Discussing pornography with our teens
PORN, I read in an article this week, has the greatest influence on our young when it comes to sex education. This is troubling considering some of the porn I have watched in the early hours when I have been unable to get to sleep. The women’s bodies, unreal in their near-robotic smooth perfection, are contorted into positions you know are impossible without terrible cramp.
In porn, sex is so often something that is “done” to the women by men who don’t seem nearly as concerned about the body beautiful or personal grooming. You have to spend hours on porn sites to find women who look like they are actually enjoying themselves. Literally hours. Makes me wonder if I watch porn because I can’t sleep or if I can’t sleep because I watch porn.
Teenage girls are being pressured into having sex and sending nude pictures of their body parts over their smartphones. It’s not a new thing, of course, young girls and women being persuaded to do things they don’t want to or are not ready to do. And the internet means that the pressure isn’t just there when they are out. It can be there when they are in their bedroom pretending to do their geography homework.
My generation fumbled about in the dark to learn about each other’s bits and pieces. A satin blindfold was considered “kinky”. A quick skim through a porn site now, though, suggests that unless there are nipple clamps, hoists and a variety of gardening tools involved, you are positively Victorian.
After reading the latest article, I panicked and interrogated my 10-year-old, internet-obsessed son at breakfast.
“You’ve done sex education at school, right?” I blurted out. He nodded, his mouth full of Corn Flakes. “What did you learn?” is my next, slightly maniacal question.
My boy politely finishes his mouthful before answering. “We learned about puberty, changes in your body and moods.” “And sex, right? Willies and stuff ?” I’m out of control. My poor boy shoots me a “you need to shut up, or I’ll become a banker” look.
But the article has rattled me. I need to teach him right here, right now, that you must never ever pressurise anyone into doing anything they are not comfortable doing.
In the film Captain Fantastic, a father who has raised his children in the woods, away from mainstream society, allows completely frank dialogue about sexual matters, even with his youngest children. At the end of the film, he gives advice to his teenage son who is about to leave the family for the first time to have his own adventures: “When you have sex with a woman, be gentle, listen to her. Treat her with respect and dignity, even if you don’t love her.”
“Sex is completely natural, you can talk about it to your mum,” I tell my mortified son, who hangs on to his Corn Flakes bowl for comfort and support.
I drop it. For now. But we will talk. The birds and the bees chat is not enough. In fairness, it has never been enough. We need to talk about much more. Feelings, consent, that sort of thing.
Our daughters are up against it. Being valued by your looks did not come with the arrival of Instagram. It’s an injustice as old as time.
It will be awkward talking to my children about matters beyond the reproductive purpose of sex. But if not me, who? Pornhub? Redtube?
No matter how excruciating, we must cross the Rubicon and discuss porn with our teens. No matter how “fair trade” you are in your choice of voyeurism, you can never be sure that no one is being manipulated. The awful stuff is out there, your kids will see it.
Shappi Khorsandi is a comedian and writer.