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Sex Education- normalising pornography for young people?

Olivia Boyd is our teenage guest writer who is very passionate about supporting the pro-life movement and ending human trafficking. Upon completion of her High School education, she intends to study law and psychology. She has an interest in human rights and social psychology, and is an active member of the PragerForce group for students and young professionals. Olivia will be contributing articles to Family First this year as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award.

Please read Olivia’s article on Sex Education normalising pornography for young people…

Sex education classes at school used to focus on the changes happening to the human body when entering into adolescence. The content was biology-based, and not graphic or explicit. In recent years, there has been a shift in how sex education is taught. What some might have labelled as pornographic a decade or two ago (ie. images and content of a sexually graphic nature) is now acceptable for sex education in schools.

If we consider the nature of porn itself, it’s the use of sexual images and material in bringing about a response in a person. Yet it’s become acceptable by some to use sexually explicit material in schools, apparently for the purpose of education. Putting a label of ‘educational’ on sexually graphic content does not change how explicit these images can be and what impact it can have.

Many are raising the alarm on this, as porn has such a negative and long-term impact – on an adolescent’s development, their behaviour and on relationships. Porn erodes the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is the section of the brain that controls willpower, impulses and morality, and the destruction of this in effect makes an adult’s brain like a child’s. The effect on a child’s brain is therefore much more extreme. 1 In some schools, children are being exposed to such graphic sexual content that they’re in danger of entering the dark world of pornography. This will inevitably cause many long-term issues in development, mental health and more.

Sex education in our schools is becoming more and more sexualised, and more explicit content is being shown to children at a younger age (see Family First’s article on this for more info). This should cause concern for parents who want to instil their own values into their children and be the most influential voice in their lives on sex and relationships. Exposing children and adolescents to overly sexualised and unnecessarily graphic sex education will only fuel their natural curiosity and lead them to explore these things in the online world that they have such easy access to via their phones. And when they look online, they will inevitably discover the world of pornography.

According to Exodus Cry, “several studies confirmed that viewing pornography as a child, pre-teen, or teenager generates shame, guilt, anxiety, confusion, poor social bonds, addictions, sexual anxiety, and feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s body.” 2 Tim Ballard, chairman and president of Operation Underground Railroad, recently commented on America’s sex education: “They’re teaching these first graders this material. They’re teaching prepubescent children sex education. If an adult is talking about sex and showing diagrams and pictures, it’s illegal to do it. But all of a sudden if a teacher does it, now we’re going to call it legal and healthy. And they’re having them question their gender by showing them pornographic images.” Although this is in reference to America’s sex education, we see many similarities in New Zealand, with some schools now including more explicit content in their sex education programs.

Tim Ballard continued, “We’re desensitising the boys to become paedophiles or sex addicts or dysfunctional husbands, and we’re teaching the girls to promote it by being sexual. If we keep going down this path, I’m telling you, we’re going to have more victims, and more predators. And it’s our kids who will become the victims and the predators thanks to the indoctrination of what’s happening in so many schools and continuing to grow.” 3 This is one of the main dangers of children viewing pornography at a young age. Children who are shown violent porn are being trained: the boys in how to be aggressive towards women and the girls in how to submit to abuse.

According to Exodus Cry, “One study revealed that 45% of Pornhub scenes included at least one act of physical aggression, while 35% of scenes from Xvideos contained aggression. Spanking, gagging, slapping, hair pulling, and choking were the five most common forms of physical aggression. Women were the target of the aggression in 97% of the scenes, and their response to aggression was either neutral or positive and rarely negative.” 4 This has an enormous impact on an impressionable child’s brain. One girl shared, “I was exposed to porn super young because my family computer got infected with a virus. I was around 6. The videos were just piling up on top of each other. After that, I thought sex was when a man hurts and humiliates a woman until he gets tired and I think it really messed up the way I view sex.” 5

The effects on the brain are also significant. The huge amount of dopamine that’s produced when someone watches porn means that other activities aren’t as enjoyable as before because of desensitisation. This numbing causes the porn viewer to need more violent porn next time to experience the same feeling as the first time they viewed it. Our brains also work in such a way that we often act out what we see. As children, it’s common when we watched a spy movie or a pop star movie, we wanted to be a spy or a pop star and would base imaginary games around what we’d just watched. The same is true with porn. Porn trains children in how to view sex as something where a man hurts a woman, and as a consequence, children seeing a normalised portrayal of this will then want to act it out. This is how pornography trains children to become predators and victims.

This inevitably leads to more issues. Men who’ve grown up on porn may look to act out what they’ve seen, and the more they’ve seen, the more extreme or violent they will potentially be. They may look for younger girls. Women who’ve grown up watching porn will be more likely to be victimised. Billie Elish said porn messed up the way she viewed sex. “…I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.” 6 The exposure of young children to violent pornography is extremely dangerous and harmful and can lead to huge life-altering changes in their minds and behaviour.

So what can we do about this?

For starters, we need to push back on the oversexualisation that is happening in our culture. Popular video games such as GTA (rated R18 but children still play it) are full of dangerous content. Some music has lyrics containing violence towards women and other explicit content. Movies, including children’s ones, are becoming more sexualised, and advertisements at malls can sometimes depict inappropriate content. We need to create a culture in our society where we don’t tolerate this kind of content as acceptable. That means changing what we spend our money on and speaking up when these things come near our families.

To protect the minds of impressionable children we need to push back on the inappropriate content that is being allowed in ads, movies and anywhere children are seeing it. Parents can stay involved and active in what their children and teens are learning at school in their sex education programs, and what they are accessing on the internet. Many children who see porn for the first time see it accidentally.

The most important thing is that parents are aware and educated on what is entering their children’s world, and they are empowered to have open and honest communication in their family. Talking about these things may not be comfortable to begin with. But it’s much better to have those potentially awkward conversations together, than have to deal with the devastating effects of pornography later on. Ultimately, parents are the most influential voices in their children’s lives, and that’s how it should stay.

1 https://exoduscry.com/articles/this-is-how-porn-damages-a-developing-child/

2 https://exoduscry.com/pcnp/stats/

3 https://www.prageru.com/video/tim-ballard-fighting-sex-trafficking-americas-children-are-at-risk

4 https://exoduscry.com/pcnp/stats/

5 https://exoduscry.com/articles/this-is-how-porn-damages-a-developing-child/

6 https://exoduscry.com/articles/billie-eilish-says-violent-porn-destroyed-my-brain-after-watching-at-age-11/

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