Yes, I know many of you will be shocked and outraged just by the title I have used for this article but the grim reality is it is time for schools and families to address the uncomfortable topic that threatens our young people in very serious ways. I am sure you would all be aware of the recent issues in number of schools where male students have shared publicly, sexually explicit images of female students and video’s made of these that have been ‘rated’ by their peers via social media. Abhorrent behaviour of these males but consider also, the female students may have provided these images of themselves willingly…

The knee jerk reaction is to blame the technology. Kids have access to it all the time and from a young age. Surely that must be the reason, that more of these incidents are occurring? On closer look though, the issue is much deeper than technology access or the unregulated internet or porn industry. Staring us plainly in the face is a major societal and educational issue that needs to be addressed both at home and in schools.

Pornography has been around since the beginning of time and we see this in history in early sculptures, cave drawing and paintings. Throughout the ages pornography has evolved and developed and access to it has become common place. Whilst pornography has moved with the times the attitude of society has not. It is a taboo subject that very few will discuss and those who watch or talk about it are portrayed as depraved or immoral. Given this closed minded attitude, our kids who are naturally curious about themselves and their changing bodies are stumbling through what they find on the internet or through other sources, blind.

Young males particularly, are seeing females portrayed in pornography as objects to be degraded and humiliated via verbal and physical aggression. Recent research published in the journal Violence Against Women, detailed that 88% of scenes in porn movies contained physical aggression against women. In addition, the actresses are shown to react to this with pleasure or neutrality. In recent years the ‘acts’ have become more physically damaging to women’s bodies and the impact of this is being played out in emergency rooms. We have begun to raise a generation of young men and women who view the humiliation of women as a normal part of sex.

Pornography is where young boys from 9 years of age, are turning to, because attitudes at home and in schools are still heavily censored. The societal and health effects in males are well documented and this week we see it in our local classrooms. So it is time to tackle this in homes and schools, openly and use our experience and knowledge to educate our kids about sex and sex education. Critical analysis of what has become mainstream will teach our kids to delineate between what is real and healthy and what is not!

A two-step approach is needed:

The first, is overhauling sex education in schools so that it provides more than education around the ‘mechanics’ of sex, reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases. Secondary schools need updated sex education programs that address the latest trends in sexual behaviours, the types of behaviours and addictions, consequences psychologically and other and the issues for teenagers. As educators, we need to inform boys on how porn is manipulated, manufactured and marketed with unhealthy and unrealistic representations of sex and sexual relationships. Girls need to be taught that submission and being dominated is not the norm. That they are of infinite worth and value as a female in their own right, defined by themselves. Boys and girls need to learn that a healthy sexual relationship is one of balance and partnership where mutual pleasure based on care and love, is the aim.

The second, is opening the discussion at home. As parents we cannot let our discomfort of the topic stop us from being on the front line to help our sons and daughters to make better life choices and have healthier relationships. Encourage your child to communicate openly with you about the ‘online’ world, the challenges they may face, what they can do and who to talk to if they experience issues. While many parents feel as though they are unequipped to discuss these issues, it’s important to remember that many of the behaviours and issues we experience online are no different to those in the real world; it’s only the accessibility that has changed. Education and communication are the most powerful tools parents, carers and teachers can use to address issues that children and young people may face.

Returning then, to the title of this article, the problem we have seen in recent weeks in local classrooms is not really about ease of access via technology to pornography. It is the lack of a proactive and open minded approach from our society in safeguarding our kids.  We have left them stumbling alone with their curiosities and questions. As uncomfortable, embarrassing, taboo or distasteful you may find it, it is time to talk about porn.