Monday, November 25, 2013

Show them the good stuff

I got involved in a Facebook debate about porn today.  One of the main topics of contention was the effect that porn has on young folks who view and take their sexual cues from it.  The trouble with porn is that although it doesn't resemble real world sex particularly each individual porn film isn't a problem - similar to the Bechdel test (In a movie are there two women with names who talk to each other about something that isn't a man).  It is fine if a single movie fails the Bechdel test but it is terrible that so many fail it.  It is fine if a random porn film is a guy pumping away at a surgically enhanced woman and then coming on her face but it is terrible that the majority of them end that way.  We can't regulate the porn industry to fix this because we *really* don't want to make rules about what sort of sex is okay and what is not.  We also can't ban porn because that would be impossible and would violate our freedom of expression.  So what can we do to try to get realistic images of sex into the minds of teenagers to give them the impressions we want?

I think the answer is that we deliberately show teenagers the porn we want them to see.  They are viewing porn on their own on average between the ages of eleven and thirteen anyway so it isn't as if this will be the first time for the great majority of them.  If we want them to see images of normal looking people who aren't surgically enhanced, who have body hair intact, and who have sex in a way that isn't designed to appeal to straight male fantasies then we need to show it in sex ed class.  This should come along with a standard lecture about the reasons that people have sex.  This is conspicuously absent from the standard curriculum which talks about all the reasons not to have sex, how STIs happen, and how babies are made.  That is great and all but until we acknowledge the elephant in the room (that sex is fun and that sexual desire is normal) they aren't going to listen to us.  Nothing gets a kid's attention quite so quickly as admitting something they know is true but which everybody pretends not to notice.

This could even provide a really useful springboard into other topics.  Including a film depicting gay and/or lesbian sex in the curriculum is a good way to talk about how sex really isn't about heterosexual babymaking and about how relationships are not confined to a man and a woman.  Sex is for entertainment primarily and emphasizing that both sex and relationships are mostly about pleasure, security, support, bonding, and fun would be a good thing I think as it would get us away from the escalator model of relationships that doesn't work for so many people.  Heck, since I am already far beyond what is currently possible we could use this as an opportunity to talk about nonmonogamy as an option too.  Being open and honest about all the possibilities that exist for relationships, sex, and love seems likely to get them to be open about their confusions and questions too and that can only be helpful.

Now I really want to be a sex ed teacher for a highschool class.  I would blow their minds.  Also, I would get lynched by mobs of angry parents.  (How dare you tell my kid the truth!  My omissions and deceptions are designed to push them along the life path I approve of!  Rabble rabble!)


  1. Intriguing. Your logic is theoretically sound and I have just under a decade to think it over.

    This led me to what appears to be the obvious conclusion that if the schools won't do it, I should. That feels awkward, as many things around sex do, possibly because we've all been raised in a "don't talk about sex" world.

    So when theory hits practice, will you be taking this action with your kid(s)? I want to, but I suspect it will be difficult (and I may get out-voted by my other half). And I don't want to mess my kid(s) up unintentionally by preparing them for the perfect society instead of the one they live in.

  2. Last I heard the idea that the "average" kid is viewing porn by 13 is actually nonsense concocted by alarmists to get people to get upset about porn. I mean, I'm not stupid and I know kids are going to look at porn on their computers, I just wanted to question that stat. Although if you are using that stat to argue that we should just show teenagers porn then I suppose its message was already successfully subverted.

    Actually on topic, there are initiatives out there about educating kids about what sex is really like. I think "Make love not porn" was the name of one I was looking at once, but I don't want to google it right now for certain reasons.

  3. Hard to believe I may be average about something, and the internet wasn't really a thing when I was 13, but that is when I first saw porn. On VHS tape!

  4. I think my age of viewing was probably around 16, also on a VHS tape. Oldschool high five!

    @MattV I think the trick here is that pedophilia is so villified (which is obviously justified if the person actually does anything about it) that showing a teenager porn as a responsible adult would be very risky. Imagine I did show Elli porn at age 16 and then it got out at her school or something - there is no way I could undo the damage that would ensue from tons of people being sure I was a pedophile. So I guess the answer is that I will definitely have serious talks with her about this and I will probably say something like "If you want to see what actual sex looks like rather than porn here is a website / link that shows that" but I wouldn't sit down with her and watch it. The more distance I can put between myself and the actual viewing the safer I will be.