Talking Porn – Porn on the Brain – Coming soon!

Just before the end of term, I had the great pleasure of making the trip up north to spend the day at a School where they had bravely agreed to allow me to go and talk to members of their year 9 and year 10 classes about pornography.

What’s more, this was all in the presence of a TV camera and a big mike on a stick!

Both myself and the school had been asked to take part in a new Channel 4 documentary produced by Blink films UK trying to get behind the headlines to see if porn is actually harmful to young people. Rather than trying to grab the headlines, we were told it is to be a documentary looking at the science and speaking to the experts.

Apparently I was considered one of those experts – which is nice.

The show follows the journey of Martin Daubney, the once editor in chief of Loaded Magazine. In the past he was tarnished as a pornographer himself, accused of pushing images of semi naked glamour girls on to the plates of young men – as a kind of gateway drug to harder stuff. Martin-Daubney

Now a father, he is trying to work out what are the messages he wants to pass on to his son – what should he say when his son is old enough to understand what his daddy did for a living – should he feel guilty or was it all as harmless as it seemed at the time? It is a somewhat personal journey – but like so many men – myself included once you stop just being you and become dad – your perspective changes and you think about what kind of a world your little person is gonna grow-up in – and what you can do to help them negotiate it.

There has been much written in the headlines of late around the harm that porn is causing to children growing up in the UK today. There is even more argument around the accessibility of porn and the amount that young people are consuming, and at a young age too. Indeed, currently there is David Cameron’s campaign trying to ban all access to adult content from the web as standard – then adults who did wish to give into their baser instincts would have to phone their internet provider and opt in.

Great in theory – except it’s not actually, there a whole host of things wrong with the notion – not least the fact that it is highly likely that a lot of important content that young people can access, such as open and honest sexual health information such as the Respect Yourself Website, or information about sexuality or trans* issues, self-harm and everything else of use will all be going too. Plus this is all based on the concept that Porn is the anti-Christ of all media – Wipe this from the internet and the word would be a better place.

I find it strange that it is perfectly acceptable to go to a cinema to watch a film that will make us cry, or make us laugh – to rent a movie that will scare us out of wits and give us nightmare – however, watching a film that might turn us on is something we find shameful? How is sex any less part of the range of natural emotion?

Furthermore, we talk of ‘Porn’ as if it’s just one thing and miss out the fact that the same as with any genre the term covers a whole spectrum of content – from ethical to downright dangerous. Don’t get me wrong I am not a big advocate for porn – there is plenty about (some)porn that makes me angry, but I can see it has a legitimate place in life too. Also porn is not a new phenomenon either – the first humankind did when they invented the camera was to start taking nude photos with it –the same goes for the video camera!

Honestly, I kind of sit on the fence when it comes to Pornography and young people. I certainly do not think that it is the Sodom & Gomorra of the day. Like most things, porn has its positives and its negatives. I can clearly see its influencing on the young people I speak to – but no more so than YouTube, Facebook, Celebrity culture and mainstream media. Porn is not the route of the problem I is just another branch of media that young people must suffer giving them mixed, conflicting and dishonest messages.

So where do I and the young people of York High fit in? Well I guess we are the solution to the question… Is porn warping the sexual identities of our kids?

Porn like so many other issues in life become less harmful when young people have the opportunity to contextualise it. Unfortunately we do not give our young people enough credit – they perhaps more than many adults have the ability to rationalise the boundaries between real and imaginary. The have grown up in a digital world or the internet, smart phones and social media. It has always been part of their lives.

However, this is not to say that they do not have questions or that they do not need a hand in negotiating their way. This is where really good comprehensive SRE comes in. We may not like it but Pornography (social media and mobile phones) all need to be on the agenda if we are not going to do young people a disservice.

Admittedly porn may raise some pretty uncomfortable or troubling questions in regard to young people – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t at least try to make an effort to answer them.

I would like to say a very big thank you to all of the young people who took part in my sessions – I know it was difficult, not only were we talking about a tough topic but you all had the added pressure of having cameras and mikes waved about – nevertheless you all did a fantastic job and I really enjoyed talking with you.
Also thank you to all the staff, the Board of Governors at the school and the local authority who allowed me to talk to their group so openly.

Finally, all of the team at Blink who made the day fun and made sure that the young people came first.

The show will be aired on Monday 30th September on Channel 4. Click here for a quick taster!

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