If you’re too ashamed to speak to children about sex, exploitative free porn will fill the gaps
Embarrassment prevents too many of us from speaking frankly to kids about the numerous porn tropes being imprinted on their young mind’s eye.
It seems doubtless to me that the staggering rise in reported sex assaults in primary and secondary schools – more than 5,500alleged sex assaults, on boys as well as girls, in three years – goes hand-in-hand with the unfettered availability of extremely hardcore pornography to minors. Not a tattered copy of Fiesta found behind a Portakabin, as many of us remember as the height of 1970s childhood excitement, with its pages of exposed nipples, spread legs and the occasional flaccid penis lolling about in the One For the Ladies section. Or its Readers’ Letters section, featuring tales of sex-mad secretaries and office cleaners. How quaint and vanilla, in the era of the free internet hardcore porn clip aggregator, this all seems now. Yesteryear’s exposure to porn featured no actual scenes of sexual intercourse. No erections, no mention of anal sex, no group sex and nobody being forced or fooled into anything.
Today’s children are exposed to the sort of specialist sex scenes which would have taken their parent’s generation months of grubbily determined research to set eyes upon. I don’t think hardcore porn turns human beings into rapists. But I do think, if your 10-year-old son is watching dogging videos, fake agent clips, porno taxi drivers, gonzo porn and hardcore scenes of seven men sticking it to some poor, knackered looking teenager, I’ll be as bold to suggest that his moral compass on issues of consent might be slighty askew. Not because he’s a monster, but because he is 10 years old. How can a young boy learn that “no means no” when his sexual enlightenment is gleaned via a world where no woman has ever said no? Or, if they do, it’s uttered merely as a plot point before the eventual: “Yes – and, actually, bring your mates.”
Our embarrassment – and it is bloody embarrassing – stops many of us speaking frankly to children about the orgies, forced sex scenarios and numerous porn tropes imprinted on their young mind’s eye. Then we act as if we’re flabbergasted at the rise in schoolkids demanding and swapping homemade porn, as if behaving like a actor in these videos is normal. For them, though, evidence suggests this is not just normal but entirely routine.
Maybe even worse than feeling embarrassed, as an adult, is feeling like a Puritan or a hypocrite, or as if you’re thwarting youth’s natural rite de passage. Every time I begin to rant about the exposure of children to extreme hardcore pornography I hear myself sounding like Beulah Balbricker – “Ballbreaker” – the terrifying dragon who taught Physical Education in the 1981 film Porkies, who would lurk around school corridors listening out for inappropriate groans.
I’m sure other public figures with the power to step hard on internet providers feel similarly. Who, indeed, wants to set themselves up as the anti-masturbation tsar? I can’t help feel that policing of our children’s sex education should begin much earlier and closer to home. It’s worth remembering that Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ives didn’t let their kids have iPads; many of Silicon Valley’s parents don’t allow their children unrestricted internet access.
One positive slant (if there is one to be found) from these new statistics is that young girls and boys are increasingly speaking up about assault. There is clearly a growing sense of confidence among victims that they will be, at the least, believed by those close to them – even if the prosecution falls by the wayside or lead to minimal sentences. Shannon Rooney, 18, from Stirlingshire, waived her anonymity to talk about the assault she suffered at school from another pupil.
Rooney was attacked in a storeroom by a fellow pupil when she was 15.
“I said, ‘No’,” she remembers, “and he pulled me in, shut the door, and started to sexually assault me.” Shannon’s attacker pleaded guilty, but initially received an absolute discharge. He was later put on the sex offenders’ register for a year and given one year’s community service.
Also interesting is how young men are refusing to write off sexual assault by their peers as banter, bullying or gang initiation. I have never quite understood the obsession among many rugby teams with dragging each other’s trousers off (and much, much worse) but it will be interesting to see how a glut of criminal proceedings might change locker room traditions.
What we need now in schools is an army of teachers like Goedele Liekens, from the Channel 4 documentary Sex In Class. Liekens cut straight to the heart of where kids and parents are in a post-internet porn world when she spent two weeks with Accrington school children making them talk about genital shaving, masturbation, porn stereotypes, consent and the reality of two human beings having sex.
The female orgasm, it turned out, did not take three minutes and it probably needed the pair of you to be somewhere private – even if porn does suggest it could happen after 22 seconds in an aeroplane toilet. Demanding that a woman’s bikini line is continuously plucked or waxed bald, the boys also learned, was unfeasible and unfair. And needless to say, talking about women like they were sluts, slags and whores was infantile and not the actions of a man.
The teachers at Hollins Technology College looked, at best, absolutely terrified by Liekens – especially when she produced mirrors and vibrators from her bag of tricks – but there was a genuine sense that she was readdressing a balance.
But if you’re too ashamed to chat to your sons and daughters about the rights and wrongs of sexual conduct, don’t worry; a zillion free porn clip sites are happy to fill in literally all of the gaps.
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