Pornography – Sex and the media

Pornography is certainly a hot topic at present. Porn is not a new thing per-say, we have had porn in some form for as long as time – However, one thing that everyone agrees on is that porn is far easier to access these days than ever before. With the internet and the rise of the smart phone – people can access porn anywhere and there aren’t many restrictions regardless of your age. Never before have we had the ease of access to ‘hard-core’ material with very little restriction or safe guards in place.

As a result, ‘porn-culture’ is being blamed for many of the social issues we currently face – from misogynistic attitudes to women, to a change in sexual practice, such as a renewed interest in anal sex.

If you believe the politicians porn is the sole cause of the degradation of society and the corruption of young people. Porn is literally destroying young people’s childhoods, making them feel sexual inadequate in relation to their bodies, pressuring them into have more and more extreme sex and generally wrapping their fragile little minds…

With headlines like ‘10 year olds regularly accessing porn’ and ‘young people feel pressured to act out what they see in porn’– the moral panic in the media seems justified. ‘

But is that true? … are these just easy headlines used to sell papers or are there facts to back it up?

So, what really is our problem porn? And does porn really harm young people?

Why do we watch porn?

Perhaps the first question we should ask if we want to understand more is why do people watch porn in the first place – What do they get from it?

First and foremost is curiosity – to find out more about sex, all the stuff that generally adult fail to tell them, yet they all have questions about. Young people predominantly want to know if they are normal… they watch porn to see what men’s and women’s bodies and bits look like and to find out how ‘you do it’…

This seems perfectly reasonable, especially when they are clear not having their questions answered at school – the trouble is in most schools the only image you will see of a girl’s genitals is the internal one that looks like a sheep’s head – which is great if you want to learn about reproduction – but useless if you are curious about sex!

Very rarely do we actually explore or answer young peoples questions about sex – especially not how to do it! Yes, we will tell them how to have a baby, but that isn’t the same thing.

And yet, another reason young people often give for watching porn has nothing to do with sex –  instead they watch porn to freak out their mates, for a laugh and to get street cred…  This is nothing new, it’s what we have always done, to collectively gross each other out and go urhh! eewww! This is especially true of the more unusual, weird and wonderful clips that are shown. Very rarely is it actually something perverted that they are into – in this sense it is a bit about showing off and fitting in. Now people post porn on social media sites, not because it turns them on, but to get as many ‘likes’ as they can – it’s a way of seeing how popular you can be.

Finally, the most obvious reason… because they are horny! And why shouldn’t they be…? The statistics would suggest that plenty of adults are watching and using porn, both by themselves and with their partners – indeed, porn use amongst women is on the increase – with it being suggested that a 1/3 of all porn is actually watched by women… so why do we think that young people might be any different?

Just a thought…

It is perfectly acceptable to go to the cinema and pay money to watch a film that makes you laugh –that makes sense, but we also pay money to watch films that make us scared or even films that are designed to upset us… so why is this any different than watching a film that is designed to turn us on… how is this any different or strange – is getting turned on any less of a human experience?

The Respect Yourself Website receives lots of questions from young people about porn or because of porn at least. Some talk about how porn is affecting their relationships, and some are just people who are trying to get their heads around their mixed up feelings about it all… it is hard to know what to think when people are shouting with very loud voices.

But before we go any further – what are we actually talking about? What is porn?

Ok. It may seem like a bit of an obvious question – however, you may be surprised to realise that in the UK we don’t actually have an agreed legal definition of what pornography is.

The trouble is people in the media talk about porn like it is all one thing… that it all fits neatly into one box. However, porn is a diverse as any other sort of genre of entertainment – there are computer games that are violent and graphic, there are some that will help you keep fit, improve your maths or teach you skills such as problem solving.

Porn is exactly the same – especially these days, yes there is porn that is violent and misogynistic or simply ridiculously unrealistic – but there is also ethical and feminist porn -not to mention the huge rise in amateur, home-made porn (which in itself raises a whole host of other issues too!).  So unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as some people would like to think.

Think about War films for example. Some war movies are as historically accurate as possible. They follow the facts of the story, they show the harsh realities of life in a war zone, both the physical and emotional strains; good people get killed, children suffer… and they show the real evil that human beings are capable of… on both sides of the fight.

However, there are also those war films that a sensational, Hollywood nonsense! The hero is magically immune to ever getting killed, yes he may be shot like 20 times, but always gets away to tell the tale – there are clear goodies and baddies… and America are always there to save the day (despite the fact that they weren’t even in the war at the time!)…

and there are also all the films in the middle. Porn is no different. There is open honest films, made with real couples, that show consent, intimacy and real people having real fulfilling sex… and then there are the studio films, full of fake boobs, fake fingernails and standard issue scripts. And then, unfortunately there are also films of people literally being exploited and raped. This final category is not porn – it is abuse and should never be confused as entertainment.

In the UK it is illegal to publish or distribute material which may ‘deprave and corrupt’ vulnerable groups of people, under the Obscene Publications Acts of 1958 & 1964. This was extended in 1977 to include film.

This means that, at the end of the day it comes down to the general public’s opinion. Each publication is assessed on a case-by-case basis, and judged whether any explicit material is of artistic merit or is merely smut.

Do you know what the most famous porn trial in the UK was and who produced material so obscene and damaging to the general public that they were tried in court?… Penguin Books! Yes they were in trouble for publishing a novel by DH Lawrence called ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’… a book we now study in English Literature courses…!

It may sound silly, but you can actually pop in to your local supermarket and buy a novel from the best sellers list that is just as rude and sexually graphic as any porn film… think about the impact of novels like ‘50 Shades of Grey’ – although again there are far better written and literary erotic novels written… how is that any different? Why are we so scared of the internet?

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