Last Night’s TV – The Sex Education Show vs Pornography

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I’m not entirely sure how to take last night’s Sex Education Show…

On the one hand, I found some of the facts and figures quoted a tad unbelievable, however I guess I have to believe them because surely they wouldn’t be allowed to quote them otherwise, but can it really be true that 50% of internet traffic is hunting out something to do with sex?

There were a lot of believable facts and figures too though; for instance, the show’s study revealed that the hardcore imagery teenagers see by way of porn on the ‘net encouraged them to have unsafe sex and made the girls especially want to have the same physical attributes as the porn stars, that is to say, boobs like footballs that don’t move unless their owner jumps on the spot, wafer thin bodies, hairless and perfect doodahs that have no unsightly flappy bits or other embarrassingly human attributes…

But this concept is nothing new and certainly it’s not unique to internet porn. Since time began we’ve all always coveted the perfect body and the perfect life; it’s what makes advertising work. Back in the day when it was ‘cool’ to smoke, advertisers would use beautiful and glamorous women to advertise their brand of cigarettes or hunky men powerfully astride a horse dragging on a manly Marlborough… the only new factor here is the mode of delivery of the ‘perfection’ imagery; it’s now via the internet and not a magazine or billboard.

However, getting back to the show’s research – they’d interviewed 443 teenagers aged 14 to 17 at schools across the country, and found that around 33% of kids judged what was “normal” about sex from internet porn rather than from what their parents tell them, or don’t tell them. Again, nothing new… did you ever sit with your mum and dad and discuss sexual positions or which is the best buzzy friend to buy or if handcuffs really can spice up a flagging sex life? Nah, me neither and nor will our kids, or their kids.

The study also found that almost nine out of ten teenagers between 14 to 17 years had seen porn and nearly one in five accessed it on the ‘net more than once a week. Very worryingly, the study also turned up the fact that girls as young as 14 or 15 are performing sex acts on their webcams and think it’s perfectly ok to do so.

A 15-year-old girl explained, “Girls will do things on webcams to entertain boys” and a 14-year-old added, “Once they send the picture it gets used against them. The boy will say, ‘Do more or I’ll show everybody the pictures’. Everyone always regrets what they do.”

One in five teenagers had received porn in their email or on their mobile phone – without their consent – while 25% had faked their age to access more explicit porn.

I did have to give a wry smile at one statistic though; 77% of the teenagers questioned said their parents had no idea they were watching porn. Well, speaking as a parent, you’re wrong there 77%. We parents aren’t as green as we’re cabbage looking and when we can’t open your bedroom door because your duvet’s wedged under it, we don’t assume it’s because you’re making your bed…

A few more facts and figures resulting from the study revealed that 25% of boys worried about the size or shape of their genitals and 44% of girls were worried about the size or shape of their breasts.

Now ok, this is all very interesting stuff but as I’ve already said, since when is this news? Granted, porn is a lot more accessible to young people now than it once was but is having pictures of Pamela Anderson’s clout splashed across a computer screen any more worrying than it was when my mum used to find piles of Playboy stashed under my brother’s bed?

Are girls anymore influenced by the ‘perfect’ bodies they see in porn than they are by the ‘perfect’ bodies they see on the catwalk and in every glossy magazine they pick up? I wouldn’t have thought so.

And yes, of course it’s worrying that extreme forms of pornography are readily available to kids but there are ways of at least limiting what your kids can see on their computer using various software or by not allowing them a computer in their bedroom… just have one in the living room. I doubt many teenagers would sit alongside their parents watching goat porn or something while mum and dad watch Corrie.

But aside from all that, I have to admire Anna Richardson for the fact that she seems unflappable when it comes to talking genitals to young kids – ‘scuse the pun. I was cringing with embarrassment and there was only me in the room! However, when she showed a group of teenagers a few sets of saggy knee-polisher type real boobs and then a pair of pert fake ones, I didn’t drop off the sofa in shock when they all preferred the look of the fake ones.

Ditto men’s and women’s doodahs… who wouldn’t prefer to look at something neat and perfectly formed rather than something that looks like a raw hot dog that’s been dropped in the Amazon rainforest?

It really is no different to any fashion magazine or even mail order catalogue… granted we see more ‘normal’ sized women in both types of publication these days but nonetheless, they’re all pretty and they’re all perfectly formed, even if they are ‘outsize’.

When did you last see a clothing manufacturer hire a woman with that muffin-top roll over thing going on over the top of her jeans to sell their jeans? Yes, she might be a size 14 or even a 16, but she won’t have a visible flab roll anywhere to be seen.

Likewise, a toothpaste manufacturer wouldn’t hire a woman with a gap in her teeth to sell their toothpaste or a woman with varicose veins to advertise tights. And when did you last see an ad for men’s aftershave that featured a bloke with a hairy back or a beer belly?

Porn’s really no different and by the time they’re adults, these kids will realise this for themselves; the makers of porn are selling a commodity and just as young girls and boys aspire to be stick insects like Kate Moss or hunks of beef like The Rock or someone – I’m not very au fait with who’s who in teenage idolatry – so they’ll aspire to be like porn stars or big screen stars like Angelina Jolie, or stick-like women such as Paris Hilton, who’s both a porn star – albeit an allegedly unknowing one – and a small screen/glossy magazine star.

In some respects, I think Anna and the whole show sort of glossed over the more worrying aspects of internet porn being so easily available and concentrated far too much on the anatomical misinformation porn provides. The really scary thing for me isn’t that the kids who see porn will be damaged by the fact they aren’t siliconed out or stick thin, it’s more worrying that they can watch a woman with a horse…

But the message of the show was pointless when you get right down it. Anna wanted to redress the ‘misinformation’ and make these kids believe that it’s ok to be saggy or uneven and wanted them to understand how the human body really works and make them understand the importance of safe sex and so on… It’s not going to work and it never will.

Teenagers will still be getting pregnant by accident and still be catching grotty diseases in the year 3000. It’s just human nature and no amount of sex education and preaching is going to change it.

Plus, we’re all always in search of the ‘perfect’ something, whether that’s our bodies, our partners, our homes or cars even, but most of us end up living our lives quite happily without achieving the dream of perfection, and these kids will too.

For instance, show a group of teenagers a pimped out new Porsche compared to a ten year old Ford Fiesta that’s had a few knocks and is a tad rusty, which do you reckon they’d prefer to own or have a drive of?

That said, when they turn 17 and get a clapped out Ford Fiesta as their first ever car, they’re still going to spend hours tenderly loving it and buying it all the latest accessories… they won’t refuse to sit in it because it’s not a Porsche. See what I mean?

Plus, Anna did sort of inadvertently shoot herself in the foot regarding the misinformation she was so concerned about; when she asked some kids from Sheringham High School if they knew where a woman’s clitoris is, one young boy replied confidently, “It’s slightly above the labia minora”

It surely can’t do any harm to have – finally – a generation of men who not only know what a clitoris is but where to find it too? Many generations of men before them haven’t!

So in conclusion, I can’t help but feel that the show and Anna’s ‘message’ is a waste of time – girls, boys, men and women will always want the ‘perfect’ body and whether that perfect body is seen on porn or in magazines or in women like Angelina Jolie is irrelevant.

Teenagers will always take risks and won’t remember the preaching/teaching about safe sex or the anatomical ins and outs of ‘real’ people when they find themselves in a spur of the moment sexual situation. Just like we did, and generations before us did, they’ll get carried away, they’ll regret it the next day, some will get pregnant and many won’t remember where even one erogenous zone is when they’ve got something in their trousers akin to a log…

The thing that bothers me most is the psychological impact not of yearning for the porn star body or lack of understanding about menstrual cycles or something but of the influence of sexual deviance and the wealth of it that’s available on the ‘net and I did feel that this was largely ignored.

Let us know what you thought of the programme.

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Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.