Jane Chelliah: Why I Left Channel 4's Mums Make Porn

I joined the show to highlight the dangers of what our children can access online – but as a feminist I did not want to be a porn producer

Porn is part of the online landscape for children. This is not scaremongering. It is a fact.

I am one of five mothers who star in the Channel 4 three-part documentary, Mums Make Porn, which looks at how children can easily access online hardcore pornography and, consequently, absorb messages about sex and relationships that could be harmful to them.

With just ‘two clicks’, as the programme states, kids are able view material that depicts rape as fantasy, violence as being part of a woman’s sexual desire and the construction of a notion of sexuality that is, frankly, unrealistic of how men’s bodies look and work. My observations align with the concerns expressed by the NSPCC, who say the risks of online porn to children includes unrealistic expectations of body image and performance and more negative attitudes towards roles and identities in relationships.

I decided to take part in the documentary as a feminist mother to help raise awareness of the dangers. Due to my cultural background, I had found it impossible to talk to my teenage daughter about sex. Sex was a taboo subject when I was growing up – as I say at the start of episode one, girls weren’t allowed to talk to boys let alone date. The concept of the ‘loose woman’ played fast and furious with women’s sexuality in my developing years as a child, teenager and young woman. What I have come to realise is that this experience transcends race, and white women have stopped me in the street to thank me for highlighting this problem.

I left the show mid-way through, as was shown in Wednesday’s second episode, because I didn’t want to make a porn film. Much as I approve of the film the other four mothers went on to produce, I didn’t want to, in any way, condone the industry. I did not want to be known as a porn producer.

Despite the onset of feminist-friendly porn, the industry is still largely driven by the need to produce content that feeds into misogynistic attitudes. The purpose of feminism is to challenge the patriarchy’s domination. Porn works on assumptions of domination of the female, the ‘weaker’ sex.

The sexualisation and racialisation of ethnic women and teenagers is at the cutting edge of visual misogyny. Asian women are described in blurbs as being ‘Asian sluts’ and ‘exotic beauties’ there to please men. Terms like ‘submissive’ and ‘obedient’ are used descriptively to lure people into watching the films. Content on teenagers dominates popular hubs and feature within the context of punitive sex. ‘Tight’, ‘tiny’ and ‘naughty’ are popular descriptive terms used.

Mainstream porn is the reproduction of the patriarchy. As a Christian feminist mother, I want to challenge people and make them think about exactly what is online. I accept that porn is here to stay, but I do hope that parents take on board the message of Mums Make Porn, including the ‘ethical’ porn movie the show results in, which portrays sex within the framework of a caring and equal relationship.

The government is to shortly introduce regulation that will require porn sites to implement a legitimate age verification process. I welcome this move, because I know parents need help with monitoring what their children are watching. It is wholly unreasonable to expect parents to be able to watch their children at all times. Conversations about healthy sex and relationships of course begin at home but regulatory controls will supplement this.

At the end of the day, the other four other mums and I were addressing the same challenge of highlighting online dangers even though I left. We live in an age of shifting morality driven by the internet.