Disclaimer: all opinion in this post, and indeed all my posts, is nothing whatsoever to do with my employers, past, present or future. It is, however, safe to read at work (SFW).
Hardcore pornography is readily accessible by anyone with an internet device. Pornography has been one of the catalysts of the Internet and web content. Check out this infographic published last year showing USA stats on porn. And a more balanced examination of such stats from the BBC, as well as this article exploring research about the harm that porn can do, which includes an analogy of porn to alcohol, saying that for some it’s a problem and for others it’s a pleasure. [NB: schools do educate about alcohol]
So, should we be doing anything in school about pornography? And, if so, what should we be doing? I have been discussing this question with colleagues and the answer is not clear. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. Imagine the potential outrage as students hurry home to discover what all the fuss was about? Those not exposed to such material may venture to satisfy their curiosity and the school will ultimately have led them there. Unacceptable, right? So what might we be able to do about this without leading our cohorts to the content we are advising them to avoid?
Should we do anything at all? This New Statesman article argues that there are ten more important sex education issues to deal with than porn:
- Where and how to get contraception
- How to use that contraception
- Basic anatomy
- How to put it in
- ‘When a man and a woman don’t love each other very much…’
- Sex positions
- The Morning After Pill and Abortion
- The sexual double standard
You may agree with them or not. Although it is just an opinion piece, it is prioritising the importance of practical facts, sort of. A young persons (mans? womans? boys? girls? childrens?) relationship to pornography is a complex one, and there will undoubtedly be many people better qualified and experienced than me to explain this in more detail. I find that it is similar to the body image issue which I often feel lacks sufficient complexity when presented to young people because it never explains how you – and I and them and us and we – are in the game. The impact of media-distorted body image (both self and others) is so entwined in our thoughts that effectively disentangling ourselves from admiring the beautiful (desired?), and superficially judging the occupant as an object, is much harder than it seems. Brangelina are the perfect couple, aren’t they? In an attempt to do this without doing it, I teach a unit of work called ‘Digital Media Decoding’ whereby the pupils use graphics packages to alter photographs. But, might it be necessary for schools simply not to get involved? Maybe this stuff is so wrapped up in the double binds of life that each of us must unravel these for ourselves; is it not this that defines who we are? Bob Dylan, discussing songwriting, says:
First of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind. Some people are more loaded down with one than another. Nevertheless, they come through. Source: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/05/21/bob-dylan-songwriters-on-songwriting-interview/
So, how can we dictate, or even determine, how thoughts (and the potentially distorted thoughts that an individual may have after subjecting themselves to pornographic material) might manifest in the intimate relationships our children are having or will have? Will these thoughts change actions? Will the absence of hands gently finding each other in streamed online media actually mean our young people will not work this tenderness out for themselves? Do we really think that they will not understand that our/their media-distorted expectations are irrelevant, and that the physical embodiment of connection between two people is so much more valuable, more beautiful, than what they watched online? Will there be a Generation XXX?
Well I’m not certain about what to do, but my research on the matter led me to this video which is the best thing I have seen so far (NB: if you know of anything suitable, please get in touch?). The video is a TEDx talk by Ran Gavrieli from Israel: ‘Why I stopped watching porn’. I recommend you watch this young(ish) man explain his experience. He is earnest and humorous and sensitive.