It was with some reluctance that I sat down last night to watch SBS Insight’s inquiry into the effect of pornography on kids. I anticipated a roll out of the usual suspects with the usual hysterical claims that porn is warping the minds of our children and nobody can have decent relationships anymore and society’s going to hell in a hand cart unless we take down the Internet and make it all stop.
What a relief and a pleasure, then, to meet a brilliant bunch of young people with more common sense than I’ve found in some adults, and very definite ideas about the role of pornography in their lives and what they want adults to do about it.
“Porn isn’t going to go away,” declared one young woman, “and we want information about it. We want to know what’s real and what isn’t.”
All the young ‘uns had encountered hard core porn and none of them were impressed with it. Some they found hilariously funny. Unfortunately a middle-aged Anglican minister in the audience was deeply affected by their nonchalance, and said he found it terribly sad they’d ever seen any of it. Mostly they watched amateur porn, they said, to learn what to do and where things go. They would like some adult guidance through the genres, they said, because how were they to know what was fantasy and what people really do?
The only other person visibly upset by pornography was a adult male who identified himself as a practising Catholic and who said that thanks to porn, he couldn’t see women as human beings because he couldn’t get past his lust for us and find our humanity. Lust blinded him. He struggled daily with his lustful feelings, and I felt very sorry for his obvious torment. He claimed that this was all due to viewing porn and he wished he’d never set eyes on it.
Sociologist Michael Flood, a well known critic of porn, made the somewhat odd statement that “Porn shifts what we think of as normal.” Who is “we?” What is “normal?” What kind of porn is he talking about? Obviously from the kids’ point of view porn doesn’t shift what is normal, because they have no idea what is “normal” and would clearly appreciate some guidance. To his credit, Flood later claimed that we need more varied and “ethical” porn, and perhaps there’s something in that.
Obviously there are kids who are negatively affected by porn, and one of the sex educators in the audience expressed her concern for girls she worked with who were intimidated by boys’ demands for the kind of sex the girls didn’t want and didn’t enjoy. So there’s a need to teach sexual manners.
However, as one young woman firmly stated, if boys want to know what a girl wants they have to bloody well ask her. Don’t assume it’s the same thing women in porn films want. It isn’t about how creative you think you are, she told the lads. It’s about what pleases the woman. Her mum, sitting beside her, nodded vigourously and beamed with pride.
All in all the show considerably lifted my spirits. I’m very fond of young ‘uns. They almost always have more smarts than I expect. And if this group is any guide, they can watch porn, even from an early age, without incurring devastating damage. But they want our help. Not censorship. They know porn is part of our world and isn’t going away, and they want to learn how to deal with it. They want guidance. They want trust. They want education.
Hear that, morals police?