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.



Til Porn Do Us Part

I think most people these days would agree that young kids shouldn’t be looking at porn.  There’d be a whole range of views when it comes to teenagers, though, despite the fact that it’s illegal for minors to watch x rated content.

But for adults, most people would say it’s ok.  For many, porn can even be a part of a healthy relationship.  The idea here is that porn can spice up a couple’s sex life by giving a few tips and hints.  The thinking here is that a bit of porn can get a stalling engine running again.  Or for others, porn use by an individual within a relationship is no big deal, as long as it’s not replacing, but simply supplementing intimacy within the relationship.

A new study came out in the last week, called ‘Til Porn Do Us Part, Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorcethat may have called some of these ideas into question.  After an extensive study of 2000 couples, researchers found that when married people began to use porn individually it increased the chances of divorce by 200%.  The rate of divorce was even higher when the individual using porn was female.

The study showed that the younger a married person was when they took up porn, the greater the chance of divorce was later on.  Pornography use was most detrimental to marriages where participants considered the marriage healthy.

Porn certainly spices things up, but not in the way that people think.  It seems it less like the good kind of spice in a curry, and more like the time my dad accidentally loaded a spaghetti bolognese with a tonne of cinnamon.

So why might this be the case, particularly when it goes against a dominant line of thought in our culture?

Here are a few suggestions.  Firstly, getting aroused from other people while being intimate with someone else isn’t so intimate.  Porn could have the effect of training people to look elsewhere for sexual fulfillment.

Secondly, porn doesn’t really depict lovemaking.  It’s highly stylised and choreographed.  Porn stars don’t look like most people will ever look, and in general, they are perpetually young, unlike most married people who are slowly getting older.  Porn sets up an unattainable standard that will only leave people dissatisfied.  

Thirdly, most porn is centred on the pleasure of one or more dominant males. But marriage at its best is about the mutual giving between two lovers.  Sex is about two people seeking the pleasure of the other.  Imitating much of the porn produced today would not lead to a healthy sexual relationship.

Lastly, porn is easy and marriage is not.  With porn, a person can get aroused on their own; they don’t need to think or consider anyone else.  But marriages take hard work, sacrifice, and the setting aside of your own preferences.  It’s one of many reasons as to why marriage is worthwhile.  Humans are naturally selfish, and marriage and parenting help people to set aside the self and serve others.

Without porn, ‘til death do us part’ may have a better shot at being a reality.


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.    




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.