The death of in­no­cence

Pornog­ra­phy of­ten de­grades, hu­mil­i­ates and phys­i­cally hurts women, and no one de­serves that sort of treat­ment.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

WHEN I was 10 years old, I made a sur­prise dis­cov­ery while I was search­ing through the cup­board where my fa­ther stored his tools. It was the eve of my 11th birth­day, and I was look­ing for the presents that I was sure my par­ents had hid­den some­where in the house. But when my hands ran over the top­most shelf of that cup­board, all I could feel were the smooth pages of a magazine.

In­trigued, I pulled it down. A volup­tuous woman with enor­mous breasts and bright red pouty lips stared back at me from the front cover. It was the first time I’d seen a woman’s naked breasts. As I flicked through the pages of that pub­li­ca­tion, I was con­fronted with more im­ages of women with large breasts in var­i­ous stages of un­dress. My first re­ac­tion? “Yuck!” My se­cond re­ac­tion? “I hope I don’t grow up to have breasts that size.”

My third re­ac­tion? “What is my fa­ther do­ing look­ing at pic­tures of naked women?”

I re­turned the magazine to its hid­ing place, re­treated to my bed­room, and tried not to think about those large breasts or the dis­turb­ing im­age of my fa­ther look­ing at them. For a long time af­ter­wards, I couldn’t look at my fa­ther without think­ing about those women.

When I was 12 years old, I be­gan de­vel­op­ing breasts of my own. Around about this time, I was also sub­jected to sex ed­u­ca­tion lessons at school. My class­mates and I were given il­lus­tra­tions of male and fe­male gen­i­talia and told how ev­ery­thing worked. It was all very cold and clin­i­cal – a bit like an Ikea as­sem­bly man­ual: align the two com­po­nent parts, slot A into B, mak­ing sure the legs are straight and the arms aren’t get­ting in the way. Af­ter tight­en­ing the screws, re­plen­ish with a bowl of Swedish meat­balls.

In my mind, that’s all there was to sex, and I re­ally didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Then, when I was 14, a girl­friend and I snuck into a cinema to see Last Tango In Paris, an X-rated movie star­ring Mar­lon Brando and Maria Sch­nei­der. To make our­selves look older, we wore a lot of make-up and stuffed wads of tis­sue pa­per into our bras.

As this is a fam­ily news­pa­per, I can’t de­scribe the sex­ual ex­plic­it­ness of some of the scenes in that movie. Suf­fice to say that I watched some seg­ments with my mouth wide open. I also squirmed un­com­fort­ably in my seat and used the work “yuck” a lot.

Of course, what I was ex­posed to that day is noth­ing com­pared to the hard­core porn that many of today’s teenagers are able to ac­cess on the In­ter­net. With just a few clicks of a mouse, any­one can ob­tain a whole smor­gas­bord of sex­ual pref­er­ences and po­si­tions, some of them hu­mil­i­at­ing and dan­ger­ous. In­deed, pornog­ra­phy is teach­ing our teenagers that it’s ac­cept­able, even de­sir­able, to en­gage in ir­re­spon­si­ble sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties.

Teenage boys are nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous about sex, but reg­u­lar ex­po­sure to porn cre­ates a dis­torted view of sex and what con­sti­tutes healthy sex­ual norms and at­ti­tudes. I think it’s got­ten to the stage now where many of the teenagers who fre­quent porn sites have no idea what cou­ples in a lov­ing, com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship re­ally do be­hind closed doors.

Some young men, es­pe­cially those who are ad­dicted to such sites, also want porn sex in real life – mon­key see, mon­key do.

It’s also pos­si­ble that some young women feel pres­sure to com­ply with their part­ner’s de­mands, be­cause that’s what they think ev­ery­one else is do­ing, and it must, there­fore, be nor­mal. But pornog­ra­phy of­ten de­grades, hu­mil­i­ates and phys­i­cally hurts women, and no one de­serves that sort of treat­ment.

I’m not a prude, and I think that what­ever two in­formed, con­sent­ing adults de­cide to get up to in pri­vate is en­tirely their busi­ness, as long as it’s not il­le­gal and no one gets hurt. But we need to pro­vide young peo­ple with bal­anced in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice about sex, sex­u­al­ity, sex­ual health and re­la­tion­ships in a way that leaves them with no doubt that porno­graphic sex isn’t real, and that real sex is grounded in re­spect and love, not lust.

The In­ter­net is rob­bing many chil­dren of their in­no­cence and we can no longer af­ford to sit back and let it hap­pen.

Check out Mary on Face­book at www. face­book.com/mary.sch­nei­der.writer. Reader re­sponse can be sent to star2@thes­tar.com.my.

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