More than a third of UK women under the age of 40 have experienced unwanted slapping, choking, gagging or spitting during consensual sex, notes research for BBC Radio 5 Live.

This recent headline on the BBC news website is shocking but, sadly, not surprising. We are witnessing a period of unimaginable change in the way that we learn about sex as humans. For thousands of years, sex was something that happened mainly between two people and was rarely witnessed by others. Now, children as young as seven and eight can freely witness all kinds of people having sex via the internet, and see sights that would probably horrify their parents.

Like it or not, porn has become the sex educator of a generation. It’s untrue to say that we are leaving behind a golden age of loving, erotic and consensual sex. But it is true that the acts in pornography are not designed for the pleasure of the participants, but for the visual stimulation of those watching. Generally, our brains tire of repetition. They enjoy novelty and excitement, which is one of the reasons why so much porn is morphing into sex accompanied by increasing acts of violence against the women taking part. Put simply, it heightens sensations in the viewer. But it also gives the dangerous and inaccurate message that the average woman finds this kind of treatment a turn on.

Of course, there has always been a category of sex, generally labelled BDSM, which is about dominance and submission. However, people who engage in this practice have extremely strong boundaries around consent, safety and mutual respect. This means that whatever happens, all parties are fully engaged and finding pleasure in what’s going on. When mainstream porn normalises the idea that women in everyday sexual encounters have no objection to being strangled, spat on or slapped, it is seriously misleading thousands of young men. And as the research indicates, that ends up distressing equal numbers of women, who may also feel under pressure to pretend to enjoy something that is actually scary and uncomfortable.

Let’s remember that PORNOGRAPHY IS FICTION. It is a filmed version of people pretending to experience sexual pleasure that they are probably not enjoying in that moment. Believing what you see in porn is real is like thinking people living in villages in Britain are constantly killing each other because you have watched Midsomer Murders on TV.

Let’s have better education in schools which challenges the supremacy of porn as sex education for our young people. And let’s start a discussion about the myths and realities of pornography. Then we’ll have a better chance of men and women enjoying sex lives that are fun, mutually rewarding, and above all, physically and emotionally safe.