Review: The Sex Education Show Vs Pornography

// 31 March 2009

Last night’s first installment of Channel 4’s The Sex Education Show Vs Pornography focused on the way in which pornography affects young people’s attitudes towards and expectations of the female body. It also highlighted the ease with which children and teenagers can access porn and the hardcore nature of some of the stuff they are watching. It was not made explicit, but from the young people’s comments, it seems that it is generally the boys who are actively watching fisting, gang bangs, bestiality and ‘nine men on three women’, while the girls are more likely to be ‘exposed’ to porn through their male friends. The average age at which boys first watch porn is 11. Yes, 11.

The programme’s findings were unsurprising: boys find big, fake, firm, round breasts most attractive; girls want big, fake, firm round breasts because ‘that’s what the boys want’. Boys preferred hairless genitals; girls felt pressurised to shave because they ‘want to make the boys happy’. In contrast to when I was at school, when shaving all your hair off was considered weird and the main motivation behind doing your bikini line was so the cool girls didn’t take the piss out of you in swimming or PE, it seems that getting rid of it all is becoming the norm. As if this pressure isn’t enough, many boys seemed to expect that women would have little or no outer labia, and expressed surprise and disgust at photos of women who did. Imagine being 15 and worrying what a guy is going to think of your labia. I went to bed feeling immeasurably grateful that I’m not a teenager in 2009.

So how did the presenter challenge these attitudes? Well, aside from showing them photos and real naked women and telling them that porn bodies are not natural (making the mistake of claiming that being slim with big boobs is unnatural – way to further alienate girls who get picked on for being just this shape), not much. She didn’t challenge the boys’ sense of entitlement to porn style bodies, simply laughing when a boy said that if he came across a girl with pubic hair he’d tell her to get rid of it. She didn’t actively tell the girls that it was perfectly OK not to shave all your pubes off, that they shouldn’t feel pressurised to conform to what boys want, and instead gave them advice on reducing shaveburn and ingrowing hairs and suggested that they shave ‘for themselves’ rather than for the boys. Considering the series is supposed to be challenging the ‘pornification’ of our culture, it seems rather ironic that the presenter is using the typical anti-feminist backlash tactic of convincing women to do things men want by persuading us we’re doing it for ourselves. Yes, some women do like to shave it all off, but this is hardly the most empowering or helpful advice for teenage girls.

In general, the programme stank of repressed British, seaside postcard style boob-enduced hilarity. We saw the presenter flicking through a lingerie catelogue gasping and giggling at ‘hairy minge’ and y-front encased cocks. She told the boys to ‘calm down’ when the nude models came out (and no, there are no lesbians in schools, nuh uh). The cheesy porn style soundtrack didn’t help matters either. How exactly are teenagers supposed to take sex education seriously and respect each others bodies and sexualities when the sex educators are displayed giggling at pubic hair?

The show did seem to do some good, however: both the girls and the boys appreciated being shown that there is such a range of different female bodies, that porn bodies are not the norm. The girls seemed pretty relieved, and so would I if I’d just seen all the boys I fancy enthusiastically stick their hands up when asked if they think big breasts and shaved fannies are best. And it did of course recognise that porn is a problem, and that better sex education can help combat the harmful messages that young people are taking from it. But it completely failed when it came to actively recognising the clear sexism and gender divide here and challenging it: the main solution being put forward is simply to prevent kids having access to porn by persuading PC companies to install child block software on their products. I hope to see boys in particular actually being asked about how they feel men and women are presented in the porn they watch, but it looks like subsequent episodes are focusing mainly on the body, orgasms and performance.

I’ll be catching up next week as I’m on holiday ’til Sunday, but please do discuss the other episodes in comments; they’re on tonight until Thursday. And you might want to check out the website, where you can answer young people’s questions about sex. I’m starting with ‘Is it normal for a guy to cum or want to cum on a girl’s face during sex’…

Comments From You

Milly // Posted 31 March 2009 at 11:00 am

Great review Laura.

I watched this last night too and came to many of the same conclusions as you – while it was a great idea in theory, the reality of how they challenged notions of what was ‘normal’ in the school kids was a bit disappointing.

Also, it’s always a mistake to ask teenagers their thoughts on sex in front of their mates, or to ask a crowd for a show of hands on things like ‘who here thinks big boobs are best?’ (although it does lead to more shocking stats for the TV producers of course.)

Milly // Posted 31 March 2009 at 11:02 am

Great review Laura.

I watched this last night too and came to many of the same conclusions as you – while it was a great idea in theory, the reality of how they challenged notions of what was ‘normal’ in the school kids was a bit disappointing.

Also, it’s always a mistake to ask teenagers their thoughts on sex in front of their mates, or to ask a crowd for a show of hands on things like ‘who here thinks big boobs are best?’ (although it does lead to more shocking stats for the TV producers of course.)

Anne Onne // Posted 31 March 2009 at 12:50 pm

I only saw the part where they showed the parents what their kids could access online, which I thought was an important point to make since a lot of the parents haven’t grown up with this kind of techology, and had no idea what kind of degrading, damaging, often illegal material their kids might be watching and gaining their sexual education and conditioning from. I really think it needs to be hammered in more just why kids’ exposure to such material is damaging: it’s not the shock factor of ‘OMG! bad porn!’, but the fact that they will grow up thinking that is what sex is really like (porn is about as realistic as The Lord Of The Rings, really) and that this is what is supposed to be a turn on. That girls should want to do what the women in porn films do, that that is what gets girls off, and that it is what sex must be like. Many women, most women don’t get any enjoyment from such sexual practices, and the framing of only women as recievers of degrading sex acts* which all women should want to do is damaging.

Society makes this worse through never discussing what actually goes on in porn. We hide it politely and pretend that porn’s just silly harmless fun, as if it’s all just page three level stuff (which isn’t entirely harmless either) when in reality there is a lot of very disturbing material out there focused not around mutual pleasure, but real pain. Which doesn’t make clear that fantasy and reality must be treated differently, and where lack of consent is a turn-on not because it’s a fantasy people realise is problematic and want to keep within the safe realms of fantasy, but because society tells us using and abusing women is OK. We never address porn, never examine what kind of material so many heterosexual men and boys (not to ignore women or gay men, but the main problem seems to be heterosexual men, here) are learning about sex from. We just pretend it’s all normal and must all be healthy and just fun because as a society we don’t want to draw the line between hardcore porn where the actresses are abused, and real life where women are abused.

Yet history itself tells us that what people consider attractive or a turn on changes, that it is conditioned. We’re learning some very, very problematic messages about sex as a society, and we’re pretending they’re innate because it’s easier.

People aren’t born with damaging notions about sex, or problematic sexual desires (paedophilia, bestiality), they develop these desires through exposure, and whilst I don’t believe in censoring everything, the implications of what is being shown, how the performers are treated, what lessons people are learning, and what effect it may have, must be thought through. Whatever the limitations we will have in addressing this, we must at least try.

I saw the breasts part, too. I did feel that they spent more time shaming the girls for wanting round breasts to please boys than they did the boys for wanting ‘firm’ (firm breasts, who the hell expects breasts to be firm?) perfectly round breasts with tiny areolae. It was so sad that the teenagers saw the natural effect of gravity to be disgusting, when the breasts shown were nowhere near ‘saggy’ by any stretch of the imagination? And even if they were, that’s what women’s bodies are really like. There definitely needs to be more on this issue, it really wasn’t engaged enough.

The ‘natural’ issue is hard to get through easily. On the one hand, large breasts, even paired with a slim body, can be natural. I know. On the other, perfectly rounded breasts are not. Or are very, very rare. The focus needs to be in pointing out that it is unrealistic to expect all women to look like that, or to suggest that this is the only type that is attractive, whilst not falling into the trap of implying.

Porn actresses are highly selected besed on how well they fit the criteria of the body beautiful, and this does very often mean a considerable amount of plastic surgery. They are ‘real women’, they exist just as much as we do, but they are a minority, with bodies which have been airbrushed or enhanced surgigally. This is not something everyone should be compared to, and the standard damages them as much as us. Because unless women interfere, their bodies will not look like that, even if they are naturally big breasted. As Liss at shakesville says, ‘even Jessica Alba doesn’t have Jessica Alba’s body.’

For me there’s a difference between using the words ‘real’ and ‘natural’. Even surgically enhanced bodies are ‘real’ (though photoshopped ones are not, since they don’t physically exist like that), they exist, and women who have them shouldn’t be blamed for the ills of the porn industry. On the other hand, the word ‘natural’ can be used to focus on the physical reality of what bodies, unaltered by cosmetics, are really like. It is natural, for example, for bodies to have underarm hair, for the vast majority of people. It is natural for breasts to sag with age, and for the vast majority of women, it is natural for breasts to sag from the start, to be different shapes or sizes etc. It is natural for breasts to be small or large, regular or irregular. This word can be used to encapsulate what our bodies, diverse as they are, to counter the idea that it’s ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ to have to shave or have surgery to conform.

At the end of the day, in the ideal scenario of a non-exploitative porn industry, women in the videos would be allowed to look different, to be fat, to be hairy, to have non-surgically enhanced breasts.

I think it’s definitely worth pointing out what could have been gone into in more detail, and which points to hammer home more (because I don’t personally believe TV has to be minimalistic or mere entertainment) but at the same time, it’s a start. A tiny step, but I’m just glad this issue is being addressed at all.

* Safe sane and consensual? Different thing entirely. The problem here is women always being framed as sex objects who gain pleasure only in being used, and in the lack of clarity that porn is an act, that most people don’t enjoy those kinks, and that nobody should demand their partner do anything. Girls and women face far too much pressure to conform as it is.

There are ways of personally addressing even the more extreme kinks without giving really wrong messages (making a big deal about consent, safe words, personal choice, the fact that not everyone will want to do this, that the vulnerable partner has the final say, and does it because they really want to) but this never gets addressed.

sianmarie // Posted 31 March 2009 at 1:02 pm

” simply laughing when a boy said that if he came across a girl with pubic hair he’d tell her to get rid of it. ”

says it all really doesn’t it?

i cna’t believe that – i actually am speechless. i’ve thought about this issue a lot and it makes me so so sad that girls are dealing with these issues so young, i was only a teenager less than ten years ago, and already it has changed so much – it was bad enough then.

Laura // Posted 31 March 2009 at 1:06 pm

Hi Anne Onne,

Lots of great points there. I particularly agree with you on this generally accepted idea that porn is all harmless, page three type stuff. Before I started reading feminist critiques of porn and started to see what’s really out there, I thought porn was all plumber coming to fix the fridge type stuff: this is what is joked about all the time when porn is brought up. I can’t begin to describe how upset and shocked I was to find that so much misogynistic, hateful stuff was out there, and how normal this was. It’s terrible to realise that this is the kind of stuff that your peers and the men around you may very well be getting off to, and I’m glad I didn’t know this as a young teenager.

I can only imagine how much pressure these girls – who do seem to be more aware of the kind of stuff their male peers are viewing – must feel under to perform and look like porn actresses, and how damaging that pressure must be. It will be interesting to see whether the boys feel similar sorts of pressure, but of course they are much less likely to feel that they should be putting themselves in the situation of fuck toy to be used/degraded/masturbated into; I’d imagine it’s more about performing, having a large penis etc.

On another point, I really think ‘mutually enjoyable’ needs to be added to ‘safe, sane and consensual’. I don’t think it’s enough to have agreed to something which is performed in a safe way – I should actively want to engage in it and gain a positive experience from it. I think we need to really push the idea that sex is about all parties having a good time, not (in many cases) the woman allowing herself to be used for the male’s enjoyment, as is the dominant narrative in much heterosexual porn.

Josie // Posted 31 March 2009 at 1:07 pm

Thank you for this review. I was fascinated to see this programme and thought it was a great and very brave idea to tackle porn so openly. However, I switched off after the presenter’s comment (while looking through a mail order catalogue from the 80s) about the “great big hairy minge” and “you don’t believe in waxing, do ya luv?”. So anti-feminist and anti-women as to be almost grotesque. And then she had the nerve to encourage girls to shave/wax “for themselves”. My stomach is churning as we speak. A great idea, a rubbish format, a rubbish presenter and far too much giggling and misogyny for my liking. Early nights for me this week!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 31 March 2009 at 1:29 pm

A very succinct critique of what was missing from this programme. Thank you Laura. Yes the programme only focused on biological anatomy not the reasons why girls and women ‘have to shave their pubic hair’ or why male-dominant notions of what supposedly passes for female sexuality is always right! No mention of the fact labioplastic survery is mutilation of a normal healthy female body or the fact breast implants do cause severe side effects and cause many women lack of physical sensation.

The presenter did not challenge widespread perceptions boys’ views on female sexuality and female bodies are correct – it is useless telling girls to ‘do it for themselves’ because this does not address male power over females.

Likewise it is not ‘parents’ responsibility’ alone to ensure their children do not view porn rather it is society and particuarly goverment institutions which must act. Yet another way of promoting ‘individual responsibility’ without recognising how power operates and the fact powerful mulit-national pornographic companies are solely concerned with profit. Given there is no mainstream critique of pornography unless it is framed within a narrow moralistic patriarchal perspective which in itself promotes male power as central. It is not surprising so many women and men believe porn is just harmless fun!

Interesting how the personal became political when a father who viewed clips of porn commonly viewed by teenage boys (not teen girls) said he had changed his mind over porn. Due to fact he was concerned his 16 year old daughter might well be coerced or pressurised by a boy(s) into enacting pornographic degrading sexual acts for their sexual pleasure.

Factual representations of both female and male sexual anatomy are not sufficient unless there is a critique of how dominant sexual scripts are promoted concerning female and male sexual expression. Pornography is misogynistic and it is not ‘harmless fun’ but unless a more nuanced stance is taken, porn will continue to be viewed as ‘just sexually explicit acts between two consenting adults.’ Note: child pornography is not a separate issue from adult pornography because porn is all about male sexual right of access to females irrespective of age. Pornography claims females are dehumanised sexual objects and age is irrelevant because being female = sexual commodity for male consumption.

Troika21 // Posted 31 March 2009 at 2:18 pm

It was a horrible and hypocritical program, if ever I saw one.

They complained about the ‘pornification’ of culture, which, presumably, involves the use of sex to sell, for example, television programs – why was the host naked in the intro? Or, and I thought this was very funny, phone sex lines in the ad breaks.

That being said, the advice given to the school children seemed to be pretty good, but I think that was the infulence of the GP, the host (and presumably the producer, sadly) was pretty awful.

You say “I went to bed feeling immeasurably grateful that I’m not a teenager in 2009.”, but I feel that this was brought on by what I believe are lies and deceptions within the program.

I think that the producers manipulated what we might call ‘playground escalation’ to their advantage. Not one of those children are going to come out and say ‘Yes, I watch porn. And I like it when they are oiled and licking each other.’ No-one is going to say that, its just too real, too honest.

And they got the very reaction they wanted in your first paragraph, it was very strongly implied that there was *either* skimpy lingerie or violent hardcore porn. And again, with eleven Yr olds, just because they have reported that they first saw a pornographic image at 11 does not mean they are upstairs wanking to “gang bangs, bestiality and ‘nine men on three women’”.

This goes back to my earlier point. Those teenagers who are watching porn are most likely watching a man and woman having sex, not gang bangs or otherwise. I was also implied, as often is, that the teenagers did not understand that its pornography. I would love to know the response to the question; ‘Do you believe that pornography accurately reflects the bodies of most men and women?’.

Lastly, it was implied that nothing could be learnt from watching porn, or at least nothing good – and you likely believe this too, well I disagree with them on that point. I have watched porn from a young-ish age, and it actually put my mind at rest on two counts, namely, that the odd ‘bend’ in the shaft and the “small” glans of my penis were actually normal (even for porn actors), although I may have benefited from the impossibility of cosmetically enhancing the penis.

I apologise for the lenght of this, but I really do feel that this program has hurt, more than helped, the cause of comprehensive sex education in this country, with its focus on moralising and “repressed British, seaside postcard style boob-enduced hilarity.”

Hannah // Posted 31 March 2009 at 2:32 pm

I didn’t see the show but – Anne and Laura, i really agree with your comments – particularly when it comes to a lot of people who don’t watch porn (parents included) thinking that it’s all harmless, vaguely amusing Page Three-type stuff.

Lindsey // Posted 31 March 2009 at 3:16 pm

I think part of the problem was the presenter. I suspect her difficulty in tackling any of these issues properly is that she was still too affected by them herself. A more feminist presenter would have done a better job. It’s my opinion that a woman with bodyhair wouldn’t be afraid to discuss it.

Another major flaw I saw in the program is that they didn’t do enough to differentiate between porn and sex. Porn bodies and real bodies yes, but it seemed to me they shied away from discussing healthy sexual relationships and practices. Perhaps that’s in a later episode. I was worried though by the preview for the next episode where the presenter asked people what they thought of vibrating cockrings being sold in supermarkets – if this were however many years ago would she be asking if there should be condoms in supermarkets? Surely it encourages sex! Those cockrings to me do not embody pornification and they are almost exclusively for female pleasure – though they would indicate an increased openness and interest in sex in society. I would much rather see products like this than Playboy stationery: opinions?

Laura // Posted 31 March 2009 at 3:19 pm

Totally agree, Lindsey: I was surprised by the cock ring clip too. Selling sex toys which give people pleasure has nothing to do with the pressure put on young people – girls in particular – to be sexy or look and perform like porn stars.

Mary // Posted 31 March 2009 at 4:17 pm

I didn’t see the programme but read the Guardian review, and it occurred to me that it would be marvellous for someone to point out the difference between sex as something visual and sex as something primarily physical. Frankly, if a bloke’s focussing on what labia or breasts look like, I’d like to pat him on the head and say, “Aaah, bless” – because he’s not really grasped the point of sex, has he? Visual stimulation is important to a lot of people, sure, but you’re missing out if you think it’s all sex is about!

kinnerfon // Posted 31 March 2009 at 5:07 pm

Have to agree with Laura and Anne, in that it points us to the obvious conclusions, but stops so as to please the male culture it’s airing to. Laura is right it didn’t highlight the clear sexist/ gender divide. The girls want to please, the guys have the high expectations.

Anne’s right because predictably it’s the girls who have to change. They’re doin’ something wrong wanting perked breasts; the guys are just poor poor ickle guys who are being harmed by porn and the victims of the programme. Maybe this is in part true but they could appropriate the blame fairly, and be more understanding to girls, who are those actually suffering as Anne said.

I really want an actual feminist presenter on a show. Not someone discovering sexism, someone who KNOWS about it, spends most of the time discussing why we want to look like 12 year old girls; not how we should cope with expectations to look like them. The show gives us many implications about the sexism in our culture but doesn’t go any further.

I’ll second Josie with going to bed early this week =D

Renegade Evolution // Posted 31 March 2009 at 7:38 pm

Obviously (being in the US) I did not see the show. But, it does just go to show that sex education seemingly sucks everywhere.

I also find it interesting there is no mention in the program (or so I gather) about the unrealistic/off the norm standard of male bodies in porn either- the focus is all on the women. Men in porn generally are not all that indicative of the typical guy either- most of them are very athletic, muscular, and have very large penises and seem to be able to have sex full out for a very, very long time….not the case with most men.

Hell, I have seen discussions and such about the unrealistic nature of porn from people IN porn that are far more truthful and realistic than what this show sounds like.

And yep, even me, shaved unrealistic body having porn gal thinks that access to porn by minors really needs to be cracked down on. Porn is adult entertainment, and lousy sex education.

strol // Posted 31 March 2009 at 8:14 pm

Troika, think you’re coming at this from a different angle – that the programme was prudish is not the issue.

(i could tell your post was male before you told everyone at the end – almost predictable what to expect from male posters!)

Laura // Posted 31 March 2009 at 10:19 pm

Hi Renegade Evolution – tonight’s programme is focused on male bodies, and from the comments left on the website it looks like teenage boys’ body image is affected by what they see in porn too.

Renegade Evolution // Posted 31 March 2009 at 10:24 pm

Laura- Well, I am glad to see they are at least addressing that, because rarely IS it addressed. No doubt women have it worse with body pressure, but rarely are the unrealistic men discussed. You planning on reviewing the whole series? I’d be interested in reading what you have to say about tonights show.

Troika21 // Posted 31 March 2009 at 11:57 pm

Strol – I’m glad I can offer a different opinion. But I don’t believe that I was complaining about it being prudish – part of my complaint was that the program was ‘Vs. Pornography’ and against ‘pornification’ – whilst engaging in ‘pornification’ itself.

(And, if you hadn’t recognised that I was male by the end of that comment I would be worried!).

And I do think that the program very poor in its excution, it seemed to oscillate between fairly good advice given to the teenagers and horrible fear-mongering to parents.

Do you read/know of the blog ‘Sexual Intelligence’ by Marty Klein? One of the themes he says fairly consistently is that it is not porn itself that is the problem – it is our reaction to it.

I would love to know what those parents were showed in that theater. To be honest, I stopped watching at that point, just turned off the TV, so I don’t know about the rest of the program, maybe it got better, but I doubt it.

I’ll have to go back and watch it on 4oD or something.

I believe that the makers and host of this program set out to manipulate the teenagers there.

1) we see the teenagers (mostly, all even?, boys) listing types of porn. The program seemed to imply that this was what they are watching, when the question could have been ‘What kinds of porn do you know about?’

2) The program also claimed that the students (or some of them) were comsuming porn. And yet, when the nude models came into view, there was an audible childish titter from the students there, I felt that this did not sit well with the claims made about consumption of porn amongst young people.

This program also implied (I’m using that word alot, was anything actually stated in this program?) that sex-shops are out to corrupt your children – well this wasn’t really implied, they had a truck and everything.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but what some here see as an attempt to stop sexualisation of society, I see as the proxy-demonisation of sex using porn. To me this program had a very moralising tone that I did not think was appropriate; sex-shops were ‘seedy’ and should be consigned to the arse-end of town for the morally-corrupt, and that porn, like a ‘gate-way’ drug sucks its consumers down to .. well to something evil anyway, that seemed to be left to the imagination too.

And, of course, this has been edited to hell and back, OTT questions are much better for the producer, even if they do not represent the true questions that the audience may have been harboring.

zak jane keir // Posted 1 April 2009 at 12:38 am

OK I haven’t seen the programme but in *general* (and speaking from the perspective of someone with wide experience of porn) – people often use the word ‘porn’ to mean ‘sexually explicit material I find upsetting’ as opposed to ‘sexually explicit entertainment material’ – I have generally found that porn (in the latter definition) far more than mainstream media, presents a variety of body shapes and sizes and ages as potentially sexual. And the idea that if you like to look at sexually explicit imagery, what you REALLY want and will INEVITABLY end up seeking out is imagery of pain, torture and unconsenting participants is tired old bullshit along the lines of ‘drinking JUST ONE sherry on Xmas day will make you a hopeless alcoholic in five years time’.

Yes, a lot of porn is dumb and sexist. In about the same (or if anything, slightly lesser) proportions than mainstream entertainment media, which is full of stuff about how women are stupid, desperate for male attention, and less than human if they don’t conform to a very narrow and difficut to acheive standard of ‘beauty’.

Lindsey // Posted 1 April 2009 at 8:34 am

Male bodies were discussed last night, and teen boys definitely benefitted from the experience (thumbs up). But they didn’t talk to the girls in the same way as yesterday – there was very little assumption that girls would compare boys to porn the way boys are expected to compare girls to porn. Girls got to see naked men and measure fake jism but any possibility of the female gaze was totally ignored. God forbid anyone should think that a nice young girl might be turned on by porn.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 1 April 2009 at 12:25 pm

Yes naked male bodies were shown and discussed but immediately the way in which they were shown and discussed was completely different to the way female bodies were shown/discussed. One glaring omission was the comment male sexual organs are essential for providing sexual pleasure to the male. Whereas when female bodies were discussed missing was the fact the clitoris provides sexual pleasure to women and is an essential part of their anatomy. Why did not programme presenter say this about female bodies but instead she only focused on female sexual body parts as though they are totally separate from a woman’s personhood.

Why oh why were not the girls shown different pictures of penises in order that they too could learn ‘penises are not 12″ and so huge they give women sexual pleasure immediately they see one.’ Yet another male porn myth not challenged.

As for girls being allowed to view naked male bodies in the same way boys routinely do – no this was not allowed. Respectful treatment reserved once again for the naked male body.

I note the representative from The Terence Higgins Trust was cut off immediately he began talking to boys about mutually respectful sexual relationships. I’ve no doubt the male representative did challenge boys’ sexist beliefs human sexuality means males’ sexual pleasure and demands supercedes women’s but we’ll never know because the programme makers cut to a separate subject.

Focus as always remained on biological aspects with no attempt at critiquing how both teen girls and teen boys are taught the dominant pornified heterosexist scripts. It is presumed heterosexuality means female sexuality must be made to fit male-defined notions. Which is why there was detailed information concerning male puberty but nothing in previous programme about female puberty or fact teen girls do experience sexual feelings. Likewise teen girls do have sexual dreams just as teen boys do. But autonomous female sexual feelings is still a non-issue as far as this programme and society is concerned.

This programme could have been an excellent opportunity for debunking lies pornography tells boys and adult men but sadly, programme decided to focus only on biological aspects which in itself has no relation whatsoever as to how girls and boys learn their supposedly ‘appropriate gender role.’ Pornography too was either reduced to ‘titilation’ or trivialised. Pornography is never ‘titilation’ or sleazy it is all about sexual dehumanisation of women and children, to mens’ pseudo right of sexual domination and control.

strol // Posted 1 April 2009 at 3:46 pm

Zan Jane Keir –

We can all do our own searches into porn, we don’t need to rely on myths about porn being ungodly torture! 1/9 sites is a porn site, so it’s easily accessible enough!

E.g I just typed in porn, a hell of a lot of it (90%) is ‘teen gets cum shot in face!’

‘barely legal twins get torn apart!’

All about doing bad stuff to ‘fresh’, ‘ripe’ teens. Not close to reality of what the teen would want, only indicative of a male gaze turned reality. Most sites are unquestionably sexist. In a tone that they’re getting away with it cos it’s ‘what we women want really’ – they can be as hateful as they like.

A LOT of this ‘barely legal’ stuff. Half of the material on most sites is centred around this.

10% is some adults having sex the way we know it.

The stuff is definitely out there for people to see, don’t blackcard us with ‘it’s mythical’ and we don’t know anything. The mainstream media is sexist, but from my personal search, porn is a different type of sexism altogether and doesn’t help the case of women. I’ve always thought of porn as a secretive paradise for men where they really get their way with women. Even top pornographers admit to it being about sexism and dominating women when they leave the business. The ugly, old men get the teens they’ve always wanted who act disgusted at their advances in the street.

As if teen street harrassment isn’t enough by much older men, the older men have a fantasy paradise behind their screens of carrying out what they can’t have and what most teen girls would be sickened by.

It’s clearly a different dimension to reality, which kids take on board.

Cate // Posted 1 April 2009 at 3:48 pm

I saw the first episode but missed the second one last night. I agree with all the criticisms of the show made so far but would like to add a couple of my own :)

Firstly, how the presenter kept referring to the surgically enhanced/shaven women’s bodies as ‘perfect’. Just a turn of phrase but every time she said it it made me wince – I personally don’t see those bodies as being perfect at all and I think it just re-enforces the idea of this as the ideal.

Secondly, I don’t agree with the program’s campaign to censor what children can access on the internet. When I was about 13, my parents taught me all about porn and the sex industry and let me use our home pc to research it. As a result of this I happily went through my teenage years reasonably happy with my body and thoroughly against porn. I can’t understand why a programme all about teaching teenagers about porn was simultaneously campaigning to have filters put on computers to prevent these same young people from finding out about porn for themselves.

zohra moosa // Posted 1 April 2009 at 4:52 pm

Hi stroll

I’m not sure ‘teen street harassment’ is ok when done by younger, non-ugly men either.

strol // Posted 1 April 2009 at 11:14 pm

Zohra, I think the thing with older men – I brought them in as the ‘creeps’ in this porn discussion. First of all, growing up as a teen it’s the old guys who leer, from businessmen in long cars to men in white vans. You should know being stared at as a sex object who by the look of things they want to throttle is all subtle. There’s some unwritten difference with young leerers and older leerers. The latter look at you as unobtainable, with their looks or honks, wolf whistle whatever they’ll try to scare you as part of the fun. Young leerers are more, ‘if we were at a party I’d talk to you’.. a shy smile. Yes I generalise. But stats showing 9/10 girls 12- 18 get sexually harassed at least occasionally on the way to school support me. From experience and from hearing experiences from others, older men just treat you differently if they ‘like the look’.

Porn is a world where these old, ugly men can have their way with the young women they can’t have in real life; and this behind their backs. ‘Teen gets cum shot!’ it’s totally a world for reject monsters, with the cruel bitterness at women behind the material from this rejection.

Younger men only leer at their peers in a sexist way as a result of porn – which is made by and for bitter old men. The bitterness at young women they can’t obtain without money, gets thrown into the porn material, which is then consumed by teen boys and affects their opinions of the girls they see as friends. Sexism in the media is white, old businessmen getting their way with women and younger models, writing and directing their characters for them (e.g. James Bond and his sex objects). Younger men only absorb this bitterness. Definitely the sexism from young men is a different kind to that of old men. The latter group wants to control and obtain younger women out of their social grasp, the former group deals with the harmful images these powerful older men conjure up of women, and how they contrast with women in reality. Their anger seems in response to this… But this is all just speculation, and what I think is up with the world! No sexual harassment is good, depending on the age it’s different. But the point is porn is created out of bitterness for old men; and created as a different reality for young men. A harmful reality as this programme points out.

Gazza // Posted 2 April 2009 at 2:50 pm

she also missed the point that pornstars are not famous for the look of their vaginas, most are shaven but they still come in all shapes and sizes. It is male genilalia in porn that is predomenantly off average, again predominantly shaven and almost never below 6 inches (5.75 the average), and often 7-10 inches although no mention of this. She diddnt even bring this point up, and left it up to a porn star to tell her. Also the point that male pornstars are generally much better built than the normal male was never mentioned. This is not to detract from the issues relating to the portrayal of women in porn, but merely a comment on the bias of this program.

Sam Ric // Posted 3 April 2009 at 2:37 am

hi all, just wanted to say that after hours of trawling through blogs and news reports on strip clubs, swedish vs. dutch prostitution laws and pornography, i was feeling completely and utterly defeated by all of the disgusting views in general, facts & comments. what can a teenage feminist boy do about all such things? well, maybe not so much right now, but coming on here has uplifted me so much that i stand a chance of getting to sleep tonight. thanks to everyone, you are all amazing, i think we all need the support of eachother to survive and make a difference in this world.

p.s. would be nice to see more of you on the blogs ive been around, the hate and ignorance being spewed just about everywhere with no challenge is disturbing. no surprises there. and thats not even including porn sites themselves.

Anna // Posted 13 June 2009 at 9:52 pm

I am a surgically enhanced female, but don’t consider myself a stereotypical “bimbo”. I had implants that took me up one size, only because I wanted them a little fuller – I had no problem with them the way they were before (in fact they were lovely to begin with), nor did I do it to live up to some image that media or anyone else has fed me. I’m in my thirties and have been comfortable in my skin since forever – my decision was not one based on insecurity or low self esteem (I had the procedure done at 34), because my self confidence is in no way related to my cup size or any other part of my body. The only thing that has changed is that it’s more fun to buy clothes and I do think I look nicer now, but I am in no way happier or unhappier than before. I realise of course that it may be different in some cases when someone does this at, say, 18.

I also don’t have a problem with pornography, as long as it depicts consenting adults that enjoy it. I have trouble seeing how it’s degrading to women OR men, unless it’s of course of the kind that deliberately degrades the female(s). Sure, women in porn don’t at all physically represent the average woman, but that’s not the case in ANY medium (film, music, TV, you name it), and nor does it represent the average man.

Qubit // Posted 15 June 2009 at 2:44 pm

Anna, I mean this in a completely non-offensive way because I support your right to do what you want to your body. However, breast enlargement surgery is not trivial and does have complications therefore it can’t have been a trivial decision for you. You list things that aren’t the reason for having your surgery but not the reason you did.

Myself, if I thought surgery was harmless, cheap and hassle free I would have it done instantly as I think it would boost my self esteem. I won’t go into detail here as it is irrelevant but this is certainly an issue for me. However, even with how I feel, the bother of having surgery would be too much hassle for me to care enough, therefore I am curious about your motives.

It seems hard for me to understand that you thought yourself fine before but went through a difficult experience to change yourself. I hope I am making sense and not coming across as critical.

I agree with you in that I have nothing against porn provided it predicts mutual fun activities between consenting adults. I do wonder however if it is limiting to male sexuality and stops them from building a full and healthy fantasy life.

I do also think it is slightly unhealthy how many men consider it their right and won’t engage in conversation about how it makes their girlfriend feel. Compromise is the key stone to relationships and to make the matter one of non discussion seems unfair. I am not saying men should stop on bequest of their partner instantly but at least discuss it and come to an agreement without lying or shouting the other person down. In a relationship I would at least listen to my partner if they had some objections to activities which I do.

Kit // Posted 24 June 2009 at 12:56 pm

I know it’s rather late to be commenting, but great post! :) It seems (reading through the archives here and having seen them myself) Channel 4 has a history of producing really poor “documentaries” on the human body wrt sex, insecurities and media protrayal, that fail to do the job advertised (i.e. debunk the myths and make everyone feel better).

It would be nice if a documentary could be done (that C4 would then show, but I’m not holding my breath there…) that actually challenges all the sexism so that men and women can stop worrying their body is expected to look a certain way.

Nush // Posted 30 November 2009 at 11:01 pm

I do feel that (although i havn’t read all the posts so please excuse me) you’re focusing on the programme as a supposedly feminist programme that failed its message. This was not the point of it, it was merely to show the differentiation between porn and real life sex, which it does. Later programmes and clips do go onto to talk about the romantic relationship vs the visual, especially when they talk to the porn star couple, which was very enlightening, as to how ‘unglamous’ the porn industry is. It wasn’t condeming porn to hell to never be spoken of again but was just making teenagers aware of myths that may transcend reality. As a teenager myself i have witnessed the lack of knowledge between porn and ‘real life’ sex and actually think the show did well in showing those differences.

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