FPA trains youth workers to address teens’ porn use.

// 5 February 2009

Misleading, and moral panicky as ever, The Mail headline reads ‘Could teenage boys get lessons on porn?’, but the actual story here is that the Family Planning Association has begun to train youth workers to engage with teenagers who use porn:

Julie Bentley, chief executive of the FPA, a government-funded charity, said organisations had to respond to the fact that teenagers are getting the wrong information.

This leaves some girls thinking they can’t get pregnant the first time they have sex and gives others unrealistic ideas about how their bodies should look. She added: ‘If young people are accessing pornography, it can give them conflicting messages about the reality of sex and relationships and have a negative impact on things like body image and self-esteem’.

The course is entitled Fantasy vs reality: the impact and influence of pornography on young people. From the blurb:

Increasingly, young men are saying that they get much of their sex and relationships education from pornography. With most young people using the internet and mobile phones, pornography is more accessible than it has ever been. Professionals working with young people sometimes struggle to know what is legal, and how and whether to support young people using pornography. This course provides factual information about the types and availability of pornography, looking at what is legal and what is not. It addresses how the media can impact on young people and provides strategies for working with young people in this difficult area of work.

I think this is an excellent idea: while things should hopefully change once sex education is made a compulsory part of the curriculum, at present the often unrealistic and frequently sexist and misogynistic portrayals of sex in pornography could easily constitute young people’s first exposure to sex. Anything that can counteract the potentially harmful messages porn sends out about women, about the way in which we should treat the people we are attracted to and the way in which we should have sex, can only be a good thing in my eyes. Hell, even porn performer Renegade Evolution argues that pornography makes for terrible sex education [NSFW].

Of course, the Mail rolls out sweet little Norman Wells of the uber-conservative Youth and Family concern, who argues that:

…the FPA fail to appreciate that talking freely and openly about sexual matters can break down young people’s natural sense of reserve and encourage casual attitudes towards sexual intimacy

Oh no, not the casual sex, ruuuuun! What Wells fails to appreciate is that many teens are hornied up little monsters who need to be encouraged to develop healthy and mature ways of dealing with their horniness, and spending hours watching men use women as masturbatory toys probably isn’t the best way of doing this.

Comments From You

Aimee // Posted 5 February 2009 at 7:01 pm

Wow! It seems to me that they’re actually attempting to address the problem of porn-sex culture. Trust the mail to try and thwart it with their paranoid ramblings! Hah.

Anne Onne // Posted 5 February 2009 at 7:48 pm

Natural sense of reserve! Yeah, teenagers have a natural sense of reserve about sex. And I’m a space hampster from the planet Wobbleblat.

Dude, your paper reminds us every day that we’re facing teenagers with a casual attitude to sexual health as well as consent and having a healthy relationship. And don’t teenagers have a reputation for having a casual attitude to sex in the first place, anyway? How can you erode something that was never there in the first place? Not that individual teenagers might not be shy about the topic, or responsible, but that as a group, the generalisation that this kind of education would ruin them is absurd, because your average teenager is inexperienced and probably harbours a lot of problematic beliefs because nobody has talked to them openly and responsibly, because like Norman Wells, they hope that if you stick your head in the sand and ignore something long enough, it will go away.

This sounds like a great idea,and I hope they roll it out to great effect. Provided they have decent training and the resources to achieve something, this could be really positive. Getting to teenagers who are learning really harmful messages from porn and their peers that are bad for them and their partners, and teaching them to be considerate and responsible in their sexual matters, as well as giving them the confidence to choose what they feel comfortable with and stand by it should make for healthier, happier teenagers and adults in the future.

Lisa // Posted 6 February 2009 at 10:23 am

A big problem is the invisibility of condoms in pornography and therefore the 1 in 3 teenage girl in the US with an STI. Never mind the lack of hygiene in pornography in general – ‘dirty’ sex really can be dirty if people aren’t washing beforehand or going straight from anal to vaginal activities. Even kissing involves the exchange of bacteria, viruses and fungi !

Perhaps someone should make a film ‘Behind the Scenes of a Porn film’ to show porn actors washing, talking about STIs, consent, BDSM – a sort of ‘Kids don’t try this at home, it’s dangerous’ warning. Maybe pornography should have these sorts of warnings anyway like cigarette packets !

Sabre // Posted 6 February 2009 at 10:49 am

A natural reserve is really a fear of talking about sex with adults like teachers and parents. Doesn’t mean teens aren’t thinking about it or doing it or talking about it with friends. Get real Norman Wells!

Sex education though porn leaves girls particularly disadvantaged. And by porn I’m including advertising, films, TV, newspapers and magazines. Porn culture is everywhere; I can’t believe some people think that’s OK but it’s not OK to teach teenagers how to deal with sexuality in a healthy way. Well done FPA!

Sabre // Posted 6 February 2009 at 10:52 am

And one more thing – I think many parents need to overcome embarassment about talking about sex with their kids. It sends the message that it’s something dirty and makes it harder for kids. I think the embarassment comes from the kids’ realisation that their parents once did that too!

Ellie // Posted 6 February 2009 at 12:50 pm

Woohoo! Excellent news. I can’t believe how blind some people can be when it comes to young people and sex education.

I saw porn for the first time when I was 12 and watched it with my best (male) friend. I think it had an extremely negative effect on both of us in the short and long term. For him it was the unrealistic expectations of women and their bodies, and generally not knowing how to appropriately conduct sexual relationships. For me it resulted in me thinking of sex primarily in terms of power and made me feel shameful about my own desire

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 6 February 2009 at 1:42 pm

The Daily Male would publish an article claiming this important training is supposedly about teaching boys how to access pornography. The Daily Male is incapable of acknowledging its own hypocritical stance, since it is continuing its long running campaign of claiming all women who report rape are innate liars. Men charged with rape are in Daily Male’s view, all poor innocent victims of women’s vengeful lies.

Let’s hope the training being provided to Youth Workers is from a gendered perspective and that it spells out pornography promotes male sexual violence against women and girls as normal male heterosexual behaviour. Human sexuality is a complex issue because it is fraught with sexual scripts which opposes respectful gendered sexual relationships.

So, just perhaps the training will raise the importance of egalitarian and mutually respectful sexual relationships rather than dominate sexual scripts which continue to promote male domination and female submission. Pornography does a great job in promoting ‘masculine’ power and domination over those deemed ‘feminine others.’ Challenging these dominant women-hating lies is vital if we are to reduce the numbers of boys and girls believing pornography tells the truth about female sexuality, rather than women-hating lies and men’s supposed sexual superiority.

Samantha // Posted 6 February 2009 at 3:51 pm

Excellent idea.

I’m a pacafist and reading the comments on the Daily Mail’s website makes me wish I had an assault rifle, it makes me *that* angry.

Leigh // Posted 6 February 2009 at 4:31 pm

Damn well needed and long overdue

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