Pornography should be on the sex education curriculum. Why it’s made, how it’s made and what it’s missing; the sexual positions, and the difference between consenting fun and coercion.
We need this because young people watch porn on the internet and take what they see as gospel – the positions, the way that people treat each other on-screen and the unrealistic body images. They need to learn that it’s not always so.
Porn is the main source of sex education for many kids. Unfortunately, it’s teaching them about the physicality of sex without couching it in a responsible, emotional framework. In real life, you need mutual trust, respect and consideration to experiment sexually with someone. In porn, these emotional needs aren’t discussed. The result is an uncomfortable portrayal of sex that places physical pleasure amongst all else, and if porn is how you mainly learn about sex, then that’s the main lesson you’ll take away.
This week, the BMJ published research revealing an “oppressive culture” among young people regarding anal sex, which is a popular feature in internet porn. Across the UK those aged 16-18 described a culture where men compete to have anal sex with women, even if they expect women to find it painful. The interviewees said that wanting to copy what they saw in porn was a significant factor in their behaviour.
Young people are trying out what they’re seeing even if they’re not happy about what they’re doing. Here’s a worrying sentence from the report: “Attitudes [amongst young people], such as the inevitability of pain for women, or the failure to recognise or reflect on potentially coercive behaviour, seem to go unchallenged.” Coercion and reluctant submission should not be part of any sexual encounter, but here they are, a part of many young people’s sex lives.
Kids as young as 10 watch porn actors do things to each other that they don’t have the maturity to process. They urgently need a safe space to discuss what they’ve seen. Parents and kids aren’t always able to discuss sex but school sex education can provide that safe, objective space. We’ve already got sex education on the curriculum, but without discussions on internet porn it’s incomplete. Asking teachers to talk about internet porn isn’t asking them to take the role of parents. It’s asking them to answer the modern requirements of sex education.
Let’s create that space to teach kids about the reality of porn. Let’s make clear that most porn misses out all the essential elements of sex – consent, care and consideration. Otherwise confusion and coercion will continue to reign.