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Mia4 380x567 Something kids need to know about porn.

Mia Freedman

by MIA FREEDMAN

Think very carefully before you invite me over for dinner. Because if there’s a lull in the conversation, I may say something like this: “Porn is the new sex education – doesn’t that freak you out?” It’s a rhetorical question because of course it freaks you out and if it doesn’t, you’re an ostrich.

Lately I’ve had many dinner party conversations with ostriches about porn and they’re staggeringly predictable. The women at the table are usually silent while the men are dismissive.

Me: “I worry about today’s teens. They’re exposed to so much porn before they even have sex.”

Ostrich Bloke: “Pah. Porn isn’t new. It was around when we were younger. Never did us any harm. [insert chuckle]“

Me: “But it’s on a whole other level now.”

Bloke: “Nah, boys have always watched porn. We were swapping videos in high school. It’s the same thing.”

Oh but it’s not. It’s really, really not. You see, passing around a video 25 years ago could not be more different to a teen’s experience of porn in 2012.

Here’s why:

porn teens Something kids need to know about porn.1. NOW YOU CAN WATCH PORN AT SCHOOL

Before porn was available online, you had to to wait until your mate snuck you a VHS. Then you had to wait until the house was empty so you could use the video player. You watched that video again and again until you had to pass it to another mate. Computers changed the game. Suddenly you had access to unlimited amounts of free porn in the privacy of your bedroom. Variety. Access. Quantity. Woot. Smartphones were an even more dramatic revolution because now porn is PORTABLE. You can watch it at the bus-stop. In bed. On the train. In traffic. You can take it into the bathroom. You can watch it at recess or even during geography if you turn off the sound and keep it hidden from your teacher’s view. And that’s what many teens are doing.

 

2. KIDS ARE WATCHING PORN BEFORE THEY HAVE SEX

Remember losing your virginity? When you were stumbling and fumbling your way through your first sexual experience, you probably hadn’t seen much porn. If any. You had no blueprint for how you or your partner should behave. Today kids see porn before they’ve had sex or even their first kiss.  The average age of first exposure to porn is 11 and most kids have seen it by age 15. And yet the average Australian teenager has their first sexual experience at 16.

Think about what that means. The first time they do it, their mental hard drive will be filled with images of pornstar sex – which is driven by money not pleasure. The men are huge. The women are hairless and often surgically altered. The sex itself is extreme to capture the attention of a jaded market. And teenagers will try to emulate what they’ve seen.

 

porn smartphone teens Something kids need to know about porn.3. PORN SEX ISN’T REAL SEX

No need for vivid details but let’s agree that porn is not neccessarily indicative of what women enjoy in real life. There’s one type of sex in particular (I asked Twitter to help me with a suitable euphamism and the winner was: “pushing legislation through the lower house”) that features in almost 100% of mainstream porn. And it’s led to a generation mistakenly believing it’s up there with free shoes and Ryan Gosling on the list of Things Women Love. It’s not.

Here’s something most people don’t know: women in porn scenes are paid twice as much for anal sex (US$1500) as they are for the regular kind (US$750). Same with prostitutes. What does this tell us? That many women – including those who are paid- don’t enjoy it. And yet current porn sends the opposite message very loudly. Porn is full of anal sex.

Then there’s this: 88 per cent of scenes in best-selling porn films included physical aggression and 48 per cent of scenes included verbal aggression, according to leading porn researcher Marree Crabbe. She notes that porn gives its viewers “really unhealthy messages” about what women enjoy and how they should be treated during sex. And increasingly, those viewers are teens who haven’t even have sex yet and have no other frame of reference for what to expect or how to behave. Ms Crabbe notes that many of the young men she interviewed “expressed surprise that their partners did not do what they asked without hesitating and did not want to follow the ‘script’ of pornographic videos.”

So no, we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. Porn has changed the way a generation thinks about sex. Yeah, but what can we do?

Well, we can’t stop it. Smartphones and smart kids have made net nannies and filters almost redundant. Some experts say porn education should be included in school sex education programs (like teachers don’t have it tough enough!). I think awareness of this new porn/sex reality is crucial. I also think parents need to have some age-appropriate conversations with our kids. Yes, it will be awkward. So. Very. Awkward. But ultimately, this kind of candour, honesty and education is crucial if we want our kids to grow up with healthy attitudes to sex both for themselves and their future partners.

In this TED Talk, Cindy Gallop argued that hardcore pornography had distorted the way a generation of young men think about sex. Take a look.

When did you first see porn? Do you think things are very different now?

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