SouthWest Counselling Centre deliver Sexual Health Programmes throughout schools in Kerry. If you are interested in learning more about our programmes please contact us on 064 663 6416. SouthWest Councelling are pleased to provide articles on Sexual Health regular in local publications. Please see some of articles below:
Pornography and your Teen
In last week’s edition we discussed internet pornography. This week we will talk about what you can do to tackle this issue with your teenager. We have spoken already about ‘teachable moments’..just brief moments when you can make a comment or open up a brief discussion with your teenager. So this week we challenge you to become an empowered bystander – this means challenging a portrayal of sexuality (in the media, jokes, etc) that is disempowering, sexist and extremely unhealthy. We have all heard of ‘rape culture’. In brief this means that we live in a culture in which rape, forced sexual activity is pervasive, prevalent and normalised through societal attitudes about gender, sex and sexuality. The visual representation of the rape culture is all around us in mainstream advertising. Fashion spreads for example, often reveal images of women being chased, attacked, beaten and killed. Also, the images of violence are routinely sexualised. Our young people are bombarded and unconsciously absorbing these pornographic unhealthy messages – just think about music videos! Pornography has now become what sociologists call, an ‘enabling condition’ for men’s violence against women where women are sexual objects and men’s sexuality is bound up in aggression and violence. So as a parent – become more aware…begin to really look at the images all around you….begin to question what you see…make a comment to your child/teen….don’t be afraid to have an opinion…begin the dialogue …in other words, make conscious what is unconscious….e.g. ‘I don’t like how women are portrayed in that advert ..what do you think?’…
How to approach the topic of internet pornography with your teen:
Let’s say you find your son/daughter has been viewing pornography (maybe they forgot to ‘delete history’ which is what they tell us they do!!).
- First of all stay CALM, CALM AND CALM!!
- If you react in anger you will have lost the opportunity to connect and influence your child
- Remember: sexual exploration is normal and healthy – particularly in young people age 14/15 and young people must not be shamed for exploring – there can be feelings of guilt, regret and embarrassment for your teen…so be mindful
So the conversation might go: ‘I noticed that you have accessed pornography on the computer…(wait and take your cue from them)..I understand you must be very curious about sex and that’s healthy and normal at your age!! I’m a bit concerned though about the messages you might be receiving though…can we have a chat about that…’
Another idea – why not give your teen this article to read!!
Pornography and Teenagers
We now know that young people are first viewing pornography as early as 11 years of age and exposure to this material at a young age can be a confusing and disturbing experience for a child. We also know from research that parents, when given the skills, are the best people to impart sex education to their children. However, most would also say that they need assistance in their role as sex educators. Parents might find the following facts useful in addressing the issue of internet pornography with their teenager.
- In REALITY Internet pornography is highly highly addictive. It is known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of sex addiction
- The more one watches porn, the more the brain will wire itself to associate with that activity – in REALITY you will want what you see on the screen in front of you!
- The REALITY is that we now have younger men presenting with sexual dysfunction due to over use of pornography.
- It’s important to remember that porn is a movie; it is fantasy; it is not REALITY. Many young lads are worried about living up to what they are viewing!
- Boys and girls often express a dissatisfaction and anxiety with their physical appearance because of pornography. A lot of surgical enhancement goes on in the porn industry and in REALITY our bodies are very different!
- 99.9% of pornography is made by men for men. Some young people tell us that they ‘get ideas’ about sexual experimentation from pornography!
- We hear first-hand about the confusion young people have around consent – e.g. ‘..well a person might say no and not really mean it…’. In REALITY ‘NO’ means ‘NO’.
- Women are objectified in pornography. In REALITY women are people with feelings and with boundaries!
- There is no intimacy or love in pornography. In fact pornography is about disconnection. In REALITY relationships are about connection and start hours, days or weeks before sex. Sex is not purely a physical activity happening in an emotional vaccum as we see in pornography!.
Gardai are concerned about the prolific use of pornographic sites on the internet and the ease at which they can be accessed by young people. They highlight the increase in sex crimes in Ireland – from 74 in 2009 to 250 in 2011 – stating that ”Each time a young fella looks at these sites he sees all kinds of sexual activity and expects that this is what’s going to happen with girls. Girls are also being groomed into this behaviour’
WHAT ARE OUR CHILDREN WATCHING ONLINE?
Pornography is a subject which can evoke strong responses – both for and against. But let’s look at the issue of pornography use amongst teenagers and children – and specifically internet pornography. The difference between internet pornography and other forms of pornography is the speed at which the images are available, the ease at which the images can be accessed and the hardcore nature of the images.
We know that the average age globally that a young person first views pornography on the internet is 11 years and that mirrors our findings here in Kerry. We carried out informal research in 4 secondary schools in Kerry and young people (age 16/17) have told us that most of them will have seen their first image by the end of 1st year in secondary school and some will have viewed their first image by the age of 8, 9 or 10 years of age. Our statistics tells us that 54% of male students and 38% of female students viewed their first image on the internet. The majority just came across it and did not go looking for it. Most young people are viewing their first image on a mobile phone. A worrying statistic is that 9% of male students watch it once a day with 45% of male students watching it a couple of times week. 12% of male students watch it once a week and13% of females students watch it a couple of times a month Exposure to pornographic material at a young age can be a traumatic, confusing and disturbing experience. Add to this the actual content our young people are viewing – this is not just ‘mild’ pornography but rather images and videos of rape, sexual violence, degradation and extremes in sexually deviant behaviour. Pornography creates a powerful biochemical ‘rush’ in the user that actually mimics the brains’ reaction to alcohol and drug use so therefore the viewing of pornography is highly addictive. The negative effects of pornography include modelling and imitation of inappropriate sexual behaviours, unhealthy interference with normal sexual development, residual feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and confusion and development of misleading and potentially harmful attitudes toward sex.
So what can a parent do? Plenty!! First of all let’s talk about the conversation with children (if we warn children, they will be more comfortable in letting you know when they come across an image. So the conversation might go like this:
‘…you might come across something on the computer, or someone might shows you a picture on their phone that might upset you…the people might be naked or they are doing stuff that looks very strange! If you see something please let me know and we’ll talk about it…’