A significant portion of British adults are evidently been seething over the recent and somewhat ground-breaking amendment to the 2003 Communications Act. The new laws, which have made illegal any British pornography that features strangulation, aggressive whipping, physical restraint and humiliation (to name just a few) have not been well received by all. Jerry Barnett of the anti-censorship group Sex and Censorship quickly voiced his disapproval over the laws calling them 'simply a set of moral judgements'. His concerns were echoed as others weighed in to accuse the government of imposing unnecessary restrictions on UK adult content and taking it upon themselves to decide 'what is nice sex and what is not nice sex'. The Internet has been alight with anger over the laws that Brits feel are an imposition of their independence and a patronizing blow to their sexual freedom. I understand, but as a woman and as a mother, I am frankly far too concerned with the sexual exploitation that has consumed our young people to care.
Sexual exploitation used to be one of those things we associated with trafficking, prostitution, abuse and a whole myriad of seedy practices we have complacently believed would never affect our lives. Let me say this clearly: sexual exploitation is happening in our very homes, in our living rooms, in our bedrooms, in our bathrooms, all behind the safety of our comfort of our suburban walls. Sexual exploitation is affecting us directly whether we admit it or not.
I'm not talking of 'catfish' or the occasional sneaky peak at a nude photo. Accessible, free, unrealistic and aggressive Internet pornography is causing a major shift in teenagers and children's behaviours by negatively defining the way they view sex. Susan McLean, a federal government cyber-safety adviser, has reported a surge in the amount of teenage girls being medically treated for 'rough sex' injuries.
Modern Internet porn is handing young people a grossly distorted image of their bodies and a dangerously unrealistic sexual standard. For the young and barely developed young people copying the acts they see online, sex is often painful, demeaning and unpleasant. A closely related cousin of this fascination with and abundance of porn, is the current trend for 'sexting'.
On June 15th 2015, a child sexting advice campaign was launched. The National Crime Agency announced that child protection officers are investigating an average of one case of victims reporting sexting every day. It revealed that the trend for posting nude and explicit images of themselves on social media had become standard behaviour among underage teenagers. In some instances young people are targeted by strangers who attempt to blackmail these images, threatening to expose them to parents and peers. 17 year-old Ronan Hughes was one of these victims. He tragically committed suicide in 2014 after being tricked into posting photographs of himself online.
Openly talking to our teenagers about sex is the key to unveiling this murky shadow of confusion. From these conversations we can work to provide them with a positive sense of self and their sexuality so as to buffer the challenges that are likely lurking behind their iPad touchscreens.
Most of all, we must group together and actively support the laws that are actually safeguarding children. Our own personal adult proclivities and penchants must surely be secondary to protecting children from the material that is proving so detrimental to their growth, wellbeing, and health? Online porn, sexting and revenge porn are hugely detrimental; the remedy lies in forming open and honest pathways of communication with our own children so that they understand what is and isn't acceptable.
Sex is, after all, meant to be an expression, a journey, a discovery and a revelation. Not a violation, or a torturous humiliation.