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.

Only 70 Schools?

News broke this week of a website containing naked images of Australian school girls.  The schools that the girls were from were named, with over 70 schools across Australia involved.  Four of the schools were within a 5 minute drive from where I live, and 4 more were in a 20 minute drive.  This came on the back of another scandal last week involving students in a prestigious Melbourne school distributing naked images of female students at their school.

Scores of young men uploaded the images, and reports stated that there were many cases of students requesting images of girls from particular schools or areas.

As a teacher and a parent, the whole thing is very concerning.  But it also gives an indication of the broader society at large.

This scandal indicates how prevalent and wide-scale sexting in our schools has become.  The website in question site proves what many people in the education world have been saying for a while: sexting is a common part of courting in the 21st century.  Girls feel tremendous pressure to meet the desires of their male peers for images of their bodies and many of them cave to that pressure.  They also feel this pressure within relationships, where boys demand images with threats of ending the relationship.  

Connected to this is the culture among young men of sharing pornographic images.  Many people are rightly asking the question: Who are these guys who are requesting, sharing and uploading these pictures?  What is wrong with them? 

The answer is that they are probably normal boys.  Sure, they’re not our finest, but their behaviour is far more normal than most people realise.  We might not like it, but we are encountering a new normal.

You see, boys have been sharing pornographic pictures on their phones for the last ten years.  And this whole issue of texting has exploded in schools over the same period.  It seems that in the mind of a teenage boy, it’s not a huge leap to go from sharing an image with your mates to uploading it online.

All of this is a result of a culture that celebrates pornography in a way never seen before.  And while so many in our society want to say that porn use is fine among adults, for those of us working with young people in schools, the cancerous results of widespread pornography consumption are clear.  This website is just the tip of the iceberg.  Lurking underneath are boys sharing these kinds of images privately, and it’s happening in nearly every school in the country, not just the 70 or so on the list.

So what do we do?

Well, here’s what we can’t do.  We can’t break the internet.  We can’t get rid of smart devices.  Parents can set some boundaries in their homes, but our technological world is here to stay.

If you’re a parent reading this, please have an awkward conversation with your children.  Talk to them about their porn usage.  Set boundaries.  Talk to your daughters about their worth beyond their appearance and teach them about the dangers of the internet.  If you’re not sure how to start, here’s a link with a wealth of resources for you that will help you think about talking to your children about porn.

If you work at a school, and especially if you are a leader in your school, please do something that goes beyond getting students in trouble.  We need to go beyond treating symptoms.

Clearly our boys need some re-education.  In a culture where their sex education comes mainly through pornography that is so often misogynistic, our boys need serious help.  Schools need to step up and not simply address the issue of sexting, but also the pornography use that shapes such poor attitudes towards women and fuels their desire for images.

Schools are in the business of education.  They can educate on porn directly in the classroom through curriculum and through pastoral or well-being programs.  They can build in sexual education programs that address porn. 

Schools also have the opportunity to educate indirectly, training their students to consider the messages contained in images that shape attitudes and behaviour.  And this can be done in History, English, Science, Visual Arts, Music and Drama classrooms.  We don’t need to simply leave it to PE and Religion classes. 

If you’re in a school and would like some help, please get in touch.  I'd love to work with your school to address this huge issue.

No amount of angry blog posts about the issue will make a dent.  We need to work with our young people from the ground up, where we slowly work to change the culture that celebrates porn and derides and abuses young women.  Because in this current culture, despite what the boys think, no one ends up winning.    




Teens & Porn in Britain

Katherine Sellgren of the BBC reported on a study conducted by Middlesex University in the UK, highlighting the prevalence of exposure to porn among 11-16 year old children.

The study involved 1001 children.  Over half (53%) had been exposed to pornography and of these 945 had seen the material by the age of 14. It a highlighted that many of the young people had been initially exposed to porn inadvertently, often through pop-up advertisements.  60% of first exposure happened at home, and 29% happened at the house of a friend.

The study also looked at sexual attitudes of these young people, and found that 14% had taken naked or semi-naked photos of themselves.  They found that over half of the boys surveyed believed that porn gave a realistic depiction of sex.

Sellgren also note the concerns of young girls.  She quotes one of the lead researchers in the study, who noted the way in which porn gives boys unrealistic expectations of sex. She also said:

Girls too may feel pressured to live up to these unrealistic, and perhaps non-consensual, interpretations of sex.

The study also stresses the need for ongoing sex and relationship education.  Perhaps we need to stop thinking about sex education as having 'the talk' and then being done with it.  This calls for the need for continued appropriate education from an early age, as well as engaged parents and policy makers to play their vital part in helping young people think carefully about their online and real-world behaviour.

Since when were school kids hot?

Since when were school kids hot?

I guess I thought they were when I was a student in high school, but what’s strange is that the idea of a hot school girl continues today, and not just for high school aged guys.

Last week, Microsoft got blasted for hiring dancers dressed up as school girls at a gaming event.  They did it hours after sponsoring a lunch seeking to support women being involved in the gaming industry. 

They got roasted on social media, and pretty quickly sent out an apology. Still, someone thought that women dressed up as school girls would be sexy.

But seriously – since when were school kids hot?

I know that many girls below 18 look much older than they are, but it seems odd that there is this stereotype of the hot sexualised school girl who really isn’t that innocent after all.

Having worked in schools for a while now, there seems to be a massive disconnect between what people watch in their fantasy world and what is legal in the real world.

I’ve been reading through a book called Big Porn Inc. There’s a chapter in there right at the start, written by Gail Dines about the sexualisation of childhood (p. 3-8) in which Dines focuses on a genre of porn called ‘Pseudo Child Pornography’ or PCP for short. 

The general idea here is that a young looking woman is slowly coaxed into masturbating in front of a camera.  Directors do all they can make the woman look as young and innocent as possible.  The viewer gets off on watching the woman lose her innocence. 

This is really odd.  And in the USA it’s totally legal.  Dines notes that in 2002, a lobbyist group called the ‘Free Speech Coalition’, “worked to change the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act that prohibited any image that ‘is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.’  Arguing that the words ‘appears to be’ limited the free speech of the pornographers, the coalition successfully got this ‘limitation’ removed” (p. 4).

So pornographers are allowed to make material that appears to have minors engaging in sex.

And this isn’t just some small group of people who are into something weird.  This is mainstream porn. In 2014, Pornhub, one of the largest pornographic sites on the web, revealed that the most popular genre of porn was ‘teen porn’.  (Don't worry - this is a link to an article, not to Pornhub itself)

Now, Australia is not the same as the USA.  As far as I can tell from looking into the laws in Australia, they do contain ‘appears to be’ in them.  And I get it; a teen can be 18 or 19.  I teach high school students who are 18.  But who are we kidding here?

I thought we as a society hated child pornography?  We certainly hate paedophiles. Yet for so many, teen porn, or PCP, is hot. It seems to me that what should be a clear line has been blurred - where people say ‘as long as they’re not really children, then it’s ok’.  Surely we’re not that naïve.

More than that, we’re kidding ourselves if we think this will have no effect on society.  I’m not saying that all viewers of teen porn will suddenly become paedophiles.  But at the very least we have to consider the long term impact of scores of men, both young and old, getting off on watching teen porn.

Do we as a society really think its ok that the most popular form of porn intends to make child-like women sexy?  Perhaps this is further evidence that the more people consume porn, the more they continue to need something a little edgier to get the same high as last time.

And if this line is blurring...there's no telling, at this stage, as to how far the blur will spread.