XXX HYSTERIA

The UK Is Losing Its Mind Over Porn

How far will one country go to regulate porn consumption?

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Confused about sex? The UK says you can blame porn for that.

A recent survey conducted by NSPCC Childline concluded that approximately ten percent of 12-13 year-olds in the UK are worried that they’re addicted to porn. The poll included testimony from 700 kids, and also found that one in five claimed they’d seen pornographic images that shocked them, and 12 percent said they’d participated in a “sexually explicit” video. “I didn’t think it was affecting me at first, but I’ve started to view girls a bit differently recently and it’s making me worried,” one of the surveyed kids told Childline. “I would like to get married in the future but I’m scared it might never happen if I carry on thinking about girls the way I do.”

It comes on the heels of a separate poll conducted by ChildWISE and published last year which concluded that Pornhub was a top-five favorite website for British boys ages 11 to 16.

If that weren’t enough, parents flew into a frenzy earlier this week when it was revealed that the porn company Brazzers was shooting a schoolgirl-themed porn flick at a historic railway in Essex, and the UK tabloid The Mirror published an eye-opening account from a now 17-year-old young woman chronicling how consuming porn at 13 turned her then-boyfriend into “an abusive beast” and almost drove her to suicide.

All this UK porn hysteria begs the question: Clearly adolescents that young shouldn't be watching porn, but what is the right way to go about preventing it?

It's easy to say porn is the problem and to require ISPs to restrict certain content with “family friendly filters”—which is what UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s enacted. But these kinds of knee-jerk censorship reactions can create more problems than they solve. Those family friendly filters are blocking more than just XXX rated sites. Plus, even with family filters porn is still out there. And the kids who want to find it will, because what 13-year-old isn’t highly curious about this mysterious global obsession called sex?

Organizations crusading against porn often define it by the most emotionless and extremely violent scenes, not the romantic ones (that do exist). From violent to nonaggressive, porn can be both degrading and liberating, which makes it difficult to quantify. When trying to ascertain pornography's effect on adolescents these differences must be determined, but since they can’t, an all-or-nothing regulation dilemma arises.

First of all - how do we define pornography? Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said he “knew it when he saw it,” but it was nonetheless difficult to define. Perhaps that's because when we think of pornography our minds immediately race to the raunchiest content. Say the word “erotica” and it instantly brings up Playboy-like images, right? Porn is bad, but erotica is palatable (even though they're really under the same umbrella). Then there is the freedom of artistic expression argument, and sex as a kind of beautiful dance to be painted, sculpted, and filmed for public consumption. With a lack of consensus among researchers and more opinion-led research than hard facts, how different types of porn molds young minds is pretty subjective.

“Of course it's warping their minds,” says renowned sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals. “Young people are hitting puberty, becoming sexually curious, and they are looking for information. People aren't born with the ability to drive, they aren't born with the ability to form a complete sentence, we have to be taught these things.”

No sane parent hands their car keys to a teenager without first giving them a driving lesson and making them aware of the potential dangers. So why should we treat sexual discovery any differently? Shouldn’t sex ed be treated like drivers ed?

The true power lies in the hands of the parents, not a government employing censorship to fix a very complicated problem. Parents can teach adolescents how to be prepared for what they might find while navigating potentially harmful lanes of the information superhighway. While sex is still a confusing and often uncomfortable topic for most adults, some still go red in the face at the mere mention of s-e-x. For these parents, broaching the subject with their kids must be terrifying. But is it any worse than getting into a car with an untrained teen behind the wheel?

Waiting for our already overburdened education system to teach kids the uncomfortable truth about sex is ridiculous. Most teens will see porn at a young age; if you can think it you can Google it. Even so, ask a teenager what they know about sex and the room will go instantly silent. Kids don't want to discuss these things because it’s seen as embarrassing. Maybe we should be asking ourselves why? Sex is a natural component to being alive. There should be no shame in talking about it.

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There are answers to these questions but a shortage of people conveying them. Instead of categorizing sex between consenting adults as “acceptable” or “not acceptable”—as they did last year with a long list of sex acts they proposed banning in porn, ranging from “spanking” to “female ejaculation”—perhaps the UK should redirect their efforts towards increased education in the home and in schools.

“Obviously the UK has been going in an interesting direction in terms of trying to confine types of sexual expression—no squirting, no fisting, no ‘aggressive spanking,’ whatever that is. There is very much a tenor of subjectivity and what do I do, whoever ‘I’ is, with questions like what is the ‘correct form of sex expression?’ says Dr. Tibbals.

Without conducting proper science-based experiments, the true effects of pornography will continue to be unknown. Parents, talk to your children!