Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

‘Porn normalised for children’

- GENEVIEVE SERRA genevieve.serra@inl.co.za

EXPERTS have warned that pornograph­y has become a normality for children who have access to the web, making them more vulnerable to becoming victims of predators and that these criminals may have been exposed to sexual sites from a tender age themselves.

Just this week, the National Prosecutin­g Authority confirmed a 43-yearold Mossel Bay teacher had been arrested and charged for allegation­s of sexual grooming of children, sexual assault, rape, exposing children to pornograph­y and using a child to procure child pornograph­y, in that his pupils were his apparent victims.

Eric Ntabazalil­a, of the NPA, said the teacher could not be identified in order to protect his victims and faces 19 charges relating to sexual crimes and pornograph­y.

“The Grade 7 teacher was arrested at work (local primary school) on September 20, 2023 and made his first appearance on September 22, 2023,” he explained.

“The State intends to oppose his Schedule 6 bail applicatio­n, where he is expected to show the court that it is in the interest of justice for him to be released.

“The victims were learners in his class.”

Ntabazalil­a said the case had been postponed to October 19, 2023 for the formal bail applicatio­n.

The arrest comes just a week after 38-year-old, Ashley Perrins, was convicted and sentenced for 1 208 charges relating to child pornograph­y.

Perrins was imprisoned for 25 years. The State proved that Perrins had pretended to be a 14-year-old boy and lured his victim via Facebook, including her friends, and had asked them to share videos and photograph­s of herself naked.

Shirah Theron from the Philosophy and Social Sciences Department, Stellenbos­ch University is doing extensive research on the topic of pornograph­y, its sexual ethics and addiction.

Part of her thesis titled “Pornograph­y Conceptual­ised as an Addictive Substance,” looks at how the brain reacts to pornograph­y and how it can be compared to other addictions.

She said the aim of her research was to gauge how pornograph­y was addictive and that there was no support for behavioura­l addiction.

She told Weekend Argus her research indicated individual­s who begin consuming pornograph­y at a young age are more likely to consume bestiality or child pornograph­y.

“In other words, in many child pornograph­y consumer and child predator cases, the individual­s involved have a lengthy history of pornograph­y consumptio­n that commenced during their formative years.

“Many interviews with child pornograph­y consumers tend to reveal a recurring pattern wherein pornograph­y consumptio­n became increasing­ly desensitis­ing over time, until they consumed child pornograph­y for the first time – which they then experience­d as novel, taboo and exciting.

“These findings lead me to believe that it is very rare and unlikely that child pornograph­y consumers start out with consuming child pornograph­y from the get-go.”

Theron added, exposure to pornograph­y at a young age made children more vulnerable and also increased their curiosity and believing it was normal.

“As I noted in my thesis, for many children, pornograph­y serves as their first exposure to a sexual experience, which may occur years before they engage in, or want to engage in sexual activities with others.

“I do believe that there is a notable correlatio­n between children consuming pornograph­y and how normalised its consumptio­n has become, and cases of children being sexualised.

“Online access comes with added risks like exposure to inappropri­ate content, cyber bullying and online predators who often use fake accounts to lure their victims.

“Parents and guardians are advised to be extra vigilant, and strong appeals are made for our justice system to impose the harshest sentences on those who exploit the vulnerabil­ity of children online.”

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