The ABC published an article on Saturday about the rise of sexual abuse among young people. It came on the back of the horrific story of two 12 year old boys sexually assaulting a six year old girl at a school.
There's no denying it, sexual assault regularly happens in schools. And this isn't just a problem in secondary schools, it also plagues primary schools too.
The article from the ABC pointed to porn as one of the contributing factors in the rise of sexual assaults in Australia. In fact, one of the most shocking news quotes was from Joe Tucci, who works with “young people who have engaged in problematic sexual behaviours.” He said, "What we see now is that pornography is a factor in 100 percent of the cases we see, whereas it used to just account for a small portion of cases 10 years ago."
So why is pornography a factor in these cases? How can watching other people have sex contribute to sexual coercion and abuse?
One factor may be the violent and aggressive nature of much of the porn that young people are watching. One prominent study found that 88% of scenes from the most popular fifty films in 2010 contained acts of physical violence, with most of these acts committed against women.
When children watch violent porn, and the actors appear to enjoy aggressive sex, it is no wonder that some may try and imitate.
Even more concerning than this is the way in which much porn treats (or more accurately doesn't) the vital notion of consent.
Much porn that our young people watch tells the story that when a woman says no to a sexual advance she just needs a little more convincing. Push a little more. Touch a little more. And before you know it, she will be sexually aroused and forget all about the fact that she said no several times.
Porn is clearly not the only factor. But it is undeniably part of the problem.
Dr. Michael Flood of Wollongong University has written how porn serves as rape training, as “There is now very substantial evidence that pornography is associated with sexually aggressive and violence-supportive attitudes.”
Porn's educational power has to be countered by education from parents and schools. Sure, most kids know porn isn't real. Most kids get consent. But even a small minority who don't is a major concern.
And porn's ability to slowly chip away at the notion of consent should be of great concern in our culture, where the average age of exposure is slowly and surely getting younger.
Let’s work towards a day when no means no, every time.