Porn Again, Kids....

17/02/2016 23:36 GMT | Updated 17/02/2017 10:12 GMT

As the latest round of government statistics now reveal one in five under 18s have watched pornography, with 1.4million underage Britons visiting pornographic sites in one month, the usual grave government pledges and pearl clutching newspaper articles have begun.

The government is promising to fine porn companies £250,000 if they don't impose age verification software. The usual suspect newspapers will then take credit for this government clampdown - all those many, many pearl-clutching articles - and then we'll all go back to looking at Kylie Jenner's "derriere" in bikini pictures in said newspapers. And hundreds of people (doubtless some of them teenagers and "worried" parents) will leave comments on Jenner's bum to the tune of "I'd smash that!" and "what I wouldn't do to that!" and so forth.

If this sounds rather flippant - it isn't meant to. On the contrary, I think pornography and specifically the viewing habits of children and teenagers is very serious subject.

Indeed I wrote an article nearly four years ago on teenagers and pornography from a teacher's perspective and was entirely unprepared for the tidal wave of interest and concern it created.

It was quoted in the House of Commons and I was asked to come and discuss it on a myriad of radio and television shows.

I continued to address pornography and teenagers in my book, Generation Z: Their Voices, Their Lives. It is filled with telling and harrowing accounts of teenage porn addiction, sexual bullying as a result of porn consumption, and kids being really quite traumatised by the kind of porn films they now see (clue - they aren't watching those soft lens, Joy of Sex aesthetic porn films anymore.)

My issue with the statistics and the government pledges and all the well-meaning articles, is they don't really achieve anything for three crucial reasons.

Firstly - and I think anyone who has ever worked with teenagers and children would agree - I seriously question the accuracy of these statistics. Sex and sexual desire and pornography are taboo enough in the adult world - I doubt many of us would be delighted at the prospect of a stranger rooting around in our browsing history, much less answering questions about such private things to a stranger with a clipboard. So the notion that children and teenagers are going to be transparent or honest about their porn watching is fairly ludicrous.

I understand that these latest statistics on under 18's watching porn come from analytics companies, but these can never account for the wily social habits of our nation's kids.

For example, if one fifteen-year old boy downloads a real humdinger of a porn film, I can guarantee he will show it to, say, six of his mates, who will show it to theirs, and so on. The nature of porn watching, particularly amongst teenagers is both private and social. Teenagers share porn films. Older teenagers pass porn films onto the younger ones - an odd kind of rite of passage. And I can guarantee that viral and social nature that came to represent the watching of the eye-watering 'Two Girls One Cup' was not unique to that film. Teenagers will laughingly tell you of all kinds of porn films they've watched together and passed onto each other - a fact that statistics can't possibly pick up - making it eminently likely that porn watching is actually much higher than predicted.

Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - the statistics, the government and newspapers never really tackle the reasons kids are watching hardcore pornography in droves. We now all know they watch it, and rather a lot. But shouldn't we now be focusing on the why, particularly if we have any hope of tackling the problem?

Porn films now are so predicated on violence and humiliation and are so extreme (fact: rape and gang rape porn are booming) that I wonder if this might be the root of the problem? Porn sex doesn't even look like sex anymore. It looks angry, sad, painful, and violent and this raises the bleak question of whether this is a big part of its appeal? We need to start questioning when the desire to watch a whimpering woman getting gang-banged stops being just about good, fun sexy times and starts being about something much darker in our collective psyches (including those under 18.)

Third - to return to Jenner's "derriere" how can we possibly expect kids to take our "concern" over their porn watching seriously in a world we soak so much (for them) in sex? The biggest newspapers (who decry porn) are awash with celebrity boobs, bums and crotches, MP's (who preach values and abstinence) are caught with their trousers down in the company of prostitutes, and much mainstream television looks like the appetizer to porn's entrée.

I was talking to some teenagers on this very topic recently and as one fifteen year old boy pointed out - "The opening credits to Hollyoaks looks so much like porn, it makes me want to go watch a porn film."

In terms of pornography, the internet is like giving kids the keys to a gigantic sex sweet shop and then asking them not to look or partake. And this becomes even more hypocritical when you consider it was us, via newspapers, magazines, music, mainstream films and TV that gave kids their very first sugar rush.

And that is something far more important to address than the latest set of statistics that tell us little and fix less.

Chloe Combi is the author of Generation Z, published in paperback by Windmill, £8.99