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Is it time to teach children about porn? What do you think?

(81 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 28-Nov-12 10:25:21

How should children be educated about porn? Is this a subject that should be taught in schools, by parents - or not at all?

Education minister Liz Truss has announced that schools were free to teach children about pornography as part of 'age appropriate' non-obligatory PSHE studies. Her intervention comes shortly after a recommendation by the National Association of Headteachers that students should be told about pornography from the age of 10, to help them protect themselves from stumbling across adult images.

Elsewhere, Childline have reported a spike in calls from children who've been traumatised by doing so, and a study last month revealed that increasing numbers of children are being exposed to porn before they become sexually active, giving them a distorted idea of what sex actually is.

What do you think? Is it time to forewarn children about pornography before they come across it? And if so, is the classroom the best place to do it? Tell us what you think - and of you blog on this, do let us know your URL: we'll be sure to tweet it.

I do think we need to cut kids off at that bridge (!) but I'm not convinced how.

Of course, Parents need to make sure their controls are water-tight so I'd like to see more information for us too. talking with kids is always good but difficult at school I imagine; some would have no idea, others would be heavy users, I imagine.

I would like to see people, in particular men, campaign against porn in general. I hate the idea that all men use it, this myth also needs challenging. Children will look at porn if it's regarded as a norm by society.

Children were looking at porn on phones at DS junior school. It's horrific to think this is their first vision of sex.

niceguy2 Wed 28-Nov-12 11:57:06

Maybe it is about time that porn was discussed around the same time as sex education. And kids should be taught that expecting porn to reflect what real sex is like is a bit like an alien watching Star Wars to know what living on Earth is like.

But I am slightly uncomfortable at the notion that this is yet another thing which schools have to do because parents are failing in their duties.

I mean why do junior school children even have smartphones, let alone at school? Where are the parents when they are loading these movies on their phones?

I've long argued that parental controls can only ever be a small part of the solution and no substitute for proper parenting. If you give your child a laptop and allow them to spend hours in their bedrooms with it then you only have yourself to blame if they are googling porn.

I truly hope this thread doesn't descend into the usual 'well the government should jolly well block porn and anyone who thinks otherwise is just afraid of losing access to porn' and we can debate the actual value of discussing porn in education which is the topic at hand.

FrequentFlyerRandomDent Wed 28-Nov-12 12:04:50

Yes please.

I do think that it should be made clear that porn movies, like other movies, are works of fiction performed by actors and marketed to a certain audience. It is not a benchmark nor an expectation of things to come/do/ask others to do.

I love sci-fi but I do not expect an alien scanning my items at the supermarket.

I would also like to see anti-bullying campaigns updated with 'resisting porn'. It is my impression girls are bullied into performing sex acts as see in movies / commented upon in demeaning ways following boys seeing porn movies, etc.

FrequentFlyerRandomDent Wed 28-Nov-12 12:05:57

X post with niceguy2!

FrequentFlyerRandomDent Wed 28-Nov-12 12:07:28

As a parent, I fully expect to have this conversation with my children.

I also see the value of school validating/renewing this message.

I suppose it's schools with parents, not schools instead of parents, however I see what you mean about this being another burden on schools.

DS doesn't have a laptop and computer is in the living room. When he was about 8, he was told to put, sexy naked lady in search. When DH told me I laughed at first - I would have looked that up in the dictionary at his age - but then I saw what images it produced- open legged, shaved, close ups. Eurgh. That was the day we put on controls.
He since (when about 10) has searched for 'MILF' and anal sex because Everyone at school was talking about it. Nice.
This really is a societal problem and no one knows what effects it will have yet.

I agree about it fitting in with bullying campaigns.

rockinhippy Wed 28-Nov-12 12:17:44

I've already had conversations about this sort of thing with my own 10yr old DD - I compared it with fantasy & horror films in that its just not reality & therefore no-one can ever make you feel that it is normal & to be expected of you, your body, your choice etc & anyone putting expectations on you that you weren't comfortable with, they had a problem not you

Got to admit though it pees me right off that its necessary at such a young age, I can't think of any other topic where mopping up the mess it creates is seen as the correct way forward, rather than dealing with the problem at source - ie sorting out the in your face, way too easy access to online porn - I ended up with hard core images popping up on my IPad after accidentally hitting a link whilst looking at games with herangry

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 12:19:40

Yes, schools should teach it; but parents should too. And even that is not enough.

To be honest by the time a child gets taught this lesson as part of sex ed, or whatever it will come under, it's probably too late. It's like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. They will already have seen porn.

I only have DDs but am very worried about access to online porn. I DO think it needs to be 'opt-in' rather than 'opt-out'. It's far too available for children to see - and the relationships boards on this website show how damaging high exposure of porn is even to consenting adult relationships.

Teaching this in schools should be done, but it can only go a small way to tackling what I see as a huge problem in society.

BlissfullyIgnorant Wed 28-Nov-12 12:19:49

There is room for improvement in sex education. Kids need to be taught what is allowed (informed, consenting, etc) and what is not (sadism without permission, rape, etc) as well as what is normal and what isn't (paedophilia, beastiality, necrophilia, etc) and why. The why bit is crucial to decent behaviour and respect between consenting partners.

It's also a good idea to learn a bit of terminology; it's nice hmm when your DS knows what a dildo is shock and that he feels comfortable asking about sex and all that sticky stuff blush, but when he sends you a message saying "we're in Y's room having a gang bang," you know there is a bit of a gap in the life lessons! grin

rockinhippy Wed 28-Nov-12 12:24:49

I also don't think its a Schools job, but I can see why its needed, it's likely the parents of the kids most at risk from developing twisted sexual views from early exposure to hardcore online porn, because they are taking the easy option & not policing their DCs computer time - these will probably be the same parents who are not redressing the balance by talking to their kids about what they see sad

janelikesjam Wed 28-Nov-12 12:26:24

Actually, there is alot of porn everywhere, not just interenet. I have seen quite shocking porn on normal TV i.e. not adult channels, e.g. Pick TV etc after 10 p.m. What if my son had got up at night and turned TV on and accidentally seen it which is what I did?

No-one seems to care about this. I don't understand why the government did not support "Opt in" and I don't understand why porn programmes like Sexetera are on normal i.e. not adult TV.

I do not think children should be taught about porn in primary school though. They are already get sex eduation at this age in some primary schools that is way too advanced for their age IMO.

I think restricting TV and internet porn i.e. having to "opt in" is a start.

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 12:27:50

Teenage school girls interviewed by the Sunday Times magazine this year said that they wished sex ed had:

- told them clearly that there is an option of saying 'no' to sex
- mentioned (never mind stressed) that sex should only ever be part of a loving committed relationship

This feature was actually about the morning after pill and young girls having to use it regularly because boys are refusing to wear condoms. Influence of porn again? sad

LimburgseVlaai Wed 28-Nov-12 12:53:15

For many years, my sister worked in a primary school in the Netherlands where she was responsible for sex ed lessons for girls (girls and boys are taught separately). Since the teenage pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is so much lower than in the UK I thought it would be useful to get her views on this.

She says that in her lessons, she puts a lot of emphasis on giving the girls the 'tools' to help them say no. A lot of the girls, at age 10 or 11, have already been exposed to internet porn by that stage, and of course so have the boys. They think the norm is: to have very noisy sex; to be completely shaven; for the girl/woman not to (appear to) enjoy it; and to have anal sex. So in her lessons, my sister answers questions from the girls about those topics and stresses that porn is not real life. The girls often feel they cannot discuss these things with their parents, and having these lessons together at school with a trusted teacher means that they can have an open discussion of all their fears and (often) misconceptions.

I think school has a vital part to play in sex education: not just the mechanics (i.e. the biology) but even more importantly the social/societal aspects. You cannot expect parents to know everything that goes on in their child's life, particularly now that so much of that life happens online. And many parents are either not able to have such conversations (perhaps because of embarrassment) or they are not fussed.

Lavenderhoney Wed 28-Nov-12 12:57:47

I am against it I'm afraid as a topic, even non-obligatory, at school for 10 year olds, who as a majority have not reached puberty and have no experience of sex or dating. ( hopefully) I would worry it would inspire children to want to see more, and become normalised to porn.
How does it protect them? Are they going to be shown porn so they can recognise it? And then shown a bit of vanilla sex after? Deeply confusing and will it just be heterosexual porn?

Surely teaching children life skills such as kindness, respect and equality, not allowing bullying and encouraging children to mature into young adults sure in the knowledge they do not have to have sex until they are ready or ideally in a committed relationship would be more beneficial.

Interested in all the opinions, as my reaction is based on initial reading of the question.

LimburgseVlaai Wed 28-Nov-12 13:24:37

Lavenderhoney - I don't think anyone would want to show porn to children as part of sex education lessons at school (at least I hope not). But if the subject comes up, either as a result of a direct question by a child, or if the teacher thinks that a child may have been exposed to porn because of the things they are saying, then it should be addressed. Just in the same way that homosexuality needs to be addressed, and any other related topics. You cannot dodge these things, hoping they will go away or hoping not to 'contaminate' innocent minds.

It's not just porn either. A lot of content that would not be classified as 'porn' can be just as insidious. Think of the kinds of music video they are likely to see on youtube, they often stop only just short of porn. A 10-year-old might not have been exposed to porn, but they are very likely to have been exposed to sexual images that are not true to life and that might be giving them the idea that such bodies and such behaviours are 'normal'. My sister tells me about boys worrying that their willy is too small, and girls worrying that their vagina looks weird.

Children need to be taught how to consume media, that not everything they see is true. That applies to advertising as well as to films. If they have been exposed to porn, you would tell them that these films are not real life, just like Spiderman and Voldemort are not real.

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 13:36:51

I agree that music videos are basically porn sad The reality is we are living in a pornografied society and far more should be done to prevent children from seeing this stuff, which is hugely misogynistic btw.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Wed 28-Nov-12 13:41:30

i think that it starts really early, with parents pointing out that photos are doctored, films aren't real life etc. i do this with mine aged 4 and 6 and we have a right old laff about how images of women are so often so ridiculous. and men, tbf, their father is not in possession of a six pack. there are plenty of speeded-up films online of models' faces being photoshopped, and i would hope that when it's time for the conversation about porn etc to be covered that we would have covered a lot of the basics.

hettie Wed 28-Nov-12 13:53:39

I know from the work that I do (without outing myself professionally) that children are accessing porn and passing it on between themselves. It’s readily available and considered ‘normal’- everything from their games console to their phone is internet enabled so access is not a problem. It is already having an effect- ask any clinician working in a sexual health environment about the percentage of young women who have a full Brazilian.... The influence of porn on young men (and women) mean that it’s considered ‘gross’ to have pubic hair, and rough sex is ‘normal’. We desperately need to be having conversations with our young people about how these images are viewed by them, talk to them about where they come from (who makes them/who has a stake in making money from them) and how they might relate to actual sex in an actual relationship. These conversations need to take place more openly and routinely both at home/at school and in other environments (media/tv online forums etc). It needs to be seen as something debatable......And we need to move quickly on this...

cheapandchic Wed 28-Nov-12 13:53:54

I 100% think it should be addressed in schools. No matter how great of a parent you are and how open you are to sex talks....the fact is your kids may not be. They may not be comfortable telling mummy what they have seen and heard even if the concerned parent is asking.

I think separate classes for the boys and girls is a great start, as it encourages more openness.

I am going by my own experiences...and this was way before the porn onslaught of today...When I had talks with my mother, I explained what I knew, the logistics, body parts, puberty, sex, pregnancy and that was good. But you better believe that I didnt tell her that my best friend was forced into sex at 12 years old, that boys were demanding blow jobs and my friends and I had no clue what to do and were terrified. There are certain things kids may not discuss with parents that they might bring up more freely in a same sex classroom.

The technology is everywhere and part of todays culture. They are going to get disposed somewhere, somehow...better to address it young.

cheapandchic Wed 28-Nov-12 13:57:11

sorry exposed.

CanonFodder Wed 28-Nov-12 13:59:32

I think it's time that the issue of porn was dealt with full stop. It's time we put it back into the consensual 'opt in' box in which it belongs instead of having to teach children that it is to be avoided. WTF have we come to if we can't reasonably prevent our kids from coming across this crap?

quietlysuggests Wed 28-Nov-12 14:25:35

I agree it should be addressed in schools but do not like the race to the bottom approach in terms of age which is basically well, SOME will access it age 12 so teach it age 10. SOME start having sex age 13 so teach about dildos and anal sex age 11 is just abusive imo
Teach it at an appropriate level ie age 14-16

I wonder how they can address it in schools effectively. I mean kids know it is out there and they know that some adults watch it.

So Do you say- yes many men like to watch women, who most have been abused, most who have sexual diseases, many who have drug issues, many who have anal fissures, some who might not be consenting, be fucked?

If you don't say that and just address the fantasy element, then maybe you are saying its all fine and lovely but wait til your older.

It's all soul destroying for an adult, let alone a kid.

gottasmile Wed 28-Nov-12 14:54:01

"WTF have we come to if we can't reasonably prevent our kids from coming across this crap?" I couldn't agree more.

Hettie, your post has made me so sad and worried for kids today (mine included).

How are we or the schools supposed to stop kids from looking with their games consoles, their phones or anywhere else they have access to the internet and then showing all their friends? How do we know that discussing it won't make kids want to know more and see for themselves?

I just wish we could stop online porn. How can it be stopped?

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 15:02:31

Exactly, gottasmile, stop it would be better than discussing it. But few seem brave enough to suggest this.

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 15:02:46

I mean few in the public eye.

Writehand Wed 28-Nov-12 15:05:39

Talking about abusive -- exposure to porn itself is an abuse -- but it is almost a given now that your kids will see it. My son had a friend of whom I disapproved -- he was sneaky and quite hostile, which is odd in a child towards his friend's mum. At the time his mother was sleeping with different men every month or so, and this clearly affected him a lot. He really didn't like women, and made a point of showing my son some really vile porn. Lots of aggression, no body hair, anal sex, three men, one woman. My poor son was only 11.

He did this on our computer, which had Net Nanny software. He got past that effortlessly, as did my older son when trying to do something which wasn't porn or anything nasty, just downloading some cartoon that the Net Nanny was set up to stop. I tried another safety software package and the children went straight past that too. Unless you are a real computer whizz and create your own barrier it's almost impossible to stop your kids getting at whatever they want on a pc. None of the packages work.

Luckily, only a week or two later, we were together late one night in just the sort of quiet relaxed situation in which children feel safe to confide. My poor son told me what he'd seen -- he was embarrassed but he managed to give me the general outline. Then we had a long talk about sex. I stressed how normal it was, and how it was a happy, affectionate affair, something loving that all couples did. I explained that anyone who tried to start their real life sex life using porn as a template would meet with disaster. He was very relieved to hear that.

I started talking about all the nice mums and dads we know, and how they all have sex. I told him that real sex was far more gentle and friendly. I can remember everything I said, but we ended up laughing at the absurd idea that the happy couple we knew were acting out the harsh, hairless aggression that the porn portrayed. I even brought up anal sex. I told him it was true that some people did it, but I stressed that -- unlike in porn -- it wasn't an expected element. Remember, the poor child was only 11, but he'd seen such nasty, unkind stuff.

It was one of the key conversations we'd had over the years. I know it really helped because he told me so years later.

He's 17 and a half now, and has a lovely girlfriend whom he treats just as I would hope. They are always laughing. They've been together all year and are now sexually active. He takes every precaution (he told me so) and I imagine that whatever they do, they do with love and affection.

I think we all have to take the bull by the horns. If you've got Internet access, your kids will have seen porn. And most of it is nasty. Watch out for social network sites and music downloads. My older son downloaded a hip hop track which came attached to a short, totally disgusting, porn clip. He was so horrified he came and got me, and we deleted it. There must be weirdos out there attaching sadistic porn to tracks that are most in demand from kids. Very unpleasant.

I am not against erotic material. There are things that could be labelled "porn" that are lovely, arousing and life-enhancing. Sexuality is an important and beautiful thing. But we have to tell our children that the ugly stuff does not represent what real people who want to make love are likely to do.

I'd suggest you wait until you're in an easy, relaxed situation with one child at a time and ask your child directly what they've seen, and how it affected them. I will never forget how relieved my son was to learn that sex in real life wasn't anything like porn. Poor child had thought that he'd have to do all this once he grew up, and didn't fancy the idea at all! :-)

Recently I had a conversation with both my sons, separately, and brought up this body hair business. The bald porn look is now so widespread that boys expect girls to remove most or all of their pubic hair. I pointed out the porn link, and said it was a fashion and one of which, as a liberal old punk, I strongly disapproved. I asked them to reject the necessity for high maintenance pubic topiary, and told them that, in my view, it was oppressive to women -- telling girls that their natural appearance in that area was unacceptable. The boys took my rant quite well. They are used to me sounding off about political and ethical issues :-)

Glup Wed 28-Nov-12 15:15:05

I write many of the PHSE lessons for my large comprehensive school (today is a day off). For one reason or another, this has recently been a big issue in our school. I can say several things with confidence, although our findings may be relevant only to our school:

1. Nope. Nowhere near every child has seen porn. Pornographic pop-ups have actually reduced significantly in the past couple of years, so now children actually have to search for it. The media have massively exaggerated some aspects
2. Those who have seen porn, however, have seen some really crazy things and have seen a lot more of it than you'd ever want them to!
3. Those who have seen it have definitely got some bizarre expectations and ideas.
4. There was a definite gender divide. Most of our girls had seen nothing, whereas most of our boys had seen a lot.

This is going to be an absolute nightmare in the future. Yes, I think this should be taught in schools, but only because of poor parenting...but how to logistically do it? If I was asked to teach a lesson on this, I would have wanted to teach a module of about 6 lessons on sex ed first in order to contexualise it. This would limit curriculum time for anything else.

I would also be very unsure how to teach a sensible lesson without actually showing them porn!

The majority of my staff would be deeply uncomfortable about teaching this, and therefore would be unlikely to do a great job.

Parents- it is definitely something you should do first.

wishingchair Wed 28-Nov-12 15:26:22

I totally agree that parents should tackle. I do have very frank conversations with my DDs (eldest is nearly 10) ... had to explain about oral sex the other day because she told me that a friend had told her the lyrics "you can blow my whistle baby" didn't actually refer to blowing a whistle. So the normalisation of explicit material is everywhere.

That said, the advantage a school has is talking to them all in a group setting. So everyone hears that anal sex is not the norm, that pubic hair is totally normal, that porn is not realistic, that actual sex is mutual, loving, kind and fun for all involved.

And I think you could totally talk about porn without showing it!! As a parent, I will talk to my DDs about porn (as you rightly say we should Gulp) ... but I'm not going to show it to them first!!!!!

wishingchair Wed 28-Nov-12 15:27:14

Glup sorry blush

BelaLugosisShed Wed 28-Nov-12 16:11:20

It's a shame that not all boys have mums like you Writehand.
Porn ( the majority of internet porn anyway) has put sexuality back 50 years, back to the assumption that sex is something women have done to them by (often violent) men and that women should be passive receptacles, not enthusiastic and willing participants of a mutually enjoyable experience.
Glup , I'm surprised that the sex education show isn't used in PHSE lessons, I thought it was well done and challenged some harmful myths caused by porn.
I know my SIL sat and watched it with her 14 year old DS last year.

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 16:13:07

Porn has put feminism back decades.

Agree with your statement BleaLugosi. Porn has been very damaging towards sex being something enjoyed by all involved parties. I shudder to think what it must be like for children or teens being exposed to porn as their first sighting of a sexual encounter. I absolutely think porn should be discussed in schools, but IMO it should come up anyway if we're discussing mutually caring caring relationships vs abusive ones.

With regards to anything to do with children/teens and sex, it shouldn't be an either/or situation, but rather something covered both by parents and at school.

OddBoots Wed 28-Nov-12 16:40:42

I'm not sure how yet but I do want to have a good chat with my children about porn and its wider implications.

I was horrified to read this morning that "a report in the British Medical Journal reveals that 343 labiaplasties were performed on girls aged 14 or younger over the last six years." link

Oblomov Wed 28-Nov-12 17:04:35

I knew many years ago that teenagers, even then, considered no pubic hair and hard, noisy unloving sex, to be the norm, based on porn that they had seen. I was saddened by that idea then and it seems to have got alot worse now.
Seems such a shame. And will be so very very hard to change.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 28-Nov-12 17:13:00

The problem isn't the porn sites per se, because no matter what controls you have in place your ds like mine may one day need to do a project on badgers. See what comes up when you google this then?

One of the answers has to be not following the crowd like sheep and steering away from consoles, mobiles and other gadgets or at least not allowing internet access when you are not there to monitor it.

I did this with my older 2 dc and will do with dd, they were supervised during homework although it doesn't mean others won't show them at school.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Wed 28-Nov-12 17:20:10

Two things to consider: one is that it's unhelpful to portray sex, and sexually-themed entertainment or any and every kind, as something negative and vile to be feared. Most people who get their undies in a bundle about 'porn' have rather hazy or scarmongering ideas of what they mean by the word: it can cover unpleasant things but also entertaining and useful ones.
Secondly, this obsession with sex as 'only part of a 'loving relationship' is unhelpful and harmful. Just because someone professes to love you doesn't mean that s/he is trustworthy or safe: a lot of abusers insist that their abuse is both motivated and justified by 'love'.

I don't think anyone has said anything about sex as only as part of a loving relationship. I imagine, if you were teaching it, respect would have a role but no need for love.

As for the other point, I don't think that's true- I think you'll have to search really hard to find porn that is not misogynistic and nasty to women. I would have no problem if my kids caught sight of 'make love not porn' or something like that - but it isn't at the moment, it's an industry driven by a nasty kind of men and getting more and more extreme.

MissWooWoo Wed 28-Nov-12 18:24:12

how do you explain to children who are possibly as young as 10 - in regards to hard core/violent porn - that (a) there are some people who want to do this to other people despite the fact that it hurts them and that (b) there are some people watch this stuff and take pleasure in it? sad

12ylnon Wed 28-Nov-12 18:30:12

Surely teaching about all kinds of sex is really important? I think it's crucial in order to teach young people about what kind of sex is 'good' and what kind is 'bad'. That way, if a child is shown something by friends, or come across something on the net that they don't like, where abuse is clearly taking place (like rape or child pornography) they have the confidence and the knowledge to speak up and say 'I'm not comfortable watching this'. I don't think all pornography is abusive or unhealthy. There is a very popular website called x art that is run by a husband and wife team and it's very obvious that all parties are consenting adults who seem to enjoy their jobs very much.

I personally think 10 is a little young for schools to be tackling the subject of porn, as well as other, more complex issues (such as casual sex, toys etc) to do with sexuality. Perhaps closer to 14 is more appropriate, as i think regular 'vanilla' sex between a couple (gay and straight) should be fully understood and discussed first.

The problem clearly comes when children get their hands on laptops, tablets and phones. Parental controls are SO easy to get around. Young teens are much more tech-savvy than we think. My son won't be getting an internet phone until he's well into his teens. No TV in his room either and laptop is to be used only in the living room when we're around. But really thats all we can do, he's going to come across it at some stage, the best we can do as parents and teachers is prepare them and teach them what is acceptable in terms of sexuality.

12ylnon Wed 28-Nov-12 18:32:54

This I don't understand, are you saying that children should be taught that sex is only acceptable within loving, committed relationship?

foxy6 Wed 28-Nov-12 19:27:39

i dont know about the teachers teaching them about internet porn. mine learnt from their friends about it.

12, sorry if that's not clear, I meant I agreed with solid on the point that sex doesn't have to be about commitment or love but I was also trying to say that's not what the debate is about anyway.

12ylnon Wed 28-Nov-12 19:54:52

I agree, although i don't think it's a totally irrelevant point as porn is difficult to understand if you're stuck on the concept that sex is only acceptable between two heterosexual people who are in love.

Mm, I see what you mean, but I don't think many people think that, only (whispers) religous people.

It irks me that if you question the pornification of society nowadays, then some people think you are some kind of buttoned up Anti-shag monster.

JingleBel Wed 28-Nov-12 20:27:35

School are teaching students about esafety in y7 and are forewarning them about abusive behaviour online. This could include pornography without explicitly focussing on it.
These lessons include making sure they know how to report things they feel uncomfortable with using the ceop report button

JingleBel Wed 28-Nov-12 20:29:49

CEOP site has good advice for parents.

Glup Wed 28-Nov-12 21:05:42

So it's really interesting reading what everybody has to say. I've gone away and had a little think since my last post.....and I've come back even more depressed.

I honestly think that, from a logistical perspective, this would be extremely difficult to teach in any meaningful way within a school context. I reckon that the lessons you would need in advance would be:

1. What is sex?
2. What is contraception?
3. What are good relationships?
4. Safety in relationships and the importance of respecting yourself.

Most schools would have a lesson, or at least an assembly/ registration on e-safety about once a year. But I reckon what we're talking about here is 'how pornography is not normal'.

Thing is, in order to get that message across, I'd also have to teach them what is 'normal'. So you're getting into slightly dodgy territory there already.

Conclusion: I have no idea how to realistically plan this. Whilst I think I could plan and teach a lesson myself, I honestly cannot think of anything that would work if I was to plan it for the use of the rest of the staff in the school.

Blueschool Wed 28-Nov-12 21:07:51

I think it a good idea- though sad it has come to this.

At least children who dont have parents prepared to talk about porn will have some sort of adult guidance.

It might also open up a dialouge between children to express their thoughts, especially if they feel disturbed if they have already seen something.

Though 10 seems so, so young.

I plan to talk to my own dcs about porn at some point.

Smudging Wed 28-Nov-12 21:42:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

jenesaispas Wed 28-Nov-12 22:00:50

This issue has come up in our house today. My DS (10) has been shown lesbian porn on the bus going to a school trip today. I am absolutely furious. We have only just had the conversation about sex in a relationship, and the physical and emotional implications of that.

DH now finds himself discussing girls going down on each other, whether we do that etc - sorry to be crude, but he's 10, and I am so upset.

I really feel it is an issue for children in early secondary school, not primary. Please let them hold on to some innocence for as long as possible.

I am in the middle of composing an email to the Headmaster - might leave it until I am calmer before I send it.

Blueschool Wed 28-Nov-12 22:09:46

Jenesais

I totally agree it would be nice to hold onto the innocence for longer than 10! Its tragic really.

However as you have seen from today is this realistic anymore in this day and age? Is it best they know earlier to be prepared? Knowledge is power etc

But what can you say to prepare a ten year old? I dunno...

Blueschool Wed 28-Nov-12 22:18:48

Im not sure how I would word it but along the lines of explaining porn does exsist but its not reality of sex. Sex is a very natural and loving thing.

However If you do ever see something that frightens or confuses you please know you can talk to me or dad etc?

The thought of the conversation is horrible tbh sad

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Wed 28-Nov-12 22:27:41

Actually, I think that DC should only be taught about porn in the context of 'understanding the media'. Because it's easy for people to get all 'waa, waa, Ban it Now' about porn, particularly when they are revved up to do so by those whose aims are nothing to do with promoting happy, healthy sexual behaviour but driven by either misogynistic superstition or a desire to have a handy scapegoat to help them bring in further controls on free expression.

There's a lot of damaging stuff in the mainstream mass media, whether it's the unending misogyny of the sleb mags with their 'SCREAAAM SCREAAAM HATE HATE! A famous woman's got a SPOT! and she's PUT ON WEIGHT', the 'Reality TV' trope of putting people with either SN or MH issues up to be mocked, tortured and humiliated, or the increasingly narrow definition of what is 'normal'.

As to sex education, the most important thing to teach on that topic is that sex is supposed to be enjoyable for all participants. So if you're not enjoying it, stop doing it, and if you're not sure another participant is enjoying it, stop and check.

But it's the misogyny of the porn that is the problem - and explaining that to a young kid IS difficult.

Look at the stuff passed round by kids now - its not free women enjoying great sex - its young women being fucked by a group, women being come over, women being exploited blah blah.

I agree there is a lot of misogyny in the media too, and that's a great way in for those conversations.

My friend today said her 10 year old said when she gets hair she has to shave it off otherwise boys won't like her. That's not happy or healthy sexual development.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 28-Nov-12 22:48:08

It is not porn that needs to be stopped, this will never happen. Even if it is regulated somehow on internet, tv, advertising, etc. The industry will find a way round this. There is nothing wrong with porn for consenting adults and instead of looking at this surely society should be looking towards themselves.
Don't give your kids these phones and internet access when you can't supervise it. Computers at school have filters and are monitored by teachers. Parents should monitor there use at home. It seems unfair that the children of responsible adults should have to be educated about porn, because irresponsible parents don't monitor or even encourage their dc to become involved by providing the tools. There is no way I would allow an adult to talk to my dd about porn, thats my job when the time is right.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Wed 28-Nov-12 22:55:41

THisis: The misogyny doesn't start with porn or only come from porn. It would be lovely if DC could get educated in school about the misogyny of religion, for instance...

purpleroses Wed 28-Nov-12 22:56:08

I talk to my children openly about almost anything - puberty, sex, relationships, stranger danger, chat rooms, etc - but have to admit I'm really at a loss with porn. I don't know how they can begin to understand what it is, or why it appeals to some adults. I would agree that ideally parents should be involved in teaching children about it, but would really welcome some ideas and child-friendly language to use with them.

When DS was about 11 I found out he and a friend had been googling "sexing people" or some such daft term - he said he was hoping to see pictures of naked people. I responded by installing (overdue!) parental software but really struggled with explaining why what he might come across - had his search terms been a bit better - wouldn't have been pictures of naked people or even just people having sex, but a whole other world of stuff he doesn't ever have to have anything to do with.

Blueschool Wed 28-Nov-12 22:58:55

Thisis

Definitely -that is another hugely worrying aspect. I agree, I don't think you can quite have that conversation at 10 as its possibly not age appropriate.

However, I think trying to forewarn them at age 10 to prepare them about the graphic and often disturbing nature of porn (average age to first see porn is 11 apparently) and offer your unconditional support if they are to see something then at least they know they can turn to their parents.

I feel it would be more about reducing potential psychological damage at the first stage of "the talks".

gloomywinters2 Thu 29-Nov-12 10:05:54

I don,t think schools should be responsible all the time it come,s from the parents too if your going to give a child a laptop and LET them use it in bedroom all day then that,s wrong, it should be downstairs for the family to use.if your going to give a child a phone at an early age then expect there going to be curious and down load porn too. technology is good but it,s a bad thing too having camera,s on phones bad idea and the internet what happened to the days when phone,s used to be phones.

Charbon Thu 29-Nov-12 12:41:08

Secondary schools are already tackling this issue as part of PSHE provision and IMO, their input should be complementary to parental discussions and guidance at home. An increasing number of Year 5 and Year 6 10/11 year olds have internet enabled devices, so this age group is not too young to be taught about internet safety, respect for eachother's bodily autonomy and the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. Exposure to porn should be mentioned alongside discussions about why games and films are age-restricted and why censors protect minors in this way.

Ideally, both parents or guardians should be discussing porn with children, but it should never be under-estimated how much impact is made when male role models take the lead in home discussions about porn; fathers, older brothers, uncles and grandfathers. It's easy for cynical teenagers especially to think that 'Mum is on her feminist soapbox again', but it's especially powerful when their Dad explains why porn can be problematical both personally and politically. It can be tricky to get this right and strike the balance between reassuring young people that curiosity is natural and nothing to be ashamed about - and protecting them from unrealistic, hateful, misogynistic and damaging images.

It's also very important to focus on the positive and engender an expectation that sex is meant to be a fun, enjoyable activity between consenting participants who treat eachother with respect. What constitutes consent is particularly crucial - and discussions about coercion and pressure that is either exerted or experienced.

As for restricting children's access to the internet, I think taking away their rights is the wrong approach and by the time they go to secondary school, is fruitless and counter-productive. Their rights to conduct a safe search have already been trampled on by the porn money-makers; taking away their rights of use compounds that abuse. Currently it would be virtually impossible for GCSE students to pass exams without internet access; Maths. relies on students' use of the MyMaths website and there are numerous revision podcasts - in addition to the research available on the web. As parents we've always found the best approach is to give them the facts and then trust them to self-monitor.

It is vital that schools discuss porn in PSHE, because some parents can't or won't raise the issues at home and young people need the best guidance from the most educated sources. One of the most important messages for boys is that it's okay not to like or use porn, or to give into peer pressure to watch it. It's often overlooked that boys are under tremendous pressure to like porn and to want to emulate the sex that is featured in it and that this pressure sometimes comes from their female partners as well as their male peers. Fortunately it is embedded in PSHE that girls are encouraged to resist sexual coercion and pressure, but boys are often overlooked in this respect.

It can be especially difficult for schools to strike the right balance, because teachers are acutely aware that some students live in homes where the adults use porn and there is potential for an adversarial conflict with the messages students are absorbing from parents, but there are some fantastic resources available to generate debate and discussion.

I agree that porn should be contextualised within a backdrop of wider societal issues such as misogyny and general unkindness towards people who don't fit societal norms but it's utterly pointless pretending that exposure to porn before a young person has become sexually active is harmless. As it is to deny the impact that porn has had on beauty practices or young people's expectations of how they should look and behave. Educating young people to follow the money and to question the exploitative nature of porn and how it suppresses sexual and personal expression rather than frees, is a particularly effective tactic. Young people are not stupid and they don't like the thought of being manipulated or exploited.

A couple of times on this thread people have said 'kids in their bedrooms on laptops' as if - hey you avoid that, you'll avoid porn.
In this thread, there are accounts of kids being shown porn - and none of them were in bedrooms with laptops.

Sgm, there are lots of comparisons that can be made between the church and the current porn industry- Both run by a handful of elite males seeking to control women's sexuality. in most porn, women say yes to everything no matter how painful or absurd- doesn't seem great progress from when they were expected to say no.

Glup, I agree with the teaching difficulties.

Dotty342kids Thu 29-Nov-12 13:25:08

This is a fascinating conversation. I have a nearly 10yr old DS and a nearly 8DD and come from a background of always being open and honest with them about sex and relationships (and having worked with teenagers on these issues). So, I'd thought I'd be fine when it comes to tackling things like this with my own kids.
However, we live somewhere very rural and slightly behind the times and so I'm sure he's not seen or heard about porn in any way (though the basics of sex have definitely filtered through!). So, although am more than happy to discuss it with him, I'm not sure it's even entered his head yet. Most kids round here get a mobile once they start at the local secondary school and I know he'll want one too, so is that the point at which, even if they've not mentioned it, you therefore have to? Oh god, it's a minefield!!
Re. schools - I definitely think that conversations about respect and realism when it comes to sex and relationships is crucial. So whilst not overtly about pornography, it'd hopefully come as a by product of talking about those issues. But are teachers really the best people to do it? I know that many teachers die of embarrassment at the basic sex ed so to open up the conversation into the arena of porn is asking a lot of them. For me, bringing in informal educators / youth workers / health workers into schools to do this work is much more effective and likely to succeed than landing yet another thing on the desks of teachers.

LimburgseVlaai Thu 29-Nov-12 15:01:28

Dotty - good point about teachers being embarrassed or not best placed to pass on this kind of teaching. Also many primary schools don't have male teachers, and I think it is vital that boys have 'the talk' from a male adult.

So I agree that it would in most cases be more effective to have a consistent programme delivered by specifically trained professionals.

Mintyy Thu 29-Nov-12 15:07:10

I think its tragic that we need to even think about this. Really tragic. I think we are failing our children.

gloomywinters2 Thu 29-Nov-12 15:54:25

yes i suppose it is a bad assumption on my part that porn can be asessed on a laptop in a bedroom this thread has made me think how it can be available anywhere. it,s quite obvious reading all he thread that somthing needs to be done.

I made that assumption too blush But one day he was clicking on it while playing Club penguin (uh huh!) when I was making dinner.
My other advice to all is to check the computer histories regularly!

gloomywinters2 Thu 29-Nov-12 16:31:52

actually my daughter has just come home from school and her friend has shown her somthing an adult cartoon family guy she seem,s to think it,s rude i have never seen it she is nine and they shoulden,t have phones in primaryschool. why is that.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Thu 29-Nov-12 16:31:59

even in the more innocent seventies, though (<coughs> Savile!) i remember being in primary school and seeing boys bringing in porno mags that they had liberated from their fathers'/big brothers' bedrooms. and they seemed to exist in piles in wooded areas, i sweartagod.

i know the images weren't moving, probably weren't so hard core etc but at least now we do talk to our kids.

Charbon Thu 29-Nov-12 17:06:06

Not every parent does though Aitch - and the content is far more graphic, violent and accessible now.

KateMumsnet what are you planning to do with our comments? Is this part of the DofE's consultation about PSHE that has been going on since July 2011 and still there are no proposals?

There were always dirty mags in the woods, tis true.

OneMoreChap Thu 29-Nov-12 17:17:48

I'm old.

40+ years ago, boys used to pass round mags (and some boys had dads who'd been to Holland) and had "hard" stuff, where you could, y'know see bits,and even see them doin' it...

And no, parents didn't know all that much about it. I recall sexual rhymes well before I understood them so that was very early 60s.

Problem is things are so available now, and we are in general a far more sexualised society. I don't think this is purely porn, but also have a bee in my bonnet about how fashion destroys healthy body images, which is all part of the icky body hair thing.

I cannot see the attraction in young women who look pre-pubescent, but that must be an age thing.

borninastorm Thu 29-Nov-12 22:02:08

As a mother to two teenagers (and a toddler), one who is now over 18, I think that until we bring porn into the open and discuss it with our children it will continue to fascinate them (as the taboo always does) and skew their views on sex.

I agree with so many other commentators here who say we need to explain that porn isn't real and sex isn't like that.

As a single parent to a son I was the one to have the porn and sex talk with him when he was a much younger teen. It was embarrassing for him but he sat through it and took part in the discussion. We talked masturbation, sex and porn. And because I understand that people do watch porn and teenagers, in particular, are fascinated by it I told him it was ok to watch it but to not have the same expectations of the girls he would later have sex with.

That one conversation changed our relationship and brought us that little bit closer because he knew that I knew and understood what he was feeling and experiencing and that I thought it was normal and ok.

I have already begun talking to my 13 year old dd about sex and porn and sexuality.

I personally think that it should not be down to teachers or the government or anybody else to advise and inform our children about life. Teachers are there to educate our children and give them the tools to pass exams, it's not their job to advise them on their sex lives and use of porn. The goverment is there to govern, pass laws, ensure our safety and economic growth (supposedly) it is not the job of the government to raise our children or advise them on how to live their sex lives.

Parents have children and parents should raise them, talk to them, advise them and listen to them. That shouldn't be anybody else's job. I'm doing my job, I might not always do it perfectly but I'm doing my best.

StephanieDA Fri 07-Dec-12 19:23:59

I wrote my blog on this subject this week if anyone wants to take a look: www.communicatingwithkids.com/online-porn

Writehand Tue 11-Dec-12 15:48:23

Smudging wrote: My Dss was shown a woman being fucked with a various implements before he had had his first kiss sad

I know how you feel. Same here with my Dss. It does seem sad. I didn't see anything like that until I was over 20. Porn is pretty universal for kids these days, but then back in pre-industrial times things weren't much prettier.

Country children would've been watching animals mate from the time they could toddle. OK, there can be some grandeur in horse breeding (they're such beautiful animals), but you definitely wouldn't want to witness pigs mating just before lunch! grin

And as for females being abused or passive -- female farm animals get a rotten deal in terms of fun or respect. Not a cheerful way of learning the facts of life.

Writehand Tue 11-Dec-12 16:16:26

Hi, morethanpotatoprints. You say "It seems unfair that the children of responsible adults should have to be educated about porn, because irresponsible parents don't monitor or even encourage their dc to become involved by providing the tools."

I think you're being a bit naive if you think it's only irresponsible parents whose kids access porn. Have you realised how ubiquitous it is?

If you read my post you'll see that even carefully secured systems can be outwitted by computer-savvy primary school kids. And how are you - or any of us - to monitor the fine detail of what happens in other people's houses? Even with child-safety software installed there's still every chance that your dc's friends will find a way to access porn.

Any child with a smart phone can access porn - witness another poster's child's exposure to graphic lesbian porn on the bus of all places.

And - from my post again - my other child got some truly dreadful stuff attached to a totally innocent music file he wanted to hear.

I know it's tempting to think that your own children are safe because you're a responsible parent, but my experience (and that of many other posters here) is that parental precautions are not enough however responsible you are. You can ban any sort of net device from the house, keep your children indoors at all times, off the bus and out of other people's houses, and the little darlings (or a friend) may still hack their friend's child-safety software. Or get shown gross material on someone else's phone.

It's sad, but it seems to be everywhere. And kids are curious. They may be sorry later, but by that time they've looked.

Refreshingly balanced approach, thanks for sharing. It's a conversation I am not looking forward to having, and it's nice to see genuine communication work.

Sorry, I was trying to reply to Writehand's first post.

It was interesting too to read Gulp's comments, as I suspect that one of the issues about teaching it in schools, is to do with addressing different levels of awareness and exposure in children. To me, that's one of the inherent difficulties with agreeing how and what should be included in any curriculeum.

I agree also it would (in some cases) be difficult to discuss porn without examples, but not impossible. Perhaps one of the issues is how to ensure best practice, as I can see some efforts compounding the problem (and how do you prevent teaching about porn from merging into its acceptance?)

Personally, I would like to see the issues tackled at all levels and not left to schools to plug the gaps. Whether or not tackling porn in school sex education lessons is necessary or not (and sadly it might be), what is the message we are sending out? Don't take any notice of this prevalent porn, it doesn't bear much relation to "real" sex (or how we should treat women) but we tolerate the images and messages it is sending out everyday?

The message is in what we do, not just what we teach.

Totally agree sexual bullying should form part of the discussion. NIA have just published a guide to sexual bullying for parents.

www.niaendingviolence.org.uk/perch/resources/parents-guide-to-sexual-bullying.pdf

I agree also with other posters. Kids in prmiary schools should not be accessing smart phones in school. Above all, schools should be providing a safe environment. That may well mean tackling sensitively things like porn and sexual bullying when appropriate, but it also means not exposing children to risks like internet porn.

Parental controls may go some way to protecting them at home but as other posts suggests this isn't fail-proof. Communication is key.

I have blogged about the Children Commissioner's research and recommendations at

crewcutandnewt.com/2013/05/24/its-about-more-than-the-birds-and-bees/

It's a fascinating topic, that will probably run and run. Just hope that there is no simplistic one-size-fits all solution and that parents' views are fully taken into account, as well as the needs of children. Not all parents will address the issue and so I can see the need for schools to step in (as well as argument that schools can add something positive to the debate). However, in many cases, parents will have a good, if not better, understanding of their child's needs.

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