The New Sex Educator On The Market

The porn industry is branching out. Diversifying, if you will. Pornhub, the world’s biggest porn site, is now attempting to offer actual sex education.

With all the voices out there saying that porn is a terrible sexual educator, some within the industry have tried to have a go a sexual education.  PornHub launched an online sexual wellness centre that gives a range of sexual and relationship advice.  You can read about it at the Guardian here.

As nice as it is to consider that the good people at Pornhub are wanting to give a more realistic depiction of sex and help their viewers out, the fact that they are doing so raises a number of concerns.

Firstly, pornographers are targeting minors.  Surely that’s an issue.  Young people are a big market for pornographers, but seeing as the content is illegal for minors to view, that they’re targeting them is a problem.

More than that, pornographers don’t care about the sexual health of their viewers.  They care about money.  Sure, they know a fair bit about sex; they’ve seen more than their fare share.  But they probably shouldn’t be trusted to give advice on sexual health when they’re making money, in many instances, from a distorted view of sex.

By creating videos designed to give an education to young people, these porn sites are also acknowledging that porn is a bad sexual educator.  They’re admitting the charge that so many have made.

In light of this, there are a few options for parents and schools.

We could do nothing and hope that young people don’t get their sex education from porn.  We could all leave sex education to Pornhub and trust that they have the best interests of our kids in mind.  Sound good?

So if that doesn’t sound like a great option, parents and schools could work together to begin a more honest conversation about sex.  Parents need to take the lead, but schools can go beyond sex education that is simply about plumbing. Sex education needs to answer the questions young people are asking, so that they don’t feel the need to head to PornHub for their education.  In fact, if this were happening, when they went to porn they’d be able to see what a poor educator it is.

Parents, are you having that conversation with your kids?  Are you creating an environment where they can ask you difficult and even confronting questions?  If no one loves your kids more than you do, then you are the best person to teach them about sex.  

As to schools, I often have people comment and say that schools should stick to teaching Maths and English.  That they shouldn’t take the place of parents.  Schools absolutely should teach the basics and not try to be parents.  But to say that schools should do nothing is to ignore the fact that they are so often dealing with inappropriate sexual behaviour.  Schools deal with behaviours shaped by porn.  It may be sexting, teen pregnancy or habitual porn use that leads to declining academic results.  And so to say they shouldn’t talk about it is like telling a doctor to just treat symptoms and ignore the cause.

We can do sexual education better than pornographers.  So take a deep breath, and start the conversation today.

 

Where Do You Hide Your Stash?

I grew up in the 90’s.  Boy and girl bands reigned supreme.  Pants were baggy.  'Hey Hey It’s Saturday' was a TV staple.  And for me, the 90’s were pretty much internet free.

Those were the days! There were trees to climb and bikes to ride.  No social media.  Screen time was either playing my Super Nintendo or watching something we had taped on VHS.  Disconnection from technology meant connection with real people. 

How the world has changed.

In the 90’s, there were two main cliches when it came to a stash of porn.  

The first was that your Dad had his own private collection hidden under his mattress.  Kids would find their Dad’s magazines and then attempt to hide them surreptitiously in exactly the same way their Dad did.

The other cliche was a stash in the bush.  Boys would explore the bush and have their own cubby houses or hiding spots in there.  Whatever they got their hands on would go there.  

For many, this kind of thing became a rite of passage.  A coming of age.  Or at the least, a common experience of growing and discovering the adult world of nudity and sex.

But in terms of its impact, it had nothing on what is going on today.

With the rise of the internet and smart devices, the world of porn has changed.  Playboy no longer has a nude centrefold. Dad’s no longer have a stash under their bed.  Boys no longer steal their Dad’s magazine and stash them in the bush.

They carry their stash with them at all times.  It’s in their pocket.  It’s on their phone.  It’s on their laptop.  

Whether it be a stash of photos or videos hidden on a device or simply accessing porn via a browser, porn is anonymously accessible in a way it has never been before.  Browsing history is deleted in a flash.

In the 90’s, mums could get overwhelmed if they accidentally found their child’s stash.  These days, parents can be prone to conclude that because there is no physical stash, there must be no stash at all.

Parents, it would be wise to talk to your kids about this.  Ask them the hard questions in a loving way.  Talk with them about technology and its dangers.  Keep a careful eye on their use of devices.  Encourage openness.

We can’t go back to the 90’s...nor would most of us want to.  But we can be aware of what the changes mean for our kids and the porn-filled world in which we live.

The Not So Innocent Tumblr

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Tumblr is one of the biggest social media platforms on the net.  Over half a billion users monthly.  144 billion posts.  120,000 new users each day.  53 million posts per day.  Sure, it's no Facebook (but none of the other social media platforms are), but it’s still a big deal.

I’ll be honest - I’m not a user.  But I’ve heard from students that I teach that they like it.  They can share whatever they like on it, and they essentially create their own blog and interact with others’ blogs.

An article on cnet.com recently highlighted an Italian study that looked at how much porn is on Tumblr, and how many people are seeing it, either intentionally or unintentionally.  They looked at 130 million users and 7 billion posts; a huge sample size.

Here’s what the study found:

“Adult content has become so pervasive that more than one in four people on the site will end up seeing porn without even looking for it, according to the study. Tumblr didn't respond to requests for comment.
Only 0.1 percent of accounts on the Yahoo-owned social network are producing porn content, but 22 percent of the site's users follow, like or reblog content from those accounts. Because of those shares, another 28.5 percent of people on Tumblr are unintentionally exposed to porn, according to the study.”

That’s over half of Tumblr users either following porn or being exposed unintentionally.

They also found that:

"Men and women under 25 on Tumblr are following porn at about the same rate, according to the study, but as users get older a gap appears."

So, if you’re a parent and your child is on Tumblr, chat to them about the kinds of things that pop up on their dashboard.  Don’t assume that this is simply a male problem.  With half of the users on Tumblr seeing porn, this isn’t something to be ignored.  And if you’ve got younger children, think carefully about what social media you’re going to allow them to use.

What’s Your Holiday Technology Plan?

From about the age of 9 or 10, I spent most of my school holidays at home with my brother.  Mum and Dad were at work and we had the run of the house.  My brother spent pretty much every day of the school holidays on the family computer (we only had one for the family from a young age until I moved out).  He played Command & Conquer and Diablo and Starcraft.  He downloaded songs from Napster.  We only had dial-up internet and so our ability to look at inappropriate content was pretty minimal.  And only one of us could use it at a time.

It might not be that long ago that we were home alone by ourselves during the holidays but the times have certainly changed.  We’ve got internet at speeds that were unimaginable 15 years ago.  We’ve got devices that lived only in the realm of sci-fi 15 years ago.  The internet is filled with all manner of content that can be viewed anonymously and freely.  And our kids are more tech-savvy than most of us ever were.

So, do you have a plan for technology in your homes these holidays?  What devices can your children use unsupervised?  When can they use them?  Will they have free reign of Netflix? YouTube? Social Media? How much screen time are they allowed each day?

If you’re a parent and regularly leave your kids at home by themselves over the holidays, it would be really wise to have a plan to set boundaries about what your kids are able to do and what they are allowed to do.  Without this, you allow your children free and full access to all kinds of material.  

You might think: “My kids wouldn’t look at that stuff!”  In fact, many parents think along that line and are then shocked to discover their child is regularly viewing porn.  But when you consider how widespread porn use is among young people these days, it shouldn’t be that surprising.  If they’re in high school they’ve most likely seen porn (at least inadvertently), and many of them are watching it several times each week.

Considering how easy it is to access porn online these days, and how many devices we have in our homes, our kids need help navigating this world.  

So firstly, what are your kids able to do?  That is, are you protecting them from the vast range of harmful material that is available online?  Have you got some sort of filtering set up at home?  OpenDNS is a great option for this.  You may want to set up Google safe search so that your child won’t inadvertently get some adult images when searching for pictures or videos of cats!  You may want to look at the parental and safety settings for each of your devices.  Do you have passwords for the Netflix accounts with clear settings established for your kids?  We need to ensure our kids are protected from adult content.

Secondly, what are your kids allowed to do?  This question is one for parents to decide for themselves. But it would be worthwhile considering what technology you’ll allow your children to use and for how long.  Be mindful of too much screen time over the holidays.  Be mindful of teenagers spending hours alone in their rooms with their devices.  Consider what content they are allowed to watch on Netflix or YouTube.

Lastly, make sure you’re talking to your kids about the fun and dangers that are lurking online.  Encourage them to talk to you when they see something adult online.  Talk to them about the boundaries you establish.  Work with them but make sure you have the final say.

The internet is a wonderful thing.  But it’s also dangerous.  Like many good things (words, food, wine, cars) it can be used for our joy and good or it can be used for our harm.  And sometimes we are naive as to what is out there and what our kids are looking at.  No parent wants to put their children in a situation where they can be harmed.  No decent parent would take their child to an adult sex shop or brothel.  But we need to realise that when we have no boundaries around technology we are allowing our children free access to unlimited pornographic material.  We wouldn’t do that in the physical world, so why would we in the digital world?    

If you want more on the nitty gritty of setting up something of these boundaries at home, check out the ‘for parents’ page.  It will give you all the info you need to help protect your kids so that they enjoy technology safely.

 

 

Should We Show Porn At School?

I once heard a story about a rugby coach from my high school showing the rugby team some porn on the bus trip back to school.  I guess they played well and he wanted to reward them?  Today it would be a sackable offence, but back then I guess it wasn’t such a big deal.  

This week, Dame Jenni Murray (a journalist and broadcaster from the UK) has publicly advocated for showing pornography to students in schools. But unlike that rugby coach, she isn’t just trying to reward the boys; she has an educational argument.

Her rationale is simple.  She says that we need to help young people analyse pornography so as to minimise its educational power.  She argues that sex education that simply focuses on biology and plumbing is failing our students.  Just as we analyse Jane Austen, so too we should analyse pornography, considering its power and ubiquity.

Now, to lay my cards on the table, I think the idea of showing students pornography is unwise in the highest order.  Perhaps Dame Jenni Murray is giving an extreme suggestion to make a point.  Either way, to show porn to minors is illegal in Australia, and we teachers (most days) would like to keep our jobs and our freedom.

However, I don’t think we should throw away everything she says.

Firstly, she’s right when she argues that sex education that is simply about plumbing is failing our students.  She’s right when says that pornography is a powerful teacher that needs to be countered.  And she’s right that we need to help students analyse the pornography we watch.

So if we’re not going to sit down in class and analyse porn, what can we do?

Here are a few suggestions.

We can talk about porn.  Finding appropriate ways within the life of a pastoral or well-being program to sit and talk about porn would help many young people.  Sure, it’s not as simple as sitting down and talking about it, but open conversation brings something hidden into the light.  We can also talk about it in PDH/PE classes and religious education classes.

We can equip students to analyse the porn they watch.  We don’t need to watch and analyse porn in the classroom with them, but schools can, in a range of subject areas, teach their students to critically analyse the media they watch.  They can pull apart other types of media, and be challenged to apply the same critical mind to pornography, and see if they agree with the message.  We can teach skills in critical analysis regarding the images that portray gender and relationships so that they are equipped to be critical of the message of pornography.

We can teach students about the harms of pornography, especially when consumed habitually.  Helping students understand the harms will help them to consider their own behaviour.

So before we consider breaking the law and watching porn with minors, there is a multitude of things we can do in our schools to help young people make healthy choices for their own well-being.