Years ago in 1967 or 1968, when I was maybe ten or eleven years old, I found a stack of porn magazines while exploring the families rambling home in which various members of our extended tribe resided, the house had seventeen bedrooms, labyrinthine cellars and extensive grounds and had been requisitioned by the army during the second world war so finding exciting items in some abandoned corner was not that unusual, though I never found a wardrobe into Narnia or some secret passage containing hidden treasure which is what I was usually looking for. On this occasion though I had found a fencing sword and was having imagery battles in one of the older and more dilapidated parts of the cellars when I rammed the sword into an old blanket that was lying on top of a pile of coal, and with a deft flick of my wrist had hurled the blanket into the air revealing a box full of porn magazines. Treasure indeed!
I can't remember much about the magazines now and think that probably they were mainly American strong softcore titles, which meant that they would have contained full nudity, women in stockings and fetish gear and strong sex scenes but not hordcore penetration, though they certainly contained much stronger and a lot more graphic material than was readily available in the UK at the time. I remember being very excited about my 'find' and took one or two of the magazines into my Church of England Primary School the next day to show my friends. This proved to be a big mistake...
When I got to school I showed the magazines to a few chums in the playground, the children went mad, shouting and screaming and calling their friends over and within minutes I was at the centre of a huge scrum of excited, almost hysterical boys and girls all jostling and fighting with each other to get a look at some naked flesh. Of course even in the non PC nineteen sixties a huge mêlée involving half the school was not going to be tolerated and soon a couple of our teachers waded into the throng to see what was going on and there in the middle was me, clutching a couple of, by this time, rather disheveled pictures of breasts and bottoms. I was also, I expect, smirking gleefully.
Then all hell broke lose. I was marched to the headmasters office, canned, my mother called in, my father notified and with stern faces all round I was cross-examined as to where I had got hold of such filth and threatened with expulsion. I stuck to my story that I had found the magazines in a bin on the way to school, this still being a time when children could walk to and from school without fear, and eventually the matter was dropped. I'm sure that there was a bit more fallout but if there is it is now lost in the mists of time and I suspect too that our coal bunker only contained coal in future.
I mention this story of my childhood because over the last few days newspapers and the BBC have been full of stories regarding the readily available amount of pornography on the internet and how easily accessible that material is to children, teenagers and young adults and wanted to illustrate that up until a few years ago the exact opposite was true. The main gist of these articles is the concern many parents, psychologists and the wider society have that children's attitudes to relationships and to each other are being harmed by exposure to often pretty extreme pornography. This concern is more focused now because the wider availability of pornography began with the arrival of Web2o in the early noughties and now almost a decade later we are beginning to see children and teenagers of the Web2o decade become adults.
This is the first generation that has grown up with pornography so readily available to them, yet they are also bombarded with warnings as to the malign, predatory and dangerous nature of sex. So in an already confusing world, sex is good and available at the click of button and bad because because every email or approach from an unknown adult is a paedophile out to do harm.
A new survey for the BBC has also shown that 8 out of 10 young men between 18 and 24 have looked at porn which is hardly surprising given that men of almost any age are thinking about sex virtually nonstop and between 15 and 30 are almost ready to explode with sexual angst so drooling over porn whilst not exactly edifying is hardly surprising. Nor is the fact that at least a third of young women have look at porn as well given that contrary to popular belief women are just as highly sexed as men if not more so, they are just a bit more circumspect in their drooling and lusting than men.
What is inconvertible though is that young people are seeing pornography at a younger and younger age and that is having an effect. The fashion for women to shave off their public hair stems from pornography, as does breast augmentation, labiaplasty and vaginoplasty. So did the demystifying of anal sex, cunnilingus and the introducing to a once fairly straight public a pornucopia of sexual proclivities covering everything from double penetration to fisting and beyond.
Many of these aspects of pornography are enlightening and for many empowering,
and, personally having fought adult censorship in the courts and having begun the legal process that legalized pornography in the UK, would not want to see the pendulum begin swinging back the other way. However it is not good that young children are accessing hardcore porn, yet the censoring of the internet is neither desirable or easily achievable unless the UK Government wishes to bring in draconian laws on a par with China or Saudi Arabia. Far better that we learn how to educate and help this new generation absorb what is going on around them and to understand, explain and reason the effects of what they are or will be seeing.
For boys this may mean explaining to them that what they see in porn does automatically equate to how they have sex with their girlfriend and that equally a girl doesn’t have to make love like a pornstar. They can and should be themselves. Most of all they need to understand that pornography needs to shock to survive, and as its audience and they themselves becomes jaded and immune through over exposure, so pornography as stimuli has to become increasing jaded in turn as unfortunately that is the nature of the beast.
Yes pornography is desensitising and should not readily be available to children, but pornography is only one aspect of a sexualized media that is bombarding children and adults alike with sexual images and messages in everything we see. From pop videos to the marketing of clothes and make-up, through to the antics of celebrities and reality TV contestants. The message being that sex is at the centre of everything and more than ever that message is 'if you've got it, flaunt it!'.
The internet sex genie is out of the bottle and nothing short of an authoritarian or religious revolution will put in back in again. I suspect that now if a smirking ten year old brought a porn magazine to school he would find few takers and in a way that lost excitement of innocence is sad but time moves on. Now most young people will see porn as a kind of rite of passage to adulthood, they will look and then move on, some will have a problem with it, like others have problems with drink and drugs, but that is life and we cannot legislate for a minority. Far better to trust Generation XXX with being better able to handle porn and let them get on with making Generation YYY in their own natural way...