Online pornography and young people
This blog discusses topics of a sexual nature which some people may find offensive. I have been explicit about the subject matter to prevent ambiguity. I intend no offense, but want to be clear and explicit before you read the blog.
One of the areas I am currently exploring is how social media platforms can be creatively utilised to engage young people to explore and learn about their sexuality, sexual health, forms of contraception, and to define for themselves their boundaries for current and future sexual interactions.
Reflect on the online ‘profile’ pictures of some young people, some are extremely sexualized and provocative. Social media platforms allows a ‘space’ for young people to experiment and explore their ‘sexual’ self, which is a natural transition from being a teenager to a young adult. However are young people being supported and educated on how to keep themselves safe and review the possible long term impacts of their digital ‘sexual’ foot print. On numerous occasions have requested young people to not share or display pornographic images on their mobiles to their peer group while in a youth centre/school. I try to encourage young people to think twice about taking sexual images of themselves and sharing them with a ‘partner’ as they then relinquish future control about where and whom may view that image in the future.
I am not attempting to discuss the ethics or values of the porn industry but the reality that a high proportion of young people are seeking porn online to inform themselves and their peer group about sex and to explore their sexuality. Porn is prolific on the internet varying from soft to XXX. With young people using the internet to inform themselves on sex & relationships – this could result in distorting their own sexual boundaries – exploring what is the permissible ‘norm’ for sexual interactions.
YouGov’s ‘Sex Education survey. http://sexperienceuk.channel4.com/teen-sex-survey
These results relate to 14-17 year old teenagers.
- 58% of all 14-17 year olds have viewed pornography online, on mobiles, in magazines, movies or on TV.
- 71% of sexually active teenagers have viewed pornography
- 42% of sexually active teenagers view pornography regularly
- More than a quarter of the boys surveyed use porn at least once a week (5% of them very day)
Anna Richardson, the programme’s presenter commented ‘They’re massively overexposed to pornography on the internet, in magazines and over their mobile phones. That’s where they’re getting their sex education from.’ (Hill, 2008)
Questions to consider regarding porn as a form of sex education used by young people:
- How often is a condom used or referred to during a sex scene?
- Is there a discussion about using a condom to prevent STI’s?
- Is there any information on the screen encouraging viewers to visit sexual health clinic?
- Is lubricant used to prevent the condom splitting?
- As professionals do we explain the purpose of the appropriate lubricant?
In the majority of porn scenes males tend to be ‘vigorous’ in thrusting during sexual intercourse. Young men may interpret this as the norm and not realise the increased risk of a condom possibly splitting. Also they may not be very skilled in stimulating a partner to produce enough naturally lubricant, this can cause penetration to be painful and raise the risk of the condom splitting. Through discussion a couple may agree to use lubricant but not be aware which is the appropriate kind (water based ; KYjelly)
Explicit consent: No consent then it’s rape
Often the dialogue in pornography is derogatory and assumes the individuals consent; “I know you want it” or “you’re begging for it”. There is little or no dialogue about explicit consent before, during sexual intercourse or if the sexual act changes from oral to penetrative. The report from NSPCC (survey of 13-17years olds) in regards to violence towards young women in relationships found that nearly nine out of ten girls had been in an intimate relationship. Of these, one in six said they had been pressured into sexual intercourse and 1 in 16 said they had been raped. Others had been pressured or forced to kiss or sexually touch their boyfriend. A quarter of girls had suffered physical violence such as being slapped, punched, or beaten by their boyfriends (Sutton, 2009)
Three in 10 pupils say they learn about sex from porn, yet porn actors never use contraception on camera. For all the bravado, there’s an undercurrent of ambivalence. Asked whether “pornography might give boys or girls false ideas about sex”, 60% said yes. A 14-year-old girl reflects: “Pornography puts a lot of pressure on girls. A boy will see it and think this woman is gonna do this.”(Campbell, 2009) This raises numerous issues:
Questions to consider regarding porn and ‘explicit consent’:
- Are the individuals asked permission if they want have sex? Explicit consent
- Are individuals asked if they want to try different sexual acts?
- Are they comfortable and enjoying the sexual act?
- Are there situations where a partner says “No, I’m not comfortable with that, I want to stop now.”
- What message is being conveyed to young women and men?
NSPCC Head of Policy & Public Affairs Diana Sutton “Young people need to learn to respect each other. Parents and schools can perform a vital role in teaching them about loving and safe relationships, and what to do if they are suffering from violence or abuse.” (Sutton, 2009)
Classes in preventing violence in relationships are to become compulsory for children aged five to 15 within 18 months as part of an official drive to tackle violence against women and girls. (Travis, 2009). Young people need support and safe spaces to learn how to practice asking and respecting consent. Social media can be used to initiate the discussion and present scenarios for young people to review and apply within their lives.
More than 5,000 women under 20 had an abortion for at least the second time last year, new official figures reveal. The disclosure has prompted renewed concern about the effectiveness of sexual health policy. Helen Cameron, chair of the Education for Choice charity, agreed:
“There is no evidence that women are opting to use abortion as a form of contraception,” she said.
“The vast majority of women requesting abortion have tried and failed to use contraception effectively.” (Campell & Hill, 2009)
If we are to lower the abortion rate among young women, we must accept that teenagers will have sex and offer them advice. The UK teen pregnancy rate is the highest in western Europe – six times higher than the Netherlands, nearly three times higher than France and more than twice the rate in Germany.
When we give young people the message that their sexuality is something shameful they need to fear or hide, they hear it. They become afraid and less inclined to ask questions or for help, to be honest about what they need and what’s really going on with them. But most young people will – as has always been the case – have sexual relationships. The approaches to teen sexuality with the best outcomes accept this, rather than trying to deny or eradicate it. (Corinna, 2009) There are some excellent sexual health web sites. However, do young people have the inclination to ‘google’ the information.
Social media tools can be utilised to educate and inform young people about sex & relationships
Below is a link to a interesting film clip from Mike Donmitro (USA)www.datesafeproject.org speaking about how social media can be used for talking about dating, boundaries, and sexual assault awareness with teenagers, middle school students, high school students, college students, parents, and educators.
Additional sexual health film clips:
To help inform and explain to young people about how to use a condom:
What to expect when you visit a sexual health clinic:
Music video on sexual health clinic:
Suggested activities with young people:
eSafeguarding consideration:discuss with young people to be aware of inappropriate websites they may come across during the online search. Be clear about the definition and reasons of inappropriate webpage(s) and discuss with group members if they agree. If appropriate discuss with group members what they do at home if they click onto webpages that make them feel uncomfortable. I would also promote think u know and kid smart web information pages on being safe online.
Website search task:
Young people could could go online to ’search’ for webpages/information on sexual health they would recommend to friends. Then together they can ‘rate’ their chosen webpages and give reasons for their selection to other group members:
- Which webpages offered easy to understand information?
- Was it appealing and easy to use?
- What would you change?
- Would you recommend/forward it to a friend?
- What did you not like? The reason(s)?
This could provide potential benefits for both the young people who learn about provision plus group work skills, and there are also potential benefits for the support organisations regarding their ’shop windows’.
With group members permission, the feedback could be collated and forwarded onto each of the webpage organisations. The feedback could be flip chart paper notes, photos of the session or even short film clips of the young people doing their presentations. This would deliver valuable information for that orgainsation to either continue the good practice or develop it to improve the appeal to their target audience.
If the group has an online social network profile (parental consent granted) the above session could be uploaded and shared with online members. These members could be invited to check out the web links and share their views/opinions.
Create a film clip:
Young people could be invited to create their own sexual health & relationship film clip. Keep it simple and easy initially: collate a selection of ‘tunes’ or ‘image’ that represents ‘sex/love/relationships’ invite young people to work small groups and select which ‘tune/image’ represents their views on sex/love/relationships. They could then create their own film clip discussing their choice(s) and views. I would encourage young people to protect their identity, by creating masks/puppets (with a sexual health theme) to present the information. Young people could also upload/link tunes to the youth provision social media platform and comment on each others choices.
If the film clip is uploaded to Youtube (with young people’s consent), annotations could be added to the clip i.e. local sexual health clinic contact number/web-links with sexual health information. How to use YouTube annotations -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxnopxbOdic
Possible funding sources to fund film activities:
Media Box - http://www.media-box.co.uk/
First light – http://www.firstlightonline.co.uk/funding
Youth Opportunities fund – http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/Youth/youthmatters/youthopportunity/youthfunds/
Campbell, D. (2009) Porn & The new sex education (Internet). Available from:http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/mar/30/teenagers-porn-sex-education Accessed 15.12.09
Campell, D, & Hill, A (2009) Abortion: more than 5,000 UK women under 20 had repeat termination (Internet). Available from:http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/dec/06/women-under-20-repeat-abortionAccessed 15.12.09
Corinna, H. (2009) Help teens have sex without pregnancy (Internet). Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/12/abortion-sex-education Accessed 15.12.09
Hill, A. (2008)’Streetwise’ British teenagers are ignorant about sex (Internet). Available from:http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/sep/07/sexeducation.youngpeople. Accessed 15.12.09
Sutton. D (2009) Teen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC (Internet). Available from:http://www.nspcc.org.uk/whatwedo/mediacentre/pressreleases/2009_01_september_teen_girls_abused_by_boyfriends_warns_nspcc_wdn68078.html)Accessed 15.12.09
Travis. A (2009) Classroom drive to curb violence in relationships (Internet). Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/nov/25/violence-prevention-classes Accessed 15.12.09
(2009) Statement of Contraception and Teenage pregnancy, Department of Health (Internet). Available from:http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Healthimprovement/Sexualhealth/DH_085686Accessed 15.12.09
(2008) YouGov’s ‘Sex education Survey (Internet). Available from:http://sexperienceuk.channel4.com/teen-sex-survey Accessed 15.2.09