Parents, pornography and sex ed

If gender inequality in the context of porn was addressed, this ‘subject’ may actually have some social value

Leading head teachers are arguing that children should be made aware of the dangers of porn by their teachers as soon as they begin using the internet. A recent survey by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that 42 per cent of parents agree with them.

While there is little debate about the need to prevent young children from encountering porn, concern does exist about the best methods of doing so. Last month, on This Morning, journalist Alley Einstein (certainly no relation to Albert), advocated teachers telling children as young as five about the potential harm of porn.
This reminds me of a recent occurrence. Upon briefly leaving our kitchen, a flatmate of mine specifically instructed us not to check the internet history of his laptop, which he left behind. I won’t insult you by stating what happened next.

Children of a young age are naturally inquisitive. The expectation that we can tell them about porn, without further enquiry on their behalf, seems misplaced.
The online security company, Bitdefender, estimates that 1.16 per cent of children will have accessed porn by the tender age of six. This figure may be unacceptable, but it’s not unlikely. I fear that this figure will only be increased by discussing the topic with children.

Perhaps it’s time for parents to take more responsibility when it comes to the Internet, rather than placing the duty on teachers. Primary school education on porn would only drag fellow classmates into the matter, who, otherwise, would most probably never encounter such material. At least not until a later stage. While porn has no place for discussion in primary schools, a case may be made for its discussion in classrooms of teenagers. As noted by the Sex Education Forum, filtering software on smartphones is universally poor, making it likely for them to encounter sexual imagery online. Even with such software, it seems foolish to think that teenage access to porn could be prevented – teenagers can be highly resourceful.

Pre-emption may not even be desirable. Jessi Fischer, a sex education lecturer, argues that porn can deliver a useful public service, as it is an effective tool to help young adults discover their sexualities. Ofsted calls for improved sex education for secondary school children. The aim here is to stress that scenes portrayed in porn don’t resemble real-life situations, and stress that ideas about relationships shouldn’t be derived from them.

I’m not arguing that porn causes teenagers to re-enact scenes of intercourse with pizza delivery boys or anything. It’s not difficult, however, to imagine that the underlying sexual inequality depicted in porn could contribute to real-life attitudes. Many pornographic films feature women undergoing degrading acts to please their counterparts. Martin Amis questions why the ‘facial’ (whatever that means) is often the ‘sine qua non’ of porn.

It should be stressed to teenagers that, in reality, women are not perpetual objects with the purpose of passively submitting to male desires. This seems obvious to most of us. However, it may not be so clear to more impressionable teenagers. Government proposals for reforming the National Curriculum, if enforced, won’t make Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) mandatory in secondary schools.

Most of us, no doubt, will have found school PSHE utterly useless. However, if gender inequality in the context of porn was addressed, this ‘subject’ may actually have some social value. Sonia Poulton argues that such discussions should only occur in the home. This seems bound for failure, given that an NAHT poll discovered only 13 per cent of parents feel competent in tackling these issues. There is room for consideration of its discussion with teenagers. With many parents inept to do so, perhaps the duty of tackling this inescapable issue should fall with teachers.

One comment

  1. 3 Jun ’13 at 8:55 pm

    Lynnette Smith

    Hi Harry, sorry your SRE was such a disappointment at School! Things have improved in some areas, maybe you can get an insight on how it can work well, giving children, young people want they want and need. My latest blog entry on my website is “Pornography across the Sex Education Curriculum: a week in the life of a sex educator” It shows how many of the topics you raise are dealt with in practice. Please find the link
    http://www.bigtalkeducation.co.uk/latest-news/item/98-pornography-across-the-sex-ed-curriculum.html

    Reply Report

Leave a comment



Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.