Video: Should teens read porn as part of their sex education?

Melinda Tankard Reist appeared on The Morning Show to discuss whether teens should have access to 'raunchy novels and straight up smut' as suggested by this article in The Age newspaper. The video is included at the end of this article.

Do young people need to read porn themed novels?

That was the argument put by Age social affairs writer Michelle Griffin in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald this week.

“Steamy airport novels, raunchy teen lit and straight-up smut”, argued Griffin, would help take young people away from “commercialised banal porn”. In her praise of trashy novels and raunchy reads, Griffin recommended ‘House of Holes’ for the school library and family bookshelf.

This is the book described by The Guardian as a ‘wank book’ and ‘porn fest: “Baker's frogmarches us into an arcade of blaring porn fantasies in which the tropes of triple-X sex movies are celebrated in all their cheerfully gushing banality…” (note to Griffin, porn without pictures can be banal too).

How Judy Blume's ‘Forever’ and ‘Puberty Blues’ could even appear in the same article commending House of Holes is difficult to fathom.

Especially concerning is Griffin’s comment: "The trouble with much of the porn readily available is not that it's explicit, or even that it's brutal, but that it is reductive and samey."

So because so much of it is similar, that is worse than it being brutal, violent and misogynist? The commercialised women-hating and sadistic brutality that so much of today’s on-line pornographic offerings is less worse than it just being “samey”?

I agree of course with the observations of sex therapists cited by Griffin that “porn is limiting young men's visions of a good time to mere delivery-man thrusting”. This is well-documented in Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global sex industry (Spinifex Press, 2011), a book I co-edited with Dr Abigail Bray. I agree that young people have a right to know about pleasure and that sex education programs where only biological facts or a disease model of sex are taught, are inadequate.

But it appears to me naïve to think leaving porno-themed books lying around the house “badly hidden” is any kind of “arming” against online pornography, when 70 percent of boys aged 12 have seen porn and 100 percent by age 15. Even if they read one or two books, the bombardment of sexual imagery and porn online will barely be dented. And it seems foolish to treat porn books and porn online as somehow separate and disconnected.

What is urgently needed is explicit content on radical concepts like love, intimacy and authentic human connection. Girls and young women describe cold, soul-less sexual experiences in which they are expected to be service stations for boys, pressured to ‘put out’, with no concern for her emotional wellbeing.

Sex has become more about f***ing and less about loving. Our response should be to equip and empower young people to make positive choices about their sexual lives. Not throw more porn flavoured stuff at them.

gen-next-logo.jpgAlso published by Generation Next

Here’s what I had to say on the issue on Channel 7’s Morning Show


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