adult sites such as Pornhub, the largest video pornography site on the Internet, were better managed and regulated.

She called for studies to look at why both men and women visited porn sites and a comprehensive local clinical study to determine any psychological, emotional and mental impacts on those watching porn.

“I do believe in regulation rather than having an outright ban, unless of course it leads to harmful consequences such as paedophilia, sex trafficking, porn addiction, and the like,” Syirin said.

In 2017, Pornhub said Malaysian women ranked seventh among women who accessed Pornhub through mobile devices. According to the report, released on March 7, 2017, 84% of Malaysian women and 66% of men browsed Pornhub using a mobile device.

However, Malaysia was missing in this year’s review report by Pornhub Insights, the website’s research and analysis arm, from not only the top 10 countries with the highest traffic on Pornhub but the top 20 as well.

Female Malaysian visitors are now in the 10% to 29% percentile of traffic to Pornhub, with 29% being the worldwide average, its data revealed.

The US continues to lead in this year’s list by a landslide, followed by the UK, India, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, the Philippines, and Mexico trailing behind.

On Malaysia’s challenge in combating porn access and its effects on Malaysian youngsters, Syirin said: “What is played out in porn is disconnected from reality. At times, it reinforces the harmful societal construct of male dominance over women.

“If youngsters are exposed to these harmful concepts without having any prior knowledge about gender and sexuality, it will be reinforced and further perpetuated by the youngsters themselves, thinking what happens in porn is the perceived reality.

“This further strengthens the argument that now more than ever we need to create a safe space to talk about relationships and breaking down the stereotypes that come with it.”

Meanwhile, public health interest group Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy (Galen) said “under the right circumstances” porn could be a learning experience and used to promote good sexual health.

“In the absence of an environment which promotes and ensures good sexual reproductive health education such as what we have in Malaysia, young people will turn to porn to find out how sex works.

“It’s free, easily accessible and often, private. Young Malaysians are under-resourced for dealing with challenges in their sexual lives,” Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib told FMT.

He, however, expressed doubt that the trends had changed despite Malaysia’s ousting from Pornhub’s list of highest traffic countries to its site, saying it was likely that users had learned to change their computer’s Domain Name System (DNS).

On whether porn was healthy or harmful from a health perspective, Azrul said it was not that simple. “Porn is often a complicated and personal topic. There is to date no conclusive study. Porn is a tool, and it can be used positively or negatively.

“I do agree that pornography tends to emphasise on the objectification of women, male dominance and toxic masculinity. But porn today is very diverse, catering to different sexualities and wants.

“However, it is important to note that studies have shown no increase in rape or other deviance related to gender-based violence due to porn viewing. Such connections are often anecdotal, and come with emotive, personal and cultural biases.”

There is also no apparent connection between excessive porn viewing and sex addiction, Azrul pointed out, adding those truly dependent on porn generally were found to be suffering from sexual dysfunction.

“The attachment to pornography being symptomatic of pre-existing issues, needing treatment.”

In 2014, Pornhub statistics showed those from the east coast of Malaysia’s peninsula spent the most time streaming online pornography on their website, with those in Kuala Terengganu spending an average of 12 minutes and 58 seconds looking for visual smut.

Those in Kuala Lumpur came in second, recording 12:29 minutes, followed by internet users in Kota Bahru and Miri who recorded average forays of 12:27 minutes each per visit.

All four Malaysian cities marked higher average Pornhub usage times than Malaysia itself (12:05 minutes), which was one of the highest in Asean, and which Pornhub reportedly cited at the time as due to “looking for the right kind of videos”.

Pornhub vice-president Corey Price that year reportedly said that it was possible that the time periods could have been buffed by certain users watching one specific video for an extended amount of time.