The movement to end sexual exploitation marches ever on, as the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation’s (ICOSE) Haley McNamara — along with journalist and activist Jo Bartosch and the spokesperson for FiliA, a UK-based feminist organisation, Raquel Rosario Sánchez — won a public debate about the harms of pornography while speaking before the prestigious Cambridge Union Society on Thursday, May 14, 2020.
The Cambridge Union Society, also known as the Cambridge Union, is a debating and free speech society in Cambridge, England and the largest society in the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1815, it is the oldest continuously running debating society in the world. Over the years, Cambridge Union has hosted high-profile debates featuring speakers such as Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, Margaret Thatcher, Theodore Roosevelt, Germaine Greer, and more.
The debate format at the Cambridge Union Society allows each participating individual a set amount of time to present their case and does not allow for rebuttals. A winner is determined at the end based on a vote taken amongst the society’s members.
For this debate, entitled “This House Regrets Online Pornography” and hosted virtually via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were three advocates chosen for each position. Haley McNamara from ICOSE went first and laid out a strong case regarding the inherent harms of pornography on individuals and society. The pro-pornography side had the opportunity to speak later on and two of the pro-pornography speakers attempted to malign the National Center on Sexual Exploitation/International Centre on Sexual Exploitation, specifically, by leveling baseless accusations against our organization.
In spite of that and the fact that the society’s voters had recorded that their opinion was split 50/50 at the beginning of the event, at the end of the debate the opinion of the society’s voters had been swayed in favor of the fact that pornography is harmful by a margin of 75/25.
This was a powerful opportunity and victory for the movement to end sexual exploitation!
In a day and age where many attempt to normalize the abuse and exploitation that are inherent to pornography, this is an encouraging development that shows that people around the world are waking up to the science and research about pornography’s inherent harms and that prestigious and widely-known entities like the Cambridge Union Society are recognizing them as well.