By Barbara De Witte

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I am about 10 years old. Mum took us with her to see her best friend who owns a little library in the big City. While the ladies are cheerfully chatting, I’m trying to kill time strolling around the shop while exploring some magazines. Suddenly I notice my oldest sister in a corner of the shop, waving with a magazine and whispering for my other sister and myself to come closer. I shuffle toward her, curious but vigilant and unexpectedly there we are, my sisters (about 11 and 12) and I, gazing at a particularly, unusual kind of magazine. The kind of magazine I have been avoiding ever since. The image I got to see is still burned into my memory. A young, blond woman with a typical 80’s haircut totally naked except for a mini bikini-top with US flag print, barely covering her nipples. Besides her funny hair, she looks gorgeous. Perfect body with too perfect boobs. The woman stares into the camera, showing off her best, fake smile. She stands straight on her feet, her legs spread wide open. In front of her, a man is kneeling, looking at her, smiling as well. His fist disappears in between her legs. At that exact moment, I know I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see. Something only adults are supposed to see. For a while, I secretly hope I’ll never grow older. This doesn’t feel right. This can’t be true. Nobody ever prepared me for this. I understand very well what this is but I never imagined it that way before. Mum had lost us out of sight just for a while. It happens. I was too young but eventually, this would have happen.

I am 32 years old. I somewhat accidentally came across articles of Gail Dines, Professor of Sociology in Boston. Her speech intrigues me. Dines isn’t afraid of openly taking a quit radical position against the porn-industry. She incites me to investigate the dark web, something I haven’t done anymore since about 5 years. (Well yeah, I’ve never been particularly keen on naked body of perfect strangers and fake orgasms.) Like a rookie I start my searches simply typing the word “porn” into google. A fraction of a second later, the net offers me a countless number of websites. I innocently open the first link on the page and what I’m about to see, brings me 20years back in time. I have a strange feeling and the more I’m scrolling down, the more that awkward feeling turns into an overwhelming feeling of sickness. This is not what I remember having seen on the screen when I was about 18 and looked out for porn for the very first time. My first porn-movie showed a couple sitting in front of an open-fire, sensually caressing before getting into “the real action”. It wasn’t limited to the classic missionary position. Hell no, I’ve learned many more things and it was kinda fun. It aroused me and that’s what it was supposed to do. That was exactly what I expected from porn: seeing two adults pretending to have fun together in a respectful and natural way.

What I get to see on the internet nowadays – and I’m not even talking about pay sites cuz there is no way I’m ever going to spend one penny on that – has nothing to do with respectful, natural sex. I see women with enormous penises pushed down their troths, women who are being penetrated by two men at the same time, women with the most awkward objects in their anus. In order to get to see this content, you really do not need to do anything in particular. The word “porn” opens a world to you. One you appreciate or not, that is personal. I could probably write down a whole book questioning if this virtual world is ethically correct or not but many have done so before me[1] and it isn’t the issue I’m aiming to tackle inhere.

I am 32 years old now but my neighbor’s daughter is 11 and my sister’s son is 12. In Flanders, the average age for kids to be confronted with porn for the first time in their lives, is 11,5 years old. They do not need to hide in the corner of the local bookshop anymore whenever they want to watch a couple of static, nude pictures of women and men. They just need to insert the magical word on their computer, tablet or smartphone and there they go, wild and free into the wide world of porn. They can do this, at any time of the day. They can do this at home, at school, on their way sitting in the bus, at their friend’s houses. Who might have thought parental control apps on the family computer can avoid this, is pretty naïve. You simply can’t avoid this as a parent, whether you want it or not, except if you lock in your kid at home… and turn off the Wi-Fi connection.

I’m wondering what my neighbor’s daughter and nephew have been thinking when, for the first time, during break at school, they watched a moaning teenage-looking girl being anally penetrated by a heavily built man, pulling her by her hair. Will that image remain forever burned into their memories as well? That one and many others because, unlike what happened to me, they can no longer ignore it. They will probably be curious for more, no matter how confused they’ll feel. It is exciting after all and besides, they don’t want to lag behind their peers. For them, it will be like a discovery trip, a compulsory excursion toward adulthood with a personal, sexual identity as its final destination. What they don’t realize, unfortunately, is that there is no pilot on the plane they are taking. No trained pilot in any case. The crew of that plane is made up of the guys from the porn-industry and they don’t give a damn about the sexual health of their passengers. The only thing they care about is the number of visitors they attract and the money they can make out of them. The most popular kind of porn nowadays is the so-called gonzo (porn movies without a storyline or plot showing just one sex scene after the other) because the production costs of it are low and it enhances the chance for users to get aroused quickly and remain on the site for a while without getting bored. It takes quit some effort to find porn with a minimum of eroticism (and just forget about romance). The porn-mafia is in constant competition to offer the most exclusive trips to the most exotic destinations. The more it’s decadent, the better. They respond to a continious search of their clients for that extra trigger which provides them with the excitement that seems increasingly harder to reach. They know of no limits to pleasure their passengers. Research shows the most popular search terms these days are “teen porn” and “teen sex”. A trend which has been increasing in the last years[2]. Hardcore porn is the other favorite: websites such as GagFactor.com proposing categories named Anally Ripped Whores and Bagged Babysitters – just to name a few – do not leave much space for imagination. It is probably no coincidence we encounter the most obscene form of sexism within this male-dominated monopoly. Women are pictured as passive creatures and violence is openly shown without any shame so as to attract more viewers. A recent academic study revealed 88% of sex scenes on random porn sites contains a kind of physical violence against the female protagonist including hand-full slapping, spanking and gagging[3]. The previously mentioned GagFactor.com welcomes its visitors with the following introduction: “Join us now to Access Complete Degradation.” Besides sexism, the porn industry carries out heavy messages of racism and the boundary between what is considered legal or illegal in the real world, is completely absent on the screen.

While our children are just one click away from this overwhelming world which stares at them behind the black screen of their smartphones, they are further submerged within an increasingly sexualized society. The pop-culture future generations are growing up with, is gradually being overshadowed by a porn culture which creeps into every corner of the living room as a shifty snake. So what are we going to do about that? Do we remain convinced that our own children will be spared, that we will be educating them well enough so that they will postpone their search for the forbidden fruit? Are we keeping to naively believe they will be wise enough to deal with it and make the difference between the real and the virtual world? Unfortunately, I’m afraid for the vast majority of our kids, this would be an illusion. The story of the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees isn’t credible any longer. The modern world of the internet coerces our children into developing their sexual identity ever-earlier. If porn is their first, and for a decisive time, only reference while developing that identity, we might get in big troubles. It is our duty as a community to offer our children an alternative. A healthy and respectful alternative. We can’t just stand by and watch how our sons experience their very first orgasms while gazing at a screen projecting messages of deep-rooted hate in confront of women. If we allow this, we will allow for a generation of men to grow up with erections which are conditioned by violence and suppression. We just can’t accept for our daughters to grow up with the conviction that their sole task is to pleasure men and that they will only be considered as valuable sex partners if they accept to be hurt and humiliated. If we do accept this, then please spare me of the hypocritical speech of sexual freedom and emancipation!

Expert organizations such as Sensoa and Culture Reframed[4] do offer an alternative. They try to make parents and educators aware of the fact that sexual education, at an increasingly younger age, is a necessary evil. Obviously, most parents would prefer to wait as long as possible to confront their children with this very intimate subject but the porn-industry would eagerly take advantage of that cuz the younger their visitors, the bigger the chance to turn them into frequent and long-term users. We now start to discover the consequences of watching porn and porn addiction (which is becoming an even more frequent phenomenon) and while researchers still tend to disagree, it seems quite obvious to me, with a minimum of common sense that we better get the situation under control. Sensoa has recently been criticized for mentioning a link to their website allesoverseks.be in a youth magazine which is distributed in several classes of primary school while the content of the website includes explicit images and information about sex. It is quite absurd that this kind of initiatives provokes such a revolt while sex is shamelessly showing of in every single corner of our society. Some claimed it is up to the parents to give the necessary information to their kid whenever it is ready respecting each child’s own rhythm.  Well all right, what are you waiting for? Get informed as a parent, as an uncle, an aunt, a grandmother or -father. Get ready to react appropriately as a teacher, an educator or a scouts leader cuz the porn-industry isn’t waiting for the day your child is ready…

 

[1] I particularly recommend reading Pornland written by Professor Gail Dines which, according to me, is the reference of our time when it comes to understanding the porn-industry and the impact of porn on the sexual experiences and development of men and women. Pornland is available as a documentary as well.

[2] G. Dines, Pornland, p. 143

[3] G. Dines, Pornland, p. xxii

[4] Sensoa being the Flemish expertise center for sexual health in Flanders and Culture reframed being the organization founded by Gail Dines tackling porn by offering parents programs and training for health professionals.

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