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Teenage Porn Epidemic? Let Them Get Over it Without a Teacher

Posted: 29/10/2012 00:00

Last week ccampaigners questioned whether teenagers should be taught about porn at school.

The debate plays out against a wider backdrop of commentary about today's school age children being 'the most wired generation yet' and the consequences of that - in this case over exposure to porn. The National Association of Head Teachers have cited an EU study showing a third of 16 to 18-year-olds see a pornographic image on their smartphones several times a month to make the case that we need to intervene.

Just in case these youngsters don't realise that the people in the images and videos are actors, says the teachers union, we should talk about porn in PSHE classes (personal, social, health and economins).

I wonder if they will also break the news that Dr Who, Downton and CSI aren't real either. And while you've got the PSHE teacher myth-smashing, you may as well get them to blew the whistle on Santa, tooth fairies and Easter Bunny too.

We should leave young people to stumble though their own individual paths of sexual discovery. This particular gateway to adulthood is the most exciting of all. Safe sex education is one thing, spelling out preferences, defining fantasies and dictating appropriate reactions is short of social engineering.

The alleged problems of our so-called 'over sexualised' modern world are all rooted in complaints by girls and parents that porn is giving men an unrealistic image of women's bodies and their readiness for sex tricks. Of course, misogynistic behaviour is a serious one, especially since many examples turn into stories of violence, abuse or coercion. But they don't make a good case to argue for a clamping down on porn availability.

There has always been a demand - and therefore a supply - of eroticised images. From explicit Egyptian cave drawings and carvings, to top shelf magazines, people - mostly men - have perpetuated a fascination in the physical sexualised female form. When printing costs fell in the 19th Century the first thing to flourish was porn. Internet images are not a new phenomenon but a new platform.

When people complain that pornography trends are geared towards male pleasure, that is because men are the ones who buy it, and buy into it. There have been many attempts to cash in on sexualised images of males to appeal to women. The magazine Filament is one example. But they never quite catch on because - generally - women's sexual stimulation is a multi-tiered agglomeration of intellectual, emotional, psychological, hormonal and physical factors where as men's is - mainly - physical.

There is no patriarchal conspiracy to sexually idealise the plumped, primed, botoxed, siliconed, Barbie doll mould, always willing to forgo her own pleasure for the man's. The textbook gender roles of porn evolved all on their own.

Yet the stereotypes are used as a scapegoat for women's body-image insecurities, for the disrespectful hook-up culture, for sexual performance anxieties and what experts say is an 'unhealthy' expectation that we should be having earth-moving sex every day.

These anxieties have always been there. They are an unfortunate part of our human psyche and I personally wouldn't entrust the PSHE curriculum to tackle it.

This same rhetoric has been repeated for decades. In the 1920s commentators spoke out against their 'increasingly sexualised society'. That was the era that magazines first dared to talk about contraception and the importance of a fulfilling sex life. The older generations were outraged. Newspaper headlines talked of a society which was becoming 'morally bankrupt' and a youth that was becoming 'debauched.' It happened again in the 60s and 70s with opponents of the Free Love movement worrying that sexual attitudes among young people would damage society irrevocably.

What the latest batch of porn panickers forget is that while teenagers get tempted by the readily available supply of porn on their phones and online, they have an equal curiosity and drive to form their first intimate relationships and emotional bonds, which will turn out to be another rocky, funny, nostalgic journey. While botoxed Barbie might feature on a horny teenager boy's bucket list, over time it's pretty certain he'll find a girlfriend who has a mascara top-up neurosis and whose conversation about her day involves a run-down of the liposuction offers of Groupon, pretty annoying after a while.

I'm a woman so I'm no expert but I imagine most balanced adult men who grew up before the smart phone age all have a story to tell involving a copy of Playboy sneaked and stuffed and stored somewhere as though it were the naughtiest, dirtiest thing the world had ever produced. Like generations before them, most deal with it. We should allow teenagers to chase and burn out their fantasies and get over their X-rated curiosity without getting PSHE, compulsory firewall settings or mobile phone networks involved.

 

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