Mainstreaming porn – who is truly educating our kids?

One of the most influential and powerful educators of youth today is the media playground and all that comes with it. The Internet is a massive virtual supermarket where we can find anything and everything – from the music and film industry, media, advertising, to video gaming . . . and the list goes on.

‘Porn’[1] is one of the most clicked-on searches on the Internet, offering very easy access to hard-core so-called gonzo porn, with all the benefits of anonymity and secrecy.

Numerous studies have pointed to the potential for serious harm from Internet porn and a high percentage of school pupils acknowledge that online pornography strongly influences how they behave in relationships and view their bodies – normalising abuse and affecting their self-esteem.

My daughter saw her first pornographic images on the Internet when she was four after googling the innocent words ‘games for girls’. She did not type the word ‘porn’ next to it, but ended up with pornographic scenes, lots of breasts and bare bottoms appearing on her screen. She did not ask for it, it was just delivered.

Watching a documentary about the impact of porn on our youth recently, I learned that it has become the norm for boys to start watching porn at the age of ten. Words like ‘anal’ and ‘nugget’ are now a common part of the everyday sex vocabulary of 11 year old boys across the board. At first the boys find the interruption annoying, but after continual exposure they get drawn into it and then they crave more and more extreme images.

Growing up in the era of media socialisation, watching Internet porn is just one aspect that today’s youth has to deal with. Have we stopped to ask:

  • Why has pornography become such a mainstream influence in our daily lives?
  • Why have we allowed pornography to be so readily available and made it so normal to watch?
  • What impact does this have on boys, girls, young men and women and their capacity to develop loving and caring relationships with themselves and others?

 

Which leads us to ask – who is truly educating our kids?

We can look back at the times in the 60s and 70s when soft porn magazines like Playboy and Penthouse started selling an image of ‘liberalism’ to the free-thinking, open-minded middle class men and the hard working labourer, and easily notice that since then pornography has found its way into every corner of society, affecting every area of life.

Since then, sexualised imagery has found its way out of the discreet brown paper bag and onto Times Square billboards, into music videos and onto smartphones everywhere.

It can be argued that the normalisation of pornography happened gradually and deliberately – tainting everything with sexualised images and making sure that people get used to those images being everywhere.

This normalisation process is an essential step for the porn industry if sex is to become the addictive ingredient that is added to your saleable product. From music singles to girls’ dolls, ‘sex sells’ and there is a lot of money to be made from it.

Porn is big business with an annual profit of $25 billion dollars, driving 30% of all Internet traffic around the world (Brown, 2016). It is a consumable product with high returns. Yet do we consider the industry’s financial interest and intent behind making porn part of our daily visual diet? TV programs aimed at youth and young adults, including the massive influence of the music industry, target and influence generation after generation of young people.

Modern industrialised society chronically and pervasively objectifies the female body. There is a host of evidence that young girls exposed to objectifying images over time begin to view themselves as less, losing their sense of self-worth, and seeing themselves more and more as sexual objects.

Self-objectification is born as we lose connection with our body by accepting an image imposed by the media and resulting in a constant monitoring of one’s physical appearance. At the same time, boys constantly exposed to objectifying images of women develop a relationship to the female body as a commodity to use and abuse. There are several studies showing the link between women being seen and presented as objects and the fusion of sex and violence.

Watching Internet porn at a young age, with the combination of violence and abusive sex, becomes a social practice that sells abusive sex as an ultimate life style choice.

Looking particularly at current female pop stars who are and consider themselves as role models for youth culture, it seems that today’s supposed freedom of expression has reached an extreme level, where abuse and sexual objectification of the female body is considered ‘normal’ – as long as it is done to and by oneself!

Has it all become about how to engage in sexually charged situations and, as Annie Lennox pointed out, how ‘to be the pimp and prostitute’ at the same time? This glorified and monetised form of self-harm” is all justified by the media recognition in terms of You-tube hits and how much money is made out of it.

We only need to compare music from the 50s to the music of today to see the extent to which young people are exploited in the music industry in a way that renders them ‘flesh for sale’.

The educational impact of mass media on the whole population and specifically youth is powerful and creates a reference point, a standard that is then considered normal in society.

But what is our choice? Are we going to buy into a world where women are pigeon-holed to be sexual objects and pop stars have to act like porn stars?

Do you remember the chocolate or candy cigarettes we would buy as kids and play act that we were smoking like ‘grown-ups’? In effect, it got us ready to be the smokers of tomorrow.

Today’s music video, magazines and media are that same brand of ‘candy’ – porn packaged for kids and sold by a Mickey Mouse Club crew as a Disneyland dream gone way off track.

How did we get here without calling out the harm along the way?

As we recognize the huge power and influence the media possesses, we can take charge, make the choices and the changes needed. If we allow porn, sexual violence and abuse to be part of our daily diet – what are we transmitting to youth to accept life to be, and who is truly educating our kids?

 

by Rachel Andras

 

[1] The definition of Pornography as summarized by Ana J. Bridges et al (2016:2) includes the following:

Defined by its purpose as stated by the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (1986): “material predominantly sexually explicit and intended for purposes of sexual arousal’
Defined by its accessibility (Barron and Kimmel (2000) “any sexually explicit material to which access was limited, either by signs or physical structure, to adults”
Defined by its sexual explicitness combined with violence or degradation Russell (1993): “material that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with abuse or degradation in a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such behaviour” or Lott (1994) “pornography shows women being sexually dominated, degraded, humiliated, coerced, and/or beaten.”
Defined differentiating it from erotica (Senn (1993)) “erotica is sexually explicit but not degrading or violent, while pornography combines themes of sexual explicitness with sexism, racism, homophobia, and violence.”

This article was first published on  Unimedliving.com

Mainstreaming Porn – Who is truly educating our kids?

 

For further reading see also the published articles on:

Internet porn – the ultimate educator for normalising abuse and violence in our relationships

 

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