There aren’t enough trashy books around. At least not in the places that count – like the lockers and backpacks of teenagers at school.
What there is, is a lot of online porn. In fact a study conducted in 2006 shows that 92 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls aged 13 to 16 have been exposed to online porn.
Statistically and realistically speaking that means my son will be exposed to porn in the not too distant future. I don’t balk at that fact. His dad looked at porn when he was young and I’m pretty sure that his grandfather did too. No issue with that – as long as the people that appeared in that porn did so of their own free will. But that’s not a debate I am getting into right now.
It’s more about the quality of the porn that my son may be exposed to. The lack of depth, so to speak.
Online porn in 2012 is as vastly dissimilar to the porn that his dad stored under his mattress in the early 80’s as Mother Goose is from Lady Gaga. I am sure it was truly spectacular at the time, but in retrospect it was naked women. Posed naked women. And maybe one or two images of very stylised intercourse. As he got older there was an old Betamax tape passed around but it was so jumpy, the tape so worn that I’m surprised he didn’t think that there was a lot more bouncing involved in the act.
Meanwhile the gender stereotyping that formed my adolescent years in apartheid South Africa more or less precluded me from being exposed to the same porn that my husband and his friends were furtively swapping behind the bicycle sheds. It turns out I was the lucky one.
At high school I was doing a lot of very “acceptable” reading by authors such as Judy Blume and Jackie Collins. I was being introduced to sex in a myriad of romantic ways – sex where the woman wasn’t posed or stylised but a willing participant.
It never really struck me how fortunate I was to be able to gain all this sexual knowledge from these books until I read the following except from How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran where she discusses how kids are relying on the net for their sexual education:
“It’s not just about sex education – which is a series of useful facts and practicalities, and the basic business of what goes where, or what could go where if you’re determined enough – that kids are getting from the net. It’s also their sex hinterland. It informs the imagination as well as the mechanics.
This is why – however limited, patchy or centred on Trevor Eve the pornography I scavenged in teenage years – there was at least, a balance to all the stuff I was finding – a variety. I had petticoats and spies and woodlands and nuns and threesomes on sun loungers, and vampires and sheds and gum and fauns and the back seat of Capris and, more often than not, even though I was reading something from the 19th century, the chicks got their kicks. The women came. The women’s desires were catered for. Indeed, these were the women’s desires.
You go Caitlin. I want to write your words on the walls of our schools because the sexual imagery of your teenage years IS the most potent you’ll ever have. Think about it.
Michelle Griffin takes up the same battle in an opinion piece for Fairfax where she recently wrote
We should fill school libraries, family bookshelves and e-readers with all manner of explicit literature: not just copies of The Joy of Sex, but steamy airport novels, raunchy teen lit and straight-up smut. According to enthusiastic reviewer Elaine Blair in the August New York Review of Books, Nicholson Baker’s surreally explicit new title, House of Holes, is ”exactly the sort of filth you’d want them to read first … [It] will introduce impressionable readers to many interesting sexual possibilities without a whisper of stereotype or slur.”
I want my son to read trashy novels as he becomes a teenager. I want him to develop his mind, to have a life filled with wonder and delight. I wont be able to stop him from discovering porn (nor do I want to) and I know he will look to the internet but I’d love his imagination to flow, to be led by his brain and not just by his eyes. And certainly not just by his desire.
Was the sexual imagery of your teens dictated by the books you read? Any books that you think should be on the “must read” list?