The anti-pornography movement in the United Kingdom is a social movement that seeks to reduce the availability of pornography in the country. The movement originates from two distinct perspectives: some feminists oppose pornography because they regard it as a means of degrading women, while some conservatives (both religiously-motivated and secular) view it as immoral. The movement has had some influence over legislation, resulting in a number of laws intended to restrict the availability of certain genres of pornography which are legal in a number of other countries. Feminists Against Censorship have described the movement as more concerted and better organised than similar movements in other Western liberal democracies.[1]


Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford were well-known for their anti-pornography campaigns during the 1970s and 1980s.[2]

During the 1970s, there emerged several anti-pornography groups, including legislatively focused groups such as Campaign Against Pornography and Campaign Against Pornography and Censorship, as well as groups associated with Revolutionary Feminism such as Women Against Violence Against Women and its direct action offshoot Angry Women.[3] Opposition to violent or degrading pornography continues to this day from radical feminists who continue to fight the Feminist sex wars.[citation needed]

Conservative and religious opposition

Strong opposition to pornography in the United Kingdom has come from the Christian pressure group Mediawatch-UK (formerly known as the National Viewers and Listeners Association). The organisation, which was founded and led by the social activist Mary Whitehouse until 1991, wishes to criminalise possession of pornography.[citation needed]

Campaign against violent pornography

A campaign to restrict the availability of violent pornography on the Internet was launched in 2004 following the murder of Jane Longhurst by Graham Coutts, a man who had viewed Internet pornography, particularly strangulation fetish sites. A concern that there could be a link between the crime and what the Government termed "extreme pornography" led to calls from Longhurst's mother Liz, the police, MP Martin Salter and Home Secretary David Blunkett to ban such websites.[4][5][6] A campaign by the Government and Liz Longhurst collected a petition of over 50,000 signatures calling for a ban on "extreme internet sites promoting violence against women in the name of sexual gratification". The Home Office carried out a consultation on proposals to criminalise possession of "extreme pornographic material" which found 63% of responses opposed to a new law. However, legislation was supported by anti-pornography groups Mediawatch and Mediamarch as well as some radical feminists, such as Julie Bindel.[7] Some of those responding to the Government consultation, especially police organizations, felt that the proposal should go much further, and that tighter restriction on all pornography should be imposed.[8] On 30 August 2006 the UK government announced that it intended to legislate to criminalise the possession of "extreme pornography", the first time that possession of pornography depicting adults would be an offence in the UK.[9] In 2009, section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 criminalised the possession of some forms of pornography, including violent pornography. The offence is punishable by up to 3 years in prison.

British Board of Film Classification

Hardcore material was not legalised until 2000, almost 30 years after the United States and the rest of Europe. Filmed material still has to be certified by the British Board of Film Classification in order to be legally supplied. This makes the UK's media one of the most regulated liberal democracies.[10] Distribution of pornography, including written material, is also restricted by the Obscene Publications Acts.

See also


  1. ^ Avedon Carol (1995). "The Harm of Porn: Just Another Excuse to Censor". Feminists Against Censorship. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  2. ^ Bourke, Fionnuala (2012-11-25). "'If only they were all like that nice Mr Savile' - Mary Whitehouse on disgraced paedophile". BirminghamLive. Retrieved 2022-11-12.
  3. ^ "Angry Wimmin". Lefties. 17 July 2006. BBC Four. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Victim's mother in web porn plea". BBC News. 4 February 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  5. ^ "UK police seek web porn crackdown". BBC News. 5 February 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  6. ^ "MP calls for violent porn ban". BBC News. 9 February 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  7. ^ Katy Taylor (28 October 2008). "Criminalising extreme porn". New Statesman. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Consultation on the possession of extreme pornographic material". Home Office. 30 August 2006. Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Mother wins ban on violent porn". BBC News. 2006-08-30. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  10. ^ O'Toole, Laurence (1998). Pornocopia: Porn, Sex, Technology and Desire, London, Serpent's Tail. (ISBN 1-85242-395-1)